David Flintham - Military Historian

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King's Lynn Under Siege English Civil War Archaeological Project

Whilst a skirmish or battle lasted just a few hours, a siege would last for days, weeks or even months. Thus an archaeological investigation of a siege site has the potential to offer more than an investigation of a battlefield site. Yet, such investigations are rare and many of the fortress and siege-sites that have been investigated have been because of a more general project rather than primarily focusing on the siege.  This is a key driver for King's Lynn Under Siege English Civil War Archaeological Project


Specific aims would include:

• Developing an understanding of the extent, character, and purpose of the militarisation of the location.

• Exploring the relationship between contemporary military theory and the reality of improvised militarisation within the constraints of landscape, resources, and human ingenuity in practice.

• Exploring the human experience of soldiers and civilians during the siege through historical documents, the excavation of defences, camps, and contemporary settlements, and the recovery and analysis of artefact and ecofact assemblages.

• Educating schoolchildren, students, local volunteers, and the wider public in the history and experience of the Civil War through hands-on archaeology and a range of print, online, exhibition, and public-presentation opportunities.

• Publishing results in the following forms: a) full professional archive reports on all fieldwork within a year of completion; b) regular summary interim reports in the county journal; c) eventual full monograph publication of the project as a whole; and d) regular popular publications in various formats accessible to a range of general audiences.


King's Lynn... under siege


In 1643 the important North Sea port of King’s Lynn was hit by the full force of the English Civil War.


Following a bloodless coup in the summer of that year, the town become Royalist. But just weeks later, blockaded by sea and besieged by land, the town was captured by the forces of Parliament who immediately went about re-fortifying the town, transforming it into the strongest fortress in East Anglia.


King’s Lynn shows the scars of the conflict, even after 375 years. In some places, the vestiges of war are very apparent, in others, harder to see, and elsewhere, they have vanished almost completely.


But the fact that King’s Lynn had pre-Civil War fortifications, was besieged and then re-fortified means that, from an archaeological perspective, King’s Lynn offers considerable potential.


Unlocking the town’s Civil War past is the aim of King’s Lynn Under Siege (KLUS), a long term archaeological research project, involving professionals, academics, students, volunteers and the local community. It will deploy a full range of techniques and approaches to the understanding of the lived human experience of the Civil Wars and its impact upon the people and fabric of King’s Lynn.


Amongst the aims of KLUS is to further the knowledge and understanding of King’s Lynn during the English Civil War. Building on the town’s already notable heritage tradition - the museums, the Stories of Lynn, the town’s archive, the heritage action zone, and existing societies and organisations, including Harding’s Pits Community Association and West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeological Society, the project will bring the town and its experiences during the war to a wider local, national and even international audience.


It is intended to formally launch the project at the Heritage Open Day on Sunday 16th September. But before then, there is already considerable work underway, including researching and mapping King’s Lynn’s fortifications, to identify the sites for further investigation.


The launch of KLUS is timely as nationally there is increasing interest in English Civil War urban fortification, with various projects now underway in Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, London, Oxford, and Worcester. 


For further details can be obtained via e-mail or by visiting  King's Lynn Under Siege.