King John statue unveiled in King's Lynn town centre this morning
PUBLISHED: 11:37 12 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:37 12 October 2016
It's a piece of art that in future years will become as indelibly linked to King's Lynn as the other iconic sites in the town including the Custom House and the Minster.
The new life-sized King John statue in the town centre - with the much-maligned monarch looking towards the River Great Ouse and the Custom House in New Conduit Street - was unveiled by town mayor David Whitby today.
The impressive work, cast in bronze, was made by Scottish sculptor Alan Beattie Herriot, who was in the town to see it unveiled.
Legend has it that on October 12, 1216 King John lost the crown jewels in the Wash, and the £22,000 statue was unveiled 800 years to the day later.
Dozens of townspeople watched as the blue cloth was removed from the statue and it was revealed in all its splendour.
Elizabeth Nockolds, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for culture, heritage and art, said it was a special day.
She said: “We are all very proud of our heritage in King’s Lynn, and we hope this statue will encourage even more people to come to the town.
“King John had a special relationship with the town and he granted Lynn a special charter giving merchant guilds the ability to govern themselves in 1204. Lynn was one of the four top towns in England at the time.
“Eight hundreds years ago the king had a feast in the town, not far from here. Sadly, he died a few days later in Newark, after losing his crown jewels in the Wash.”
Mr Whitby said unveiling the statue would be the most significant and historic act of his term in office.
He said: “It’s a work of art that visitors will talk about for years to come. Many people will know John as the villain from the Robin Hood stories, but he had many supporters in Lynn. Granting the town a charter led to it becoming a thriving town and port.”
The unveiling was followed by a rap ‘Bad King John’ written and performed by local playwright and actor Gareth Calway.
The statue will be lit up at night and the sculptor said he was pleased with the work.
The statue was funded by the borough council as part of the Stories of Lynn Heritage Lottery Fund scheme,
King John, whose reign lasted from 1199 to 1216, is mainly remembered as being perhaps the worst monarch ever to rule in England.
Renowned for losing the crown jewels, he also lost an empire and was a tyrannical despot who sparked the Magna Carta.
According to legend, King John’s baggage train, including the crown jewels, was en route from Lynn to Lincoln, via a dangerous shortcut across what was then an area of marsh and bog, when it was swallowed by The Wash.