King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Minster, St Margaret

King’s Lynn Minster or, to give it its full name, The Priory and Parish Church of St Margaret, is run by “The PCC of St Margaret with St Nicholas and St Edmund” – presumably there were other nearby parishes now amalgamated (I did have a smile that anyone has managed to amalgamate an Edmund!). They are currently in the throws of an £845,000 restoration appeal. Good that this will give better disabled access, typical that the meeting room will not be accessible (why would  disabled person ever want to go to a meeting?).

The website is here, and the church is located just up from the Quay – TF 617196. Lynn is a very historic town, and I had arrived on an historic diesel unit, but more of that in the next but one blog. There is a website about the town – here. The Diocese of Norfolk has a website, and produces a free guide to all the historic churches. They are pushing an Open Churches Fortnight (27 July to 12 August). Why can’t all dioceses (including my own) get their act together for the tourist market? – the Derbyshire church visiting website is not as up to date as it needs to be.

Herbert de Losinga was educated at the Benedictine Abbey of Fécamp, became a monk, became Abbot of Ramsey in 1088 (I used to preach at Ramsey Methodist church many years ago). Then he made it known that if he was appointed to the Bishopric of Norwich he would pay a considerable sum into the King’s Treasury. William Rufus became rich, Pope Paschall II summoned Herbert to Rome to explain himself, he became bishop, and funded Norwich Cathedral and this church before his death in 1119. The guidebook describes him as “resolute, possessing political craftiness and guile and immense energy.” In return for Lynn Minster and Norwich Cathedral, I can forgive!

Most of Lynn was built on land owned by the church. Losinga developed it, and town became known as Lynn Episcopi. Henry VIII changed it to Lynn Regis in 1537. Norwich Cathedral was consecrated in 1101, then work began on Lynn church – it was originally dedicated to “St Margaret of Antioch, St Mary Magdalene and all the Virgin Saints”! The oldest part of the church are the west towers, as the rest of it was rebuilt in the C13. By the C16 it was huge, serving both priory and parish. “Over the years since, it has suffered the effects of storm, battle and road widening.” The NW tower needed rebuilding in the C15, and a spire on the SW tower blew down in 1741 destroying the nave – rebuilding was led by Matthew Brettingham, at that time rebuilding Holkham Hall, and both Robert Walpole and George II gave money for repair (repaying what the Exchequer had received from Herbert?).

On the south tower is a tide clock, presented by Thomas Tue in 1683 – you can imagine the merchants and ship owners looking up to check. The lettering reads “Lynn High Tide”, the letters replacing a clock’s normal numbers. Obviously it shows the phases of the moon, and it moves on 48 minutes every day, since lunar time is different to clock time. There are fascinating leaflets available in church, one about this clock, another a general one on clockmaking in King’s Lynn and the Minster church. Apparently mechanical clocks were invented around 1280, and there is a record of a striking clock in Lynn in a Guildhall meeting of 1373. Four years later any townsman summoned by the common sergeant had to appear before the Mayor “before 9 struck by the clokke of St Margaret’s under a penalty of 4 pence.” Thomas Tue was born in November 1613, trained as a gunsmith, and used his skills to start making clocks. Several of his domestic clocks, lantern clocks, survive. He purchased the freedom of Lynn in 1661/2, and was churchwarden of St Margaret’s in 1674 and again in 1681 – in 1681 he gave the clock to St Margaret’s, and this tide clock to St Margaret’s, and a clock at St James Chapel. While the other two have gone, this one survives. The leaflet is insistent the original was not a “tide clock”, but a moon clock – it was rebuilt after the 1741 storm. The leaflet suggests that Tue must have been a competent mathematician as well as a clock maker. His wife died in 1689 at the age of 79 – he survived until 1710, dying at the age of 98.

As you enter the church there are markings of flood levels – the 2013 surge tide was higher than that of 1978 but the defences are higher. The view down the Nave is long, 80 yards to the Rose Window. The Edmund Chapel in the south tower has a Peace Globe made by William Cordaroy of East Ruston.

The Great West Window is worth looking up at. C15 stone work, 1927 window, commissioner by Col Thomas Johnson Seppings, a member of a local brewing family. A the top are the emblems of the Passion, then various coats of arms relating to church and town. Our Lord is in the centre, surround by angels and saints – Edmund, Nicholas, John, Mary, George and Margaret. Scene from the history of Lynn across the bottom, with some wonderful angels. The chest was made in Gdansk in Poland, and was here by 1454.

The present pulpit was the top part of the Georgian 3-decker pulpit mounted on a new plinth. I bet it would have been very impressive when it was that tall. The wood carving and marquetry is exceptional.

This memorial is to Sir William Hoste, who joined Nelson’s navy in 1793, climbed through the ranks, and married Lady Harriet Walpole in 1817. Apparently he encouraged his men to play cricket when they were not fighting the French, and there is still a “Hoste” cricket club in the island of Viz, off the Croatian coast.

The King John Sword is carried before the Mayor or the Queen’s representative at all Civic services, and then rests of this stand. The tradition goes back to “1446 Aug. 5th. Ordered ye same day, yt the sword of ye Mayor shall be carried before him point upward or erect.”

The Nave altar is a gift from the RAF Association showing the town’s close links with RAF Marham. It dates to the 1960s (you can tell). A simple table of aluminium, it “stands in a sanctuary of blue brick set out to represent a Lancaster bomber.” Am I the only one who finds that symbolism sits uneasily with celebrating the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace? Moving quickly on –  the Easter Garden under the altar works very well.

As you can see, the Chancel has the builders in. We will come back when they have finished!  The organ is by Snetzler (1754), the East Window 1866, the reredos 1899, and there are misericords. We are planning a Norfolk holiday in July – might be a little soon!

There are some large brasses in the south aisle of the Chancel – the light was in the wrong place, the work made life difficult. Add those to the list for the summer as well.

Another view down the Nave, and out into the churchyard. Nice rows of gravestones, but no where to sit and eat lunch. A church to come back to.


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