King's Lynn

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King's Lynn
Collage of King's Lynn icons.png
King's Lynn is located in Norfolk
King's Lynn
King's Lynn
Location within Norfolk
Population42,800 (2007)[1]
• London98 miles (158 km)
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townKING'S LYNN
Postcode districtPE30-PE34
Dialling code01553
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°45′15″N 0°23′51″E / 52.7543°N 0.3976°E / 52.7543; 0.3976Coordinates: 52°45′15″N 0°23′51″E / 52.7543°N 0.3976°E / 52.7543; 0.3976

King's Lynn, known until 1537 as Bishop's Lynn and colloquially as Lynn,[2] is a port and market town in Norfolk, England, 98 miles (158 km) north of London, 36 miles (58 km) north-east of Peterborough, 44 miles (71 km) north-north-east of Cambridge and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich.[2] The population is 42,800.[1]



The etymology of King's Lynn is uncertain. The name Lynn may signify a body of water near the town – the Welsh word llyn means a lake; but the name is plausibly of Anglo-Saxon origin, from lean meaning a tenure in fee or farm.[2] As the 1085 Domesday Book mentions saltings at Lena (Lynn), an area of partitioned pools may have existed there at the time. The presence of salt, which was relatively rare and expensive in the early Medieval period, may have added to the interest of Herbert de Losinga and other prominent Normans in the modest parish.

The town was named Len Episcopi (Bishop's Lynn) while under the temporal and spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of Norwich; but in the reign of Henry VIII it was surrendered to the crown and took the name of Lenne Regis or King's Lynn.[2] Domesday records it as Lun and Lenn, and ascribes it to the Bishop of Elmham and the Archbishop of Canterbury.[2]

The town is generally known locally as Lynn. The city of Lynn, Massachusetts, north of Boston, was named in 1637 in honour of its first official minister of religion, Samuel Whiting, who arrived there from Lynn, Norfolk.[3]

Middle Ages[edit]

Lynn originated on a constricted site south of where the River Great Ouse now discharges into the Wash. Development began in the early 10th century, but the place was not recorded until the early 11th century. Until the early 13th century, the Great Ouse emptied via the Wellstream at Wisbech. After its redirection, Lynn and its port gained significance and prosperity.[4]

In 1101, Bishop Herbert de Losinga of Thetford began to build the first medieval town between the rivers Purfleet to the north and Mill Fleet to the south. He commissioned St Margaret's Church and authorised a market to be held on Saturday.[5][6] Trade built up along the waterways that stretched inland; the town expanded between the two rivers.

Lynn's 12th-century Jewish community was exterminated during the widespread massacres of 1189.[7]

Early modern[edit]

Hanseatic warehouse

During the 14th century, Lynn ranked as England's most important port. It was considered as vital to England in the Middle Ages as Liverpool was during the Industrial Revolution. Sea trade with Europe was dominated by the Hanseatic League of ports; the transatlantic trade and the rise of England's western ports did not begin until the 17th century. The Trinity Guildhall was rebuilt in 1421 after a fire. Walls entered by the South Gate and East Gate were erected to protect the town.[8] It retains two former Hanseatic League warehouses: Hanse House of 1475[9] and Marriott's Warehouse, in use between the 15th and 17th centuries.[10] These are the only remaining buildings of the Hanseatic League in England.

In the first decade of the 16th century, Thoresby College was built in Lynn by Thomas Thoresby to house priests of the Guild of The Holy Trinity. It had been incorporated in 1453 under a petition of its alderman, chaplain, four brethren and four sisters. These were licensed to found a chantry of chaplains for the altar of Holy Trinity in Wisbech; lands were granted in mortmain.[11] Lynn acquired a mayor and corporation in 1524. In 1537 the king took over the town from the bishop. In the same century the town's two annual fairs were reduced to one. In 1534 a grammar school was founded; four years later Henry VIII closed the Benedictine priory and the three friaries.

A piped water supply was created in the 16th century, although many could not afford to be connected: elm pipes carried water under the streets. Lynn suffered from outbreaks of plague, notably in 1516, 1587, 1597, 1636 and finally in 1665. Fire was another hazard – in 1572 thatched roofs were banned to reduce the risk. In the English Civil War, King's Lynn supported Parliament, but in August 1643 it was in Royalist hands. It changed sides again after Parliament sent an army and the town was besieged for three weeks. Valentine Walton brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell was appointed governor.

