Thursday 31 October 2019

Hanseatic King's Lynn...............

has a long seafaring history stretching back to the 12th century. It was one of England's most important ports, and it's illustrious maritime past is still much in evidence today. It has many fine old merchants' houses, an elegant Custom House overlooking the original medieval harbour, and some of the finest civic buildings covering several centuries. 
But who is that seen gazing out across the harbour?
Explorer/navigator Captain George Vancouver, was born 22nd June 1757 in King's Lynn. He began his naval career at the tender age of 13 as an able seaman under Capt. James Cook on his ship the ResolutionBy the time of Cook's famous third voyage in HMS Discovery, Vancouver had become a midshipman. He was 32 when he attained the rank of commander and was sent to explore and survey South West Australia, New Zealand and then the West coast of America in a new HMS Discovery. He led the longest mapping expedition in history. In 4½ years, he sailed 140,000 km, and mapped the North American west coast from Mexico to southern Alaska. His measurements were so accurate that many are still used today. He proved that Vancouver Island, was truly an island, and it was named in his honour. The city of Vancouver and also Fort Vancouver in Washington state were also named after him. His life was short, he died when he was just 40 years old.
Custom House
King's Lynn sits on the extensive inland waterway system of the River Ouse. Both sides of the river have been linked together by regular daily ferry services since 1285.  Its geographical position made it an ideal place for European trade from Baltic and English coastal harbours. The town attracted traders from the Hanseatic League, a group of German cities whose ships travelled together in convoys for safety, especially against pirates. They came to Lynn with fish, furs, timber, wax and pitch and took away English wool, cloth, corn and salt. The port today is still busy exporting grain and importing timber.
The Custom House, designed by Henry Bell, was built as a merchant's exchange and as a place to regulate trade through the port. It is one of the towns most iconic buildings, and was described by architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as 'one of the most perfect buildings ever built'.

This is England's only surviving example of a Hanseatic business headquarters, dating from 1475. Built around a narrow court, these warehouses and offices were used continuously by the German cities of Lubeck, Hamburg and Bremen for almost 300 years.

This 15th century property, thought to have been updated during the 16th century, goes by the name of the 'Valiant Sailor' reflecting the fact that it was a public house for 200 years. Since 1925 it has been a private residence. 
These cottages were once part of St. Margaret's Benedictine Priory founded in c.1100, 
Through the old Priory archway at the rear of the cottages is the Minster and Priory Church of St. Margaret, 
and it is where these cottages enjoy tiny, but pretty gardens.
The Minster and Priory Church of St. Margaret's 
The next post will commence at the Minster, but now it is time to find Tuesday Market Place and retire for the night.
 Tuesday Market Place in 1685 courtesy king's Lynn forums
Today Tuesday Market Place covers three acres but originally was even bigger. The dominant impression is one of Georgian brickwork, sash windows, square parapets and pediments over doors giving the area a feeling of grandeur. It has played host to traditional outdoor markets for hundreds of years, with stalls selling shellfish, mainly caught by the Lynn fishing fleets, as well as locally grown produce from the fertile Fens. This area is particularly known for its brown shrimps, prawns, cockles, crabs and lobsters.
 This Neoclassical Corn Exchange with its elegant stone facade sits on Tuesday Market Place, and is a typical example of the wide variety of architecture to be found around the square. Built by the Victorians it has now been reborn as a theatre.
Opposite the Corn Exchange is this blue and white confection of a building built in 1683 for a King's Lynn Member of Parliament, Sir John Turner, and this is where we retired for night.

