February 27 2015 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
TREVOR HEATON talks to leading Norfolk historian Dr Paul Richards about his new book linking the old and new in his home town, King’s Lynn.
It should have been so simple.
After all, with more than 7,000 historic photographs to choose from, and with an unrivalled knowledge of his beloved home town of King’s Lynn, Dr Paul Richards should surely have found his new book a piece of cake.
He laughs. “I thought it was going to be easy - but it never is, is it?”
In the end Paul spent more than two years writing and researching his new book, King’s Lynn Through Time, the latest in a widely successful national series of ‘then and now’ books with total sales topping 400,000.
And if his new book makes a healthy contribution to the series’ continued success, Paul will be delighted. Not for himself, but for True’s Yard Museum, a gem of a venue celebrating Lynn’s fishing community and which will receive four-fifths of the profits.
That’s a measure of the passion he feels for the town he was born and made his career in, and champions with every breath in his body.
So where to begin with his task? A town guide of many years standing, Paul plotted a ‘dream circuit’ in his head, crossing over the river from West Lynn and meandering through the town, moving to Gaywood and then coming back through the town.
“It made me appreciate that it’s not just interesting in the conventional historic walks and excursions, it’s how things have changed.
“This book is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
With the help of photographer Richard Flowers and the Long Sutton Market House photography group, the book puts the modern views of streets and buildings alongside their counterparts from the archives.
If that sounds a little ‘dry’ then rest assured Paul’s passion and common touch shines through everything he writes. For him Lynn’s industrial heritage - the working places of generations of ordinary folk - is just as important as stunning archectural gems such as the Custom House and Red Mount Chapel.
And what changes the town has seen over the decades... “A lot of 18th century and 19th century buildings were lost,” Paul said. “Vancouver’s building [off New Conduit Street] was a particular tragedy which would have linked up so much with his statue on the waterfront.
“It does show how Lynn as an historic town was bigger [than it is now].”
Paul is hoping the book will revive many happy memories as well as wistful ones, and he’s lined up one or two surprises too, such as the day that Nelson Street was invaded by ‘Nazis’ (relax, it was a film), and how Paul, his partner Alison and their Queen Street neighbour Dr Simon Thurley re-created a Victorian photograph.
All in all, then, Dr Richards is hoping there is plenty to delight Lynners in the new book. “At last King’s Lynn has joined the club!,” he said. “This series is featuring medium-sized historic towns and it’s right we should be in it.”
King’s Lynn Through Time is published by Amberley Publishing at £14.99.