Record Details

NHER Number:5535
Type of record:Building
Name:Clifton House, 17 Queen Street


On the corner with King's Staithe Lane, this house provides the most remarkable catalogue of various building periods from the medieval period onwards. What one sees first from the street is the result of a rationalisation in 1708 for the merchant Samuel Taylor. The two storey brick façade has seven window bays, and in the second bay is the doorway behind a pair of barley sugar columns, a rare Baroque motif in England. The main rear elevations are in the same style as the front. Behind this work, however, the earliest parts of this house date as far back as the 13th century, and there is a fine 14th century undercroft. Substantial amounts of 15th to 19th century fabric and detail survive. In the 16th century a warehouse range was added to the house (NHER 63491), running west towards the river, and a five storey tower built at the back. There were once other such towers along the river, but this is the only survivor. After being used as offices for many years, the house is now owned by the Lynn Preservation Trust.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 6164 1993
Map Sheet:TF61NW

Full description

May 1960. Found during building work and partial excavation.
During alterations to Clifton House, early 14th-century glazed tiles were found 14 in. below ground level. Partial excavation of the site showed them to be part of a floor which may extend undisturbed beneath the whole of the present room, around 20 ft.sq. There are seven inlaid plain tiles which alternate light to dark. There is a square chequer border on the south side which is clearly later then the foundations of the wall.
See (S1) for short summary.
(S2) describes this discovery as a very fine tiled floor laid with locally-made brown tiles patterned with cream slip infill and probably dating from the first half of the 14th century.
See also (S3) and (S4).
R.R. Clarke (NCM).

1961. Building survey for SPAB.
The house is chiefly of 16th or 17th century date, refronted and to some extent internally remodelled at the beginning of the 18th century. It is built round three sides of a courtyard and entered from the east. Remains of a medieval house include a 13th century tiled floor and a fine 14th century crypt, with brick ribbed vault. Clifton House is the largest and probably the most important of the surviving merchant houses of Lynn, and it is unique in that it retains the original 16th century watch tower on the west side of the courtyard.
See (S5) for detailed architectural description.
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 4 July 2019.

1963. Excavation of trenches.
Produced many foundation walls, mainly 18th century but at least one earlier than tower.
Information from M. Parker (KLM).

(S6) describes this as one of the finest examples of a merchant's house in King's Lynn. The medieval house consisted of two parallel ranges at right angles to the street, which may perhaps have been two separate houses, though a type of house of two parallel ranges abutting the street is not unknown (e.g. Moyse's Hall, Bury St Edmunds). The southern range contains two early 14th century tiled pavements which are amongst the finest specimens of the period; one may represent the hall. The northern range contains a 14th century vaulted cellar, half underground, which may have supported a solar. The house seems to have been almost entirely rebuilt above ground level in the late 16th or early 17th century, to which rebuilding belong the chimney stack at the north-east angle and the watchtower at the south-east angle of the house. The watchtower formed a kind of inner gatehouse, standing between the front courtyard or garden. The house was once more refurbished around 1708, reputedly by local architect Henry Bell, when it was given sash windows throughout, a stylish new front with baroque gateway and a fine new staircase and panelling within.
See (S6) for further detail.
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 4 July 2019.

(S2) reports that the plan of the medieval house has not been fully understood despite extensive excavations within the southern range. Under the northern range is a semi-excavated brick rib vaulted undercroft, three bays long, once entered by steps from Queen Street. The mouldings on the central piers carrying the vault date this part to around 1350. In its south wall, however, is evidence of an earlier 13th century doorway which appears to have led into a house in what is now the south range. Here excavation has uncovered a very fine tiled floor and two hearths, one made of brick in the centre of a room, and a second against the 'crypt' wall some 6m (20 feet) to the west. This seems to indicate a hall in its customary position in the range, at right-angles to the street, and a parlour beyond.
These remains suggest an early house on the site of the southern range, entered from the King's Staithe Lane side. A subsequent division of the property may have meant that in the 14th century a hall on a vaulted undercroft was built parallel to the old range, blocking the original entry passage. It seems almost certain that Clifton House was once two medieval tenements, thrown together at some later date.
In the late 16th century a tower was added at the west end of the entry passage, and a double range of warehouses at the rear (NHER 63491). This tower was of four storeys with one small room on each floor and a spiral staircase to the south. It is now a unique survival in Lynn, but there were once several along the waterfront. Ground and first floor rooms over the crypt retain early 17th century panelling. The last major alterations were made to this house in the early 18th century. This work has been attributed to Henry Bell on stylistic grounds but there are no documents to support this.
See (S2) for further information.
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 4 July 2019.

