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|Lynn in the fifteenth century|
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The Great Ouse flowed into the Wash from several inland counties and was thus an important trade transportation route for the region. It was, however, the Little Ouse that passed by the site of Lynn; the Great Ouse joined with the Nene and together they reached the Wash at Wisbech. In the late 13th century, however, silting up of the Wisbech estuary, combined with a scheme of the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, involving a dam and the reopening of an artificial channel (originally cut by the Romans, but later silted up), served to divert the Great Ouse into the Little Ouse some distance south of Lynn. The Bishop intended this scheme to profit his tenants at Littleport, but it also worked to the benefit of Lynn and the damage of Wisbech, in terms of the re-routing of trade. Over the lifetime of medieval Lynn, silting, dumping of refuse, and deliberate reclamation combined to push the east bank of the Ouse westwards about 100 yards, with the townsmen first establishing private wharfs (which themselves helped trap silt) on that bank across the road from their residences, then setting up small buildings, and finally expanding these into larger residences with warehouses.
Actually the River Gay (later Gaywood), which led from the Little Ouse to the Bishop's manor and village of Gaywood. As the name suggests, this part of town, particularly the mouth of the Fisherfleet, tended to attract fishermen, who established residences there.
The first reference we have to this, in 1101, names it Possfled. From there it transforms over time to Pusflet, then to Pursflet.
The first reference we have to this, in 1101, names it Sewoldsfled. It is not clear whether the later name (c.1250) Sunolf's Fleet is a corruption of this or associated with the family of Robert fitz Sunolf, first mayor of Lynn; curiously, the fleet was known as Mayorsfleet around the turn of the century, while the bridge crossing it was called both Mayor's bridge and Sunolf's bridge. Later it was known as Swaggesfleet (after the mill owner) and later still just as Millfleet.
In the High Middle Ages, the course of the Nar may have flowed closer to All Saints church, only to be diverted as either silting up or deliberate filling in (due to growth of habitation in South Lynn) occurred; this presumably happened before the Carmelites established their friary in South Lynn.
Although the first explicit references to an area dedicated to washing and drying fish are in the 16th century, it is likely that one or more such areas existed in medieval times. Running water (such as provided by the estuary tides) was required for washing, and shingle for drying. These areas were called "fish balls"; there is reference in 1439 to a location called Le Balle, in the southern part of town and by the river. This location is probably reflected in the post-medieval area known as Boal Wharf, a peninsula that was part of South Lynn on the north bank of the Nar. The area opposite on the south bank may also have been used for the same purpose, although it was more marshy and not as immediately accessible. Le Balle was also one of the places where fullers set up tenters used to stretch out cloth to dry.
It is hard to imagine what these were, if not salterns in origin, created in the Early and High Middle Ages. Although not within borough boundaries, the hills were recognized as belonging to the community. Outside of the main area of settlement, there would have been no reason to adapt them as the foundation of buildings. The bridge across the Fisherfleet, to the southwest of Dowshill was protected by a gate in 1339, later called the North Gate.
This was probably the first bridge established across the Purfleet, soon after (if not before) the foundation of Lynn St. Margaret's.
Earlier known as Belvaco's Bridge, named after James de Belvaco, perhaps because his numerous properties in town included a house adjoining the bridge; a member of a prominent urban dynasty originally from Beauvais, France, James held the mayoralty at least twice in the third quarter of the 13th century. If South Lynn had, from early times, required a north-south route to connect it to Damgate, that would argue for an early existence of this bridge, or at least a ford at the site (however, see the entry under Gannock Gate). The later name of Baxter Bridge was presumably associated with Baxter Row, the street immediately north and south of the bridge, suggesting the presence of bakers there. By mid-16th century a third marketplace had begun to develop in the large space immediately north of the bridge, due to the increase of river traffic along the Purfleet, where many merchants had been establishing private quays and warehouses since at least the mid-15th century.
