For years, I have driven through King’s Lynn’s most recognisable medieval gateway, yet I have never actually been inside.
But, on a cold winter morning this week, I went inside the historic South Gate, which sees around 25,000 motorists drive through most days.
And, to be honest, it wasn’t that much warmer inside but I soon warmed up after making my way along the narrow winding staircases to the second floor on the western side of the gatehouse.
The first thing I wanted to see from a different perspective was London Road, a very familiar route where I have crawled in traffic over the years.
I tried to imagine what the busy Southgate roundabout used to be like with the River Great Ouse coming right up to the north of the gate, or horse drawn carriages trotting through the main arch.
There’s so many stories to be told about the South Gate – it has stood proud through many historic events such as the English Civil War in 1642 and the siege of Lynn in 1643.
On a darker note, it has also been suggested in The History of Lynn, written by William Richards in 1812, two children, a brother and sister, were hanged outside the South Gate in 1709 for an ‘unspecified felony’.
Over recent years, dedicated volunteers have worked hard to display historic detail on all three levels of the gatehouse.
But now, thanks to West Norfolk Council being awarded a £89,500 Heritage Lottery Grant, The South Gate Project – A gateway to King’s Lynn’s Past, can now get underway.
Mark Fuller, project officer and principal surveyor for the borough council, said the gatehouse will now get new exhibition displays and furniture.
He said: “The displays have served their purpose, but they were installed in the 1980s so they need updating. We also want to get dressing-up clothes for children so we can get more schools visiting.
“The South Gate is important. I think its clear the history and stories have evolved from this building for more than hundreds of years.
“Not many towns in the country you can enter the same way as people did hundreds of years ago.”
The South Gate is set to open to the public for three days a week in the spring. It’s definitely worth a visit to see one of Lynn’s remaining intact town defences. Sometimes we forget to explore what’s on our doorstep.