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Norfolk: King's Lynn

William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845

[Transcription copyright © Pat Newby]


Is an ancient, populous, and flourishing sea port, borough, and market town, and may be properly styled the emporium of the western division of Norfolk; - its harbour forming the grand outlet of all the principal navigable streams in that district and several adjacent counties, and its markets being numerously attended by farmers, merchants, &c., residing within a circuit of twenty miles.

It is a large respectable town, much improved during the last thirty years, by new streets of neat houses; and seated on the east side of the Great Ouse river, within four miles of that large bay of the ocean, called the Wash or Metaris Æstiarium, - being in 52 deg. 45 min. 25 sec. North latitude, and in 1 min. 35 sec. East longitude from the meridian of Greenwich; and distant, 42 miles W. by N. of Norwich; 98 miles N. by E. of London; 46 miles N. by E. of Cambridge; 32 miles S.E. of Boston; 13 miles N.E. by E. of Wisbech; and 15 miles N.W. by W. of Swaffham.

It has a Gaol, Quarter Sessions, and separate Commission of the Peace, and is locally situated in the Hundred of Freebridge Lynn, and bounded on the west by the Great Ouse river; on the opposite side of which are the parishes of West and North Lynn, and that extensive, level, but fertile district, called Marshland, to which there is a ferry from the Common Staith, opposite West Lynn. The country on the east side of the town rises in gentle swells, highly cultivated, interspersed with neat villas and thriving plantations, and presenting a fine contrast to the flat alluvial district on the opposite side of the river.

The town is about one mile and a quarter in length, from the South Gate to Fisher's End, at its northern extremity, and above half a mile in breadth from the river to Littleport-street, where the East Gate was taken down in the year 1800. Three small rivulets or cloughs, here called Fleets, intersect the town in various directions, crossed by more than a dozen small bridges, and so closely lined with buildings in the heart of the town, as to be nearly obscured from view, except in the back premises which open upon them, though they are navigable for coal boats.

The whole town, on the land side, is encompassed by a deep wet foss, formerly defended by nine bastions, and flanked by a strong embattled wall, of which latter, extensive ruins still remain, together with the South Gate, a fine Gothic tower with a lofty pointed arch-way for carriages, and two smaller ones for foot passengers. A little beyond this Gate, the small river Esk, and beyond it the navigable River Nar, pass to the Great Ouse.

Near the foss, on the east side of the town, is an octagonal tower, called the Lady's Chapel, and standing on a conical mound, called the Red Mount, - perhaps a corruption of Rood Mount, and no doubt formerly used for military as well as ecclesiastical purposes.

More sections to be transcribed.

KING'S LYNN UNION, formed under the Poor Law Amendment Act, in 1835, comprises the two parishes of St. Margaret's and All Saints, in the borough, and the small parishes of North and West Lynn, on the opposite side of the river, in the Hundred of Freebridge-Marshland.

In 1841, it contained 16,554 inhabitants, of whom 7,547 were males, and 9,007 females. It had then 3,660 houses; of which 3,442 were inhabited, 192 uninhabited, and 26 building. Of these contents, all were in the borough, except 514 souls and 115 houses. Of the inhabitants, 1,772 were returned as not being born in Norfolk; and of those above twenty years of age, 4,033 were males, and 5,324 females. The four parishes of this Union comprise an area of about 4,800 acres, and their aggregate average annual expenditure for the support of their poor, during the three years preceding the formation of the Union, was £9,220. In 1838, their expenditure was £6,683; in 1839, £7,165; and in 1843, £7,775.

South-Lynn Workhouse, in Friar-street, which had been used by the parish of All Saints more than sixty years, was purchased by the overseers about 1826, but was sold after the formation of the Union.

St. James's Workhouse, which, until 1835, was used only by St. Margaret's parish, is now the UNION WORKHOUSE, having been altered for that purpose, at the cost of about £750. It consists of the remains of St. James's Chapel and some additional buildings. This chapel was founded by Bishop Turbus, in 1146, but after the Dissolution, it was refounded as an hospital for poor and impotent people, and endowed in 1545, with a tax of fourpence per chaldron on all coals brought into Lynn, now yielding about £450 per annum, which is applied with the poor-rates of St. Margaret's parish. The chapel having become ruinous in 1560, the nave, the spire, and part of the tower were taken down, and the materials used in repairing the lofty chancel and transept, which were again thoroughly repaired by the corporation, in 1682, and divided into stories, the highest floor of which extends through the pointed arches, which spring from lofty clustered columns. It was then an hospital for fifty poor men, women, and children.

In 1687, the Corporation settled the building as a Workhouse for poor children, "to hold them to work and train them to trades and manual occupations," and endowed it with £6 a year out of premises formerly the Grey Friary. It was afterwards greatly enlarged, and placed under the control of the Guardians of the Poor of St. Margaret's. Adjoining it is St. James's burial ground, now added to the parish burial ground. Attached to it is an Infirmary for about forty sick paupers, erected in 1823, at the cost of £1,000. The Workhouse has room for more than 200 inmates, who are maintained at the weekly cost of about 2s. l0d. per head, for food and clothing.

For some years before the formation of the Union, here were often as many as 170 inmates, and the poor-rates of St. Margaret's averaged about £8,000 per annum, levied on land, buildings, ships, and stocks in trade. The two latter have been exempted from the payment of poor-rates by a recent Act of Parliament.

The Court of Guardians for the support of the poor of St. Margaret's parish was instituted by an Act of Parliament passed in 1700, which was amended by another Act passed in 1808. This corporate body still exists, and consists of the members of the Town Council, (ex-officio,) the two Churchwardens of St. Margaret's, and two Guardians and one Overseer elected yearly for each of the nine Wards, making altogether fifty-three. They have still the sole power of levying rates for the relief of the poor; but the expenditure thereof is now vested with the Union Guardians. One of them is elected governor, and another deputy-governor.

In 1584, John Lonyson bequeathed £200, to be invested by the Corporation, for the benefit of the poor of St. James's Workhouse, and for the use of this sum they have since paid £10 a year, which is applied with the poor rates of St. Margaret's parish, as also is the coal tax, and the annuity of £6, named above.

The Board of Guardians for the Union, consists of 23 members, of whom 18 are chosen yearly for St. Margaret's parish, 3 for South Lynn, and one each for West and North Lynn. John Jas. Coulton, Esq., is the union-clerk and superintendent registrar, Mr. John Black and his wife are master and matron of the Workhouse; the Rev. Wm. Howlett is chaplain; H. Smythe, W.E. Hunter, and C. Cotton, surgeons; Mattw. Burrell and Jas. Hubbard, relieving officers; and Thos. Cook, registrar of marriages. The Union is divided into three registration districts for births and deaths; and the registrars are Geo. Bainbridge, for the North District; J.W. Chadwick, for the Middle District; and Wm. Plowright, for the South District.

This is the end of the section on the King's Lynn Union.
More sections to be transcribed.

See also the King's Lynn parish page.

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Copyright © Pat Newby.
May 2010