The Greenland Fishery House
The ‘rennaissance house’
Built in 1605 by John Atkin, merchant and twice Mayor of King’s Lynn, he bequeathed The House to his wife Joan in 1616, she passed it to her son Seth, and his son Thomas Aitkin ‘of London’ sold it in 1660.
It is one of very few in Norfolk to have survived with so little alteration. It lies symmetrically each side of a central passage leading to a yard and remains substantially complete, strengthened by the insertion of iron girders and by the very large chimney stacks which occupy both northern and southern walls. Construction is of brick and timber framing, the front wall (33feet in length) being jettied at both first and second floor levels and having moulded coverings to the joist ends. The trussed roof is similar to that at 30-32 Bridge Street. There are brick cellars under the street frontage.
Original windows have been re-glazed and a street door also survives. As elsewhere in Lynn, entrance (originally to the whole building) was by a door on the south side of the passage to the ground floor, probably a kitchen, from which the surviving stair in the thickness of the chimney stack led to the first and second floor rooms. The first floor occupied the width and probably the full length of the building, making a most impressive Hall with a fireplace at each end, lit by three corbelled oriel windows in the east wall The southern part of the hall originally lit by a row of mullioned 2ft 8inches deep windows high against the ceiling. The second floor has original timber partitioning which left a two bay room at the south end, most likely, solar and principal bedroom. The Roof was raised soon after it was built. On the north side of the passage a door led into a shop. A stair was later inserted on the back wall giving access to the upper floors.
The building seems to have been divided in two at an early stage, the southern portion became a public house; ‘The Fisherman’s Arms’ which became the headquarters of the Greenland whale fishing industry, which was of major importance to the town until the arrival of gas lighting in the 19C.
Becomes a tavern
In 1796 it was renamed ‘The Greenland Fishery Inn.
In 1898 the ‘Greenland Fishery Beerhouse’ was reported by the Medical Officer of Health to be unfit for human occupation.
In 1911 the Borough Surveyor served notice on the owners of the properties to secure or demolish. It was offered to the council for £50 and initially was accepted until it was realised it would cost £300 to repair.
Turned into a museum
Between 1911 and 1912 the entire buildings, including a cottage on the corner and a bakehouse at the rear, was purchased by Mr E.M Beloe a local solicitor and historian and turned into a museum. It was opened on June 6th 1912 by the Earl of Oxford, and housed an extensive collection of items bought together by him and his father. Downstairs housed a bakers shop run by a Mr Lewis, baking his wares in the basement kitchen. Visitors had to enter the museum through the shop and Mrs Lewis who was the museum caretaker would encourage them to try Mr Lewis’s “ship’s” biscuits.
After Mr Beloe died in 1932, his widow sold the building and contents jointly to the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and Borough Council, and a management committee was set up to run the museum.
Hit by WW2 bomb
In June 1941 a bomb fell between the building and the river, the cottage was destroyed, the west wing and the back wall of the main house and the buildings to the rear collapsed leaving the whole property open to the rear. Most of the items were removed by the council for safe keeping and eventually added to the collection in the Market Street Museum.
The Building continued to deteriorate, but only first-aid repairs were carried out, (although whilst empty it was listed as an Ancient Monument). At the end of the war negotiations were carried out between the interested parties, as a result of which the building was restored. The southern part, as a house, and the northern as an office.
Ms’ Keith and Bullock cared for it well
Finally, in 1951 it received its first tenants: the Borough Housing Manager Miss M Keith and Miss D Bullock the recently appointed Head Teacher of Gaywood Park Girls School. They cared for it well, made few demands of it, and considerably enhanced it by making an unusual and attractive garden at the back, After Miss Keith’s death Diana Bullock continued to live there alone until 1992. The House comprised a large downstairs sitting room with original flag-stone floor, a small bathroom and kitchen. A single steep narrow stair led up to one large and one small bedroom and above an attic with disclosed roof timbers and a series of Jacobean wall paintings which had been covered with many coats of whitewash. The northern part, separated by a stone flagged passage has for many years been occupied by the local Conservative party and consists of front and rear offices and large first floor and attic rooms.
Transferred to KLPT
In 1997 the entire property was transferred from the Norwich Archaeological Trust to the King’s Lynn Preservation Trust. It is now a listed Grade II*.
* Spring 2021: The Home of the Greenland Fishery Project has moved location.