River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2010

Report on two recent meeting of the Heritage Group

We have been to two meetings this month with the first at Kings Lynn with another of Dr. Paul Richards walk and lecture on areas of old Lynn.

Our starting point this time was the Tuesday marketplace close to Stair Page Lane. It was in this area that those unfortunate people convicted of witchcraft were executed usually by burning. The heart carved into a lintel on the building opposite is said to be a reminder of an incident when a victims heart burst from the body and hit this building. It is recorded that this house was that of her accuser.

There are several 14th and 15th buildings in the area all of which are in excellent order.

This part of the town is a much later addition to that of the Saturday market area and the dockside was much closer to the back of the Corn Exchange than it is today. You can still trace the line of the dock edge in the car park there now.

Moving on into Chapel Street and past St. Nicholas Chapel we entered True's Yard which is now known as True's Yard Fishing Heritage Museum .It features two restored fisherman's cottages which were once part of North End fishing community.

This area was a very close knit group of people with their own traditions and way of life centred round the fishing industry right up to WWII. The museum captures the harsh realities of fishing as well as the traditions and day to day life in such a crowded community. Some of these tiny cottages were home to as many as 15 persons often sharing just two rooms. Children slept 6 to a bed, 3 at the top end 3 at the bottom.

The whole family would be employed in some aspect of fishing with much preparation being done inside on the floor.

The Trustees have recently been able to purchase adjoining buildings which included Michael Taylor's tatoo parlour which he had owned since the mid 70s. He converted much of the back area into living accommodation for himself but in doing so he actually preserved the Smoke House of which there were once 9 in Kings Lynn.

It was thought that none had survived until this one was revealed during restoration work to the rest of the building. Smoke houses were common in the 19th century and were used mainly to cure Herring, Silver Darlings as they were called along the East Coast. Smoking over slow burning oak sawdust preserved the fish so it could be transported with out going off and the finished product was sent world wide.

Bloaters were lightly smoked whereas Kippers had a much longer curing time and turned the flesh of the herring a rich mahogany brown. Great Yarmouth tended to place more emphasis on pickling in brine for export to Europe but still maintained smoke houses for their traditional bloaters.

The museum has been able to extend and now includes the Smoke House for visitors to view. It has remained almost intact from the time it was last used although some of the equipment used to prepare the fish prior to curing has been reproduced from old photographs so that visitors can now see the process right through to the final product.

In an outside area is fully restored and rigged Lynn fishing smack ,'Activity' built in 1904. These vessels were very manoeuvrable and ideal for fishing the Wash and North Sea. These boats were often towed out by steam paddle tugs in lines of up to ten, this was not because they were unable to sail out but a matter of speed, get out on the tide as quick as you could and get fishing. Fishing on Sunday was another common practice for East Coast fishermen and was the cause of a near riot when they went down to the Cornish coast in the winters leading up to the turn of the century as Cornish men never fished on a Sunday. Lynn and Yarmouth boats fishing on Sunday landed their catch Monday morning and prices would be good, Cornish boats would not land until Tuesday morning thus being at a disadvantage.

We were pleased to meet a volunteer of the Museum who is a Northender himself and remembers much of the North End before the decline of the late 1940s which by the middle of the next decade fishing for herring from the East coast had ceased.

Our second outing of the month was a visit to the workshops of Fairhaven & Woods, the stonemasons who have contracted to do the restoration work to the Porch and Nave windows in St. Andrews Church.

The Business which is owned by Lady Fairhaven operates two Stonemasons yards, one in Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, which is the one we visited and other is in Norwich.

The work for the Church was in progress during our visit so we were able to see new technology at work using computer controlled saws and diamond-cutting tools transforming the quarried stone into workable pieces.

Stonemasons finish the work with traditional methods before finally fitting and cementing into place at the Church.

They work with limestone, sandstone, granite and marble the majority of which is from UK sources.

They are able to produce all types of stonework and often involves delicate tracery panels, windows, doorways, columns and balustrades. All the work is of the highest standard and this is demonstrated by the level of repeat business.

The work of stone carving, sculpture and letter cutting are all undertaken and some photographs of previous work were quite awesome in the beauty of the finished item.

Pam Walker organised the trip which was an addition to our normal programme and members were most grateful to Rob Humphreys, the stonemason/manager, who conducted our visit round the workshop and yard.

It was a wonderful opportunity to see first hand the work being done for St. Andrews.

Richard C.French

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