This was likely built in the late 14th or early 15th century, consequent to 14th-century reclamation of land on the edge of the Ouse having encouraged the creation of streets (Wingate to the south and the Chequer to the north) along which merchants established homes, warehouses and quays. The decision to put in a bridge here (a potential blockage for ships) probably also reflects that silting of the fleets had made them less accessible to larger ships, although low-draught vessels such as barges could still navigate these watercourses.
This crossed a lesser fleet running off Fisherfleet and may in fact represent the original point of entry into Newland. There are indications that the north-south bank, which also acted as a defensive line, originally ran past the western end of this bridge (later part of that bank became a road), and that the line of the stone wall was placed further to the east in order to protect a suburb that had grown up along the part of Damgate east of Bishop's Bridge. That bridge was later known as Littleport Bridge, a name suggesting that a lesser settlement (port) had existed there. The fleet the bridge crosses may have been dug as part of the original defensive line. That a second bridge of the same name, crossing Millfleet by the Gannock Gate, marked the boundary between one area of jurisdiction (Lynn) and another (South Lynn), also suggests that the Newland Bishop's Bridge might at one time been the boundary between Newland and the manor of Gaywood.
The first official (i.e. privileged) market was created in conjunction with the foundation of Lynn and St. Margaret's in 1101. However, the Saturday Market likely lay on the site of the "sand-market" whose informal existence encouraged the Bishop to found Lynn in the first place. It is uncertain whether it was this market, or the Tuesday Market, in which William d'Albini was, tempore William Rufus, granted a half-share, along with the "port" where ships anchored, and various tolls and customs associated with the activities at those locations. The market was served by a privy built in 1309 and a freshwater conduit in place by the mid-14th century. Adjacent land was added to the market in the 1360s to bring butchers' stalls together into one spot as a shambles (viz. Butcher Row later known as Bulwer Row, after an inn The Bull). There were numerous shops and several inns along the north side of the market.
(photo of the marketplace)
The new town established by Bishop Turbe in mid-12th century would have required its own market, since it was initially under a separate lordship (the Bishop's) to that of the original borough foundation at Lynn (then under the lordship of the monastic priory of Norwich). However, it is possible a market existed here before that foundation, and was the reason for the foundation, particularly if the "port" referred to in the grant to William d'Albini means the mouth of the Gaywood, which in turn would have to mean the market referred to was closer than the distant Saturday Market. At its creation, the western side fronted the river, and the same may have been true of the northern side, originally, although buildings were encroaching on this area by at least the late 13th century. The eastern and southern sides of the Tuesday market were dotted with inns, to accommodate traders from out of town. A shelter for some of the booths was set up there in the latter part of the 15th century; topped by a cross (a reflection of an ancient custom of making business deals in the shadow of a church, to solemnize the contract), it was a precursor of the later market halls which were not a common feature in medieval England.
This quay was so named because it, and fees and tolls associated with its use, were part of the lordship rights of the Bishop of Norwich, as founder of Lynn. By the close of the Middle Ages, there were likely public warehouses here. To the south of it lay the King's Staith, a name extended to cover the Bishop's Staith too in post-medieval times.
This appears to have belonged to the Merchant Gild. Here there were warehouses for foreign merchants to store their goods pending sale or movement out of town by water or road. Some buildings were dedicated to storing fish, which had particular needs and problems, or grain. On the north side of the quay was a building housing weighing equipment and, by the 1460s, a customs house. The Gild also maintained at the quay a public privy and a public crane.
Warehouses were to protect goods from the weather and from theft. Usually, local merchants had their own private warehouses associated with their residences, while foreign merchants had warehousing provided for their use on the Common Staith. The Hanse merchants were a special case, and could have their own base in Lynn. The timber-framed warehouse opposite St. Margaret's and the Saturday market was built to serve the merchants of the Hanseatic League in 1474, when the special privileges of the Hanse were re-granted (by the Treaty of Utrecht), and licence to build a steelyard was obtained from borough authorities; the Hanse had, however, had a warehouse in Lynn for at least fifty years previous perhaps on the same site, although an older, stone warehouse on the public quay may have been associated with the Hanse. A second parallel range, on the north side, was added a little later in brick, creating a central courtyard. The residential part of the complex that likely faced the street has been replaced by a later structure.