A heart carved on the wall of the Tuesday Market Place marks the burning of an alleged witch, Margaret Read, in 1590. It is said that as she was burning her heart burst from her body and struck the wall.[12]

In 1683, the architect Henry Bell, once the town's mayor, designed the Custom House. He also designed the Duke's Head Inn, the North Runcton Church, and Stanhoe Hall, having gained inspiration while travelling in Europe as a young man.[13]

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the town's main export was grain. Lynn was no longer a major international port, but iron and timber were imported. King's Lynn suffered from the discovery of the Americas, which benefited ports on the west coast of England. It was also affected by the growth of London.

In the late 17th century, imports of wine from Spain, Portugal and France boomed, and there was still much coastal trade. It was cheaper to transport goods by water than by road at the time. Large amounts of coal arrived from the north-east of England.

The Fens began to be drained in the mid–17th century and the land turned to farming, allowing vast amounts of produce to be sent to London's growing market. Meanwhile, King's Lynn was still an important fishing port. Greenland Fishery House in Bridge Street was built in 1605. By the late 17th century shipbuilding and glass-making had developed.

In the early 18th century, Daniel Defoe called the town "beautiful, well built and well situated". Shipbuilding thrived, as did associated industries such as sail-making and rope-making. Glass-making prospered; brewing was another important industry. The first bank in King's Lynn opened in 1784.

A fearsome example of penal brutality occurred on 28 September 1708, when a seven-year-old boy, Michael Hammond, and his 11-year-old sister Ann were convicted of stealing a loaf of bread and sentenced to hanging. Their public executions took place near the South Gates. The Member of Parliament at the time was Sir Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[14]


The town's decline by the late 17th century was reversed by the arrival of railway services in 1847, mainly by the Great Eastern Railway, later the London and North Eastern Railway, running to Hunstanton, Dereham and Cambridge. The town was also served by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GN), with offices at Austin Street and a station at South Lynn (now dismantled), which was also its operational control centre it relocated to Melton Constable. The former M&GN lines across Norfolk closed to passengers in February 1959.

Its amenities continued to improve into the 20th century. A museum opened in 1904 and a public library in 1905. The first cinema, the Majestic, officially opened on 23 May 1928. (The year is marked in a stained-glass window on the front of the building.) The town council began a programme of regeneration in the 1930s.

During the First World War, King's Lynn was one of Britain's first towns to suffer aerial bombing. It was bombed on the night of 19 January 1915 by a naval Zeppelin, L4 (LZ 27),[15] commanded by Captain Lieutenant Magnus von Platen-Hallermund. Eleven bombs were dropped, both incendiary and high explosive, doing much damage, killing two people in Bentinck Street, and injuring several more. When the Second World War began in 1939, it was assumed that King's Lynn would be safe from bombing and many evacuees were sent from London, but in the event the town suffered several raids.

In 1962, King's Lynn was designated an overflow town for London. The population grew and estates were built at the Woottons and Gaywood. The town centre was redeveloped in the 1960s and many earlier buildings destroyed. Lynnsport, a sports centre, opened in 1982. The corn exchange became a theatre in 1996.

The local breweries had closed by the 1950s, but new industries included food canning in the 1930s and soup-making in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the council tried to encourage development by adding an industrial estate at Hardwick. The new trades that arrived included light engineering, clothing and chemicals. Fishing remained important.[citation needed]

Recent changes[edit]

King's Lynn, as viewed from across the River Great Ouse

Since 2004, work has been under way to regenerate the town under a multi-million-pound scheme. The 1960s Vancouver Shopping Centre (now the Vancouver Quarter) was refurbished in 2005 under the scheme, but was expected to last only 25 years, according to the construction firm, even with a planned extension.[when?] An award-winning £6 million multi-storey car park was built.

To the south of town, residential housing appeared on a large area of brownfield land. Plans for another housing estate alongside the River Nar were opposed by local people and halted by the economic situation. There is also a business park, parkland, a school, shops and a new relief road in a £300 million plus scheme.

