KING'S LYNN CIVIC SOCIETY
A society for people who think only the best
is good enough for King's Lynn
Cover: Tony Burton, Director of Civic Voice, will be in
King's Lynn in November, speaking to us on
A New Dawn for the Civic Movement.
See page 7 for details.
King's Lynn Civic Society
February 2010 newsletter
From the Chairman by Alison Gifford
On the July 14 our President, Desmond Waite, attended his last CAAP
(Conservation Areas Advisory Panel) on behalf of the Civic Society. He has
been our representative for 40 years and has been knowledgeable and
enthusiastic, reporting back to the committee in detail and explaining his
recommendations to the Committee. His penetrating comments have probably
saved the town from some dreadful architectural horrors. Mr Waite expects
high standards from the professionals who draw up plans and has mentioned
many times how it is more common now that meaningful detail is left off by the
practitioners who are not always qualified architects.
Two days after the meeting he was invited to the Mayor’s Parlour with
Mrs Waite, Richard and Judith Waite, Stuart Ashworth, Pam Lynn, Cllr
Spikings, Geoff Allen and other members of the CAAP for a “retirement
celebration”. The Mayor presented him with a gift of glasses with the town
arms engraved on them. It has been a sterling effort over many years and on
your behalf I thank our President for his dedication to a cause close to his heart.
Ian Price will now be our representative, and Mr Waite will help him to settle
into the role.
The reccurring problem that we deal with is lack of enforcement when
planning regulations are flouted and the lack of will by the legal department to
apply measures they have in their power to apply – Compulsory Purchase
Orders – to buildings and land that are empty, derelict or very neglected, an
eyesore and a waste of resources. Houses that have been empty and neglected
for years (Purfleet House is one example) can be acquired and returned to the
housing stock. A real gain to the community, the visual image and the local
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 3
economy. It would be a win win situation I am sure – and it is possible, legal
and achievable. Why is this a fairly common and popular practice in Great
Yarmouth and not in King’s Lynn?
Of great concern is the deterioration of the Hanse House, which is almost
empty prior to sale by Norfolk County Council. It is listed Grade I. The only
remaining Hanse warehouse in England, it is unique. If a suitable buyer is not
found, it will, and should, cause a national outcry. What can be done? Our
historic buildings are an asset and not a burden. But imaginative solutions have
to involve every interested party, the Civic Society, the Borough, English
Heritage, SPAB and NCC. The County Council have to respect the integrity of
our historic built environment and not just walk away from their responsibilities.
Another building that is cause for concern is the Guildhall of St George.
It is sad that the Guildhall Theatre can no longer sustain a regular programme of
events. This 15th Century building is the finest guildhall in England and has the
longest connection with drama of any place in the country. It is highly likely
that Shakespeare played on the stage here. This historic town should be proud
of its reputation as a Festival Town. We do get support for the arts, music,
shows, literature, poetry and drama from the Borough Council. and some staff
members and volunteers have worked hard.
Nevertheless the care and concern for the Guildhall Theatre, a difficult
historic venue, has faltered over the years, as did the standard of programming.
But that neglect is not just by “the council”, who we elect to act for us. It is
also we, the people who profess to like and use the arts, who have let this
historic building down. When money had to be saved, it was not a thriving and
vibrant theatre that we tried to fight for, but a shadow of its 1950s self. This is
a wake up call. We should have got behind it earlier as an arts community and
we need to get behind it now if we want it to live again. It will still have some
performances of course, and be used by the Festival and the Community Film
Club. But it needs to have new life breathed into it.
In 1948, when it was just days away from demolition, this unique,
historic theatre was saved by public subscription, enthusiasm, inspiration and
4 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
hard work. Can that be done again? I think it can. There are many little
theatres that are successfully run by trusts and enthusiasts. Now might be the
time, when public money is tight, that we have to accept the challenge to do it
ourselves for the Guildhall Theatre, with the right framework and support.
Dates for your diaries. The Green Quay “Maritime Weekend”, August
28–30, includes walks and talks as well as stalls and events on the forecourt and
on the river. Please contact the Green Quay for details – 01553 818500.
Interesting raffle prizes involving train tickets apparently.
Heritage Open Day is on the Sunday September 12, 10am–4pm. Lots to
do and see with actors, exhibitions and talks. The programme is almost ready
for printing so it should be in the Tourist Information Centre and other places
very soon. Please volunteer to steward for a couple of hours. Contact Jean
Tuck – 01553 775964.
