A model community recreated

It was once a smelly, dirty, bustling harsh world where wives and girlfriends would await the return of their fishermen with trepidation. But slum clearances in the 1930s and 1960s meant all but a few cottages in the North End community of King's Lynn were lost - along with the livelihoods of hundreds of families who lived and worked as boatbuilders, chandlers and sailmakers.

It was once a smelly, dirty, bustling harsh world where wives and girlfriends would await the return of their fishermen with trepidation.

But slum clearances in the 1930s and 1960s meant all but a few cottages in the North End community of King's Lynn were lost - along with the livelihoods of hundreds of families who lived and worked as boatbuilders, chandlers and sailmakers.

But now a lasting memento of the fishing community has been created by retired carpenter Fred Hall.

He has made a painted scale model out of mahogany, resurrecting the long-lost community and creating a fascinating display at True's Yard fishing heritage museum in Lynn.


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It shows in detail the yards and passages of the old North End fishing quarter, the tiny cramped red-brick cottages built virtually on top of each other, back to back, where the women would pray and sew, mend fishing nets and look after their families.

The model reveals also the close-knit nature of the community, now mainly kept alive by the True's Yard museum and two cottages it has preserved.

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Mr Hall, 74, from West Winch, was picked by museum chairman and local historian Dr Paul Richards to do the job because of the retired carpenter's skills and interest in local history.

He used the museum's vast photo archives of the North End to model the tiny structures and dedicated the piece to his late wife Patricia, who once lived in the North End.

It took him six months to make and he said it brought back memories of the North End and how it used to be.

“I recall the area as all little backstreets and yards but it has completely changed over the years,” he said.

“I remember going to the Pilot cinema, but of course that's not there anymore.”

The Northenders, as they were known, had remained a community separate from the rest of the town, rarely marrying outside the area. But it was all lost in the 1930s and 1960s slum clearances.

True's Yard VIPs, survivors of families from the original North End, helped raise £500 to pay for materials for the project.

Joanna Barrett, museum manager, said it had already been popular with visitors.

“It is one of our big new features that we are trying to publicise. It is a lovely model of the old North End.”

True's Yard is looking for volunteers to help out on the front desk and in the café and with school visits. No previous experience needed. For details, call 01553 770479.

The museum has submitted a Heritage Lottery Fund grant bid to extend the museum into two neighbouring cottages in St Ann's Road, one partly used as a smokehouse for fish.

More recently used as shops and offices, it would mean the buildings, bought to lease to the museum by an anonymous Norfolk charity, could be turned into extra resource rooms for the museum, and used for storage of sound archives, meeting rooms and an education room. The result should be known by June.

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