WEIRD NORFOLK: A walk on the weird side of King’s Lynn
PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 October 2019
Weird Norfolk has put together a Weird Walk for King’s Lynn as part of the Norfolk Walking and Cycling Festival, which returns this October and will see a host of events which celebrate the county with an exciting range of events for all ages, abilities and interests. Find a dragon’s tongue, one of Norfolk’s most haunted houses, the place where a witch’s heart bounced to the river and far more on a walk that highlights Lynn’s weirder side.
1 True's Yard: This Norfolk building boasts not one ghost but almost 40 - from lost boys waiting for a father who never returns to a young woman who fell in love with the wrong man, a poltergeist and even the ghosts of some pub drinkers. Doors have been slammed shut without explanation, paintings knocked off of walls and a function room is said to be haunted at True's Yard. There are said to be a jaw-dropping 38 ghosts that live in the museum including a poltergeist called Henry and a young girl who was murdered by her father for loving the wrong man.
2 The Exorcist's House: Through the grounds of St Nicholas' Chapel, you will find a curious cottage built on the site where medieval exorcists used to do battle with evil spirits, and - somewhat more earthbound - problematic neighbours. The last exorcism was carried out here in the late middle ages and is said to have led to the tragic death of a woman accused of witchcraft, who was burnt in Tuesday Market Place. Dating from 1635, the house is built on the site of a previous building which once houses members of the clergy and it is from this time that the tales of exorcism stretch from. There have been tales of a ghost at the house, which appeared to the daughters of a man who lived here and legend has it that an underground passage, allegedly used by Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, runs from here to St Anne's House in Lynn. One notorious resident of the Exorcist's Houser was broadcaster Frank Buckley who claimed to be a wizard who could prevent people photographing the house and who kept a large collection of occult objects at this address.
3 The Tudor Rose Hotel, St Nicholas Place: The Tudor Rose has stood just off the Tuesday Market Place on St Nicholas Street since the 15th Century, when it was built on the site of a former nunnery and surrounded by the town's old defensive walls. Now being converted into flats, the building is said to be haunted by a woman in a long white dress, who is said to be the ghost of a bride stabbed to death by her husband on her wedding day in the hotel and who was seen in room seven, while her footsteps have been heard elsewhere in the building.
4 The Witch's Heart, Tuesday Market Place: On the north side of Tuesday Market, a large square fringed by the Corn Exchange, pubs and hotels, numbers 15 and 16 hide a wicked secret: above one of the windows, carved into the red brick is a diamond shape and within it, a somewhat crudely carved heart. It marks the death of Margaret Read, a woman burned at the stake in the square in 1590. Read was accused and then found guilty of witchcraft, her punishment was to be burnt in the marketplace. Legend has it that as she was being consumed by flames, Margaret's heart burst from her chest, smashed into the spot above the window which is now marked with a diamond and then fell to the ground before it beat a determined path to the nearby River Ouse where it sank beneath the surface, the water bubbling and roiling as it was enveloped.
5 Mother Gabley, Tuesday Market Place: Mother Gabley was the first person condemned in Norfolk under the 1563 Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts which was passed early in the reign of Elizabeth I. She was accused of causing the death of Robert Archer, Oliver Cobb, William Barret, Henry Gouldsmith, Richard Dye and others who had sailed from Spain to England. In all, 13 men had died. She had, it was claimed, boiled eggs in cold water, stirring vigorously to raise a storm at sea. Mother Gabley was hanged in King's Lynn in 1583, probably at Tuesday Market Place.
6 King Street, numbers 28 to 32: Staff at a historic King's Lynn solicitors' office are used to bumps and creaks in the night while working late. But spectral piano playing, ghostly New Year festivities and the apparition of a young man in a military trench coat made several of them more than a little wary of burning the midnight oil. Metcalfe Copeman and Pettefar LLP is based in what is probably Lynn's oldest townhouse. In 1996, a secretary, who did not wish to be named, said she had heard footsteps while working late recently and felt she was being watched. She saw a young man in the trench coat but when she said "hello", he disappeared.
7 King Street, 9: In the 1970s, the ghost of an 18th century gentleman was seen by several different people in this building. The site of a medieval merchant's house, one visitor to the building when it was a museum spotted a man in a three-corner hat (similar to the one worn by Ross Poldark in the BBC series) walking around with his hands behind his back.
8 Purfleet Quay, King's Lynn: The Purfleet was the town's principal anchorage for ships since medieval times and was also the disembarkation point for British and continental pilgrims route to the Shrine of our Lady at Walsingham in North Norfolk, before Henry VIII forbade pilgrimages. It is home to the Custom House which was designed in 1683 by Sir Henry Bell to house the customs officers who were watching Lynn's bustling waterfront. A ghost is said to loiter in the area, before screaming and throwing herself into the quay waters - she is said to be a woman who killed herself the day after she was married. Other ghostly screams in the area are attributed to fighting soldiers and if these screams are heard, the water is said to run red with blood.
9 King's Lynn Town Hall - Stories of Lynn Museum: In a display inside the museum, the story of Eugene Aram is told. In another life, Aram might have been hailed as an 18th-century intellectual great, a man of keen intellect who was one of the first to spot the way European languages linked together - but in this life, the disgraced teacher was tried for murder. The one-time King's Lynn teacher was hauled back to Yorkshire to face his accusers, following the discovery of a skeleton thought to be one of his former associates, Daniel Clark. Tried, found guilty and executed, the former deputy headteacher of Lynn Grammar School's body hung in a gibbet as a warming to others. And 234 years after his death in 1759, he returned to Lynn, or rather his skull did, gifted to the museum in 1993 by the Royal College of Surgeons. You can see it here, a few feet from where the school once stood, alongside a skull fragment from Daniel Clark; murderer and victim reunited.
10 The Moon phase clock on St Margaret's Church: On the south tower of the church is a tide clock, given by Thomas Tue in 1683. Replacing the clock's normal numbers are 12 letters, which spell out LYNN HIGH TIDE. The clock shows the phases of the moon and moves on 48 minutes a day, in lunar time, and with a green dragon's tongue shows the time of the next high tide on the River Great Ouse. It was easily visible from the port and the river and was well-used by sailors and merchants. The original clock was damaged in the terrible storm of September 1741 and was eventually replaced with this, its exact replica. There are suggestions that the clock has ties to the Knights Templar, the crusading knights who lived like monks and fought in some of the most deadly battles in the Middle Ages, because of the sacred geometry which appears on the face.
Norfolk used to boast the devil's hoof print in King's Lynn, said to be a remainder of his thwarted attempts to steal souls after arriving to the town by ship.
11 Devil's Alley: Legend has it that he was spotted by a priset who cornered him in what is now known as Devil's Alley - banishing him back to the netherworld with prayers and Holy water, the infuriated devil stamped his foot in fury and with such force that it left an imprint and a reminder of the chaos he could wreak. Devil's Alley was once complete roofed like a tunnel and ran all the way to the quayside - it is said that rather than an imprint in the ground, the alley "showed at its darkest point a queer cobble in the pavement shaped like a gigantic human foot". While the alley remains, the footprint has long since disappeared, a victim of modern roadworks which have seen the cobbles resurfaced. But one mystery remains, in 1881, the alley was called Miller's - not Devil's - Alley. So has Lucifer made a relatively recent visit to King's Lynn?
You can download a copy of the map at www.visitnorfolk.co.uk/weirdnorfolk
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