History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Corn Exchange

A Grade II Listed Building in King's Lynn, Norfolk

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 52.7564 / 52°45'23"N

Longitude: 0.3933 / 0°23'36"E

OS Eastings: 561609

OS Northings: 320328

OS Grid: TF616203

Mapcode National: GBR N3Q.48P

Mapcode Global: WHJP1.0ZL8

Entry Name: Corn Exchange

Listing Date: 1 December 1951

Last Amended: 11 June 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1212488

English Heritage Legacy ID: 384346

Location: King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk, PE30

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk

Electoral Ward/Division: St Margarets with St Nicholas

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: King's Lynn

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Find accommodation in
Kings Lynn


King's Lynn Corn Exchange, built in 1854 to a design by Cruso and Maberley of King’s Lynn, with a replacement roof of 1877, and a remodelling between 1995 and 1996 by Levitt Bernstein Associates as a concert and community hall

The three-storey addition at the north end of the main hall (Levitt Bernstein Associates, 1995-1996) is not part of the special interest of the building.


Former corn exchange, built in 1854 to a design by Cruso and Maberley of King’s Lynn, with its roof replaced in 1877. It was remodelled between 1995 and 1996 as a concert and community hall by Levitt Bernstein Associates.

The three-storey addition at the north end of the main hall (Levitt Bernstein Associates, 1995-1996) is not part of the special interest of the building.

Some significant internal works associated with the remodelling of 1995 to 1996 are not of special interest and, where this is the case, these are specifically mentioned in the List entry.

MATERIALS: it has an ashlar façade with brick side walls and a late C20 glass roof over the entrance range and a late C20 stainless steel over-roof above the main hall.

PLAN: the building stands on the west side of Tuesday Market Place and has a long rectangular plan, aligned north-west to south-east. It is formed of three distinct sections, with an entrance range accommodating the foyer, a main hall housing the auditorium, and a late C20 three-storey addition (not of special interest) at the rear containing backstage facilities and administrative offices.

EXTERIOR: of a Baroque style, the ashlar front is divided into three bays by four engaged Ionic columns, placed in front of Ionic pilasters, supporting an entablature with a bracketed cornice, over which is a balustraded parapet. Rising above the parapet, with its own entablature, is a central attic panel. It is surmounted by a statue of Ceres (the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and the love a mother bears for her child) and inscribed 'CORN EXCHANGE / ERECTED AD 1854'. The three doorways all have moulded surrounds, pulvinated friezes and bracketed hoods, with that to the centre having consoles supporting a block entablature. Above this door is a cartouche emblazoned with the coat of arms of King's Lynn, under a pelican in its piety, while sunken panels with sheaves of corn are placed over the two flanking doors, all carved in high relief.

The two return walls are of Flemish bond red brick, with each side of the entrance range having bricked-up clerestory windows and late C20 metal-framed doors with deep overlights. Covering the adjoining main hall is a late C20 over-roof of stainless steel, which is supported by external steel columns enclosed by brick piers. These vertical supports divide the returns of the main hall into 13 bays, of which the four westernmost bays are late C20 additions. Both walls are more-or-less identically treated, with vertical rectangular window openings to the second, fourth and sixth bays and clerestory windows to the eight bays, all bricked-up in the late C20. The seventh bays contain late C20 fire-escape doors with skewback arches. The remaining bays are largely blind, save for a square casement window to the first floor of the thirteenth bay on the north side, while the eleventh and thirteenth bays on the south side contain a fire-escape door and a load-in door respectively. Between the top of the side walls and the underside of the over-roof, which stands around 1.5m higher than the late C19 roof, the walling is clad in late C20 weatherboard. Here, steel supports project both vertically and outwards from the columns in a splayed form to support the roof.

Adjoining the west end of the main hall is a late C20 three-storey addition which is excluded from the listing. Of red brick in stretcher bond, its west face to Common Staithe Quay is gabled with a pitched roof concealed by a deep parapet. Projecting at the centre is a two-storeyed section with glazed side panels. It rises to a second floor balcony with cantilevered overhangs with yellow brick walling beneath.

