King's Lynn, also known as Lynn, is a sea port and market town in the ceremonial county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated north of London and west of Norwich. The population of the town is 42,800.
The town has two theatres, museums and other cultural and sporting venues. There are three secondary schools and one college. The service sector, information and communication technologies and creative industries, provide limited employment for the population of King's Lynn and the surrounding area.
The etymology of King's Lynn is uncertain. The name Lynn is said to be derived from the body of water near the town (the River Great Ouse as it prepares to enter the Wash): the Celtic word Llyn, means a lake; but the name is plausibly of Anglo-Saxon origin, from the word Lean, implying a tenure in fee or farm.
For a time it was named Len Episcopi (Bishop's Lynn) while under the jurisdiction, both temporal and spiritual, of the Bishop of Norwich; but during the reign of Henry VIII it was surrendered to the crown, and it then assumed the name of Lenne Regis, or King's Lynn.
The town is and has been for generations generally known by its inhabitants and local people simply as Lynn. The city of Lynn, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, was named in 1637 in honour of its first official minister of religion, Samuel Whiting, who arrived at the new settlement from Lynn, Norfolk.
Lynn originated as a settlement on a constricted site to the south of the mouth of the River Great Ouse. Development began in the early 10th century, but was not recorded until the early 11th century.
In 1101, Bishop Herbert de Losinga of Thetford began the first mediaeval town between two rivers, the Purfleet to the north and Mill Fleet to the south, by commissioning St Margaret's Church and authorising a market. In the same year, the Bishop granted the people of Lynn the right to hold a market on Saturday.
Trade built up along the waterways that stretched inland from Lynn, and the town expanded between these two rivers.
During the 14th century, King's Lynn ranked as England's most important port. It was considered as important to England during the Middle Ages as Liverpool was during the Industrial Revolution. Sea trade with Europe was dominated by the Hanseatic League of ports; the trade and the rise of England's western ports would not begin until the 17th century. The Trinity Guildhall was rebuilt in 1421 after a fire. It is debated whether the Guildhall of St George is the largest and oldest in England. In order to defend the town, walls and gatehouses were established, including the erection of the South Gate and East Gate. The town retains two former warehouses of the Hanseatic League, in use between the 15th and 17th centuries. They are the only remaining buildings of the Hanseatic League in England.
In the first decade of the 16th century, Thoresby College was built by Thomas Thoresby to house priests of the Guild of The Holy Trinity in King's Lynn. The guild was incorporated in 1453 on the petition of its alderman, chaplain, four brethren and four sisters. The guildsmen were then licensed to found a chantry of chaplains to celebrate at the altar of Holy Trinity in Wisbech church and to grant to the chaplains lands in mortmain. In 1524 King's Lynn was given a mayor and corporation. In 1537 the king took control of the town from the bishop. From then on it was called King's Lynn. However in the 16th century the town's two annual fairs were reduced to one. In 1534 a grammar school was founded. But in 1538 Henry VIII closed the Benedictine priory and the three friaries.
During the 16th century a piped water supply was created, although many could not afford to be connected: elm pipes carried water under the streets. Like all towns at that time King's Lynn suffered from outbreaks of plague: there were severe outbreaks in 1516, 1587, 1597, 1636 and 1665. But the 1665 outbreak proved to be the last. Fire was another hazard and in 1572 thatched roofs were banned to reduce the risk of fire. In 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. At first King's Lynn supported parliament, but in August 1643, after a change in government, the town changed sides. Parliament lost no time in sending an army to capture the town. King's Lynn was besieged for three weeks before it surrendered.
In 1683, the architect Henry Bell, who was once mayor of King's Lynn, built the Custom House. Bell also built the Duke's Head Inn, the North Runcton Church, and Stanhoe Hall. Bell's artistic inspiration was the result of travelling Europe as a young man.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the town's main export was grain. The town was no longer a major international port, although some iron and timber were still imported. Like other East Coast ports, King's Lynn suffered from the discovery of the Americas, which benefited ports on the West Coast of England. It was also affected by the growth of London which attracted the town's trade.
In the late 17th century, imports of wine from Spain, Portugal and France into King's Lynn boomed, and there was still an important coastal trade: at that time it was much cheaper to transport goods by water than by road, and thus many goods were shipped around the coast from one port to another. Large quantities of coal arrived in King's Lynn from North East England.
In the mid 17th century the fens were drained and turned into farmland. Vast amounts of farm produce were sent from King's Lynn to the growing market in London. King's Lynn was also still an important fishing port. Greenland Fishery House in Bridge Street was built in 1605. By the late 17th century shipbuilding had become an important industry in King's Lynn. A glass making industry also began in the late 17th century.
In the early 18th century Daniel Defoe said King's Lynn was: 'Beautiful, well built and well situated'. In the 18th century shipbuilding continued to thrive. So did associated industries such as sail making and rope making. Glass making continued to prosper. Brewing was another important industry. The first bank in King's Lynn opened in 1784.
On 28 September 1708, a seven year old boy, Michael Hammond and his 11 year old sister Ann Hammond were convicted of theft of a loaf of bread in King's Lynn. They were sentenced to death by hanging, a sentence which was carried out publicly near the South Gates of the town to make an example of them. At the time of the hangings, Sir Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was Member of Parliament for King's Lynn.
