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MARKET TOWNS OF NORFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

King’s Lynn in 1839

LYNN, distinguished as LYNN REGIS, or KING’S LYNN, a parliamentary borough, port, and market-town in the hundred of Freebridge Lynn, in the county of Norfolk, is on the right or east bank of the river Ouse, a little above its outfall, about 88 miles in a straight line north by east of St. Paul’s, London, or 96 miles from Shoreditch Church by the road through Cambridge, Ely, and Downham Market.

The present town is supposed to have existed before the Conquest. It has been supposed that there was in the Roman time a town on the spot where the village of West or Old Lynn now stands, on the western side of the river. Before the time of Henry III the Ouse is supposed to have had its outfall at or near Wisbeach (Wis-beach, or Ouse-beach), the Little Ouse, with the Nare, and one or two other streams, having their outlet at Lynn ; but the old channel of the Ouse having become obstructed, a new channel was opened into the bed of the Little Ouse, and the waters of the Greater Ouse were thus brought by Lynn. The harbour of Lynn was considerably enlarged by this alteration, the western bank of the river being to a considerable extent swept away, with one of the churches of Old Lynn, and perhaps the site of the original or Roman town. (Richards’s Hist. of Lynn.) Lynn had been, previously to this, a place of considerable trade, and was especially favoured by King John, who granted it a charter of incorporation. It was subsequently patronised by Henry VIII, who emancipated the corporation from the feudal superiority of the bishops of Norwich, and changed the name of the town from Lynn Episcopi, Bishop’s Lynn, to Lynn Regis, or King’s Lynn. In the civil wars of Charles I the town stood out for the king, but capitulated A.D. 1643, after a siege of three weeks, to the earl of Manchester, the parliamentary commander for the eastern associated counties. A conspiracy was formed soon afterwards to surprise the parliamentary garrison, but it was detected, and the projector (the well-known Sir Roger L’Estrange) was kept for some years in prison.

The town at present extends in length about a mile on the east bank of the river, and about half a mile in breadth. It is traversed or bounded by several narrow streams or ‘fleets,’ over which are many bridges. There is no bridge in the town over the Ouse, which is about as wide as the Thames at London Bridge ; but there are bridges about a mile above the town over the Eau Brink, which is a modern cut, and the old channel of the Ouse ; by which bridges there is communication with West Lynn as well as with Wisbeach and the Lincolnshire Fens. The town was formerly defended on the land side by walls, in which were nine bastions and three gates. One of the gates on the south side of the town remains, and there are a few fragments of the walls : the fosse, which was outside the walls, still encircles the town. On the north side of the town is St. Ann’s Fort, a battery of heavy guns, intended to guard the passage of the river. The town is well paved and lighted, but not well supplied with water. The three principal streets are parallel to the river ; smaller streets connect them or branch from them. The houses are chiefly old and inconvenient, except in the more modern parts of the town. The Tuesday market-place, in the northern part of the town, comprises an area of three acres, and is surrounded by some good houses. There is in it a market-cross, an octagonal building. erected A.D. 1710, now in bad repair, having an Ionic peristyle rising to the first story, surmounted by an open gallery. The Saturday market is held in a convenient area near St Margaret’s Churchyard. There are also a cattle and a fish-market. The guildhall is an ancient building of stone and flint, with court-rooms, assembly-rooms, &c. There is a borough gaol, but it is not sufficient for the proper classification of the prisoners. There are an exchange and a custom-house in one building, an excise-office, and a theatre, a modern building, well arranged and fitted up. The borough comprises the united parishes of St. Margaret and St. Nicholas, and the parish of All Saints in South Lynn. The church of St. Margaret is a cross church of spacious dimensions which was once much larger. It contains portions of the early, decorated, and perpendicular styles of English architecture. The chancel or choir, which is early English, has a fine east window, and two octagonal turrets crowning the buttresses at the angles. There are two western towers, one of which formerly had a lofty spire, and there was formerly a lantern or tower at the intersection of the transept. The charnel-house, in the churchyard, was some years back used as a grammar-school, but a new school-house has been since built. The chapel of St. Nicholas is very large, being 194 feet long and 74 wide, inner dimensions. It consists of a lofty nave with side aisles, but without any transept or distinct choir : it is chiefly of decorated or perpendicular English architecture, with large east and west windows. It has a very rich south porch, and a fine wooden roof. It had a spire 170 feet high, which was blown down a century ago. All Saints’ Church is also a cross church, but of smaller dimensions than St. Margaret : the tower, which fell down in 1763 and demolished part of the church, has not been rebuilt. Beside the churches, there are remains of some other ecclesiastical edifices. There is an hexagonal tower 90 feet high, a remain of the Grey (or Franciscan) Friars’ monastery, which serves as a landmark to vessels entering the harbour. The chapel of our Lady on the Mount, or Red Mount Chapel, is on the east side of the town, and is remarkable for the beauty of its architecture ; it is a small cross chapel of stone, and is erected on the walls of a more ancient building of coarse red bricks, an irregular octagon, about 26 feet in diameter, with buttresses at the angles. St. James’s Chapel was lately used as a workhouse. There are several dissenting meeting-houses in Lynn.

The population of the borough in 1831 was 13,370, of which a very small proportion was employed in agriculture or in manufacture properly so called. Rope and sailcloth are the only manufactures, and of the latter but little is made. The trade of the place is however great. It is the port of that large portion of the midland counties which is watered by the Ouse. The harbour is shallow, and the channel by which it is approached from Lynn Deeps is rather intricate. Some parts of this channel are not more than one foot deep at low-water in spring tides ; and in following the channel from Lynn seawards, it is necessary to go at least five miles before reaching a depth of six feet. The banks on each side of the channel are then dry in some places to the height of ten or twelve feet. ‘Lynn deeps’ are the deeper parts of the channel out to sea, but they are ten or twelve miles below Lynn, following the course of the channel. (Commander Hewetts Survey of Lynn and Boston Deeps.) The exports are chiefly corn and agricultural produce, sent coastwise, and a fine white sand, found near the town, and used in making glass. A vast quantity of shrimps, caught on the shores of the Wash, are sent to London. The imports are corn and coal ; timber from America ; timber, deals, hemp, and tallow from the Baltic ; wine from France, Spain, and Portugal, &c. Formerly many ships were fitted out for the Greenland whale-fishery, but this branch of industry has been in a great degree given up. Ship-building is not carried on to the extent it formerly was. There is a corn-market on Tuesday, and a market for general commodities on Saturday. There are two yearly fairs.

The corporation under the Municipal Reform Act consists of six aldermen and eighteen councillors, one of whom is chosen mayor : by the same act the borough was divided into three wards. Lynn has sent two members to parliament ever since 23rd Edward I. The parliamentary constituency in 1833 consisted of 257 freemen and 608 ten-pound householders ; together 865. The parliamentary and municipal boundaries coincide, and include an area of 2,620 acres.

The living of St. Margaret is a perpetual curacy united with the perpetual curacy of St. Nicholas ; their joint yearly value is £138. All Saints is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £134, with a glebe-house. Both are in the archdeaconry of Norfolk and diocese of Norwich.

There are at Lynn an endowed grammar-school, national and Lancasterian schools, and several private schools ; a mechanics’ institute, a parochial library in St. Margaret’s Church, and a public subscription library. There are four hospitals or almshouses, and many other charitable institutions.