There are so many references to different names and owners, that I am inclined to suspect there was more than one mill here. Be that as it may, here was the town's public corn mill. It perhaps began life as the mill built by the monks, mentioned in the Bishop's foundation charter of ca.1096. However, the first mill known with certainty to be associated with the site was built by the lord of South Lynn, Lord Scales and was known as Scales Mill. It was later known as Swagges Mill, but this was ruinous by the late 14th century. The borough acquired the site in 1392 and built a new mill there, but had difficulty making it a commercial success. Perhaps it was this reason that prompted the Merchant Gild to take it over in 1448. In 1425 a channel connecting Fisherfleet and Purfleet, just outside the town wall/ditch (and itself partly defensive in purpose), was extended to Millfleet in order to bring more water from the Gay with the hope of increasing the flow necessary to power the mill.
The Bishop built a corn mill to serve his Newland tenants on a branch off the River Gay, not far from St. Nicholas' church; this had disappeared by the end of the 15th century. A second mill, horsepowered, in the northeast corner of the town directly on the Gay was in operation by the beginning of the 15th century. Known as a kettlemill, its purpose was to draw from the river (in kettle-like containers) water that would feed the town's freshwater conduits, one of the earliest of which ran from the kettlemill down Damgate to Gresemarket, with a connection south to the Saturday marketplace. It was possibly in this vicinity that a fulling mill was built in 1393-94.
The Gild of Holy Trinity was the socio-religious face of Lynn's Merchant Gild. It naturally built its meeting-hall facing what was originally the town centre and hub of the economic activity that was central to its interests and concerns: the Saturday marketplace. Although the present hall was not the original market location of the gild's home, the earlier gildhall was in place in the vicinity before the close of the 13th century. As mercantile activity gradually refocused around the Tuesday Market adjacent to the public quay, later gildhalls (like St. George's) were built further north. Long and narrow, the gildhall was basically a large hall raised over an undercroft, with a passageway down the west side, fronted by an exterior staircase which led up to the hall's entrance; it was built of brick, with the street-front decorated. Brick provided better protection from fire, which was a major concern in closely built-up towns many of which experienced devastating fires at one or more times in their history and the cause of the previous hall's demise. The undercroft would have been used as a warehouse for gild-owned merchandize, such as the millstones in which they had a trade monopoly. It also housed the gild treasury. The borough authorities used the hall for council meetings and later part of the undercroft was used as town gaol. The Merchant Gild of South Lynn (far more modest in size and resources than that of Lynn) leased the Trinity Hall for its annual feast-day.
St. George's Gildhall
St. George's Gild was a socio-religious association of some of the wealthier townsmen. It received royal recognition (Letters Patent) in 1406; at that time its property was on the opposite side of the Chequer from the present gildhall, so the latter must have been constructed after that date. This long and narrow hall, not quite as large as the Trinity Gildhall, was probably begun in the early 15th century, and building continued over the course of several decades. It was essentially a large hall, with an undercroft, and an entrance passageway running down the length of one side. Brick was the material used (as opposed to timber framing), as for Trinity Gildhall, but there was no comparable decoration of the street front. Some lesser gilds, not wealthy enough to own a hall, leased St. George's Hall for their annual feast-day.
The location of the court and tollbooth of the Bishop was facing the Tuesday market, on the north side of Jews Lane, although no proven traces remain of this building. The location suggests an original association with the Newland foundation.
An almshouse was set up at the east end of Fuller Row by the Gild of St. Giles and St. Julian to provide living quarters for impoverished citizens. It was in existence by 1488, when it had private rooms for seven men and six women.
