The Lost Burial Ground of St James Chapel, Kings Lynn, Norfolk

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If you look very carefully on the left, after the third white window you can see the fragment of St James Chapel in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.  The above are the tombstones from the lost burial ground of St James ……not really lost as it was made into St James Park……but lost as a part of history, removed forever….luckily someone had the sense to save the tombstones.  When I took the photos of the window on my last post, I very nearly missed them, I was so intent on the fragments.  As I turned to go, from the corner of my eye, I saw them, all lined up in straight lines underneath the most wonderful ancient Weeping Willow tree…I think its a Willow.

I have found out a little more history of St James Chapel, which does involve the burial ground.  The chapel was founded by Bishop Turbus in 1146 and after the dissolution it was reformed as a hospital for the poor and endowed in 1545.  The chapel became ruinous in 1560. In a book written in 1808 it comments “this consecrated fabric was dedicated to the memory of St James the Apostle and stands very close to Grey-frairs, in an inclosed ground or cemetery” If you look through the tree on the top photo you can just make out the still remaining tower of Grey-frairs, so now we know that St James Chapel or hospital as it was then, did have an ancient burial ground around it.

The book continues to say that “in this walled cemetery many persons were still interned, no less then 220 were buried in this place in 1591 during the great sickness then in the town”  So after the chapel had became ruinous there were still burials in the cemetery.

In 1682 the ruinous chapel, the nave, spire and part of the tower had already been removed to restore Grey-frairs, was repaired to become a workhouse in 1687.  The inclosed walls would have gone from the original burial ground by now and in 1805 a new burial ground was attached to the workhouse.  At some point it all merged into the parish burial ground.

In 1903 an ornamental park, St James Park, was opened to the public, following the removal of the tombstones of St James burial ground of 1805  So the tombstones that you can see now are from 1805, there could be some older ones, but some are so worn away that you can hardly read them.  I am just so glad that someone had the foresight to collect them together, because it does give you a feeling of what it might have looked like in days gone past……..

2 comments

  1. Dear Sir, very interesting, please do you know of any photo of the individual headstone.

    Kind regards,
    Harold

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