Cat no. 267

A Man with a View

Running time29:50 Black & White Sound 1966 King's Lynn, Norfolk

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Nicholas Wollaston's personal view of King's Lynn.


DocumentaryPortrait of a PlaceTelevision

Kings Lynn with views over the River Ouse and the Fens. Many of these scenes are filmed from the train. There are also interior shots of the train. Several long shots of the river when the tide is out as well, swans on the water, and of narrow Lynn alleys.

Wollaston alights at Kings Lynn Station and hails a taxi. The theme of filming from a moving vehicle is continued as the streets of Kings Lynn are filmed from the taxi. The taxi driver offers his views on his home town. He describes it as a friendly little place ... years out of date. He suggests that the town needs someone with vision ... to get it going. Wollaston alights near the market taking the ferry across to West Lynn and looks back at the river frontage. He has come to Kings Lynn during the Festival and states his expectations of this. These are not met. He describes Kings Lynn as a frontier town. At the Port Frank Bullen, a local resident, explains his view of Kings Lynn.

A montage sequence of the names of the companies owning the lorries precedes an explanation that there are regular trips from Kings Lynn to Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. This recalls the history of Kings Lynn. It was the third largest sea port in England after London and Bristol. The Hanseatic Warehouse recalls times when there were trading links with the towns of the Hanseatic League. Indeed after the Royal Charter, granted by King John in 1205, Wollaston argues that Kings Lynn was almost a free city like the City States of the Hanse. Stills of engravings recall some of the history of the port. Two new docks were added during the reign of Queen Victoria. The port handles 1000 ships a year.New industries have come to Kings Lynn. These include a foundry that makes roller bearings. Most of the new industries are connected with agriculture. There are interior scenes from a vegetable canning factory. At the cattle market, to which farmers come from a distance of 40 miles and three counties, there are auctions of cattle and sheep in progress.

Wollaston moves onto his main interest; the architecture of Kings Lynn. He films Georgian houses on King Street and shows the detailed carvings on the 17th century Customs House. He interviews the Secretary of the Kings Lynn Civic Society. An incomer, she explains the aims of the Society, which has 500 members. Out of this grew the Kings Lynn Preservation Trust.

In attempt to find different views on Kings Lynn some local bikers are interviewed. They disappoint by failing to offer the stereotyped views the programme was probably looking for. One argues cogently that the old buildings distinguish Kings Lynn from other towns and should be preserved. One, who admits to being a Londoner, suggests that Kings Lynn needs more in the way of entertainment facilities. He is not alone in this. This appears to have been the general view of the London overspill population. Wollaston visits the Guildhall of the Holy Trinity where a school party is being shown the King John cup. This dates from 1325 and therefore has nothing to do with King John.Modern housing, built for the London overspill and now standing empty, is the next topic for debate.

The Mayor, who is also the Chairman of the Housing Committee, explains that 3,500 houses were built in 10 years in conjunction with London County Council to house the expected London overspill. Kings Lynn has been left with 100 empty houses that will rise to 200. However, he sees advantages in this. Companies considering relocating to Lynn like to see houses ready built to house the workers they expect to bring with them. The Principal of the Staff College built by the British Transport Dock Board, a Londoner himself, likes Kings Lynn. He describes it as quiet, explaining that he likes the lack of distractions.

A long sequence is devoted to the Kings Lynn Festival. Wollaston observes that this seems irrelevant to Kings Lynn life. The Corn Exchange is filmed and stills are shown taken at a concert. There are also stills of an exhibition of sculpture. The Queen Mother arrives at a play at the St. George's Guildhall. There are interior shots of this, but taken later when the Guildhall was empty. The administrator of the Festival talks about the class consciousness, which he dislikes. The Festival is too much about the Royal Party and the County Set. Most of the 'phone calls he takes are from people wanting to know which performance the Queen Mother will be attending; they are not concerned with the performance. He explains that he is trying to broaden the scope of the Festival, including some folk concerts. Wollaston cites the £200 funding from the Borough Council as symptomatic of the indifference with which Kings Lynn people view the Festival. Lady Evershed, the Chairwoman of the Festival Committee attempts to answer the criticism. She argues that popular acts cost money. The film ends with views across the River Ouse of the estuary, the industrial estates and the town.

Background Information:

This programme was part of a series made by the BBC looking at towns across the country. Nicholas Wollaston was a journalist and author. At one time he was travel correspondent of 'The Observer'. He wrote `Winter in England' on which this film is based in part

Featured People:

Frank Bullen; HM The Queen Mother; The Administrator of the Festival Committee; Lady Evershed

Featured Organisations:

The Kings Lynn Civic Society; The Kings Lynn Preservation Trust; The Kings Lynn Festival Committee; The British Transport Docks Board

Featured Events:

The Kings Lynn Festival

Featured Buildings:

Kings Lynn Railway Station.The Customs House; Guildhall of the Holy Trinity; St. George's Guildhall; The Hanseatic Warehouse; Gatehouse; Churches

BBC East

Malcolm Freegard

Peter Doubleday

George Fisher

Nicholas Wollaston

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