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paradise lane kings lynn ironwork sign at night

Paradise Lane, King’s Lynn

With it’s idyllic-sounding name and ornate ironwork signage at the entrance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Paradise Lane had something magical to offer. Aside from the charity shop and barbers that currently do business there, it offers little more than a brick-weave pedestrian cut-through from Norfolk Street to Old Sunway, where it opens out to glass and glazing workshop on one side and two unusual gambrel-roofed cottages on the other.

Crossing Old Sunway takes you through Sainsbury’s Car Park, taxi rank, the Bus Station and beyond.

It’s possible that it once offered something more, and it seems that it was once much greater – in size at least. Instead of terminating at Old Sunway, it continued through to where the car park now stands, across the bus station and linked to Paradise Parade and Paradise Road.

Early 20th Century map showing Paradise Lane. Red denotes remaining stretch.
© National Library of Scotland

Despite the former length, it appears that it hasn’t lived up to it’s name historically either. It used to pass through slaughter houses and prostitute’s houses which were a cause for complaint in the late 19th Century:

Paradise-lane. – Two slaughter-houses; all the surface of the lane covered with ordure; slaughter-house floor quite clean; the neighbours complain of the slaughter-houses being unpleasant…. Many of the occupants are prostitutes; scarcely a privy to any of the houses; boxes are generally used.

It’s probably true that not too many roads, streets or alleys truly reflect the imagery conjured by their names. The conventions are usually tightly controlled by planning authorities anyway but should have a least some local relevance.

Maybe that’s the point – maybe it was always know as an area for odorous slaughter houses and sex work and the name came from a local colloquial in-joke, an ironic moniker that stuck and became official. Just a sly way to refer to refer to the local red light district.

There’s always the possibility that the lane was just a ‘side show’, as lanes typically provide access to a specific destination, with the real ‘paradise’ being at the Paradise Parade end, although it just appears to have been a location for general shops and businesses.

The remaining 42 metre stretch of Paradise Lane has it’s own stories to tell though.

In 1911, a 15 year-old errand boy named Robert Henry Newman lived at number 3, Paradise Lane. He died of ‘wounds’ as a Rifleman on 19 August 1917 aged 21. Entitled to the Victory and British War Medals he was buried in Bramhoek New Military Cemetery No. 2 in Belgium.

During the Second World War, On June 12th 1942, King’s lynn was the target of an air raid.

“Three of the bombs did little damage apart from wrecking Messrs Cruso & Wilkins’, cattle market premises, scattering existing debris at the corporation dump near St John’s Church and making a crater in the Walks on a playing field used by elementary school children, The fourth bomb however scored a direct hit on the “Eagle” hotel which was packed with customers at the time including servicemen celebrating a colleague’s 21st birthday. The bomb completely demolished the hotel, wrecking the social rooms at the rear, and damaging neighbouring shops on both sides of Norfolk Street… …Five bodies were found in a lane on the opposite side of the road (Paradise Lane).”

Those five victims are buried in a communal grave in Hardwick Road Cemetery.

At the time, the Eagle Hotel was a three-storey building. After it was destroyed, it was rebuilt in the 1950s.

More recently, in 2008, a man suffered a ‘one punch’ death in a bizarre and tragic fight over a slice of pizza.

An argument started in Flames takeaway in Norfolk Street after a slice of pizza was thrown and hit a man. The argument between at least three men continued outside in Paradise Lane, where it became physical.

“A witness claimed he saw Mr Baldwin making a karate chop towards Mr Noble. Then Mr Baker “moved in” on Mr Noble and Mr Baker was felled with a jab to the chin.”

Mr Baker didn’t regain consciousness and later died in Hospital of a ‘fractured skull, a haemorrhage and swelling to the brain’. Mr. Baker was later cleared of the killing with the Jury finding him not guilty of manslaughter.

Paradise Lane was also the location of a recent violent and / or sexual assault. At the time of writing, this is currently going through the courts.

The sole indicator of any symbolic hint of a dark and gritty past is the metal street sign on the wall. At some point it has been damaged and bent (at least since 2004), with visible gouges spanning the surface. In an attempt at an unofficial refurbishment it has been re-painted white by hand and brush. The black surround is ‘restored’ in a similar manner but the painting of the lettering has stopped short at ‘PA’. Maybe, but unlikely, it is supposed to indicate what length remains of the original lane.

damaged paradise lane kings lynn street sign on wall

This feature is more reflective of the history of Paradise Lane than the modern addition of the decorative ironwork that attempts to make it appear grand and significant.

The history revealed is probably far more interesting than that of a true ‘Paradise Lane’ would ever have been.

paradise lane kings lynn glazing yard

Paradise Lane is a still functioning pedestrian cut-through. But now it’s a stub. The lingering dog end of a once longer journey that now leads to a wider history.

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