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St James, Kings Lynn
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The most westerly part of the structure is actually the base of a massive crossing pier, and the arcade between this and the next pier was filled in with brick in the 17th century and punctuated by a window. The nave of the church had been demolished at the reformation, and this crossing and the chancel formed the new building when the redundant church was converted into the workhouse in 1580. A 1680s rebuilding in the ruin left us the brickwork here.
This church was the venue for an amusing event in the otherwise somewhat irritating life of Margery Kempe, the early 15th century diarist. One of the travelling Friars of Norfolk was an excellent preacher, and whenever he preached here at St James, Margery Kempe would be so overcome with ecstacies at what he was saying that she would roll on the floor sobbing and yelping. In the end, the townspeople had to put her out and ban her from the church.
At the time of the Workhouses Reform Act in the 1830s, the structure here proved inadequate for the reinforcement of the new, grim, punishment routines, and was abandoned. London Road Methodist church was built on part of the site in the 1850s, and the rest was demoished, apart from this bay, in 1910. Easily overlooked in a town with so many medieval survivals, but worth a stop if you are wanting to understand the ecclesiastical structure of medieval Lynn, or its early modern welfare service.
Simon Knott, November 2005
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