On the return to Lynn of a large Whaler, after an Arctic voyage
From The Lynn Advertiser, 1872
As is generally known, in that day (c.1820) there were what were called “blubber houses” on either bank of the Nar, near the slipway. In those yards were huge coppers for boiling whale and seal flesh, and in the month of July or later, when the great ships (eg Enterprise, Experiment and Fountain) arrived from Greenland, it was a sight to see.
The town bells were rung, the citizens and troops of school boys lined the banks of the Nar, and the huge ships, with (in nautical phrase) royal yards aloft, entered that important river. They had flags of all kinds waving in the wind, and garlands made in Greenland suspended between the masts; and, then, upon the decks around the masts and in the lower rigging, were standing erect huge pieces of black whalebone and jaw bones of enormous size; and Oh! How the good citizens stared and how the boys wondered, and almost wept, as they looked at those huge jaw bones and thought of poor Jonah!
And then there were the horses with towlines on the north, and lots of hady sailors, harpooners &c, with lines upon the south bank of the river, towing the huge vessel up the stream, and then the surface of the water was covered with long and trim whale boats and there was shouting and cheering, and but for the absence of ice it was in fact another Greenland pro tem.
After the ship was moored (and she rquired but small fastenings, the huge bulk filling the narrow river and only floating at high water or spring tides), after that, for weeks there was great ado in these parts.
The ringing of the hammers of the many coopers as they danced around the oil casks, the cutting up of the blubber and the boiling and the cleaning of the great whale bones and the seal skins, occupied a long time and caused great excitement; and then for weeks the steam and vapour from the huge coppers was carried by the south-west wind all over South Lynn, an odour of ill-smelling savour, certainly, but, as the parish was taught, very productive of health to the inhabitants.
Possibly, our friends of the extreme section would procure, in the new Bill for Lynn, a clause to revive this trade upon sanitary priciples. I assure you the lecturer deplores heartily the loss to Lynn of the Greenland trade. I have found in the office of Messrs. Hogge the following entry, with which I close my remarks upon matters pertaining to the water:-
July 26th 1809 – Arrived The Fountain, Captain J. Phillips, with 14 whales, 2 unicorns, 3 seals and 340 butts of blubber
‘Memories of Lynn’ by William Armes (1804-1872)
Published by The Friends of King’s Lynn Local History Library 1990