Welcome back to King’s Lynn at the gateway to East Anglia. If you don’t know anything about the region, it is probably best that I state here that one of its most predominant geographic qualities is its flatness. The East Anglian and Cambridgeshire fens, along with Norfolk’s more famous ‘Broads’ simply go on and on. This may sound dull, but as a replanted Yorkshireman, I think this area has a  beauty and romance that infects the soul. Maybe it is the ‘big skies’ or the rhythms of the seasons told through the fields, its ever-present (and rapidly moving) coastline or the quintessence of it’s well-preserved villages, but the flatlands seem to exert a hypnotic pull…

One thing about the flatness of the region is that landmarks are few and far between. King’s Lynn has a just few tall buildings that dominate its skyline, but this is changing rapidly. The Campbell’s factory closed down  a year or so ago and the site has been bought by the neighbouring Tescos, who want to pull everything down, build another enormous superstore and a bunch of other ‘business units’ which I guess will take the usual ‘concrete block-and -red-corrugated-steel roof’ format. ( I always feel sorry for all those architects who were originally inspired to take up the profession by Guggenheim, Wright and Mackintosh et al, and spent seven years studying the science and technology of construction, only to end up building fields of ‘units’ and starter homes.’  Alas.

Sorry, I got distracted then. The Campbell’s tower is threatened with demolition. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a beautiful structure, and doesn’t have any architectural merit, but it is one of just a few landmarks. There is even a local action group that have lobbied hard to preserve it and get it listed as a Historic building. They have not had ultimate success but have done a lot of work to get local people to think about the visual qualities of the town.

I confess to having a great fondness for Campbell’s tower. It can be seen for miles and miles and has long been used as a navigational aid – “You know when you are near King’s Lynn when you can see the Campbell’s sign.” And it will for me, just as for many others, be ever associated with Andy Warhol.

King’s Lynn’s most famous son, George Vancouver still has his family name above one of the wharf buildings along the river. Guess which Canadian city is named after him?

There are lot’s of historical and important signs around the town, which I will continue to explore in this series, but I am also drawn to the less prominent:

There are many thing’s I could criticise about this sign, but decline to in order to appreciate the spirit in which it was created and subsequently amended. I think that the positioning of the apostrophe between the G and S is very odd – but if you are going to stack the letters up on top of each other, just where is it supposed to go?

King’s Lynn has a small, but well-preserved historic quarter that shows it’s Hanseatic links through its architecture which I hope to focus on in another post, but as I was making my way towards St. Margaret’s church I was distracted by this subtle but arresting signwriting: 

The slate plaque on the left is one of many dotted around the town to mark prominent people who lived, died or stayed here. There are a number of different plaques on buildings (a plague of plaques?) that helpfully inform passers-by:

Clifton House is probably one of the most architecturally important buildings in the town (mentioned in Pevsner’s guides no less!) and is instantly recognisable by its ‘barley twist’ columns on either side of the front door. Astoundingly, it is still a private home (currently owned by the Director of English heritage Dr. Simon Thurley) but is opened to the public a couple of times a year.

This sign, on the front of King’s Lynn Guildhall, lists the main treasures held within its unique flint and sandstone chequerboard facade:

The sign appears to be ceramic with very rich coloured glazes, and smoke fired which brings out the crackles in the glaze:

I have had a long fascination with almshouses since I was a child (there were some next to my Junior School) and the town has a few.

This considerable entrance bears the name of the person to whom the almshouses be built in memorium. The stonework is very fine, with a very curious M:

And a very sonber cast sign in the archway:

There is a more modest, but equally interesting iron sign at the back gates. Less elegant, but quite ambitious.

The towns hub is the Tuesday Market Place where the Duke’s Head Hotel stands opposite Corn Exchange in all its pink splendour.

On an adjacent side to the square one of the buildings still bears the marks of its original purpose above the acrylic counterparts of it’s current occupation:

Just around the corner, this pediment stands largely unseen (except by me and the pigeons) high above the grand corner entrance to a former bank, now a spicy chicken franchise. Alas.

There are plenty of excellent websites and blogs dedicated to ‘ghost signs’ so I am not going to go into too much detail here, but these next few caught my eye…

I am often curious as to why a large capital letter is painted in isolation upon a wall.

On the Purfleet Quay there are several noteworthy buildings, but barely legible sign was my main attraction today.

On the side is another painted sign, faded to reveal ‘TO LET.’  A ghost of a ghost sign?

As I mention before, I have many more images of typographic King’s Lynn which I will continue to post, but I will leave you with this  last image. I do not include this one to cast aspersions upon the town – I firmly believe that all conurbations consist of the sublime and the ridiculous, and I am sure that there are many other images around the world like this:

I have walked this way many time before and never seen this. It makes me smile.

What’s On in King’s Lynn
Pevsner’s guides
Clifton House
List of Plaques
News item on Campbell’s Tower
An alternative view of Campbell’s Tower

This was another opportunity for me to record the typography that I surrounds me. Although I have deliberately set out to record the examples I have previously seen, I always come back with many, many more that become visible when you look at the familiar a little closer. There will be more on King’s Lynn to come …

So what’s in your neighbourhood?

I am putting out a request for contributors for the “my type of… place” section of this blog and would like you to put together your own typographic tour. If you are interested, download the contributors information sheet for more details, ideas and specifications here.