Combined work brings a happy result by Sally Smith
Next time you are near St John’s Church go into The Walks and take a look at
the monument which stands just outside the railings. A few months back it was
in a very sorry state. The stone-work had deteriorated and was cracking and
splitting and there was plenty of evidence that attempts had been made to push
off the slab forming the top. The stone kerbs, which surround the base, had been
pushed over. The whole needed cleaning.
It was also being used in the cavalier fashion which has become so
prevalent in The Walks, as a table and a seat – and probably worse.
Today it has been meticulously repaired and restored by local specialist
craftsman John Hoath.
The monument is a raised ledgerstone – tombstone – the last remaining
evidence in situ of the St James's Burial Ground and we can give ourselves a pat
on the back for initiating its restoration. Committee member Herbie Knights,
who maintains a very close watch on this area of the town, first alerted us to
the plight of the ledgerstone and we took advice of funerary historian Dr Julian
Litten, chairman of the Friends of Hardwick Road Cemetery. Dr Litten instantly
agreed that it needed – and warranted – restoration and provided a list of the
work which should be carried out (how fortunate we are to have such an expert
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 5
Armed with this knowledge and advice we contacted the borough
which duly put historic buildings officer David Pitcher onto the case, with the
happy result you can now see. The monument was surveyed and John Hoath
commissioned to undertake the necessary work, during which the top was found
to be a handsome piece of marble and not stone as previously thought. It has
been railed to match the railings on the south side of St Johns to prevent it being
used as a seat and protect it from most physical damage.
“The council should be congratulated on its approach,” says Dr Litten.
“Few other local authorities would be so generous or caring towards a funerary
monument in their custody.”
Those of you who heard him speak at our AGM last year will know that
he has made a great study of the graves in the Hardwick Cemetery and their
occupants. Naturally he knew all about the ledgerstone and the St James Burial
He explains that in the mid-19thC all over England new cemeteries were
being established and this was so in King's Lynn where the Corporation Burial
Board, using the powers of the 1854 Burial Act, took over and extended the
recently-opened All Saints' Burial Ground in 1855 to form what is now known
as Hardwick Road Cemetery
In 1856 the St James's Burial Ground, situated beside St John’s Church,
was closed and then landscaped as a pleasure park which was opened in 1903.
The monuments and headstones were re-sited in the south-east corner of the
grounds where they can now be seen adjacent to the St James’ Medical Practice
– re-sited that is, but for one.
A Mr J J Coulton of Pentney made an application for his vault, ‘in the
north-east corner of St James's Burial Ground, adjacent to St John's Church’ to
be retained, otherwise he would have no alternative than to remove it and the
human remains in the vault beneath to Pentney. The Corporation agreed to the
request, hence its survival.
“It might be thought that we have made rather a fuss over something
which is somewhat inconsequential,” says Alison Gifford, KLCS chairman.
“But the ‘small’ items are as important to the history of our town as the grand
buildings such as the Town Hall. I can only hope that now the ledgerstone is
6 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
looking so splendid it will be respected and not suffer the depredations of the
many undesirable elements which perpetrate such damage and vandalism in The
Sadly for us all, and the many important buildings in the town, the
restoration of the ledgerstone was one of the last tasks for David Pitcher before
he retired. We wish him well in his retirement and thank him for all that he has
done for King’s Lynn. We understand that he has an excellent successor in the
wings. With so many important buildings to be cared for we trust that council
cut-backs will not preclude proper staffing for this important part of the
Civic Voice Director Tony Burton to visit King's Lynn……
by Anne Roberts
Our meeting on Thursday November 4 will be something of a special event.
This year we as a society have joined Civic Voice, the new body which has been
launched to replace the former Civic Trust.
We shall be welcoming Tony Burton, Director of Civic Voice, to speak
to us and answer questions about issues which concern the civic movement.
Tony has 20 years experience in the field of community action, planning
and environmental and heritage politics. Prior to his recent work with the
National Trust he spent thirteen years with the CPRE, leaving as their Deputy
Director in 2001. He was a founder member of Heritage Link – the voluntary
sector organisation for heritage groups – and chaired the environmental
equivalent Wildlife and Countryside Link. He has also been an advisor to
ministers on a variety of heritage and environmental issues, leading several
initiatives which have helped to change Government policy.
Last year he moved from his role as Director of Strategy and External
Affairs with the National Trust in order to take up the leadership of this
important new movement.
This will be a great opportunity to hear and put questions to someone
with such a wealth of experience. Tony is being asked to speak to societies all
over the country and so we are very fortunate that he has agreed to come to
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 7
Lynn, especially as he was here last year for the East of England Civic Societies'
event. He is keen to meet as many people as possible and so the evening will be
open to anyone interested in civic and environmental issues, including members
of other societies and interested individuals in our area.
