King's Lynn Under Siege English Civil War Archaeological Project

At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the Norfolk town of King’s Lynn was still an important port, trading with the continent, other east-coast ports, and, thanks to a network of inland waterways, some nine English counties. Protected by rivers on three sides, the town’s existing, largely medieval, defences were repaired, improved and re-armed.


A year later, the full force of the English Civil War hit the town.


Following a bloodless coup in the summer of that year, the town become Royalist. But just weeks later, blockaded by sea and besieged by land, the town was captured by the forces of Parliament who, aware of tits strategic value as a supply base, immediately went about re-fortifying the town, transforming it into the strongest fortress in East Anglia.


King’s Lynn shows the scars of the conflict, even after 375 years. In some places, the vestiges of war are very apparent, in others, harder to see, and elsewhere, they have vanished almost completely.


However, the fact that King’s Lynn had pre-Civil War fortifications was besieged and then re-fortified means that, from an archaeological perspective, King’s Lynn offers considerable potential.


Whilst a skirmish or battle lasted just a few hours, a siege would last for days, weeks or even months. Thus, an archaeological investigation of a siege site has the potential to offer more than an investigation of a battlefield site. Yet, such investigations are rare.


Unlocking the town’s Civil War past is the aim of King's Lynn Under Siege English Civil War Archaeological Project (‘KLuS’), a long term archaeological research project, involving professionals, academics, students, volunteers and the local community. It will deploy a full range of techniques and approaches to the understanding of the lived human experience of the Civil Wars and its impact upon the people and fabric of King’s Lynn.


Since its formation in January 2018, KLuS has raised the profile of King’s Lynn’s importance during the conflict, has been involved in the project to re-interpret the town’s historic South Gate, participated in the town’s annual heritage weekend, and has already published key research.


In the spring of 2019, the project investigated the site of the town’s south-west bastion, and is now, with COVID-19 restrictions lifting, is looking at the site of the town’s north-east bastion.


Later this year, the project will feature in an episode of Channel 4’s The Great British Dig (scheduled to be broadcast in early 2022), and this will herald a busy 2022 for the project.


To find out more, visit the project’s website: www.militaryhistorylive.co.uk/mhl-kings-lynn-under-siege 

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