Page Two

Norfolk, UK

King’s Lynn





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Historic Buildings of King’s Lynn, page two

Red Mount Chapel (1485)

Grade 1 listed building.

The Red Mount Chapel is a truly unique building in that there are no other comparable examples.

Built as a wayside shrine for Pilgrims on their way to Walsingham and Norwich, it flourished until Henry VIII’s dissolution of 1547.  However because of a legal technicality, it being sited on common ground outside of the town wall but inside the defensive bank, it could not be demolished. Instead it was stripped to dereliction and led a precarious life up until Victorian times when the area around it became a park.  This picture was taken in Sept 2008 just after refurbishment of the main structure and reconstruction of the, long buried, lower pilgrim entrance.  It was also the first time the chapel had been opened to the public. Previously it could only be viewed by special permission.  The chapel is now open to the public on Saturdays and Wednesday’s during May till August and also on Heritage Open day in September

Hanseatic Warehouse: (1475)

This is the only surviving Hanseatic warehouse in England. It was renovated in 1971.  It was used, until quite recently, as the towns registry office by the Norfolk County Council.  A new use for it is now being sought.   

Greenland Fishery:

Built around 1605-8 for Merchant John Atkin, it is probably the last timber framed and jettied building erected in the town.  It is sited on Bridge Street, which was originally the town’s main road, but since the building of London road in Victorian times, is it now a side street.

The Greenland Fishery is a ‘transition’ building in that both old and new building methods were used in its construction.  It has a typically medieval timber structure, but also has brick gable ends incorporating chimney stacks for internal fire places. The Greenland Fishery is so called because it was once a whaler’s tavern serving the men from the nearby Greenland company of whaling ships, which were based nearby from 1774 to 1821.  

In one of the upper rooms there are remnants of Jacobean wall paintings.  One of the fragments depicts a scene from Luke 16:19-31, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.

King’s Lynn Preservation Trust

This photo was taken during the Heritage Buildings Open Day on the 14th of September 2008.

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The Guildhall of St. George is The largest surviving medieval Guildhall in England and is reputed to be the oldest theatre in Europe. This Grade 2 listed building is owned by the National Trust and leased to the Council.

The Undercroft is now Crofters cafe.

The King’s Lynn Arts Centre is open daily.

Guildhall of St. George: (1406) King’s Street.

Built in 1406 for the Guild of St. George (founded 1376) it consisted of an upper hall (107ft long and 29ft wide) with a long undercroft which extended out to the river.  The upper hall was used by its members for their quarterly Guild meetings, various ceremonies, dinners and occasional plays, whilst the undercroft was used for the importing and exporting of goods via its river gate. As well as being an organisation promoting the work and standards of its trades and professions, the Guild was also a focus of spiritual and temporal life. The Guild also provided money to maintain the town walls, the river banks and paid pensions to poverty-stricken brethren. The funding for these works were gathered through the renting of property and warehousing along with various fees and fines. The Guild also played a part in helping King’s Lynn recover from the ravages of the Black Death. The building’s original usage came to an end with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the religious Guilds in 1547. The Guildhall was sold and the undercroft variously used as a warehouse, corn exchange, Royalist weapons store and even a button factory. The upper hall became the Common Town Hall and 1700 to 1767 it was also used for convening the County Court. In 1767 the Mayor of King’s Lynn commissioned the hall to be converted into a playhouse, which became very popular with the local people. The success of the Guildhall playhouse eventually led to a new purpose built theatre being constructed in St. James street in 1814 with the Guildhall again being sold off (this new theatre was destroyed by fire in 1936). For a long time the Guildhall was used as a wool warehouse but in 1920 it was sold to G.M. Bridges & Son Ltd. Scenic artists, who were at the time renting the premises for their business. However by the early 1940’s, the growing popularity of the cinema had deprived the firm of much of its business and it closed. For a time the Guildhall was left virtually derelict and in 1945 came perilously close to being demolished to make way for the expansion of a nearby garage. However with the destruction of so many of the country’s Guildhalls by German bombs, awareness of the historical value of the few remaining Guildhalls was heightened. A wealthy Norfolk man, Alexander Penrose, bought the building to save it from demolition and with the help of Lord and Lady Fermoy in raising funds from the Pilgrim Trust, the Arts Council and public subscription, they were able to convert it into an Arts centre. In 1951 the Arts centre was opened by the Queen Consort of the UK (soon to become the Queen Mother) and thus launched the first King’s Lynn Arts festival.  The Arts Festival continues today as a popular and nationally renowned yearly festival. From 1963 to 1997 the Guildhall was known as the Fermoy Centre in recognition of Lady Fermoy’s patronage. However with Lady Fermoy’s withdrawal of support in 1997 it was renamed the King’s Lynn Arts Centre when the Borough Council took on responsibility for its running.  Recently it has become an independent trust receiving funding from the Borough Council.

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