It’s a grey wet day today and a little chilly. Still, after a week of dry warm weather we shouldn’t grumble. We had breakfast in the Costa coffee bar attached to the hotel, which we could reach by going through the hotel lobby and restaurant, avoiding the weather.
The rain had eased off by the time we crossed the road to the station but the sky remains grey and overcast. Umbrellas are out in force in the streets and people are wearing warmer clothes. It’s as though autumn has finally declared itself after allowing the summer to linger on in its place.
We took the 9:40 Cambridge train, intending to change at Ely to a connection for King’s Lynn. Oddly, this destination is not included within the scope of our rail rover passes, so we may have to buy separate tickets for the last leg of the journey.
As we progressed towards Ely, the sky lightened and there was even a brief moment of sunshine. After that, however, the clouds closed in and the rain started again, heavier than before.
At Ely station, we had a wait of 13 minutes, enough to change platforms and buy return tickets to King’s Lynn.
The land around here is famously flat but the view from the rain-streaked windows of the train are closed by mist.
We stepped out of King’s Lynn’s small but neat station building at 11:20 am and proceeded to explore the town.
These chubby (and somewhat grubby) cherubs sit atop an ornate fountain in St James’s Park. The fountain was presented to the town in 1903 by the Mayor, one F.J. Carpenter.
This is Greyfriars Tower, the only above-ground remains of the Franciscan friary that was closed in 1538 on Henry VIII’s orders. In 1577, a new prison was built and many of the stones of the friary were carted away as building materials.
There are many carved and sculpted heads to be seen around King’s Lynn. Here is a selection.
We had a good lunch in a branch of Prezzo (which had some rather fine prints on the wall), and then continued on our way.
King’s Lynn is a pretty town, well worth exploring. On a dull and damp day like today, however, we had three destinations in mind, all of them museums. The first was the King’s Lynn Custom House, built in 1685 and situated on the Purfleet Quay.
The Custom House was set up to extract revenue from Lynn’s extensive overseas trading with, among others, the Hanseatic League. Customs officials operated on the ground floor and the upper floors were used for trade.
The Custom House is free to visit and you can take photographs. Inside, its history and that of Lynn as a trading port, is explained and illustrated with models and with items surviving from the period such as the “Parliament clock” above, so called because for a brief period, Parliament taxed clocks and even when the tax was removed, the name remained.
In front of the Custom House stands this rather green statue of George Vancouver , a son of Lynn and a famous navigator after whom Vancouver Island is named.
Our next port of call was the Town House Museum, which covers the lives of the inhabitants of Lynn from medieval times to the 1950s. Again we were able to take photos.
Nearby in Church Street is a venerable old building called St Margaret’s Church. Now you know that I don’t go in for the superstitious twaddle dispensed by these places but this church does have an interesting feature, a tide clock. Instead of the more usual numerals, there are 12 letters spelling out LYNN HIGH TIDE.
We now moved to the Lynn Museum of Norfolk Life, where again we were allowed to take photos. In this respect, the museum authorities in King’s Lynn are enlightened and deserve to be recognized as such.
The museum covers the history of Norfolk from the earliest times but at present pride of place is given to the 4,000-year-old Seahenge, a structure similar in design to Stonehenge but made of wood. Because this artifact is so large, it cannot be displayed, let alone photographed, in its reconstructed entirety. This model gives an impression of what it was like.
Because of encroachment by the sea, Seahenge would soon have been overwhelmed and eventually destroyed. Archaeologists therefore decided to uproot it and carry it to safety in the museum. Unfortunately, this decision proved controversial. Some people apparently wanted it to be left where it was, to be lost, instead of saving it for the benefit of science and the pleasure and edification of future generations.
Above is pictured the strange upturned tree stump that was in the centre of the complex. I think it’s in pretty good condition for a 4,000-year-old oak tree.
The museum contained many other interesting sections and would require quite some time to do it all justice but I will – self-indulgently – mention only one further item.
Anything feline catches my attention, and this cat with its bold expression and distant gaze, demanded to be photographed. The card described it thus: “A wooden carved prototype for Lefevre’s Jumping Cat’s fairground roundabout, made by Savage’s of Lynn, circa 1880”.
Despite the weather, our day out in King’s Lynn was a success. The town itself is very pleasant and contains many beautiful old buildings (I have not done it justice in that respect – perhaps another time) and has many interesting things to learn about and some good museums to entertain and educate us.
Our return journey to Norwich was without incident and, as it was our last night here, we finished off the evening with a meal in the hotel restaurant.