St Nicholas' Chapel, King's Lynn

For over 600 years the wonderful carved roof angels, the dazzling stained glass and the history contained within St Nicholas’ Chapel have inspired locals and visitors alike.

The Chapel, though still consecrated, is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT).

The Friends, formed in 2002, promote the Chapel and work with the CCT to conserve and maintain this historic building and, along with our enthusiastic volunteers provide an informed welcome to our many visitors . By subscribing as a Friend you will add to the funds which are available to conserve the Chapel as a fine venue for a large variety of community events.

In 2015 the Chapel was reopened after 18 months of restoration following a campaign by the CCT, Friends and local people which had resulted in a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This has provided heating and new lighting, toilets, a kitchenette, extensive re-roofing, solar panels, a sound system and interpretation material.

In tandem with this main project the Friends were able to raise another fund with the help of the HLF in order to restore and re-fit the Chapel bells, which are now a fine ring of 8.

Here we hope to encourage you to visit this magnificent Chapel, become a Friend and maybe a more active volunteer. Also to provide some more detailed information to add to the excellent interpretation material to be found in the Chapel.

Booking and Events

The Churches Conservation Trust are the managers, and details regarding opening times, bookings and events at St Nicholas can be found on the CCT website. Visit the CCT Home page to see their excellent work in preserving and maintaining some 350 English historic churches.

The Chapel is currently closed for visiting but should reopen in July 2021. We are in urgent need of more volunteers to help hosting visitors and showcasing a historic part of Kings Lynn history. Leave a message here and we will contact you. We are sometimes closed for private functions – please check CCT website on the day of your visit.

All enquiries, please contact kingslynn@thecct.org.uk or phone 01553 774471

Interesting Things

Friends AGM 2021

The Friends’ AGM called for 5th July has been deferred for a month and will now take place on Wednesday 4th August, at 4pm in the Chapel.

Please send any questions or apologies for absence to me at aparker33@btinternet.com

Opening hours

The Chapel is currently closed for visiting but should reopen in July 2021.

We are in urgent need of more volunteers to help hosting visitors and showcasing a historic part of Kings Lynn history. Leave a message here and we will contact you.

We are sometimes closed for private functions – please check the CCT website on the day of your visit

The Bells of St. Nicholas

Chris Richmond, an enthusiast,  has spent a considerable time capturing the sounds of Norfolk’s historic church bells.

Here is a link to the details about, and recording of, the bells of St. Nicholas Chapel. If you’re interested, the menu at the top of his site provides further details and links to recordings of other church bells in Norfolk.

Twenty Four Angels and Two Pearly Gate Crashers

Sid Verber, a meet-and-greet volunteer at the Chapel, recently photographed all the fantastic wooden angels that line the roof. Sid’s book, Twenty Four Angels and Two Pearly Gate Crashers, contains incredible high-resolution images of each of the 26 sculptures. The photographs are complemented by commentary from Adrian Parker, Chair of The Friends, detailing the individual characteristics of each figure.

The book is currently on sale for £6.00 for visitors, or a copy can be ordered directly from the Friends for £7.50 (inc. p&p) by emailing aparker33@btinternet.com . All proceeds go to the Friends of St Nicholas Chapel, to help support their work at St Nicholas.

Chairman's Report 2018-19

Here is a link to the Chairman’s report for 2018-19 for the Friends of St. Nicholas Chapel. It can also be found under Friends-Documents from the menu.

St Nicholas’ Spire is 150

 St Nicholas spire

In History & Antiquities of Lynn (1738) Mackerell tells us that the Chapel’s tower and spire combined reached a height of 170 feet. The pyramidal spire of an “octangular form” was partly covered in lead. At about the mid-height the clock bell hung outside the spire, “very commodiously to be heard”.

In 1687 the spire was repaired and painted in a lead colour. It can clearly be seen with its bell on Henry Bell’s ‘Prospect of Lynn from the west’ around this time. But on 8th September 1741 the spires of both St Nicholas’ and St Margaret’s came crashing down during a violent storm. At the Mother Church the nave was partly destroyed and had to be rebuilt in the 1740s. The Chapel’s spire fortunately fell into the yard and “dug its own grave” according to a contemporary commentator.

Shipmasters and merchants in Lynn were extremely concerned that important navigational aids had been lost at St Margaret’s and St Nicholas’. No replacement was thought necessary at the Mother Church.  At the Chapel an unimpressive replacement was described as “never a regular spire” but “a kind of wooden extinguisher stuck on to be seen at sea”. It was removed after the fall of the tower at St James’ Workhouse in 1854 because frightened parishioners feared a similar disaster would strike St Nicholas’.

The 1741 replacement spire at St Nicholas’ had apparently been kept in regular repair. On occasions the local newspapers carried reports that “a hearty tar” was seen “swinging on the noble pile” to carry out such work. St Nicholas’ was without a spire until John Thornley donated £1,800 towards a new one, on condition that the bells were rehung. The new spire was set up in 1869 by Messrs Freeman & Son of Ely. It had been designed by George Gilbert Scott;  of wood, it is covered with lead, and the bells were not only rehung but recast.  Scott wrote: “You will see that I have adopted – as a means of compensation for the want of height in the tower – an octagonal storey to the spire which will occupy in character as well as position a place immediately between the tower and the spire”. This spire has survived now for 150 years, and is a well-known land- and sea-mark from many viewpoints outside the town. Dr Paul Richards