In 2006, King's Lynn became the United Kingdom's first member of The Hanse (Die Hanse), a network of towns and cities across Europe which historically belonged to the Hanseatic League. The league was an influential medieval trading association of merchant towns around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which contributed to Lynn's development.[16]

The Borough Council commissioned and accepted a 2008 report by DTZ. It dubbed King's Lynn's workforce as "low-value" with a "low skills base" and the town as having a "poor lifestyle offer". The quality of services and amenities was "unattractive to higher-value inward investors and professional employees with higher disposable incomes". Average earnings were well below regional and national levels, and many jobs in tourism, leisure and hotels were subject to seasonal fluctuations and likewise poorly paid. Education and workforce qualifications were described as below the national average. The borough ranked 150th out of 354 for deprivation.[17]

In 2009, a proposal was made for the Campbell's Meadow factory site to be redeveloped with a 5-hectare (12-acre) employment and business park. In June 2011 Tesco gained a permit for a superstore.[18] On 8 June 2010, it unveiled regeneration plans that would cost £32 million and were billed to create 900 jobs overall.[19] Tesco pledged £4 million of improvements in other areas of the town. Whilst it planned to spend £1.6 million widening Hardwick Road, the Sainsburys bid was preferred by the Council as offering the town more benefits.[19]

Campbell's tower in 2006

Sainsbury's £40 million plans for a superstore opposite Tesco on the Pinguin Foods site yielded an estimated 300 jobs. This was the key to securing the future of Pinguin Foods in King's Lynn.[20] Pinguin Foods released 12 acres (5 ha) of its 44-acre (18 ha) site to accommodate the proposed store. Mortson Assets' and Sainsbury's plan included creating a link road between Scania Way and Queen Elizabeth Way to improve access and allow the industrial estate to expand and attract new employers, while Sainsbury's maintains its store in the town centre. It has pledged £1.75 million for highways improvements and a further £7 million to invest in the Pinguin Foods factory.[19]

At 8 am on 15 January 2012, the landmark Campbell's Tower was demolished – a competition winner, Sarah Griffiths pulled the switch, whose father, Mick Locke, had died aged 52 after being scalded by steam at the factory in 1995. It was Campbell's first UK factory when it opened in the 1950s. At its peak in the early 1990s it employed over 700.[21]

A fire station was opened by HM The Queen in February 2015.[22]


King's Lynn became a municipal borough in 1883. The present Borough of King's Lynn and West Norfolk was an amalgamation of the Borough of King's Lynn, the urban districts of Downham Market and Hunstanton, and the rural districts of Docking, Downham, Freebridge Lynn, and Marshland.[23]


The shield in the coat of arms of King's Lynn and West Norfolk that of the ancient Borough of Lynn, recorded at the College of Arms in 1563. It shows the legend of Margaret of Antioch, who has appeared on Lynn shields since the 13th century, and to whom the parish church is dedicated.[23]

The heraldic badge of King's Lynn and West Norfolk

The per chevron division and addition of a bordure serve to distinguish the shield from its predecessor, while retaining its medieval simplicity. The bordure also suggests the wider bounds of the new authority, with the seven parts symbolising the seven amalgamated authorities.[23] The gull on the crest is a maritime reference. It has appeared as a supporter in some representations, but officially stands on a bollard to make it distinctive. It supports a crown or coronet like a King's Lynn supporter and a lion from the crest of Downham Market.

The coronet refers to the Borough's royal connections. The cross held by the gull is an extension of the two in the shield, and the cross in the coat of arms of Freebridge Lynn Rural District.[23]

The supporters are based on the crest of the Hunstanton Urban District Council. The lion is a variation of the lions, or leopards, in the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom and its fish tail suggests the borough's links with the sea.[23]

The fish–lion is also the centre feature in the borough's badge, but here it is surrounded by a garland of oakleaves as a reference to the rural nature of much of the district. Oak leaves are also a feature of the coronet in the crest of the former Downham Market Urban District Council.[23]


King's Lynn is twinned with:[24]



The mouth of Gaywood River

King's Lynn is the northernmost settlement on the River Great Ouse, lying 97 miles (156 km) north of London and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich.[2][26][27] The town lies about 5 miles (8 km) south of the Wash, a fourfold estuary subject to dangerous tides and shifting sandbanks, on the north-west margin of East Anglia. King's Lynn has an area of 11 square miles (28 km2).

The Great Ouse at Lynn is about 200 metres (660 ft) wide and the outfall for much of the Fens' drainage system. The much smaller Gaywood River also flows through the town, joining the Great Ouse at the southern end of South Quay close to the town centre.