By the late 17th century, the town had begun to decline, and it was only rescued by the late arrival of railway services in 1847. These services were mainly provided by the Great Eastern Railwaysubsequently London and North Eastern Railway. Trains ran from King's Lynn to Hunstanton, Dereham and Cambridge. The town was also served by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, which had offices in the town at Austin Street, and an important station at South Lynn (now dismantled) which was also its operational control centre until this was relocated to Melton Constable. The M&GN lines were later closed to passengers in February 1959.
The town's amenities continued to improve into the 20th century. A museum opened in 1904, and a public library in 1905. The first cinema in King's Lynn, the Majestic Cinema, was officially opened on 23 May 1928; (this year is commemorated in the stained glass window at the front of the building) and the town council began regeneration of the town in the 1930s.
During World War I, Lynn was one of the first towns in Great Britain to be bombed from the air. On the night of 19 January 1915, the town was bombed by naval zeppelin L4 commanded by Kapitain Lieutenant Magnus von Platen-Hallermund. Eleven bombs in all were dropped, both incendiary and high explosive, doing extensive damage, killing two people in Bentinck Street and injuring several others.
When World War II began, it was assumed that King's Lynn would be safe from bombing, and many evacuees were sent there from London. However King's Lynn was not completely safe and suffered several air raids.
In 1962 King's Lynn became an overflow town for London, and the town's population increased. New estates were built at the Woottons and Gaywood. In the 1960s the town centre was redeveloped and many old buildings were destroyed. Lynnsport, a sports centre, opened in 1982. The corn exchange was converted to a theatre in 1996.
The brewing industry had died out by the 1950s but new industries came to King's Lynn: food canning in the 1930s and soup making in the 1950s. In the 1960s the council tried to attract new industries by building a new industrial estate at Hardwick. The new industries included light engineering, clothes and chemicals. Fishing remains an important industry.
In 1987, the town became the first in the UK to install town centre CCTV, though Bournemouth had previously used CCTV in non-central locations. The single crime most frequently prosecuted as a result of this comprehensive system is men urinating in public on their way home at night from pubs.
Since 2004, plans have been under way to regenerate the entire town. King's Lynn has undergone a multi-million pound regeneration scheme.
In 2005, the Vancouver Shopping Centre, (now since renamed the Vancouver quarter) originally built in the 1960s, was refurbished as part of the scheme, with a life expectancy of only 25 years according to the construction firm, and an extension is planned. A new award winning £6 million multi-storey car park was built.
To the south of town, a large area of brownfield land is being transformed into a housing estate locally known as Balamory after the colourful children's programme, and there were ambitions to build another housing estate alongside the River Nar but these were vehemently opposed by local opinion and the economic situation has seen this ambition stopped. There is also a business park, parkland, a school, shops and a new relief road in a £300 million+ scheme.
In 2006, King's Lynn became the United Kingdom's first member of The Hanse (Die Hanse), a network of towns and cities across Europe which historically belonged to the Hanseatic League. Originally this was a highly influential mediaeval trading association of merchant towns around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which contributed to the development of King's Lynn.
The Borough Council commissioned a report by DTZ and accepted by the Borough Council published in 2008 which describes King's Lynn as a town with a workforce as being of "low value" and having a "low skills base". The town was further described as having a "poor lifestyle offer". The quality of services and amenities was described as "unattractive to higher value inward investors and professional employees with higher disposable incomes". Average earnings are well below regional and national levels, and a large number of jobs that do exist in tourism, leisure and hotels are both subject to seasonal fluctuations and are poorly paid. Education and workforce qualifications are described also as being below the national average. The borough ranks 150 out of 354 in terms of deprivation.
In 2009, a proposal was submitted for the Campbell's Meadow factory site to be redeveloped to include a employment and business park, this plan had been rejected in favour of Sainsbury, but in June 2011 Tesco was given permission to build their store. On 8 June 2010, Tesco unveiled its regeneration plans for the site that would cost £32 million, and might create 900 jobs overall.
Tesco also pledged £4 million of improvements in other areas of the town. It planned to spend £1.6 million widening the Hardwick Road but the Sainsbury bid was preferred by the Council as it offered more benefits to the town. Although now both stores will be constructed and as off August 2011 Tesco has started the redevelopment of the Campbell's site by slowly removing the current buildings which are full of asbestos for the construction of the new Tesco store which will be built behind the current Tesco Hardwick and will have twice the floor space it is due to open late 2012, as of the beginning of September no building work had been started on the new Sainsburys.
Sainsbury's has also had its £40 million plans for a new superstore opposite Tesco on the Pinguin Foods site, which is estimated to create 300 jobs and secure the future of Pinguin Foods in King's Lynn proposed and accepted by the town. Pinguin Foods is releasing of its site, to accommodate the proposed store. Mortson Assets and Sainsbury’s plan to create a new link road between Scania Way and Queen Elizabeth Way to improve access, allowing the industrial estate to expand and attract new employers. Sainsbury's will also keep their store open in the town centre. Sainsbury's has pledged £1.75 million for highways improvements and a further £7 million to invest in the Pinguin Foods factory.