True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum
This museum in King’s Lynn is dedicated to a disappeared community, virtually all that remains of the town’s old fishing community of the North End. Once, hundreds of families lived within a stone’s throw of the beautiful medieval chapel of St. Nicholas – it had its own boatbuilders, chandlers, sailmakers, pubs, bakehouses and even its own school.
At the heart of the museum are two brick cottages built about 1790 on the site of earlier buildings. Opposite them against the south wall stood a further four cottages, but these were demolished in 1937. In 1802, the cottages were owned by whitesmith William True, who eventually gave his name to the Museum.
There was no running water, no electricity and no drainage, yet families thrived in these conditions and the cottages are now furnished as they would have been for visitors to experience. The museum also has the last surviving smokehouse in the North End; herring were smoked here from the 1880s.
The main museum collection is housed in the former blacksmith’s workshop, and the adjoining library and research centre are wonderful resources for family and local history.
True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum is independent and receives a vital grant from the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk. The rest of the income is derived from fundraising and museum visits, and volunteers are essential to its survival – from staffing the café to helping visitors in the research centre.
The museum was actually founded by a resident of the North End, teacher Patricia Midgely, after her discovery of a black and white photo of a fisherman sparked her interest in local history. The photograph showed an old man in his traditional woollen ‘gansey’ or jumper.
Knitting was a passion with Pat, and her interest in the pattern was the key which unlocked a lost world in this corner of King’s Lynn. She knew there was a whole story to be uncovered about this lost fishing community, and realised that opposite her house were two fishermen’s cottages which were perfectly preserved - even the wallpaper was intact.
And so, 25 years ago, a campaign to create what became the True’s Yard Museum began. Officially opened by Prince Charles in 1993, it keeps alive a world of traditions and memories for new generations of visitors.