A small part of the town, known as West Lynn, is on the west bank, and linked to the town centre by one of the oldest ferries in the country.[citation needed] Other districts of King's Lynn include the town centre, North Lynn, South Lynn, and Gaywood.


King's Lynn has a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb). The annual mean daytime temperature is approximately 14 °C (57 °F). January is the coldest month with mean minimum temperatures between 0 to 1 °C (32.0 to 33.8 °F). July and August are the warmest months, with mean daily maximum temperatures of approximately 21 °C (70 °F).[28]

There are two Met Office weather stations close to King's Lynn: Terrington St Clement, about 4 miles (6 km) to the west and RAF Marham, about 10 miles (16 km) to the south east.

The absolute maximum temperature at Terrington stands at 35.1 °C (95.2 °F)[29] recorded in August 2003, though in a more average year the warmest day will only reach 29.4 °C (84.9 °F),[30] with 13.8 days[31] in total attaining a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or more. Typically all these figures are marginally lower than those for the southern half of the Fens due to the common presence of an onshore sea breeze, and occasional haar (cold sea fog), particularly in early summer and late spring. However, with a strong enough offshore breeze, the area can be notably warm. Terrington (along with Cambridge Botanical Gardens) achieved the national highest temperature of 2007, 30.1 °C (86.2 °F)[32]

The absolute minimum at Terrington is −15.4 °C (4.3 °F),[33] set in January 1979. A total of 41.6 nights will report an air frost at Terrington and 51.9 nights at Marham.

Annual rainfall totals 621 mm (24 in) at Marham, and 599 mm (24 in) at Terrington,[34] with 1 mm or more falling on 115 and 113 days,[35] respectively. All averages refer to the 30-year observation period 1971–2000.

Climate data for Terrington St Clement
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.9
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 0.9
Record low °C (°F) −15.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 54.65
Source: KNMI[36]
Climate data for Marham
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 54.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 53.6 73.2 101.7 150.6 204.3 191.1 202.7 192.8 139.8 109.7 69.0 48.1 1,536.6
Source: Met Office[37]


The largest of the town's several public parks are the Walks, a historic 17-hectare urban park in the centre of King's Lynn. The Walks are the only town walk in Norfolk to survive from the 18th century. The Heritage Lottery Fund donated £4.3 million towards their restoration, including the addition of modern amenities. They also include the Red Mount, a Grade II-listed 15th-century chapel. In 1998, the Walks were designated by English Heritage as a Grade II National historic park.

The Walks as a whole had a different and earlier origin, in that they were conceived not as a municipal park, as one understands the term today, but as a promenade for the citizens, away from the smell, grime and bustle of the town centre.[38] Harding's Pits form another public park, to the south of the town. This informal area of open space with large public sculptures was laid out to reflect the history of the town. Harding's Pits are managed by local volunteers under a management firm, which has successfully fought off the Borough Council's attempts to turn them into an attenuation drain.


In 2007, King's Lynn had a population of 42,800.[1] At Norfolk's 2007 census, King's Lynn, together with West Norfolk, had a population of 143,500, with an average population density of 1.0 persons per hectare.[1] For figures after 2011 see King's Lynn and West Norfolk.


King's Lynn has always been a centre for fishing and seafood (especially inshore prawns, shrimps and cockles). There have also been glass-making and small-scale engineering works (many fairground and steam engines were built here). It still contains much agricultural-related industry, including food processing. There are a number of chemical factories and the town retains a role as an import centre. In general, it is a regional centre for a still sparsely populated part of England.

King's Lynn was the fastest growing port in Great Britain in 2008. Department for Transport figures show that through-put increased by 33 per cent.[39]

In 2008, the German Palm Group began to erect one of the world's largest paper machines. This was constructed by Voith Paper. With a web speed of up to 2000 metres a minute and a web width of 10.63 metres, it can produce 400,000 tons a year of newsprint paper. The production is based on 100-per-cent recycled paper. The start-up was on 21 August 2009.[40]

A panoramic view of the Vancouver Shopping District

The Port of King's Lynn has facilities for dry bulk cargo such as cereals and liquid bulk products such as petroleum products for Pace Petroleum. It also handles timber imported from Scandinavia and the Baltics and has large handling sheds for steel imports.[41]


