A Blocked Gateway in Kings Lynn, Norfolk

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The other morning I was lucky enough to have a morning in Kings Lynn, a very rare opportunity to act like a tourist in our nearest large town. We have lived in the Fens for nearly six years and I have never explored Kings Lynn, had a look at a few sites, but normally we just use it as a shopping centre.  So I had about 3 hours, which turned into 5 hours in the end…..which was good for me, as I found so much to photograph.  I had a lovely time, I strolled and went up alleys, through doors to courtyards, wandered around two beautiful churches, ruins, the riverside and had tea out of a teacup in a little teashop in their lovely little garden. And still did not see it all…oh dear will have to have another morning.

I love bits of ruins, I like researching them and sometimes they can be quite amazing finds.  As I was strolling along the road looking for a church whose steeple I could see, so was just heading in that direction when I came to the above section of wall.


This looks interesting, read the details on the wall and then thought this is interesting.  This is all that remains of the Austin Friars Priory, the North Gateway to the Priory Precinct.  As Lynn became an important town in the 13th century the Friaries started to move in.  Four established themselves, but only the Austin Friars occupied a site in the centre of the town in 1293.  Over the years there were extensions to their premises and rebuilding of their house and church.


I was interested to find out the size the Priory, but the only thing I could find to give me any idea was from a visit of the Duke and Duchess of Clarence in 1413, that there was enough room to house their retinue with 300 hundred horses…so I think large is the word.  There were several royal visitors, Kings Henry V, V1 & V11 stayed.  Henry V1 was 24 when he stayed, he was making a pilgrimage to Holy places, this of course was before the Dissolution. Also there was a famous Prior John Capgrave  (1393 to 1464) whose Chronicles of England to 1417 is a very early history in English.

The surrender of the house dated 30th September 1538 and was signed by William Wilson Prior and 10 others.  After the Dissolution a John Eyre purchased it from the King in 1544.

So from a blocked up gateway with some 15th century brick walls comes the amazing story of Priory where Kings came and stayed.


6 Replies to “A Blocked Gateway in Kings Lynn, Norfolk”

  1. Do you ever wish you could see time-lapse photography of a site and see how it’s changed over the centuries – it would help us understand the original context of these relicts.

    1. Oh that would be amazing, like in this case, to see the buildings before they were destroyed, because there is nothing left apart from the gateway and wall. I am in St Andrews in Scotland as I am writing this and there are so many churches and ruins I can hardly wait for the morning, just hope the rain keeps off, only here overnight so have to make the most of the morning. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the stone masons and carpenters in the 12th century working away 😉

  2. Your blog has been most helpful. I lived in Kings Lynn until 1962 and then returned very often to visit my parents until finally my dad died in 2015 aged 102. We used to take him round Lynn to parts he knew from his childhood. He had a marvellous memory but didn’t know the ancient history of Lynn. My brother is the historian ( David Stokes). We took so much for granted when we lived there and visits were time constrained. The Good Old Kings Lynn site on Facebook has ignited our interest in all things “Lynn”. I think others would be delighted to see your notes on that Facebook site.
    All best wishes and thanks for your info. Jean Saunders (Stokes).

    1. Thank you Jean, for your nice comments and I am glad it has been of some help to you. How lovely that you dad was 102 and had a wonderful memory. You always do take where you live for granted, I would love to go back and research some of the places I have lived in the past, but better late than never. Kind regards, Lynne 🙂

  3. Thank you for these narratives. I am a lover of medieval history and had the good fortune of visiting King’s Lynn in September 2001. I had only one day to visit fascinating this wonderful place. I must return to see the things I missed. My home is Sunnyvale, California. Not many medieval structures here.

    Thank you again! Ron Harnack

    1. Thank you Ron, so glad they brought back some happy memories. Yes Kings Lynn is full of lovely buildings and so interesting, and on special days some of them are open to the public……I never miss those. Hopefully you will get back for a visit 🙂 Lynne

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