A town steeped in heritage.
King’s Lynn is a town of great beauty and history. However, it is largely unknown. Most people drive around it, as a gateway around to the coast, or out of the county.
King’s Lynn sits at the confluence of three major roads leading south, west and east: the A10, A47 and A17. It is also the terminal station for the fastest train from London to Norfolk (less than 100 minutes from King’s Cross). This all of course makes it a perfect tourist destination with great communication to the rest of the country
Following any of the unremarkable routes on the edges of town, many will be completely unaware of the richness of its historic town centre.
Here, unique cultural, historical and architectural heritage await you…….
Anyway, King’s Lynn has no less than 481 Listed Buildings Grades I, II* & II, including the finest collection of medieval architecture anywhere in the country, for a town of its size.
Here you will find a very summary general overview of the attractions of the town. You might also like to check out our resource about the Stones of King’s Lynn, inspired by the exhibition of herman de vries ‘on the stony path’ held in 2017.
The Custom House
We will start with The C17 Custom House, built in 1683 as the merchants’ exchange, and designed by Henry Bell. It is the gem of the town, centrally placed on the axis between the high street and the river front and right opposite GroundWork Gallery. It was described by famous architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the most perfect buildings”.
Below here you see King Street with the Custom House in the distance. It runs alongside the river and contains all the great former merchant houses, all of which formerly had their own access to the river, which remains behind them and largely unseen from the road, except along Ferry Lane to the ferry to West Lynn.
Thoresby College, the 15th Century (in origin) home of the King’s Lynn Preservation Trust, with a view along Queen Street in the Old Town
Two Medieval Guildhalls,
Trinity Guildhall, now the Town Hall, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “a delightful group of buildings, all quite different, but forming a perfect sequence”.
The Trinity Guildhall, is now home for one of King’s Lynn’s museums, Stories of Lynn, containing the town’s treasure and some of the most remarkable archives to survive from any medieval town.
St George’s Guildhall, dating from c 1430, is the largest in England. Plays were performed there from 1444. This makes it likely to be Britain’s oldest working theatre, by some 300 years. The evidence is very convincing that Shakespeare himself probably performed there. Certainly his company was performing his plays there in the early 1590s. http://www.shakespearesguildhalltrust.com/
Two Market Places of medieval origin,
Tuesday Market Place has a reputation as originally the largest market place in England.
Tuesday Market Place looking towards the Duke’s Head hotel. This area is now largely car park (sadly), with a few market stalls every Tuesday at the south end nearest to the high street. How lovely if it could be a town garden!
St Margaret’s Church: King’s Lynn Minster
This magnificent building dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries, contains a unique C17 Tide Clock. Also it is home to two of largest and earliest medieval merchant memorial brasses in England.
St Nicholas Chapel,
This is the largest Chapel of Ease in England and home to one of the very finest examples of a mediaeval Angel Roof in England and a rare Consistory Court. Recently renovated and re-opened with the help of a £1.8m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and often housing interesting exhibitions, concerts, plays, events, dinners.
Hampton Court, lovely houses arranged around an internal courtyard in the Old Town.
King’s Lynn was one of the medieval trading partners around the North Sea and the Baltic, known as the Hanseatic League. Other Hanse towns in England were Boston, Lincs and London. Across the seas some of the many trading partners were Lubeck, Bergen, Visby, Novgorod. England’s only surviving Hanseatic Warehouse, dating from 1475 sits on the quayside. Now it is a popular bar, restaurant, galleries and retail space.
There are three museums: the Town Museum that houses the unique bronze age ‘Seahenge’, True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum a charming museum which celebrates the town’s fishing heritage http://truesyard.co.uk/, and the recently re-opened Stories of Lynn in the Town Hall, containing the unique King John Cup and King’s Lynn Town Regalia http://www.kingslynntownhall.com/storiesoflynn/. Here you will also find the unrivalled collection of borough archives in a new modern archive centre http://www.kingslynntownhall.com/townhall/archives/.
King’s Lynn, Festival Town
At least four major festivals take place throughout the year, as well as numerous celebrations and events. Fiction festivals take place in Spring and Autumn with readings and performances from major writers http://www.lynnlitfests.com/Welcome.html
normally held from mid-June, claims to be one of Europe’s largest free popular music festivals, attracting major acts and filling the town on festival nights with a lively party atmosphere. Expect noise, spectacle, fireworks http://www.festivaltoo.co.uk/LineUp.
King’s Lynn Festival.
The second two weeks of July is the usual time for the long-established King’s Lynn Festival. It specialises in orchestral and chamber music, song, dance, recitals, talks and poetry. http://www.kingslynnfestival.org.uk/whats-on. In addition to its traditional summer season, it often organises mini-festivals in April and in October, with both musical and visual arts elements. Exhibitions are usually parternships, with Norfolk Museum Serivce, drawing from their modern and contemporary collections. For the full programme and booking, follow this link: http://www.kingslynnfestival.org.uk/whats-on
King’s Lynn’s ancient trading links with the Baltic ports are celebrated in May each year through the international Hanse Festival with music, dancing, boats, food and drink, overall with a distinctly medieval flavour. http://www.kingslynnhansefestival.co.uk/hanse-festival/
Lynn Lumiere was an innovative project to project images onto some of the important sites and buildings in town, in a joint initiative with Amiens through an EU funded project. The resource this gave the town has been taken up in a very contemporary way by a new arts and tech organisation Collusion, which has been running projects in the town since 2018, regularly commissioning new works.
Then the newest art initiative was the 11thour, a night festival of lights, music and projects. It was first held in 2019 and is due to make its next appearance in November 2021.
There are two theatres and a 3-screen independent cinema.
Town guides and walks
Regular guided walks are conducted by volunteer Town Guides at least three times per week during the tourist season and there are several self-guided walks available in the town and in the Walks, a beautiful tree-filled park.