1984. Found during restoration work.
First floor fireplace dating from the early 16th century.
See press cutting (S7) and notes (S8) in file.
E. Rose (NAU), 23 August 1984.

January 1986. Site visit.
Features found in December 1985 and reported in the local newspaper (S6) appeared to be a cobbled surface, probably the original cellar flooring. The opportunity was taken to inspect the tower. The wallpaintings on one floor were found to be substantially intact. The overall scheme is of strapwork and in columns and panels with painted dado and plinth. The main newel of the stairs may be a ship's mast, as per local hearsay - it is of pine and resembles documented cases of reused masts.
E. Rose (NAU), 20 January 1986.

1993. List Entry amended - still Listed Grade I.
See (S9).
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 4 July 2019.

June 1998. Building survey.
This does not contain any new information.
See (S10).
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 5 July 2019.

See architects' plans (S22), correspondence (S21), press cuttings (S11-S18) and photographs (S19 and S20) in file.

For details of warehouse formerly recorded under this number, see NHER 63491.
For details of wall of warehouse to rear of 23 Queen Street formerly recorded under this number, see NHER 63492.
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 4 July 2019.

Monument Types

  • HOUSE (12th Century to 21st Century - 1200 AD to 2100 AD)
  • UNDERCROFT (12th Century to 21st Century - 1200 AD? to 2100 AD)
  • FLOOR (13th Century to 14th Century - 1300 AD to 1350 AD)
  • HALL HOUSE (13th Century to 21st Century - 1300 AD to 2100 AD)
  • HEARTH (13th Century to 14th Century - 1300 AD to 1350 AD)
  • WALL PAINTING (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOWER (17th Century to 21st Century - 1650 AD? to 2100 AD)

Associated Finds

  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 61 NW 38 [3].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 486.
---Unpublished Document: Paul Richards. 1996. Clifton House, Queen Street, Kings Lynn.. November.
---Illustration: Clifton House, Queens Street, Kings Lynn.
---Article in Serial: Catalogue of the Collection. Clifton House, Queens Street, Kings Lynn, Entrance Hall.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. King's Lynn [2].
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1962. Medieval Britain in 1960. Medieval Archaeology. Vol IV (for 1961) pp 309-339. p 323.
<S2>Monograph: Parker, V.. 1971. The Making of King's Lynn: secular buildings from the 11th to the 17th century.. pp 89-91.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Lynn News and Advertiser. 1962-1963. [Articles on the finding of medieval tiled floor at Clifton House, King's Lynn].
<S4>Serial: 1960. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1960. No 7. p 4.
<S5>Unpublished Report: Cunnington, P. M. with Parker, V.. 1961. Survey of Clifton House, King's Lynn. Report for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
<S6>Article in Serial: Pantin, W. A. 1964. The Merchants' Houses and Warehouses of King's Lynn. Medieval Archaeology. VI-VII (for 1962 and 1963) pp 173-181.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1984-1985. [Articles on the finding of tunnels, fireplace, entrances and a priest's hole during development of Clifton House].
<S8>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1984. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S9>Designation: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1210377.
<S10>Unpublished Report: Heywood, S. 1998. Clifton House, Queen Street, King's Lynn.
<S11>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1978. Revival time for dockland skeletons. 7 March.
<S12>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1981. Historic group of buildings on the market Lynn's 'sale of century'. 3 October.
<S13>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1981. [Photograph of Clifton House]. 15 August.
<S14>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1981-1983. [Articles on the sale of Clifton House].
<S15>Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1989. Cover-up job on historic tower. 16 May.
<S16>Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1990. Tower access query. 1 February.
<S17>Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1996. [Articles on the purchase of Clifton House by the Lynn Preservation Trust].
<S18>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Perfect new owners for medieval Lynn home. 7 March.
<S19>Photograph: Photographs of Clifton House, 17 Queen Street, Kings Lynn. Black & white.
<S20>Photograph: CQW16-19, CQH29-36.
<S21>Correspondence: Various.
<S22>Illustration: Various. Various. Architectural plans.

Related records

63491Parent of: Warehouse, south side of King's Staithe Lane (Building)

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