The History of True's Yard continued
Continuing the story of True's Yard, home of King's Lynn's old fishing community, the North End
The model shows King’s Lynn during the Tudor period (1485-1601). At this time the town was protected by a town wall, parts of which can still be seen today such as the South Gates.
Opposite the model is a display of fishing equipment. Note the gansey (jumper on the mannequin). The gansey was the traditional garment worn by Lynn fishermen.
Each town and village had a distinct pattern, so if a fisherman drowned at sea he could be identified. The patterns were handed down from mother to daughter.
Ganseys were knitted in the round (like a sock) without any seams, this made them easy to repair. The back and front were often the same, thus if the elbows wore out, the jumper could be worn the other way around!
The model shows the North End in 1884; most of it was flattened in the “slum clearances” of the 1930s and 1960s. The map on the wall highlights the areas which survived and those which were demolished.
The display cases contain a variety of artefacts donated by North End families.
The two brick cottages were built about 1790, on the site of earlier buildings. Opposite them, against the south wall stood a further 4 cottages, but these were demolished in 1937. In 1802, the cottages were owned by William True, a whitesmith, hence the name of the Museum.
There was no running water, no electricity and no drainage. The cottages were lit either by oil lamps or candles. A coal fire heated downstairs; at the end of the day the remaining hot coals were used to warm the tiny bedrooms. Chamber pots would be emptied in the nearby river.
Cottage Number 5
Furnished in the style of the 1850s/60s, at one time father, mother and nine children lived here.
The range was donated by a North End family, though it would have been unusual to find one in such a small cottage. More commonly there would be a cooking pot hung over an open fire. The brick floor is also unusual, but it is original. The catch would once have been emptied onto it for the family to sort and prepare; the fish guts and other ‘rejects’ would then be washed out into the yard.
Nothing was ever wasted; once clothes were worn out they were used to make rag rugs, which always had red in the middle to ‘ward off the evil eye’. The fisherfolk were very superstitious and believed that, if a devil looked down the chimney, it would see the red patch, think there was already a devil in residence and disappear to bother another family!
The only bed upstairs once slept 6 children, any remaining siblings would be sent to stay with relatives. The baby slept in the chest, whist Mum slept on the floor with a curtain screening her from the children. Her husband would have slept downstairs in the winter and on a fishing smack in the summer.
Cottage Number 6
Furnished in the style of the late 1920s and 1930s.
During the restoration of the cottages, over 11 layers of wallpaper were removed from the walls, the earliest dating back to about 1850.
Children went to bed early on Sunday to allow their mothers to wash their clothes - those that had not been stitched into their clothes for the winter! If a child was sick, there were a host of remedies and rituals that could be applied. One tradition involved hanging a bag, containing a live mouse, around the neck of a child! The belief was that by the time the mouse had died it would have taken the illness away!
The carpet downstairs shows that, by this time, the fishing catch was being sorted elsewhere.
Seniors (over 60) £2.50
Children (under 5′s go free) £1.50
Family (2 adults + 2 children) £6
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