Lynn, or Lynn-Regis

LYNN, or Lynn-Regis, a borough, sea-port, and market-town, having exclusive jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of Freebridge-Lynn, W. division of Norfolk, 44 miles (W. by N.) from Norwich, and 97 (N. by E.) from London; containing 16,039 inhabitants. This place is by Camden supposed to have been a British town, and to have derived its name from the expanse of water near which it is situated, the British word Llyn signifying a lake; but Spelman is of opinion that the name is of Saxon origin, from the word Lean, implying a tenure in fee or farm. It was at one time called Len Episcopi, being under the jurisdiction, both temporal and spiritual, of the bishops of Norwich, who had a palace where Gaywood Hall now stands; but this episcopal authority was, in the reign of Henry VIII., surrendered to the crown, and from that time the town assumed the name of Lenne Regis, or King's Lynn. In Domesday book it is called Lun, and Lenn; and is described as the property of Agelmare, Bishop of North Elmham, and Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury. It appears to have been a place of considerable importance, and to have enjoyed valuable privileges, including certain customs on the arrival of all merchandise by sea and land, of which the bishops claimed a moiety. Bishop Herbert, who removed the see to Norwich in 1094, founded a church and priory here, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, St. Margaret, and other saints; and in the reign of Richard I. the town was the residence of numerous Jews, who carried on an extensive trade with most parts of Europe.

In 1204, during the contest between John and the barons, Lynn continued faithful to the king, who remained here for some time, and, on the petition of John Grey, Bishop of Norwich, made the town a free borough: he presented to the inhabitants a silver cup and cover, which are still preserved by the corporation; also his own sword to be borne before the mayor on public occasions. John was frequently here during the war, and from this place he departed just before the disaster which befel him in crossing the Wash, and to which is ascribed the illness that caused his death. Edward III. and Henry VI. also visited the town; and Edward IV., in 1470, retreating before the celebrated Earl of Warwick, came hither in company with his brother the Duke of Gloucester, and embarked for Flanders. In 1498, Henry VII., with his queen and the Prince of Wales, attended by a numerous retinue, spent some time at the Augustine convent in the town. Queen Elizabeth, in her progress through Norfolk in 1578, visited the place; and of late years, His Majesty William IV., when Duke of Clarence, in 1807, and the Duke of Sussex, in 1822, were entertained by the corporation, and presented with the freedom of the borough. Her present Majesty, when Princess Victoria, with the Duchess of Kent, likewise visited the town, in 1835, on their route to Holkham. In the civil war of the 17th century, the inhabitants embraced the royal cause, and the town was besieged by the parliamentarian forces under the command of the Earl of Manchester, to whom it surrendered after a vigorous resistance for three weeks. Numerous plagues and other diseases have raged here, at different periods, with destructive influence; in 1540, an intermittent fever prevailed to such an extent as to occasion a suspension of the mart for that year, and in 1636 and 1665, the market and fairs were discontinued owing to the plague. In 1741, the spires of the church of St. Margaret and the chapel of St. Nicholas were blown down, and several other buildings greatly injured, by a violent hurricane.

The town is situated at a distance of ten miles from the North Sea, on the east bank of the Great Ouse, at its confluence with the river Nar, which is here of considerable width; it extends a mile and a quarter in length, and half a mile in breadth, and is intersected by four rivulets, called fleets, over which are numerous bridges. Many improvements have been effected under acts of parliament obtained in 1803 and 1806 specially for the town. It was anciently defended on the east side by a wall with nine bastions, and by a broad and deep fosse, over which were three drawbridges leading to the chief gates: a few fragments of the wall are still remaining, and one of the gates, arched and embattled, at the south entrance; the other gates have been taken down. On the north side is St. Anne's fort, a platform battery, constructed in 1627, and formerly mounting twelve pieces of heavy ordnance. The town has three principal streets, nearly parallel, from which several smaller streets diverge; and is well paved, lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water. The houses are in general ancient and irregularly built, though interspersed with several respectable mansions; and in the more modern parts are ranges of handsome dwellings. The environs are flat, and not very attractive in their scenery; but the public promenades are pleasant. A theatre was erected by a proprietary of shareholders in 1814, and is open annually for about six weeks, commencing at the great mart in February. Assemblies are held in a suite of commodious rooms in the town-hall, in which also concerts take place occasionally. A subscription library was established in 1797, and is supported by 200 members; there is likewise a reading and news room in the market-place, and the inhabitants have access to an excellent parochial library in St. Margaret's church.

