The house was built in 1605 by John Aitken, merchant and four times Mayor of Lynn. In 1660 his grandson Thomas Aitken ‘of London’ sold it. It seems that at an early stage the house was divided into two, the southern portion became a public house – The Fisherman’s Arms’ or The Waterman’s Arms’. By 1796 it had been renamed ‘The Greenland Fishery’ because of the importance of the sailors who worked in the whaling industry which was of major economic importance to the town of Lynn. The name seems to have at first referred to the small building which occupied the position on the corner of Bridge St, ‘The Greenland Beerhous” which was declared unfit for human occupation by The Chief Medical Officer in 1899. In 1911 the Borough Council was offered the building and was prepared to buy it for £50 but this sale didn’t go ahead when the cost of repairs was estimated at £300. The position of its gable is still visible on the end wall of the north side of The Greenland Fishery which also has the date 1605 carved into the gable corner stone.
In 1912 The Greenland Fishery was bought by Edward Milligen Beloe
Beloe opened The Greenland Fishery Museum, with a bakery on the northern side
In 1912 the whole of The Greenland Fishery including the land at the rear and the former public house, ‘The Cottage’ was bought by Edward Milligen Beloe who opened it as The Greenland Fishery Museum with a bakery in the northern side. Ships biscuits were made in the basement and visitors had to enter and exit through the bakery at the front.
They were encouraged to try Mr Lewis’ ships biscuits, and there is a charming illustration for these by the local artist Walter Dexter. The museum contained a wide range of different artefacts including farming tools which Beloe had advice from The British Museum on how to store. There were also pilgrims’ badges, a steelyard from The Blue Lion pub which still hangs in the passageway, and paintings by Thomas Bains (who in 1864 painted watercolour copies of the wallpaintings in the southern side of the house) of views of southern Africa. When Beloe died in 1932 his widow sold the building to The Borough Council and The Norfolk Archeological Society jointly and a group which managed the building was set up.
In June 1941 a bomb fell on the back of the building destroying ‘The Cottage’, the west wing and the back of the house and leaving it exposed along its back wall. Only minor repairs were carried out until at the end of the war the building was restored, the southern part as a house and the northern part for office use. In 1951 the first tenants moved in to the southern side. They were Miss Keith who was Head Teacher of Gaywood Park School and Miss D Bullock, who continued living in the house after Miss Keith’s death until 1992 and who created a beautiful garden now no longer visible.
These notes are compiled from those made by Barbera Green and Cathy Proudlove of Norfolk Museums Service in 1992, and from papers in the King’s Lynn Museum, by kind permission. A S Hankinson.