Rustic life with a lot of the old and a little of the new

Ever-rising prices in the capital and a knock-on effect from over-subscribed Cambridge are combining to put the historic Norfolk town of King's Lynn on the map
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The Independent Online

In the back of beyond and on the banks of the oddly named Great Ouse River is King's Lynn. It is a medieval town which, if the M11 were twice its current length, would instantly lose half of its considerable rustic allure. And property prices, which are currently modest, would soar.

In the back of beyond and on the banks of the oddly named Great Ouse River is King's Lynn. It is a medieval town which, if the M11 were twice its current length, would instantly lose half of its considerable rustic allure. And property prices, which are currently modest, would soar.

Once named Bishop's Lynn before being granted its royal title, it is now referred to simply as Lynn. Its 15th-century Guildhall is the nation's oldest surviving guildhall. With a population of 43,000, the town is the administrative, industrial and commercial centre of the Borough of King's Lynn and West Norfolk.

"King's Lynn signed an overspill agreement with the Greater London Council, and so new housing and a shopping centre were built," says the town's mayor, Paul Richards. "Like many British towns in the 1960s, King's Lynn believed that shopping centres were the modern thing. Approximately 8,000 Londoners were relocated here."

King's Lynn nevertheless retains enough of the old so that, when film-makers require period authenticity, Lynn often gets the nod. " David Copperfield was recently filmed here and before that, Martin Chuzzlewit," says Richards. "Some riverside streets are so unaltered that the film-makers don't have to make many changes. Someone who lived here 250 years ago could be beamed down and not notice very much difference."

According to Stuart Brooks of William H Brown estate agents, "prices are rising, not across the board but in a majority of cases, especially with properties such as Georgian-style four-bed executive homes with garages. In the last 18 months, this premier-homes market has been increasing by more than 25 per cent." These £100,000-£250,000 properties are located in Lynn itself and popular outlying villages such as North Wootton, South Wootton, Pott Row, Grimston, North Runction and East Winch.

"The buyers tend to be locals or people from the south, either moving here with a job or buying a second property," Brooks says. "Lon- doners look at a little cottage in Burnham Market for £100,000 and realise that for £160,000 they can buy a four-bed detached house in King's Lynn. Although it costs more, it makes more sense. It's their second home, but in terms of price it may be their prime residence."

Also punching above their weight may be first-time buyers. "In the 1980s, first timers purchased two- or three-bed terraces, but now they are leapfrogging these starter homes in favour of three-bed semis and larger modern homes," says Brooks.

King's Lynn is now attracting buyers initially attracted to Cambridge. The university town's attraction is powerful, but because it's getting pricey, people are buying further out. "Our Ely office is seeing prices rise because of Cambridge," says Brooks. "The knock-on effect is the same as in the Eighties, when people had to move further and further north."

Not far from Lynn is Downham Market, often referred to as "Little London". "It's cheaper than Cambridge but also closer to it than Lynn, so it now gets buyers who have been priced out of Cambridge," says Richard Clark of agents Barry L Hawkins. "We get many inquiries for properties to do up, from investors and owner-occupiers."

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