INTERIOR: the interior was comprehensively refurbished between 1995 and 1996 and, unless otherwise stated, all the fixtures and fittings described below date from this period of remodelling. Walls throughout are mainly plastered and painted.

The entrance range on Tuesday Market Place accommodates a foyer with the inserted balcony having a metal balustrade comprised of 400 clapping hands by the sculptor John Mills. To the glazed roof there are blinds by the textile artist Sharon Ting, which incorporate symbols and images relating to King's Lynn's history in their design. Both floors have a bar counter placed on their west side, with the ground floor also having a box office counter on the north side and a refreshment counter on the south side.

A metal-framed glazed screen, with double doors to each side of the bar counters, divides the foyer area from the steel-framed staircase that provides access to the balcony and the access corridors that lead to the auditorium. The auditorium itself is comprised of 750 seats within a rectangular space, with a steeply-raked rear section, narrow balconies extending along the side walls and a flat floor which can be raised to stage height when required.

Running along the side walls of both the foyer and auditorium are brick pilasters of 1854 date. Placed against them are late C19, cast-iron, polygonal columns that support contemporary arched trusses spanning the roof. The spandrels are embellished with circles and scrollwork.


King’s Lynn, first called Bishop’s Lynn, was founded in 1095 by Bishop Herbert de Losinga, who in the previous year had transferred the see from Thetford to Norwich. There was already an existing settlement which appears to have been based around a salt-water lagoon, or series of inlets, with its centre round the present All Saints Church. Losinga’s town developed to the north of this, between All Saints Church and Saturday Market Place where St Margaret’s Church and Priory were established from Norwich around 1100. Rapid expansion from the C12 onwards required an extension of the town, and Bishop William Turbe laid out a new settlement north of the Purfleet from around 1145, with its market at Tuesday Market Place and the Chapel of St Nicholas as a chapel of ease to St Margaret’s. Both settlements were united under a royal charter in 1204, the united town being named Bishop’s Lynn. Until the early C13, the Great Ouse emptied via the Wellstream at Wisbech, however following floods in the C13, the river was redirected to join the Wash at Bishop’s Lynn. The town became one of England’s busiest ports, serving the Ouse and its tributaries, exporting wool and cloth, and importing wine, timber and luxury goods, being adopted as a member of the original medieval Hanseatic League. This extremely influential trading association linked a group of towns around the Baltic and the North Seas, and played an important role in the prosperity and development of Bishop’s Lynn as a national port, which by the C14, was ranked as the third port of England (after London and Southampton).

Losinga’s town round the Saturday Market was protected from the river immediately to its west by the ‘great bank’, an earthwork which ran along the present line of Nelson Street, St Margaret’s Place and Queen Street. By about 1500 the river had moved approximately 50m west and was consolidated another 45m by the new South Quay in 1855. The period of development of the area between the Millfleet and Purfleet can therefore be identified, as well as building types and plans. The generous-sized plots are reflected in the surviving buildings dating from the C14 to the C17, which surround open courtyards. To the north, on Bishop Turbe’s ‘newe lande’, much the same pattern emerges: originally the west side of Tuesday Market Place was washed by the river, with King Street forming the line of the bank. The west side of King Street was built upon in the C13, with narrow plots, elongating in stages until river movement ceased in the C17. As land became available, warehouses were built straight onto the river front. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536-1537, the town and manor became royal property, and Bishop’s Lynn was renamed King’s Lynn or Lynn Regis.

Lynn’s prosperity as a national port was based entirely on trade, and the merchant class dominated the social and economic life of the town until the C19. When the Fens began to be drained in the mid-C17 and land turned to agricultural use, King’s Lynn grew prosperous from the export of corn: cereal export dominated from the C16, and especially in the C18. Coal and wine continued to be imported for distribution inland, and until the railway age, Lynn was the chief East Anglian port for both. Prosperity continued until continental trade was disturbed by the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), followed by a brief revival. The economy and population dwindled following the relatively late arrival of railway services to King’s Lynn in 1847, compounded by the irrevocable decline of coastal trading.

