It sometimes seems strange- though on second thoughts it’s only to be expected- how researching one topic recalls previous ones, with one thread leading to another, then another, until they are all intertwined. While browsing the records at King’s Lynn Borough Archives, I came across a mention of the Angel Inn, except that this wasn’t the one I expected on Saturday Market Place, but one on Tuesday Market Place, on the site of King’s Lynn Corn Exchange. Such apparent anomalies always arouse my curiosity, so my latest blog explores the history of the inn, beginning with Amfles family of Snettisham Farm….
Snettisham Farm was inherited by Joan Amfles when her husband William died in 1512. In her will she in turn bequeathed the Farm to the Guild Merchant of the Holy Trinity in King’s Lynn. This is covered more in a previous blog on Snettisham Farm.
Some of the property of the guild, including the Farm, passed to the Borough of King’s Lynn on the Dissolution in 1538. King’s Lynn Borough Archives has an indentured document about the Angel Inn on Butcher’s Row, Saturday Market Place. The Angel was part of the Amfles estate which had passed to the town.
If we turn to the Hall Books, those wonderful leather bound, hand written, parchment records of the doings of the Town Council, we also find references to the sale of the Angel Inn. This was at the time of the Feast of the Pentecost in the fourth year of Edward VI, or, as we would say, Whitsun 1551, but that somehow doesn’t have the same ring about it.
By 1731, however, the Angel Inn was on Tuesday Market Place and the Angel in the Saturday Market Place had become the Dolphin. Over the years, many of Lynn’s pubs changed their name. The Greenland Fishery was at one time the Greenland Beerhouse, and there are plaques to be seen around the town showing where former inns had been.
In his guide The Inns of King’s Lynn, 1764, Peter Sykes maps and lists all of the inns in the town. This clearly shows the Angel on Tuesday Market and the Dolphin in Lathe Street. Number 1 is the Angel, number 64 the Dolphin. Sykes also comments on the virtual monopoly of ale houses in the hands of a small number of families. One of which were the Bagge family.
There are drawings held in The Archive Centre in Norwich that show us how the Angel Inn on the Tuesday Market Place looked after 1736 but before 1768.
The Angel Inn can also be seen in two paintings of the Tuesday Market Place in the possession of King’s Lynn Museum- my thanks here to Dayna Woolbright for supplying them, and giving permission to use them:
The large building on the left of the paintings is Gurney’s, later the home of Barclay’s bank, if my memory serves me right, and today is a solicitors’ offices. It was built as a house by George Hogg in 1768. The building alongside to the right is the Angel. It was demolished in 1829, the site today being occupied by the Corn Exchange.
In the King’s Lynn Hall Books there is a reference to the Angel- perhaps we should differentiate and call it the New Angel- being leased to John Bagge for a period of 11 years in 1731. At the time William Bagge was a councillor and his brother John Bagge was Mayor:
It may seem strange to us today to see that John and William Bagge presided on the very Congregation that authorised this but, in those days, it was quite the normal run of events. Other examples are recorded elsewhere in the Hall Books: for instance, in my previous blog on St Anne’s Fort, I reported that the Hall Book entry for May 29th, 1752, tells us that the old guns of St Anne’s Fort were up for disposal. A certain James Robertson offered to buy the guns from the Council, which was accepted. Mr Robertson was a member of the Council for several years; he had leased large amounts of land in South Lynn from the Council and was indeed on the Committee appointed to inspect the Fort and make recommendations for its refurbishment.
A committee was set up in 1764 to view the Angel Inn and decide on refurbishments needed. It was soon ordered that the Inn should be repaired in order to be leased.
The lease was then granted to William and Thomas Bagge. Not the same William and Thomas mentioned in 1731 but cousins in the next generation who were still heavily involved in the brewing industry and wielded considerable influence in Civic life.
Before the Reformation Act of 1835, the system of local government could be described as arcane. As my former colleague Peter Sykes points out in Borough of King’s Lynn, 1524-1835, Index of Mayors, Aldermen and Common Councillors, the system relied on a series of invitations and appointments to progress from Freemen to Mayor. Councillors were appointed by Aldermen; These Councillors elected one of their number to become Aldermen; Aldermen and Councillors elected an Alderman to become Mayor. However, only Freemen of the borough could serve as Aldermen and therefore Mayor. This system meant that it was possible to gain one’s Freedom, be appointed Councillor and be promoted to Alderman in one day!
The Angel was one of the four inns listed as being run jointly by William and John Bagge who were members of a wealthy and influential family in our town, and indeed offer a topic for further research. All-in-all, what began as mild curiosity over the apparent migration of the Angel Inn became a story of hard liquor, big business, money, local power politics and the intertwining of a number of pieces of King’s Lynn’s history following a route about as straight as the way home after a heavy night at the Angel!
Researched and compiled by Pete Widdows, NRO Research Blogger.