Although it may have been preceded by one of the wooden towers (bretasks) that the Bishop helped build, in conjunction with a drawbridge across the subsidiary fleet running off Fisherfleet, the East Gate itself was probably the outcome of the first murage grant to Lynn in 1266 and the walls referred to in 1277 were likely those adjacent to the East Gate. The position of gate and wall, which seem to have gone beyond borough boundaries to encroach on the manor of Gaywood, may have been to protect suburban settlement, although even then some houses still eastwards of the gate were burned down to prevent them serving as protection for any besiegers. The fleet was widened, and sluices built to keep water in it, so that it could better serve as part of the defences. The gate was one of the two main land-route entrances into the town, on the road from Norwich, manned by a permanent gatekeeper. Tolls were collected here on merchandize coming in and going out of town. It was equipped with drawbridge, portcullis and lockable wooden gates (as was the South Gate). It may be that the site of this gate had, even before the foundation of Newland, been on the route of a road from the manor of Gaywood to Lynn, turning south soon thereafter and then following the northern bank of the Purfleet until reaching the Stone Bridge into Lynn. However, this is just a hypothesis proposed by Beloe, writing in 1895 five years after the gate had been demolished.
This was in fact the northern of two Gannock gates (the other lying about halfway down the stretch of ditch that protected South Lynn. The gate seems to have taken its name from the bank (one of the ancient raised causeways) through which it gave entrance. I have found no evidence on the derivation of the name; it can hardly be anything to do with gannoker (ale-wife), but perhaps is associated with gannagium (land under cultivation) in reference to the location being surrounded by fields. Hillen offered the less likely, but not dismissable, theory that the term derived from a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic terms meaning "route along a hill". Prior to the foundation of Newland, it is conceivable that the site of Gannock Gate and the road running therefrom towards the town centre represented the principal approach from the east; certainly the road between the Saturday market and St. James' lies on what was probably one of the early raised causeways existing at the time of Lynn's foundation, and this road might have continued on to the location of Gannock Gate before St. James' was built. This hypothesis would also obviate the need to identify a north-south route (with bridge across the Purfleet) connecting South Lynn with Damgate. Once Newland had developed and the East Gate/Damgate approach into the town had risen in importance, Gannock Gate and the road leading to it fell into disuse, and the gate was mostly kept closed.
One of the two main land-route entrances into the town, on the road from Ely and Cambridge, manned by a permanent gatekeeper. It may have previously been the location of one of the bishop's bretasks. The king assigned the borough of Lynn the task of maintaining the defences of South Lynn, in addition to its own, although the cost was to be borne by the county. Tolls were collected here on merchandize coming in and going out of town. The gate was in existence by the beginning of the 13th century, but underwent substantial rebuilding in 1437 and in the post-medieval period; it still stands today. A drawbridge was part of the defences, although this was placed after the regular bridge crossing the Nar.
(illustration of the gate in the 19th century; photo of the gate in the late 19th century; photo of the gate in the late 20th century
Early features of the town's defences were wooden towers positioned at main entry points into the town: the roads and the fleets. The Bishop contributed to the defence of his tenants of Newland by building and maintaining a bretask at the northwest corner of the town, by Fisherfleet (which, as the River Gay, also happened to lead to his manor at Gaywood). This tower is mentioned as early as 1270. In post-medieval times St. Ann's Fort was built here, again reflecting the strategic importance of this site.
St. Margaret's church/priory
The church was part of the Bishop's original foundation of Lynn and must have been begun by 1101. Rebuilding occurred during 13th and 14th centuries, with costs supported by the borough, while in the late 15th century renovation and beautification was carried out thanks to private benefactors among the townspeople. The church's twin towers were built in the 13th century and must have been a prominent feature of the medieval skyline. The church was evidently situated on the most westerly part of the land reclaimed from the marsh at that point i.e. at that time the river would have lain immediately west of the church; saltern mounds provided sufficiently solid foundations for the structure. Together with the priory on its south side, which was occupied only by a prior and a handful of monks, this site may have initially occupied all the land southwards to Millfleet; although in the 14th century, as more land was reclaimed westwards from the river, merchants' houses spread southwards and eventually (perhaps in the 15th century) swung eastwards along the bank of the Millfleet). After the Dissolution, the priory buildings were pulled down and the site redeveloped for residential use. A charnel, to hold the bones of those removed from the cemetery to make room for the newly deceased, had been added by the end of the 13th century; but the extension of burial rights to St. Nicholas' and St. James' in mid-14th century, together with competition from the friaries as burial sites, resulted in the charnel falling into disrepair and in 1509 it was converted into Lynn's first grammar school.
