History of Bank House

What stories Bank House could tell!

History of Bank HouseA stunning Grade II * listed Georgian townhouse, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as one of the finest houses in King’s Lynn, Bank House was built in the early 18th Century for one of King’s Lynn’s richest merchants. Underneath the house extensive barrel roofed vaults extend down to the river where wine imported from the continent would have been stored before being shipped on to Cambridge, Ely or the North.

In the 1780s Joseph Gurney set up his first bank in Bank House. A dent is visible in the wooden floor of the Counting House, now the front room of the Brasserie, where nervous customers once shuffled their feet as they waited at the cashiers’ desk to make their withdrawals.

In 1809 the bank narrowly avoided being the first British bank to experience a “run” by its investors, with one of the bank’s partners having to ride in haste to Norwich to bring back gold to reassure the customers! Gurneys recovered from this excitement to become, via mergers and acquisitions, what is Barclays Bank today. In 1869 the bank moved to Tuesday Market Place.

Over the front door stands a fine statue of Charles I. The statue is said to have arrived in a wheelbarrow looking for a home when its original home in Tuesday Market Place was demolished.

Captain Samuel Gurney Cresswell, the arctic explorer and one of the first men to sail the North West passage, was born and raised in Bank House and set out on his travels from it, frequently referring to the house in his letters and diaries. We have copies of the set of etchings he did of his travels and later presented to Queen Victoria, spine tingling stuff.

Elizabeth Fry (nee Gurney) the prison reformer, whose formidable profile appears on the back of the £5 note, was his grandmother and stayed in the house on many occasions when visiting her daughter.

In later years the house became offices for tax inspectors, lawyers and shipbrokers. In 1985 it was used as the centre piece of the epic flop “Revolution”.

After a time as a beautiful (but large) private home, offering bed & breakfast, Bank House came on the market in 2007. Anthony and I already owned and ran The Rose & Crown in Snettisham, but couldn’t resist the possibilities offered by both Bank House and King’s Lynn.

It took over a year to get the operation through planners and listed building authorities but we did, and here we are. I hope you will be as enthused by the building and the town and their history as we are. Do ask if you would like to know more.

So much more to tell, but no space. You will just have to come and visit us!