Thursday 24 October 2019

A Grand Norfolk House

The first owner of the Blickling Estate was Harold Godwinson who became King Harold ll of England. Over the centuries the estate has been home to many distinguished historical figures including Sir Thomas Boleyn in 1505, father of Anne Boleyn. 
Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet, was Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, one of the highest judicial officials in England. In 1616 he purchased the Blickling Estate for £5,500. The fact that it was the reputed birth place of Anne Boleyn, and had also been the home of Sir John Fastolfe, a knight during the Hundred Years War, later characterised as a Shakespearian comic in his Henry Vl, greatly appealed to him. He decided to rebuild himself a new fashionable house in the Jacobean style, which eventually ended up costing him almost twice as much as the entire estate. 
Progress on the house was slow as it was complicated by the narrowness of the site, so the architect, Robert Lyminge, decided on what was considered to be a radical plan at the time.
He designed a thin elongated house with two internal courtyards, and then placed the two service buildings, which would normally be hidden from view, to the fore of the main house like two arms. Dutch gables were placed on the service buildings in order to harmoniously compliment the gables on the big house.
There is so much to see in this grand house that it is impossible to do it justice. Here are four things that I found to be of interest or pleasing to my eye.
In 1850 the 8th Marquis of Lothian inherited the house. He had met John Hungerford Pollen, an inventive and decorative painter and architect whilst at Oxford University. He commissioned him to undertake a few projects at Blickling including this lovely painting on the Drawing Room ceiling. However, in the 1930's the 11th Marquis installed a suspended ceiling to cover Pollen's work as it was not to his taste. After a disastrous flood in 2002 in the room above, the painted ceiling was rediscovered, and has now been returned back to Pollen's former glory.
Summer has now faded into autumn giving us mellow fruitfulness and the gift of apples. This painting, although contemporary, is called the Golden Caroline. In the 1820s a new variety of eating apple was discovered at Blickling, it was named Caroline after Lady Suffield who lived there at the time. The tree flourished for many years but sadly dwindled in the early 1900s and was considered to have become a lost variety. By good fortune a surviving tree was identified growing in a garden nearby at Gooderstone near Oxburgh, and thus the Caroline apple was saved. It continues to flourish and produce apples to this day in the orchard at Blickling. 
Many rare books are housed at Blickling which had originally formed the library of Sir Richard Ellys (1682-1742). They came to Blickling following his death when they were inherited by the Hobart family. Amongst them is this Eliot Bible printed in 1663. The bible was one of the first books ever printed in North America, and the Blickling copy is thought to be one of only 40 surviving first editions. It was translated into the Massachusetts Indian dialect by Englishman John Eliot who, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe, learned their language phonetically.
By the 1800s the Wampanoag language had fallen out of use in both spoken and written forms. Today, the bible is one of the few written examples of Wampanoag language, making it a treasured 'key' that has now enabled the Wampanoag people to revive their lost language and reconnect with their history and cultural identity.
This wonderful vase captured my attention in the library, and although it did not have a label I recognised it as being a piece of early 20th century stoneware by one of the Martin Brothers. If you are not familiar with them, you can read more about them here. Their stoneware is highly collectible, and very expensive.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Two Norfolk Architectural Gems

Horsey Windpump stands proudly within it's broadland water landscape, fully restored and complete with a new white cap and sails. 
It's purpose was to pump water from the dykes, which intersect and drain the land, into the higher level system of the broads and tidal waterways.
Over 200 years ago Horsey was a very different place to the one seen today. It was effectively still an island surrounded by marshes with just one road in and out, and a small village that was often flooded for most of the year.
The vicar of the village reported that he nearly drowned on three occasions whilst travelling to church to give his sermon! 
The name Horsey means 'Horse Island" and it is believed that Horsey was originally a stud or grazing area for horses. Mortality was high with insects carrying Fen Plague, also known as Marsh Malaria, and with only seven cottages and a small farm house, Horsey was not somewhere people wanted to live.
Horsey today has significantly changed having grown in size and become a tourist destination. It's Broadland landscape is known for the wildlife that inhabits this corner of Norfolk including Marsh Harriers, Swallowtail butterflies, Bitterns, and Kingfishers.
With the land drained and a proper access road built, many visitors flock to the area each year. The Norfolk Broads are now an attractive destination, a far cry from 200 years ago. 

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Most English churches have square towers, but there are a number of round ones, which are to be found mainly in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridge. Many of these round towers date back to the Anglo-Saxon period, two hundred years before the Norman invasion in 1066. 
The question is - why are they round?
It is thought that the main reason was the lack of a suitable local building material. Square towers require strong stone which is cut and dressed into blocks at each of the corners. There is an absence of stone to be found in East Anglia and to transport stone from another area of the country would have been too expensive especially for small country parishes. The only local stone was flint which is a small, knobbly stone, and although it creates strong walls when set in mortar, it is not suitable for tower corners. Hence they built round towers. Flints were easily found in the soil following ploughing the fields, or pits were dug to extract them. Churches near the sea were built from round flints found on the beaches. Towards the end of the round tower building period some flints were 'knapped' meaning that the flints were cut in two so that their interior glass like face would look more attractive when it was set into the wall. Thatched roofs are also a common church roof feature in East Anglia. They are normally thatched using the local Norfolk reeds which remain good for at least 60 years.
St. Margaret's in Hales, Norfolk with its round tower and thatched roof feels like a step back in time. Standing in an isolated setting, within an overgrown graveyard meadow, it's as if this church is still rooted in the Norman world. 
St. Margaret's is a redundant church now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust who protect historic churches.
A lovely Norman entrance with a feast of ziz-zag mouldings combined with star shapes, wheel patterns, and a ram's head topping one of the capitals. 
The interior of the church is simple and rustic with a Norman apse, making it the most intact pre-Gothic church to be found in Norfolk.  

The apse from outside
Faded medieval faces painted on the walls peer out as they have done for hundreds of years creating it's unique aura of antiquity and tranquility.
A much diminished image of St.Christopher carrying Christ.
A skull and cross bone, memento mori, set into the floor - a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.