History of King’s Lynn Waterfront

The Hanseatic town of King’s Lynn was one of England’s most important ports from as early as the 12th century and this maritime past is still very much in evidence today. Fine old merchants’ houses stretch down to the river between cobbled lanes and the elegant Custom House overlooks the harbour.

Being the eleventh wealthiest town in England in 1334, King’s Lynn ranked as the third most important port in England during the 14th Century, behind Southampton and London. The town was considered as important to England during mediaeval times as Liverpool was during the Industrial Revolution. Sea trade with Europe was dominated by the Hanseatic League of ports; the transatlantic trade and the rise of England’s western ports would not begin until the 17th century.

The Custom House, one of King’s Lynn’s most important and historic maritime buildings, has overlooked the comings and goings of this busy port for over three hundred years. This magnificent building situated in the heart of Historic King’s Lynn has been a landmark since the late 17th century. Now currently home to the King’s Lynn Tourist Information Centre, why not visit the Custom House and discover elegant rooms housing fascinating displays on the merchants, customs men and smugglers of Lynn. Enjoy great views of the river and explore hands-on computer displays to find out about famous mariners of Lynn including Vancouver and Nelson (Lord Nelson’s birthplace being the coastal West Norfolk village of Burnham Thorpe).

Visitors can discover the story of King’s Lynn by visiting a host of heritage sites and attractions, best discovered with the help of the free guide Discover King’s Lynn or by joining a guided tour. The town’s Hanseatic history and trading links with Europe can be discovered on the self-guided Hanse Trail. The story of the town’s maritime trade, its fishing communities and its famous navigators can be explored on the permanent waymarked Maritime Trail along the streets of the town, or take a trip on the King’s Lynn ferry to see the maritime landscape of the King’s Lynn quayside and town from the banks of West Lynn.

For more information about the rich history of King’s Lynn, please visit the Visit West Norfolk website section on the town here.

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