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9 things you probably didn’t know about King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 17:18 21 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 21 May 2018

The Hanse Festival, King's Lynn, 2017 (photo: Matthew Usher)

The Hanse Festival, King's Lynn, 2017 (photo: Matthew Usher)


Highlights of historic Lynn range from a feast of festivals to priceless treasure and inspired illuminations

1. The Hanse Day Festival is on May 20

So what is a Hanse Day? It will include a parade, a regatta on the Ouse, pirates versus knights battles, music, guided walks and a treasure trail around the town celebrating Lynn’s medieval and seafaring past. And what is it celebrating? The Hanseatic League was a network of ports including Hamburg, Stockholm and Bruges. Lynn has the only surviving Hanseatic League warehouses in the country – Hanse House and Marriott’s Warehouse, both dating back to the 15th century.

The King's Morris take the May Day garland blowing their ox horns, around the town centre in King's Lynn (photo: Matthew Usher)The King's Morris take the May Day garland blowing their ox horns, around the town centre in King's Lynn (photo: Matthew Usher)

2. King’s Lynn is a town of many festivals

This month begins with the May Day parade around the town. The King’s Lynn Festival was launched in 1951 and still brings classical music, choirs, talks, exhibitions and films to the town every July. It began as a celebration of the reopening of the Guildhall of St George and England’s largest surviving medieval Guildhall is still a Festival venue every July. There is also the King’s Lynn Mart, or fair, in February, a literary festival in March, the free music festival Festival Too in the town centre every summer, and a poetry festival in September. Other big dates in the town’s diary include motorboat racing on the Ouse, and a fairytales and legends day, both in August and Fawkes in the Walks in November.

Lynn Lumiere lights up The Custom House in King's Lynn at a previous festive season (photo: Ian Burt)Lynn Lumiere lights up The Custom House in King's Lynn at a previous festive season (photo: Ian Burt)

3. It lights up at night

Every evening stunning light shows are projected on four buildings across King’s Lynn. Lynn Lumiere begins at dusk and continues to around 10pm, as some of the stories of Lynn are told in music and light on the ancient stones of the Custom House, St Nicholas Chapel, the Minster and Greyfriars Tower.

King's Lynn Town Hall (photo: Ian Burt)King's Lynn Town Hall (photo: Ian Burt)

4. It has treasure

King John’s Cup is an excessively ornate cup, made of silver, gold and jewels almost 800 years ago. It is the finest and oldest object of its kind in the country (although it never belonged to King John) and is on display at the Town Hall.

5. Lynn has its own Disney princess and desert island hero

Long before Pocahontos was transformed into a Disney princess she was the daughter of a native American leader, and is said to have saved the life of John Smith of King’s Lynn in 1607. Six years later she was captured by the English and a year later married another Norfolk man, John Rolfe of Heacham. She and her husband and their baby son travelled to England where she became something of a celebrity, but she died just a few miles into her voyage back to Virginia.

Author Daniel Defoe was a visitor and a fan of King’s Lynn calling the town, “Beautiful, well built and well situated.” Visit St Nicholas Chapel to see a gravestone for a Robinson Crusoe.

The Purfleet (photo: Ian Burt)The Purfleet (photo: Ian Burt)

6. It has some impressive buildings and open spaces, including two market places

The Saturday Market Place is surrounded by beautiful architecture including the Minster and the Tuesday Market Place, which has been described as one of England’s grandest squares. The 17th century Custom House was called, “One of the most perfect buildings ever built,” by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner.

The Walks is King’s Lynn’s largest park and the only surviving 18th century town walk in Norfolk, created as a place citizens could enjoy some fresh air away from the bustle of the town centre. The 15th century chapel on a hill is known as the Red Mount.

7. It had a name change

King’s Lynn began with a B for its first few hundred years, only changing from Bishop’s Lynn to King’s Lynn when Henry VIII wrested control of the town from the bishop in 1537.

8. The first known autobiography in English was written by a Lynn woman

Margery Kemp, who was born, and probably died, in Lynn, wrote the first known autobiography in English, including details of her pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Born in 1373 the visionary and traveller had at least 14 children before setting off on epic pilgrimages to holy sites including Canterbury, Assisi, Rome, Jerusalem and Bethelehem. She was tried for heresy several times for preaching and teaching religion at a time when women were forbidden to do so and her book includes her spiritual and physical quests.

The statue of Captain Vancouver near the Custom House in King's Lynn, watches the setting sun over West Lynn (photo: Matthew Usher)The statue of Captain Vancouver near the Custom House in King's Lynn, watches the setting sun over West Lynn (photo: Matthew Usher)

9. Visitors to Lynn are following in some very famous footsteps

It was where King John was staying, just before he lost the crown jewels (and his life.) Shakespeare is said to have played in the town, George Vancouver was born in Lynn and sailed to explore and map coastlines around Alaska, Canada, the United States, Hawaii and Australia, and Michael Caine was evacuated here during the war. Today there are very regular royal visits as the railway station is close to their beloved Sandringham.

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