Wednesday, 31 August 2011

KING'S LYNN

Tucked away in a corner of The Wash is King’s Lynn, or Lynn as it is affectionately named by the locals. The King’s part of the name was conferred by Henry VIII; it used to be called Bishop’s Lynn, the bishop in question being the Bishop of Norwich, until Henry came along and dispossessed the Bishop. The town has enjoyed a prosperous past, as can be seen from the impressive architecture, from the 13th century Chapel of St Nicholas to the Jacobean and Georgian buildings of the Tuesday Market, which in fact holds a market on Fridays as well as Tuesdays, while on Saturdays a market is held in – you guessed it – the Saturday Market. The town has two guildhalls, the 15th century Holy Trinity Guildhall with its striking chequered flint pattern, and the National Trust owned St George’s Guildhall, the largest ancient guildhall in England to have survived intact. The upper part of the latter guildhall is a theatre, where the earliest production is thought to have been staged in 1442, and where Shakespeare is believed to have performed. King’s Lynn is linked to The Wash by the Great Ouse, with a busy port downstream.

Looking around at the gracious surroundings of the Tuesday Market, which includes the fetchingly pink grandeur of the Duke’s Head Hotel’s facade, it is hard to believe some of the things that went on there in previous centuries. In my Manningtree post (24th July) I wrote about the “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, who went rampaging around East Anglia on a “seek and destroy” mission against presumed witches. Individual towns paid Hopkins to clear them of their witches, with King’s Lynn offering him £15 for his services. It was in the Tuesday Market that the victims of the town’s witchcraft hysteria were burnt at the stake. Added to this grisly spectacle was the gallows in the square where criminals were hanged. But perhaps the most horrific account of the brutal punishments meted out to wrongdoers in the square here involved a maidservant who was accused of poisoning her mistress. The unfortunate girl was plunged into a cauldron of boiling water, and according to local legend the girl’s chest burst open from the impact of the boiling water, causing her heart to shoot across to the opposite wall. There is a carved heart within a diamond-shaped frame above the door of an old brick building in the north-west corner of the square, which is meant to mark the spot where this gruesome event took place.

For a calendar of events in King's Lynn, see here.

Map of the area.

'King's Lynn' photo (c) 2010, Nick Hubbard - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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