The Vancouver Shopping District at night

King's Lynn is the primary retail centre in West Norfolk, also for people living outside the border of West Norfolk. The town centre is dominated by budget shops, reflecting the spending power of much of the population. The town centre fulfils a leisure role with entertainment centres, bars and restaurants, and has a range of service functions. There are around 5,300 retailing jobs.[42]

The town centre has 73,000 sq.m. of retail floor space in 347 shops, which exceeds the comparable centres of Bury St Edmunds and Boston. However, whilst the percentage of floor space in comparison shopping and that occupied by multiple retailers is above the national average, King's Lynn offers limited range of choice.[42]


Tourism in King's Lynn is a minor industry, but attracts visitors to its historic centre. It acts as a base for visiting the Queen's home at Sandringham and other great country houses in the area. Within the town and across the nearby Fenland are some of the finest historic churches in Britain, built in a period when King's Lynn and its hinterland were very wealthy from trade and wool.


Major routes[edit]

King's Lynn is linked to the cities of Norwich and Peterborough by the A47, to Cambridge by the A10, to Spalding and the North via the A17. Parts of north and east Norfolk are reached by the A148 and the A149.

South Transport Project[edit]

The developments taking place as part of the King's Lynn South Transport Project

A £7 million programme to redevelop the infrastructure of the town centre in the 2010s was largely provided by the Community Infrastructure Fund. The department programme is a collection of smaller developments, which are detailed below.[43]

Work on a cycle and bus route between the town centre and South Lynn began in June 2010 at a cost of £850,000. It runs 720 metres long, running from Morston Drift to Millfleet, with buses travelling in both directions and features a separate path for pedestrians and bicycles, which coincides with the bus route when crossing the Nar sluice. As part of the development, the Millfleet–St James' Road junction is being developed.[43]

A contraflow lane for bicycles was proposed, but not built along Norfolk Street from Albert Street to Blackfriars Road. This would have included a development of the Norfolk Road–Railway Road junction to better accommodate buses and bicycles. Similar work was to have taken place at the Norfolk Street–Littleport Street junction, so that buses would not get caught in the town-centre gyratory system.[43]

Bus priority measures have been added to four sets of traffic lights along St James' Road. This gives buses quicker access to the town centre and normalise journey times.[43]

Southgates Roundabout has been redeveloped. Many of its approach roads have been widened in the run up to the junction and the road markings redone[clarification needed] in an attempt to improve lane discipline. Southgates Roundabout is a noted congestion hot spot.[43]

Other small developments are taking place to make junctions more car-friendly.[43]


A Class 365 train at King's Lynn railway station in November 2009

King's Lynn railway station, the terminus of the Fen Line, is the only rail facility in King's Lynn. It provides services to Cambridge and London King's Cross. South Lynn railway station closed to passengers in 1959, as did Hunstanton in 1969.

West Norfolk Council are still ostensibly considering reopening a railway route between the King's Lynn railway station and the Hunstanton railway station. The possibility was proposed at a meeting of the council's Regeneration and Environment Panel on 29 October 2008. This had last been discussed in the 1990s. An environmental case was made for reviving the line to relieve road congestion.[44]


Nearly all Stagecoach services in the area have been withdrawn, leaving most services in King's Lynn operated by Lynx or Go To Town (West Norfolk Community Transport Project).

King's Lynn is also served by the excel bus route between Peterborough and Norwich, operated by First Eastern Counties. The Coasthopper route used to operate from King's Lynn around the Norfolk Coast, to Cromer, but since Stagecoach ceased its Norfolk operations, the western section of Coasthopper has been run by Lynx[45] rebranded as Coastliner 36, and extended inland from Wells-next-the-Sea to Fakenham. The section from Wells-next-the-Sea to Cromer is run by Sanders Coaches; this remains "Coasthopper" branded, but has been extended to inland North Walsham.[46]



King's Lynn has two local newspapers: the twice-weekly Lynn News owned by Iliffe Media, and Your Local Paper, a free weekly.[47]


KL magazine is a free lifestyle magazine that celebrates the best of west and north Norfolk. It has been published monthly since October 2010 and is distributed to local businesses across the region. It also issues special Food and Home Design & Build editions.[48]


King's Lynn is served by BBC Radio Norfolk and Greatest Hits Radio West Norfolk, plus all national BBC radio stations. The local college runs a web-based TV station produced by its media students, entitled, and holds an awards ceremony at the end of each academic year.

TV broadcasts are provided by BBC East, BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, ITV Anglia, and ITV Yorkshire.