In order to accommodate extra numbers, we shall be holding the meeting
at London Road Methodist Church, starting at our usual time of 7.30 pm, and
with refreshments afterwards.
Please make this event known, and come with plenty of questions and
points you would like to hear discussed.
…… and the Civic Voice AGM, Peterborough
From 1pm October 8 to 4pm October 9, at the Great Northern Hotel. All civic
societies who are members of Civic Voice are invited. A series of guided walks
and tours around Peterborough is included, as well as a visit to Stamford (the
home of the first conservation area).
Registration fee is £20 (contribution to costs). Official AGM business
on Saturday morning is free, although you still need to book to attend. Register
Planning applications by Colin Johnston and Ian Price
Since we last reported, we have had no major applications to examine, but there
have been a number of minor ones which we have commented on – none have
deserved a formal objection.
Bishops Lynn House in Tuesday Market Place was one of the most
interesting, and we were pleased to be invited by the owners (Morston Assets) to
discuss the application on site. It is proposed to carry out repairs and
restoration, both inside and out. On the whole the proposals appeared to respect
the character of this important Grade II* building, though we made a number of
6-7 Railway Road is the large building on the west side of Railway
Road, just south of Old Sunway. It is in a disgraceful condition, the boarded up
8 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
windows covered with advertising. A previous application was approved some
time ago but we were disappointed that nothing happened. Earlier this year a
fresh application to rebuild there to form 12 flats was submitted and has been
approved. Let us hope that this actually happens – it will make a great
difference to that end of Railway Road.
The two applications off the Hardwick Road for a new Sainsbury store
and an extension to Tesco generated a great deal of interest but we did not feel
that the society should get involved. In the end Sainsbury won the battle and we
are pleased that one condition for approval is that they should keep their town-
centre store open for a number of years. Since then Tesco has just submitted a
new application for re-developing the Campbell’s site, which we shall look at.
The Millfleet bus lane. In the February Newsletter our chairman wrote
of our objection to the new bus route from Wisbech Road (adjacent to Harding’s
Pits), stating that it had many practical faults. One of those faults has now
manifested itself as a bus lane on the north side of Millfleet and Stonegate
Street, which is proposed to be in operation 24 hours per day 7 days per week.
Although there will be a loading bay for Allinson Court incorporated for day
time use (8am to 6pm), we have objected on the grounds that traffic volume
does not justify a full time bus lane. After 6pm problems will still arise with
deliveries and taxis for the residents of Allinson Court. At the time of writing
the final plan has not been published.
The Silos and Devils Alley
At last the silos are coming down – may even be down by the time you read this
– and an awkward job of it the men are having. The site is very tight and
manoeuvring huge machines within it is taking the utmost skill. To watch the
curiously delicate manner in which those massive ‘hands’ crunch up the metal
sections and then deposit them into their containers, a nudge here, a squeeze
there, a little pressure from above, is an entertainment that few passers-by can
Our particular enjoyment is to see the ending of all that dereliction and
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 9
full marks to the borough council for achieving it – a convoluted task involving
long negotiations with various owners.
We had long been urging that something should be done to at least tidy
up the site, standing as it does in a prominent position on the riverside and a
particular embarrassment every time there was event there, such as the Hanse
Festival, which brought crowds into the vicinity, but our concern intensified
when Devil’s Alley, the ancient right of way which runs across it, was closed at
Christmas 2008 because of the inherent dangers of the dilapidated buildings on
Lobbying first the county council (which, as the highway authority had
responsibility for the closure) and then the borough council, whose difficult
responsibility it was to find a solution, we received the good news last summer
that an engineer’s report had been commissioned. The findings were, by any
standard damning and concluded that the site was certainly unsafe. This
provided the ‘ammunition’ for the borough to take action against the site
owners, the results of which are now before you as you pass along the South
Then came the best news of all, that Devil’s Alley was to be re-opened to
the public, probably in October.
The silo site is to be close-boarded around it periphery to make it secure
until development takes place which means that Devil’s Alley will be fenced
along both sides of its length – it crosses the middle of the site. The fence is to
be of a high standard which will be costly and therefore there was a suggestion
to ‘realign’ the alley along part of its length so that it ran around the northern
periphery of the site rather than straight across it, thus eliminating the need to
board on both sides.
We objected to this, Devil’s Alley had been closed for long enough and
was already beginning to lose its historic significance. We also feared that, in
the present financial climate, development could be many years off during
which this public right of way would run on its new course without let or
hindrance until it could be argued that there was no need for it to revert to its
10 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
original route – and yet another of the modest elements that make Lynn so
special would be lost.
