Famous for its life-size replica of Seahenge, the museum of King’s Lynn is also home to thousands of fascinating objects. Local historian and writer Robert Andrews pays a visit and picks his favourite pieces…
A few weeks ago I was in London, walking around the brilliant V&A for the umpteenth time when it struck me that I couldn’t actually recall the last time I’d visited the museum of my home town. Describing itself as West Norfolk’s Greatest Treasure, the Lynn Museum on Market Street has thousands of fascinating objects from every stage of the town’s history – from the Bronze Age to the 1970s.
A walk around the museum brings you face to face with the people who made the town what it is today, and it’s impossible to resist human touches such as the marks left on a piece of wood by an ancient craftsman, the gold coins hidden inside the bone of a cow by a Roman, or the toys enjoyed by Victorian children.
Although everyone will have their own particular favourites, here’s my ‘ten of the best’ from Lynn Museum – a handful of artefacts that (for me) stood out as being particularly interesting, striking, or simply quirky.
King’s Lynn has a fascinating story to tell – and a visit to the museum is one of the best ways of hearing it. KL
This fabulous carved wooden dobby horse was made by Savage’s of King’s Lynn around 1860-74 for Frederick Savage’s children. It must have been a family favourite, as it was still being used as a rocking horse by his grandchildren in 1902. The horse has glass eyes, a real horsehair tail, and its head is tilted to the left (a Savage trademark).
This is a Staffordshire pottery souvenir figure of James Blomfield Rush. It’s rather a strange souvenir as Rush was a murderer hanged in Norwich in 1849 for the murder of his employer Isaac Jermy (and his son) at Stanfield Hall near Wymondham. Good news for macabre collectors everywhere, the museum also has the companion pieces of Rush’s girlfriend, his farm and the murder location.
An Enormous Sheep (artist unknown, about 1850) is a rather obviously-titled painting commissioned by Joseph Brown of Upper Farm, Wimbotsham who actually owned the featured sheep. A contemporary report says “the sheep had the body of a bullock which sagged on legs the size of a normal sheep. So heavy was the body and so slender the legs in comparison that the sheep was trundled about the farm in a trolley.”
This lovely painting is called Portrait of a Lynn Fishergirl by Walter Dexter (1876-1958) and was painted around the 1930s. I think it’s a lovely study, even more evocative as there’s no indication of her role other than the title of the picture. She’s not looking at the viewer and appears to be content in her own world. Adding a further touch of mystery, the model herself is totally unknown – so this could easily be called the town’s very own Mona Lisa.
This letter from the Navy Office dated 28th October 1772 requesting a reference for a young man called Horatio Nelson (who would have just turned 14) is a fascinating little piece of history – I’m amazed it survived!
This is just a small detail from an intricate papier mache model of a Gopuras (or Gopuram) of the Maduran great temple in India – it’s part of the collection of local artist-explorer Thomas Baines (1820-1875). He was on David Livingstone’s 1858 expedition to Zambesi and is a national figure in South Africa, famous for his paintings and drawings – although he’s woefully under-recognised in his home town.
Market Street, King’s Lynn PE30 1NL
Tel: 01553 775001
Opening times: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm (last admission 4.30pm)
Prices: Adults £3.50, Concessions £2.90, Young person £1.90