In the reign even of Edward the Confessor, Lynn was a place of considerable trade; and it had grown into such commercial importance at the beginning of the thirteenth century, that the revenue paid to the crown was more than two-thirds of that arising from the trade of the port of London. In 1370, the inhabitants furnished nineteen vessels towards a naval armament for the invasion of France: a mint was anciently established here; and there were thirty-one incorporated guilds, or trading companies, some of which had separate halls. The harbour is deep, and sufficient to accommodate 300 sail; but the entrance is somewhat dangerous, from the frequent shifting of the channel, and the numerous sandbanks; and the anchorage is rendered difficult from the nature of the soil, and the rapidity of the tide, which rises to the height of twenty feet. Originally the course of the Ouse was by Wisbech: its present direction, which, according to Dugdale, may be referred to the reign of Henry III., has been ascribed to the decay of the outfall at Wisbech, and to some great flood which rendered a fresh line necessary. This accession of water into the channel of a small river which previously flowed past the town, destroyed a considerable part of old Lynn; and the church at North Lynn is stated to have been completely engulphed. After the sluices at Denver and Salter's Lode had been constructed, for the purpose of draining the fenny tract called Bedford Level, the navigation of the river was much impaired, and the harbour obstructed by the accumulation of silt; to remedy which, the Eau-brink cut was commenced in 1818, and completed in 1820, avoiding a considerable bend in the river. Near the north end of this cut, a handsome wooden bridge was built some years ago, over which a new road leads into Marshland; and a bridge over the river Nar, and an embankment at Cross-Keys Wash, affording a direct road from Norfolk and Suffolk, through Lynn, into Lincolnshire, were completed in 1831. The Purfleet and Common Staith quays are the principal places for landing merchandise; on the former, where all wines are landed, is the custom-house, erected by Sir John Turner, and occupying the site of the hall of the ancient guild of the Holy Trinity. It is a handsome building of freestone, ornamented with two tiers of pilasters, the lower of the Doric, and the upper of the Ionic, order, and surmounted by a small cupola; in a niche in the front is a statue of Charles II.

The port, being so near the sea, and enjoying the advantages of inland communication, carries on an extensive foreign and coasting trade. The principal imports are, wine and cork from Spain and Portugal; brandy from France; timber, deals, hemp, and tallow, from the Baltic; corn from the northern parts of Europe; oilcake from the various parts of the continent, and lately from the Mediterranean; and timber from America. There are seven wood-yards for bonding timber, deals, &c.; also a tobacco warehouse, a warehouse for dry goods generally, and several vaults, all appropriated for the reception of articles under bond. The coasting-trade is very considerable: a fine species of white sand, much used in the manufacture of glass, is sent in great quantities to Newcastle and Leith; shrimps, which are found in abundance on the coast, are forwarded to London and other places. The quantity of coal landed at the port in a recent year, was 255,763 tons; and the duties paid at the custom-house amounted to £64,359. The number of vessels that entered inwards was, from foreign ports, 301, aggregate tonnage, 29,441; and of coasting-vessels 2229, of 208,137 tons' aggregate burthen: the number that cleared outwards was 1159, of the aggregate burthen of 68,920 tons. The number of ships of above fifty tons' burthen registered at the port is 192, and the tonnage 17,156. The jurisdiction of the port extends from Burnham-Overy on the east, to the entrance to Wisbech harbour on the west. There are three yards for shipbuilding, two of which have patent-slips; several extensive breweries and large malting establishments, a manufactory for sailcloth and sacking, some rope-walks and manufactories for twine, a manufactory for tobacco, an establishment for cork-cutting, three iron-foundries, several large flour-mills, an oil-mill, and a saw-mill. The intercourse with the interior of the country is greatly facilitated by the river Ouse and its several branches, with which various canals have communication. Acts were passed in 1846, for a railway to Dereham, by way of Swaffham, 26½ miles long; and for a railway to Ely, by way of Downham-Market, also 26½ miles in length: both lines were completed in 1847.