Happily the county council saw our argument and when Devil’s Alley
re-opens it will run direct on a line between South Quay and Nelson Street as it
has done for centuries. When proposals are put forward future development we
will be urging that it is incorporated as an historic feature – and as felicitously as
the right of way from Queen Street to the South Quay does under Three Crowns
NB. The last time silos on Lynn’s waterfront came down was at the other
end of South Quay on the Purfleet. The vistas thus afforded met with such
favour that the site was never developed. In turn that led to the present attractive
waterfront you see today, in which Adrian Parker, who then headed the borough
planning department, played no little part – along with something called the
National Lottery. With it came the inventive system of flood defence combined
with seating designed by our president. SS
Local List progress by Elizabeth James
This latest update on the Local List illustrates some of the buildings we have
been considering for inclusion in the light of our criteria. “Architectural
quality” is a subjective matter for judgement and needs wide experience of
comparative material elsewhere. In this area buildings are more easily
considered as of “architectural interest” and perhaps merge with the separate
criterion of use of distinctive or local techniques and/or interesting or local
In Lynn’s suburban area nearly all the buildings are domestic, but do
include the design-worthy St James Hospital (formerly Workhouse) in Extons
Road, and the nearby Sugars’ and Backham’s Almshouses. All of these show
interesting design features. St James’ in particular should be considered for
national listing: it is relatively unspoilt and by a known architectural firm whose
links with the town bear investigation. Moreover it was the place where many
of Vaughan Williams’ important group of Lynn folksongs were collected.
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 11
Sugars’ Almshouses have a particular local association with builder and
shipowner John Sugars, whose memorial window is in All Saints’.
One previously unknown local architect has been noted in connection
with two very different buildings. Louis Fountain Eagleton designed the very
Gothic All Saints Terrace in Tennyson Avenue as part of the development of
that road in the early 1900s. It represent a late use of that very Victorian
architectural style which was about to be superseded by new ideas. In Sir Lewis
Street we discovered Eagleton again using a much plainer inter-war style in
1928 for the “Marion” Seamen’s and Fishermen’s Homes. All we know of
him so far is that he was baptised at All Saints as the son of a coal porter. He is
not from the builders’ background – not infrequent among modest Victorian
architects working in a localised context.
In the Loke Road area we found a number of buildings showing an
attractive use of alternating red and white bricks. The technique became more
interesting when found to include a house with an attached yard and a plaque
inscribed “Spragg 1897”. He was later identified as a builder and the house and
yard as his home; the likelihood that the patterned brickwork was his speciality.
In the Lynn area it is not surprising to find good brickwork. The fine red
and white brick frontage of Cooper Roller Bearings on Wisbech Road includes
their name set above the entrance and a wall of opaque glass blocks beside the
door. Another “industrial” brick frontage arousing interest is the old Ford
garage just outside the South Gates, where within the name “Ford”, picked out
boldly in white, the letters “o” and “d” originally framed windows, sadly now
blocked. We understand that early motoring architecture has a champion in the
eastern office of English Heritage and that he is well aware of this building.
In consideration of brick buildings it is important to remember the local
brickmakers. Their bricks are not always identifiable, but patterned bricks from
Bawsey have been spotted. Egg and tongue patterned bricks copying an old
classical pattern are frequent and may not be limited to the Bawsey brickyard,
but a grapevine motif and a distinctive cresting brick with a semi-circular
projection on top are fairly certain, if rare, especially where found together! A
12 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
former Bawsey worker was recorded as claiming that much of Gaywood Road
was faced with Bawsey brick, including St Nicholas’ Terrace, commissioned
by the engineer Frederick Savage for his white-collar workers.
The other distinctively local material is carrstone, either irregularly
coursed or laid in neat squares of differing sizes. The latter is less usual in Lynn
and associated more with villages north of Dersingham, but a rare example of a
run of small houses is Carmelite Terrace, usefully plaque-dated as 1879 and
1881, with the builder’s initials “RD”, probably Robert Dye of Windsor Road
and Wisbech Road. More usual for Lynn are the irregularly coursed walls of
St Michael’s school and former church in Saddlebow Road, Backham’s
Almshouses and some of the side walls of houses on Gaywood Road.
At present the Local List is undergoing tidying up and revision, with a
view to seeking expert opinion on it in the near future.
Nurturing Lynn's visual image by Jean Tuck
The monthly meetings where I and Dennis Parsons talk to Chris Bamfield and
Pam Lynn of the borough council about Lynn eyesores have resulted in some
improvements recently. The area around Zoots is still a problem, but it has been
weeded and litter-picked, and if nothing else it looks cleaner. Smaller but
equally noticeable, the foundations of a building next to Coggles the undertakers
on London Road, where large amounts of rubbish have been dumped and graffiti
is covering the wall down the alley. Pam will be looking into a clearing notice.
