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Project to uncover the history of Norfolk port under siege during English Civil War

PUBLISHED: 16:18 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:23 12 March 2018

A project has been launched to uncover the history of King's Lynn during the First English Civil War. Picture: Ian Burt

A project has been launched to uncover the history of King's Lynn during the First English Civil War. Picture: Ian Burt

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A new project has been launched to uncover the history of a Norfolk port which came under siege during the English Civil War.

The Doorstep Green at Harding's Pits in King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher.The Doorstep Green at Harding's Pits in King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher.

In the summer of 1643 King’s Lynn, at the mouth of the River Great Ouse, was occupied by Royalist forces.

But just a few weeks later, blockaded by sea and besieged by land, the town fell to the Parliamentarians who immediately re-fortified the town’s defences, making it one of the strongest in East Anglia.

To unlock the town’s civil war past, a long-term archaeological research project has been launched, named King’s Lynn Under Siege (KLUS).

The project, which formed officially in January this year, will involve professionals, academics, students, volunteers and the local community to explore the lived human experience of the Civil Wars and its impact upon the people and fabric of King’s Lynn.

The Doorstep Green at Harding's Pits in King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher.The Doorstep Green at Harding's Pits in King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher.

West Norfolk councillor Elizabeth Nockolds, cabinet member for culture, heritage and health, said: “I am pleased that the King’s Lynn Borough Archives has been used to assist with this research for the KLUS project.

“Kings Lynn has a wealth of history, much of which has now been brought to life in Stories of Lynn, some of which is yet to be discovered.

“It is very exciting to be involved with something that will explore a further element of the town’s history.”

Ahead of its launch on Heritage Open Day on Sunday, September 16, the project will be researching and mapping King’s Lynn’s fortifications to identify the sites for further investigation.

The Port of King's Lynn at high tide. Picture: Ian BurtThe Port of King's Lynn at high tide. Picture: Ian Burt

It is believed Harding’s Pits, a community green space to the south of King’s Lynn, formed part of the defences of the walled town.

County councillor for Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South, Alexandra Kemp, said: “Lynn was the strongest fortress in East Anglia, all because of state-of-the-art Civil War defences after the dramatic siege of Lynn.

“I am always passionate about Lynn’s history, I am waiting with bated breath as the project plots their long-forgotten route beneath Harding’s Pits and Harding’s Way.

“South Lynn as an internationally important archaeological site would prove a massive boost to tourism and the local economy.”

The Siege of Lynn

In the 17th Century, King’s Lynn was one of the busiest ports in the country.

It was a centre for the whaling industry and was the only port in the North Norfolk coast with the nearest several miles away in Great Yarmouth.

It became the prime spot for Royalists to target during the First English Civil War, not least because of its location - Bishop’s Lynn, as it was called, had a road running straight down to London.

When Lynn was under siege in August 1643, it’s then governor and Royalist Sir Hamon LeStrange, from nearby Hunstanton, declared the town for the King.

But it was captured just three weeks later after the Earl of Manchester, major-general of the Parliamentary forces, together with Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the town with 18,000 troops.

The town surrendered to the Parliamentarians on September 16.

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