King's Lynn has four secondary schools, three of which are in the town; King Edward VII School, the King's Lynn Academy, and Springwood High School. The fourth, St Clements High School, is in the nearby village of Terrington St Clement. The first is known, academically, for its physical education department. King's Lynn Academy is known for its maths and IT specialities, while Springwood specialises in performing arts and drama.[49][50][51] The nearest independent school is Wisbech Grammar School in Cambridgeshire.

The town contains a further education college, the College of West Anglia, founded in 1894 as the King's Lynn Technical School. In 1973, it was renamed the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, and in 1998 merged with the Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture, which added campuses in Wisbech (now closed) and Milton, and changed its name to the College of West Anglia. In April 2006, the college merged with the Isle College in Wisbech, retaining the name College of West Anglia.[52]


St George's Guildhall[edit]

The Guild of St George was founded in 1376 and in 1406 acquired land for the Guildhall of St George, which was in use by 1428. The Guild performed plays in the Guildhall, the first known production being a nativity play in January 1445. This makes it the UK's oldest working theatre.

The Guildhall was used for meetings, dinners and performance until in 1547, when King Edward VI dissolved the Guilds. It then became the property of Lynn Corporation and known as the Common Town Hall. Research by the University of East Anglia confirms as probable the oral history of Kings Lynn that William Shakespeare performed in the Guildhall in 1593. This is the only still-working theatre in the world that can credibly claim to have hosted Shakespeare. In 1766 Guildhall shows were so popular that a new interior was built inside the present structure, probably on the earlier footprint. By 1945 the Guildhall was almost derelict and in danger of demolition. It was bought by Alexander Penrose, who gave it to the National Trust in 1951. The Pilgrim Trust, Arts Council and public subscription led to the Guildhall's conversion into an Arts Centre. Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) opened the venue in July 1951 and launched the King's Lynn Festival.

Today the Guildhall is owned by the National Trust, leased by the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk. Various groups are involved with the use of the building including Shakespeare's Guildhall Trust, King's Lynn Festival, King's Lynn Community Cinema Club

The Guildhall is managed by the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and is run as a venue for hire, supporting a year-round programme of theatre, dance, music, lectures and film. Shakespeare's Guildhall Trust have volunteers who open the theatre to visitors.


Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams visited King's Lynn in January 1905, and collected several folk songs from the area.[53]

Ruth, Lady Fermoy, an accomplished concert pianist, moved to King's Lynn in 1931, as the bride of Lord Edmund Fermoy, who was to become the town mayor and the local MP. She contributed to the town by organising concerts that gave local people the chance to hear professional music of the highest standard.[54]

In 1951, to complement the Festival of Britain, Lady Fermoy organised a King's Lynn Festival of the Arts. She was a close friend and lady-in-waiting to the Queen – later to become Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – who agreed to become the festival's patron, and in July 1951 officially opened the restored St George's Guildhall. The Queen Mother was an enthusiastic and active supporter, who remained the festival's patron until her death in March 2002.[54]


The King's Lynn Festival, established in 1951, remains the premier music and arts festival in West Norfolk, attracting many visitors to the town each year for performances by internationally renowned artists. The festival is primarily known for its classical music programme, but also hosts jazz, choral, folk, opera, dance, films, talks and exhibitions, with dozens of fringe events each year.

Literature festivals[edit]

The King's Lynn Literature Festivals are held during a single weekend in March (fiction) and September (poetry) each year, usually in the town hall.[55]

Hanse Festival[edit]

The Annual Hanse Festival first took place in 2009.[56]


Stories of Lynn Museum opened in March 2016, as part of the King's Lynn Town Hall complex. Set within the newly-revealed vaulted undercroft of the 15th-century Trinity Guildhall, Stories of Lynn presents the town's collection of objects and an extensive, nationally significant archive in an interactive and multi-media exhibition. True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum is a display of the social history of the North End fishermen, run by volunteers. It consists of a cottage and a smokehouse.[57] Since 2013, there has also been a local award-winning Military Museum, operated by The Bridge for Heroes Charity to raise funds.[58] Lynn Museum, run by Norfolk Museums Service, in Market Street, contains the local history of the town and the Bronze Age timber circle Seahenge.