(floor plan ; further information and numerous pictures)
St. James' chapel
The existence of this chapel by 1146 is a reflection of the fact that, in the early decades after the foundation of Lynn, population growth had to spread mainly eastwards from St. Margaret's. It is just possible that the chapel had some jurisdiction over what little settlement there may have been north of the Purfleet, along Damgate, prior to the creation of Newland. The gradual reclamation of land from the river on the westward side of St. Margaret's, together with the foundation of Newland to the north, diverted population spread away from the area of St. James. The chapel had fallen into disuse by mid-16th century; in the 1580s, part of its ruins were restored to serve as a workhouse.
St. Nicholas' chapel
The grant of a chapel to the residents who had spread northwards beyond the original bounds of the episcopal foundation of Lynn was necessary, given the initial separation of the two settlements. However, there is no indication that St. Nicholas' was ever given parochial status, and the amalgamation of the settlements at the beginning of the 13th century inhibited that prospect the resistance of the prior and priest of St. Margaret's (which would lose revenue to a rival parish church), backed by its parishioners, was able to suppress "separatist" movements in 1379 and 1427, although the right to a burial ground had been conceded to St. Nicholas' in 1361. The apparently out-of-the-way location of the chapel (as opposed to St. Margaret's which was adjacent to the marketplace) may be explained by the pre-existence of the Tuesday market and adjacent settlement, or perhaps by the desire to place the chapel near both Tuesday market and port on the River Gay. Rebuilding occurred in the 13th and, more thoroughly, in the 15th century.
(further information and numerous pictures; photo of south porch)
All Saints church
This was the parish church of South Lynn, located by the main (and almost only) road running through South Lynn, following the line of an ancient raised bank. The small population of South Lynn stretched along that road, in the vicinity of the church. The church was probably built between the time of Domesday, which does not mention it, and the founding of Lynn.
Only they, of all the orders, were able to secure a site close within the built-up section of the town. Their convent is not mentioned in the Newland survey of ca.1267/83, however, and it seems the friary was not established until the last years of that century. The site incorporated a church, chapter house, and residence. An inclination of townspeople to be buried here, to the detriment of St. Margaret's, led to an agreement in 1361 that a quarter of all offerings made at funerals in the friary church would be turned over to St. Margaret's; similar agreements with the Dominicans and Franciscans had already been put in place. In 1386 the borough authorities granted the Augustinians licence to use a large bequest from a townsman to build a conduit into their precinct, on condition that for half of each year the townspeople could have access to the conduit where it passed through a holding tank at the Listergate/Damgate corner.
The Blackfriars precinct, established before 1256, had formerly been the site of nine pieces of property. This friary became a popular choice among wealthy townsmen for their burial.
This friary was in existence by mid-13th century.
The Whitefriars had established a friary in South Lynn before 1260. The 14th-century cartulary mentions two stretches of cloister, an infirmary, refectory, and residence with garden. Church and cemetery were on the northern part of the site. There were two gateways into the precinct.
Hospital of St. John
Dedicated to St. John Baptist, this institution was founded ca.1100/1135. It included in its enclosure besides the hospital a church, hall and other houses.
Red Mount chapel
A private foundation on public land, whose construction was licensed by the borough in 1483, and partly under jurisdiction of the priory. Little is known of it. It contained two chapels, one on the lower floor, and a more elaborately decorated one on the upper floor.
|STREETS AND ROADS|
This road was placed atop a raised causeway that was either a product of the saltery activities, which involved the creation of lagoons, or a natural bank leading through the marshes (or perhaps a combination of these elements, with a natural bank being artificially raised even higher). The street's name itself suggests this function. After leaving the borough, the road led eastwards to Gaywood and beyond that to Norwich. Regardless of whether a road along this line pre-existed Newland, it was with the foundation of Newland that this road would have taken on a key importance in the borough, providing the direct route from the countryside east of Lynn to a marketplace and quayside. Damgate likely originally ran as far as the Tuesday market, but its western stretch was later renamed after the Gresemarket held there. As the Middle Ages drew to a close, Damgate was increasingly populated by craftsmen, as merchants relocated to streets adjacent to waterways.