King’s Lynn’s Corn Exchange was built in 1854 on the site of the early C19 Market House, which itself was built on the site of the C18 Angel Inn. When the hostelry’s landlord died in 1830, the building was demolished and replaced with the Market House (1830-1832), which was in turn built to replace the demolished Market Cross (1601) and surrounding shambles on Tuesday Market Place. The Market House, which is said to have presented a handsome cemented front with an upper and lower portico, extended westwards from Tuesday Market Place to Common Staith Quay, with a fish market at its west end. Its ground floor accommodated long ranges of butchers’ stalls, while a concert room was located on the first floor.

In 1851 a meeting of farmers and merchants was convened by the town’s mayor Walter Moyse, to take into consideration the possibility of erecting a Corn Exchange. Although the meeting was well attended, with the urgent need of such a building being indisputable, nothing further was done. A suggestion to appropriate part of the Market House, to plans drawn up by the local architectural firm of Cruso and Maberley, was vehemently opposed. However, in 1853, it was finally agreed that a new building, again designed by Cruso and Maberley, would be erected on the site of the Market House, with the tender for the building work being accepted by Mr P Edmunds on 30 January 1854. The stalls were balloted for and the building opening on 9 January 1855 at a cost of £2,986. Retained at the rear of the Corn Exchange was a small section of the Market House, which was subsequently used as a fire engine house.

In 1877, the roof was reconstructed and glazed with some 9,000 square feet of patent glazing by WE Rendle of Westminster Chambers, London. By this time the building was being used as a concert, exhibition and sports hall, and by 1909 it was also used as a roller skating rink.

Between 1995 and 1996 the building was remodelled as a 750-seat concert hall and community venue by Levitt Bernstein Associates. To facilitate the extension of the main hall for a new stage area, along with a new three-storey range to house administrative office and backstage facilities, the surviving section of the Market House was demolished, as was the west gable wall of the Corn Exchange. The glass roof over the foyer area, which was also equipped with a new balcony, was replaced with new wired glass while the main hall and the new stage area were covered with a new over-roof supported on 14 external steel columns, partly enclosed by brick piers. The new roof, which stands 1.5m higher than the late C19 roof, was finished in a chemically coated stainless steel which has given it the appearance of lead after weathering.

Archaeological investigations prior to the building's redevelopment revealed that the upper 2m of ground deposits were comprised of rubble backfill. Beneath this were deposits which had accumulated on the former river bank, namely cess and refuse along with river deposited sands. Cut into the top of these deposits was a bell casting pit which was partly excavated and revealed to be the same size as the bell cast in 1611 by James Edberry for the Chapel of St Nicholas in St Ann's Street. A possible medieval wall was also excavated along with sherds of late-medieval/post-medieval pottery.

Reasons for Listing

King's Lynn Corn Exchange, built in 1854 to a design by Cruso and Maberley of King’s Lynn, with a replacement roof of 1877, and a remodelling between 1995 and 1996 by Levitt Bernstein Associates as a concert and community hall, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* its exuberantly elegant and playful façade not only enlivens the streetscape but shows how the architects used the Baroque idiom to give the building an air of respectability and grandeur without undermining its authoritative role.

Historic interest:

* it makes a significant contribution to the rich architectural and historic character of Tuesday Market Place, described in Pevsner as ‘one of the most splendid open spaces in provincial England’.

Group value:

* it has strong group value with the surrounding buildings on Tuesday Market Place, most of which are listed.

Selected Sources

Book cover links are generated automatically from the sources. They are not necessarily always correct, as book names at Amazon may not be quite the same as those used referenced in the text.

Source title links go to a search for the specified title at Amazon. Availability of the title is dependent on current publication status. You may also want to check AbeBooks, particularly for older titles.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.