The market-days are Tuesday and Saturday; the market on the former, principally for corn, is held in a paved area of about three acres, surrounded by some well-built houses. A handsome but dilapidated marketcross of freestone, erected in 1710, has been taken down, and a new market-house erected, with a range of six Doric columns on the basement story, forming an entrance, above which is a range of six Ionic columns, supporting a pediment; the upper part of the building contains a spacious room for exhibitions or other public purposes, with entrances from staircases on the sides, and the area underneath extends to the quay, where the fish-market is held. The market on Saturday, formerly held in the High-street, was removed in 1782 to an area near St. Margaret's church, where a good market-house was built in 1802. In 1826, the weekly cattle-market was removed from its inconvenient site in the environs of the town, to a more central situation. The fairs are on February 14th, which is generally continued for a fortnight; and October 17th, which is a great cheese-fair.

King's Lynn, a borough by prescription, received its first charter from King John, in the 6th of his reign; the grant was confirmed and extended by several subsequent sovereigns. A new charter was bestowed by Henry VIII. in the 16th year of his reign, by which the municipal constitution was fixed, and another in the 29th year, establishing local courts; and by charter of the 2nd of James I., the corporation acquired the rights of admiralty. The control is now vested in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, under an act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, which also divides the borough into three wards, and makes the municipal boundaries co-extensive with the parliamentary. The corporation, until the passing of the same act, which abolished admiralty jurisdictions, presided at an admiralty court of record for determining all pleas arising within the limits of the port. They at present hold a court of quarter-session for the trial of all offences not capital; a court of record once a month for the recovery of debts to any amount, and the determination of civil suits; and a court leet annually. The powers of the county debtcourt of Lynn, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of Lynn and Freebridge-Lynn, and part of those of Wisbech, Docking, and Downham-Market. Petty-sessions are held thrice a week. The number of borough magistrates is eleven. The freedom is inherited by the eldest son of a freeman, on the death of his father, or acquired by servitude. The town first exercised the elective franchise in the 23rd of Edward I., since which time it has regularly returned two members to parliament: the borough is co-extensive with the parishes of St. Margaret, and South Lynn or All Saints, and comprises 2633 acres: the mayor is returning officer. The guildhall is an ancient structure of stone and flint, in the later English style, containing a spacious hall, courts for the sessions, and a suite of assembly-rooms; and is ornamented with portraits of King John, Henry VI., Edward IV., William and Mary, George III., Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Robert Walpole, Bart., who represented the borough in seventeen successive parliaments; Sir Thomas White, Sir Benjamin Keene, and Lord George Bentinck. The prison for the borough is both a common gaol and house of correction.

The parish of South Lynn contains 3522, and St. Margaret's 12,517, inhabitants. The living of South Lynn is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £18. 6. 8.; patron and appropriator, the Bishop of Ely: the great tithes have been commuted for £190, and the small for £180. The church is an ancient cruciform edifice; the tower fell down in 1763, and demolished part of the body of the building. The living of St. Margaret's is a perpetual curacy, with that of St. Nicholas' annexed; net income, £138; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Norwich. The church is a spacious cruciform structure, combining the early, decorated, and later English styles, with two western towers, and an east front of singularly beautiful design, with two octagonal turrets rising from the flanking buttresses; the chancel is early English, with a circular window, and contains some finely-sculptured sedilia of stone, several ancient brasses and monuments, and a brass eagle with expanded wings forming the reading-desk. The chapel of St. Nicholas, built in the latter part of the fourteenth century, is a large structure, combining the decorated with the later English style, and having an embattled tower surmounted by a spire; the original roof of beautifully carved oak is carefully preserved, and the interior contains many details of great beauty. A district parish was formed out of St. Margaret's parish, in March, 1846, under the act 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37; and a church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist was consecrated in September following: it is situated at the end of Blackfriars' road, is in the early English style, and cost between £5000 and £6000; of 1000 sittings, 800 are free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Bishop of Norwich; net income, £150. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. In the parish of St. Margaret is a cemetery, with a small chapel for the performance of the funeral service; and there is a burial-ground for Jews. The Free Grammar school was founded in the reign of Henry VII., by Thomas Thoresby, alderman of Lynn, who endowed it with lands producing about £60 per annum; a spacious schoolroom, and a dwelling-house for the master, were erected in 1825, by the corporation. It has two scholarships at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, of £5. 10. each per annum, and one scholarship of £2 per annum, both founded by the corporation, and tenable for seven years; also one scholarship of £2, for seven years, founded by the owner of an estate near High-bridge Lynn; one of £3. 8. 6., at Trinity College, Cambridge, for five years; and one of £6, tenable for four years, at St. John's College, Cambridge. Eugene Aram was usher here when he was apprehended, in 1759, on a charge of murder committed fourteen years previously.