Briggate (at least the section south of the Purfleet) seems to have lain along a raised bank, or causeway, perhaps the result of salting operations prior to the foundation of Lynn. As such, it would have been a natural site for one of the earliest streets and focal points of the settlement. If the first crossing point of the Purfleet was at the Stone Bridge and the name Briggate (bridge street now, perhaps significantly, the town's High Street) is supportive of such a hypothesis then it is likely that Briggate would have been a relatively early focus for population spread in the century following the foundation of Lynn. The creation of Newland would have provided even more impetus for this. Briggate connected the two marketplaces; the name was originally applied to the road on both sides of the bridge, although in the late 14th century the northern section became known as Mercer Row. The street tended to be occupied predominantly by retailers shopkeepers, innkeepers, etc. and its northernmost section, just off the Tuesday market, was renamed Cook Row because of the food services provided there to market vendors and customers.
St. James Street
This was likely an early route along which settlement spread following the foundation of Lynn, and would help explain the location of St. James church. For additional information, see the entry on Gannock Gate. The western stretch (leading from St. Margaret's) was also known as Skinner Row.
(photo of the street, late 19th/early 20th century)
Purfleet Lane and Fincham Street
These streets came into being during the first half of the 14th century, as merchants sought properties with access to a waterway (perhaps itself a reflection of the growing importance of water transportation, as the Great Ouse was diverted to go by Lynn, and as road routes diminished in importance). At first, the typical pattern was probably for divided properties with the residence on the north side of the street and an associated quay on the south side (there is an example of this in the 1391 rental). However, as land was reclaimed from Purfleet, there was space on the southern side of the road for building. Fincham Street (on the east side of Briggate) was formerly known as Burghard Lane.
Presumably named for the one-time presence of weavers there, just as the road south of Purfleet, running eastwards from Baxter's Bridge, was named Fuller Row due to settlement there of fullers, who needed the flowing water of the Purfleet for their work. Earlier (in the latter half of the 13th century) it was known as Collewilesfleet a reference to a minor fleet that ran down the centre of the road to Purfleet and was used as a gutter, as well as serving the town's cucking-stool. The area immediately north and south of the bridge across the Purfleet was known towards the end of the Middle Ages as Baxter Row. Further south of Purfleet, this route was known as Finnes Lane and possibly Skinner Row (although there is some confusion as to whether Skinner Row was not an alternate name for part of St. James' Street).
Probably represents in-filling of population between Baxter Row and the Dominican friary. The predominance of cottages here suggests it one of the poorer residential areas; several towns, including Norwich and Ipswich, are found with lanes of similar name (sometimes Rotten Row, although this is possibly a corruption), which may perhaps have been generally applied to such areas. The term may have originated from a reference to an infestation of rats there. The proximity to Spinner Lane may indicate that some of the cottages could have housed spinsters.
At the time of the foundation of Newland, this street would have represented the bank of the Ouse, before land reclamation permitted building on the west side of the street. As reclamation pushed the river's edge further away, access to the quayside from the Chequer (or from its counterparts, Wingate and Lath Street, south of the Purfleet), was via a series of narrow lanes. The northern stretch of The Chequer was called Stockfish Row, presumably so named because stalls selling fish congregated around this offshoot from the market. Remains of a residence dating from ca.1180 was found there.
This street, just off the Tuesday market, seems to have had a high concentration of inns, perhaps to serve merchants bringing wares into town by road (via Damgate). Possibly a "grassmarket".
Jews Lane and Pillory Lane (the parallel lane further north) may have been an element in the original layout of streets in Newland, or later extensions. The presence of a Jewish community is indicative of the thriving economy of Lynn in the late 12th century; that it does not seem to have lasted long is perhaps more a consequence of the burning down of their houses in 1190, after which many survivors moved to better protection at Rising, where a castle had been built.
|Created: May 15, 1999. Last update: March 20, 2002||© Stephen Alsford, 1999-2003|