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Research your home in King's Lynn

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This guide describes some specific sources available for tracing the history of a property in King's Lynn.

It should be used in conjunction with our guide Tracing the History of Your House which offers more general advice.


The earliest map of Lynn showing the outline of individual plots with some accuracy was made by William Rastrick in 1725.

There are some earlier maps of the town however, notably Henry Bell's Groundplatt of King's Lynn, created c1670.

The first large-scale First Edition Ordnance Survey map of Lynn appeared in 1886 and the larger scale OS maps are indispensable for the 20th century.

These and many other printed maps are available in King's Lynn Library.

The Norfolk Record Office (NRO) has both manuscript and printed maps for Lynn. Some show the town on a small scale as part of a map of a larger area, some relate only to part of the town and some show only a single house. They include:

  • Tithe maps for South Lynn, 1839 (see DN/TA 861)
  • Tithe maps for the parish of St Margaret, 1851 (see DN/TA 982)

However, these do not show the most densely built areas because they were not subject to tithes.

A map made by William Newham for the Paving Commissioners in 1806 (see BL 42/1) is more useful for the built-up streets. This is on a large scale and shows the boundaries of individual houses.

Plans produced to accompany sale particulars are examples of maps showing only one property or one owner's estate.

The county series of deposited plans, 1809-1952, (see list C/Scf 1) may help if the property is adjacent to a present or former railway or docks or other public development, since they include names of owners (and sometimes occupiers) of land affected by the proposed schemes.

There are very few original maps in the King's Lynn Borough Archives, but copies of some printed and manuscript maps are available for reference in its searchroom.

Census returns and electoral registers

The census returns name the occupants of each house on the night of the census from 1841 onwards.  Our guide Tracing Your Family Tree has further information on using and accessing census returns.

Registers of electors (mainly for local, not parliamentary, elections) 1834-1915, are in the King's Lynn Borough Archives; they are also on microfilm, up to 1901, at the NRO.

King's Lynn registers of electors are with the Norfolk County series in the NRO from 1918 (see list C/ERO). King's Lynn Library also has a series of parliamentary electoral registers from 1846.

Tax lists, rentals and rates

The King's Lynn Borough Archives have some tax assessments and rentals, for various dates from the late 13th to the early 19th centuries.

There are some especially full tax assessments for 1689-94 and 1702-05 which are also on fiche at the NRO.

Available at both the King's Lynn Borough Archives and the NRO are indexed transcripts by Peter Sykes of:

  • Rentals for 1604-05, 1622-23 and 1764
  • The poll tax lists 1689 and 1702
  • His annotated index to an unusually detailed quit rental, 1849

There are also two publications by Peter Sykes which are invaluable for properties in the streets near the River Great Ouse and on the High Street:

  • Notes on Houses in the Riverside Streets of King's Lynn and Their Known Owners and Tenants up to 1849
  • Notes on Houses in High Street, King's Lynn and Their Known Owners and Tenants up to 1974

The NRO has a good series of poor rate books for St Margaret's parish, 1727-1899, and for South Lynn, 1820-1919; (see list C/GP 13).

The rate books are arranged by ward and do not include street names until the 1830s. The location is given after 1835 and from 1855 the arrangement is by street rather than by ratepayers' name.

There are also church rate lists in St Margaret's parish records, (see list PD 39).

Registers of duties on land values, known as Domesday Books, c1910, (see list P/DVL), provide an exceptionally comprehensive survey of property for a single year. They include a brief description of each property, the names of its owner and occupier and its value.

Title deeds

You may be able to see any deeds which pass with the property if you own the house or know the owner.

They may include abstracts of title containing extracts from earlier documents.

Deeds also survive in many different archives. The King's Lynn Borough Archives holds deeds to the borough's corporate estates from the 13th century, some private deeds enrolled in the 14th century (in the Red Register) and a separate series from 1571.

There are also Lynn deeds from the medieval period onwards in several collections in the NRO, including in the archives of Norwich Cathedral.

Wills and probate inventories

The court of the Norwich Archdeaconry and the Norwich Consistory Court covered Lynn up to 1858. The Norwich Probate Registry took over after 1858.

See our guide to wills and other probate records for further information on using and accessing wills.

Architects' plans

It is quite rare to find architectural drawings for ordinary houses built before the late 19th century.

This was when building control regulations required plans for new developments and major alterations to be submitted for approval to the local authority.

Plans submitted to King's Lynn Borough Council 1883-1959 and registers of them, 1883-1974, are in the King's Lynn Borough Archives.

Prints, drawings, paintings and photographs

Artists, illustrators and photographers have left an invaluable, if incomplete, visual record of the changing townscape.

There are collections of photographs in Norfolk libraries, many of which are online at Picture Norfolk.

Lynn Museum also has prints, drawings and some paintings of the town.

Published sources

Directories, published intermittently for Norfolk from the early 19th century, include the addresses of many private residents and tradesmen. They are selective, but they can help to identify a street in records which do not name them.

King's Lynn Library has a good series of directories, and many can also be seen in Norfolk Heritage Centre (NHC).

Vanessa Parker, The Making of King's Lynn: Secular Buildings from the 11th to the 17th century (1971) uses both documentary and archaeological evidence to interpret the history of Lynn's street layout and buildings.

David Higgins, The Remaking of King's Lynn. Brown Brick and rounded Corners (King's Lynn, 2008) is especially useful for the 19th century development of the town.

For more information about other published works on Lynn and its buildings, see A Bibliography of Norfolk History (volumes I and II, 1975 and 1991) or consult the libraries at Lynn and Norwich.