Gutters full of weeds in the High Street have been a continuing problem,
but the council has purchased a cherry picker, which should soon pay for itself.
They have also bought pressure wands for removing chewing gum, but I feel
there is no way we can stop this disgusting habit.
We have complained about the numbers of cigarette buts dropped
outside houses, particularly in Railway Road, but also behind some shops and
restaurants. At our last meeting we suggested that since this is a litter offence, if
the council would produce a letter we would offer our services in putting it
through doors of offending properties.
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 13
We continue to point out the problem of pigeon droppings and other
rubbish dumped in the town. The council cleaners do an excellent job, but this
is no sooner removed than more is deposited.
By the time you read this the South Quay silos will probably have gone,
with the gantry by the river. This clearance should be completed soon, when
hopefully Devils Alley will be reopened (se p9). It will reveal the value of the
site to the town, and we hope a sympathetic developer can be found to make the
most of its possibilities.
The Walks and Tower Gardens applied for Green Flag status, and the
flag is now flying proudly on a flagpole at the library entrance to The Walks.
Many people have commented on the fantastic display of plants in St James
Park, and park manager Sarah Moore and her team are to be congratulated.. We
feel the improvements that have taken place over the last two years have greatly
enhanced the look of the town, particularly the return to municipal planting in St
James's Park and Greyfriars Gardens.
The Walks has looked particularly good with the variety of bulbs, under
a scheme which, incidentally, was started many years ago by the Civic Society.
A number of organisations now have flower beds in either the Tower Gardens or
St James Park, and have plaques indicating their interest.
The beds are planted by the council, but are checked by the organisations
concerned. 'Our' bed is on the right as you enter Tower Gardens, and the
Soroptomists have one on the left. Dennis and I, with Lyndsay Campbell, who
is a Civic Society and Soroptomist member, did a judicious bit of dead heading
this year just before the King's Lynn in Bloom judges were due to make their
We took the Silver Gilt award. We also received a certificate in
recognition of the society's contribution to the campaign. But we are still
aiming for Gold. Dennis and I were invited to meet the judges this year to
collect the certificate. Our participation in the scheme continues, but on a
smaller scale, along with the Friends of The Walks.
14 King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010
Martin Clough, KLCS chairman, 1991 - 1996
Martin joined the executive committee in 1990 and just a year later had agreed
to become chairman, without the advantage of the usual ‘running-in’ period as
deputy. At his funeral tributes to his abilities of chairmanship were paid by
several other organisations; this was certainly the case with our society.
I became his vice-chairman in ‘92 and many were the hours he, I and
other committee members spent studying endless documents on a whole range
of strategies and proposals from both the borough and county authorities.
Martin’s ability to grasp the important essentials and ‘cut straight to the chase’
was an enormous bonus.
At that time we did not have access to the facility of computers and so
Martin laboriously wrote out our detailed responses (which Barbara Thomas,
our society’s patient secretary, then had the unenviable task of typing out).
In this and the more esoteric matters which concerned us, I was always
grateful for Martin’s engineering practicality and unsentimental approach which
he coupled with a very fine appreciation of King’s Lynn and its buildings. Later
when I became chairman he was tremendously supportive from afar and always
available to discuss issues, concerns and problems.
As one of our vice-presidents he continued to receive the monthly
minutes and despite a long illness continued to take a great interest in our
Buildings at risk by Ken Hill
The borough council has been engaged for some months on an assessment of all
the listed buildings in the borough that they feel are neglected, unsafe, unused,
ignored or being otherwise at risk from their owners. There are reported to be
up to a hundred in this category, and the purpose of the assessment is to put
them in order of risk, so that they can concentrate their meagre resources – cash
and people – on those where the need is greatest.
We make enquiries at intervals as to when the list will be completed, and
whether it will be published, so that we can all know the scale of the problem.
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter August 2010 15
King's Lynn Civic Society
Registered charity 298916
President: Desmond K Waite MVO
Heather Bolt, John Van Dyke
Chairman: Alison Gifford
Vice Chairman: Jean Tuck
Secretary: Sally Smith
Treasurer and Membership Secretary:
Assistant Secretary: Ken Hill
15 Queen Street, King's Lynn PE30 1H
King's Lynn Civic Society Newsletter
16 pages A5
YELLOW colour paper outside cover
400 copies (not 300)
folded & stapled
Queries: Ken Hill KL 763675
Invoice to Mrs Beryl Symonds
King's Lynn PE30 4PW