Gaywood hospital, about half a mile from Lynn, occupies the site of the ancient hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, founded in the reign of Stephen, for a master and twelve brethren and sisters; the endowment, lapsing to the crown, was granted by James I. to the mayor and aldermen, in trust for the maintenance of a master and eleven aged and infirm persons. The hospital was burnt down by the parliamentary troops in the reign of Charles I., and rebuilt by the corporation in 1649. St. James' hospital was rebuilt in 1822, by Mr. Benjamin Smith, and is endowed for the maintenance of a reader and eleven aged women. Lynn hospital, a large and handsome edifice of white brick, was erected in 1835, at an expense of £2000. Valenger's hospital, founded in 1605, and rebuilt in 1806, is endowed with £21 per annum, and inhabited by four aged women. Paradise or Framingham's hospital, begun in 1676, by John Heathcote, and completed after his decease by Henry Framingham, is endowed for the support of a reader and eleven aged men. Among the other charities is one by Mr. Cook, of London, who bequeathed £5000 three per cents.; the dividends on £2300 of the amount to be paid to the inmates of the Bede house, those on £2000 to the tenants of Framingham's hospital, and those on the remaining £700 to the hospitallers of South Lynn. There are various benevolent institutions for the relief of the necessitous; and certain trustees are in possession of funds for apprenticing children, for loans to young tradesmen, and other purposes. The union of Lynn comprises St. Margaret's, and North, South, and West Lynn parishes; containing a population of 16,554.

The monastic institutions and ancient hospitals consisted of a priory of Benedictine monks, in Priory-lane; a convent of White friars, in South Lynn; one of Grey friars, in St. James' street; one of Black friars, between Clough-lane and Spinner-lane; one of Augustine friars in St. Austin's street; a college near the town-hall; and St. Mary Magdalene's hospital, the site and endowment of which are appropriated to Gaywood hospital; also a nunnery, a monastery of friars de Pænitentiâ Jesu, St. John's hospital, and four lazar-houses, the sites of which are unknown; besides various chapels, which were involved in the general Dissolution. Vestiges of the houses that belonged to the Grey, White, Black, and Augustine friars still exist. The remains of the first, which stand at the entrance into the town from London, consist of the tower and lantern of the conventual church, rising from a pointed arch supported by buttresses, to the height of about ninety feet, and serving as a landmark for ships entering the harbour; a spiral staircase leads to the summit, whence a view is obtained of the town and its environs. An ancient building, in a state of complete repair, in Queen-street, near the town-hall, has been considered to be that which constituted the college. But the most interesting relic of antiquity is a curious edifice at the eastern extremity of the town, denominated the Lady's Chapel, or the chapel on the Red Mount, which has undergone a thorough repair by subscription. It is of singular construction: within an octagonal wall of red brick, strengthened by buttresses, is a handsome cruciform chapel of very small dimensions, with an elegant stone roof. Nicholas of Lynn, a celebrated mathematician, astrologer, and navigator, who became a Grey friar, and died in 1369, was born and buried in the town; and Sir William Browne, president of the Royal College of Physicians, and author of several works, resided here. Lynn gives the inferior title of Baron to the Marquess Townshend.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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