Festival Too is held in Tuesday Market Place each summer. Performers have included Midge Ure, Deacon Blue, Suzi Quatro, 10cc, Mungo Jerry, the Human League, the Buzzcocks, M People, Atomic Kitten, Kieran Woodcock, S Club, and Beverley Knight.

The Majestic Cinema, in the town centre, is the town's only cinema.

King's Lynn's main venue for concerts, stand-up comedy shows and other live events is the Corn Exchange, in Tuesday Market Place. Many smaller venues such as Bar Red and the Wenns contribute to the local music scene, along with acts from other parts of the country.[59]

The Mart on the Tuesday Market Place


During the 16th century, King's Lynn's Tuesday Market Place hosted two important trade fairs, which attracted visitors from as far as Italy and Germany. As the importance of trade fairs declined, the Mart became a funfair, and was reduced to a single annual event that begins on 14 February (Valentine's Day) and lasts about a fortnight.

The Mart is also a memorial to the work of Frederick Savage, who worked in partnership with the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain to develop new funfair attractions.[60]


The town's football club is King's Lynn Town, which as of the 2021–22 season plays in the National League. The club formed in 2010 after the original King's Lynn F.C. was wound up in December 2009. It plays its home games at the Walks Stadium in Tennyson Road, which was also the home of its predecessor.

King's Lynn has a speedway team, the King's Lynn Stars, which races at the Adrian Flux Arena in Saddlebow Road. The track has operated since 1965 on an open licence. It hosted Speedway-type events in the 1950s.

One of the town's basketball clubs, King's Lynn Fury, previously played in the National League out of Lynnsport, and represented the town in national competitions from 2004 to 2017. Lynn Nets, formed in 2008, also runs a programme in local competitions.

The historic hockey team The Pelicans, dating from 1920, currently plays at Lynnsport, having been based in nearby North Runcton until 1996.[61]

Notable people[edit]


In popular culture[edit]

Ruth Galloway, fictional heroine of Elly Griffiths' novels, is a forensic anthropologist living in a cottage near King's Lynn and teaching at the University of North Norfolk.[109]

Peter Grainger's DC Smith Investigation series of detective novels is set in "Kings Lake", a thinly-disguised analogue of King's Lynn.[110]

Media appearances[edit]

King's Lynn and surrounding villages have since the early 20th century been popular with film and later TV producers. Due to its architecture and landscape, the area often stands in for other parts of the world, notably the Netherlands and France. The town appeared as the Netherlands in The Silver Fleet (1943) and One of Aircraft Is Missing (1942), and Germany in Operation Crossbow in 1965.[citation needed] It appeared as France in 'Allo 'Allo!, the long-running BBC comedy,[citation needed] and nearby Fenland villages appeared as France in Joe Wright's Atonement.[citation needed] The nearby sandpit at Bawsey/Leziate appeared as the Sudan in the BBC series, Dad's Army,[citation needed] while flashback sequences of Corporal Jones's war recollections were cited here in the episode "Two and a Half Feathers", which drew on the classic 1902 A. E. W. Mason novel The Four Feathers.[citation needed] The sequences integrated footage from the 1939 Alexander Korda film production and dramatic music from the DeWolfe music library.[citation needed]

The town served as an earlier Dutch New York in the 1985 feature film Revolution. Produced by the British production company Goldcrest and starring Al Pacino, it was a box-office disaster. Many locals were used as extras.[citation needed] The BBC series Lovejoy also used the town,[citation needed] as did the Anglia Television series Tales Of The Unexpected[citation needed] and the Granada series Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett in the title role. The last had King's Lynn as the Limehouse area of London, with old back streets and listed buildings appearing as an opium den. The recognisable Town Hall, with its flint-coated front, appeared near the beginning of the episode, which was called The Man With the Twisted Lip.[citation needed]

In the early 2000s, the BBC used the town bus station, local roads and the nearby Royal estate of Sandringham in the comedy drama series Grass, featuring Simon Day.[citation needed] It has in the last few years appeared many times on programmes such as the BBC's Antiques Road Trip, Flog It!, and a BBC Four documentary 'The Last Journey of the Magna Carta King' following the trail of John, King of England and how he lost his treasure in the Wash.[111] The nearby village of Castle Rising appeared in the 1980s Oscar-winning feature 'Out Of Africa' as a Danish port.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

ed by Susan Yaxley (2009). The Siege of King's Lynn. Larks Press. ISBN 9780948400209.


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External links[edit]