The History Of King's Lynn Town Football Club

It is not really known when King’s Lynn first had a football club that represented the town, just that Lynn Town was reformed in 1879 having gone out of existence “a few years earlier. At that time there were a number of football teams in King’s Lynn, the most notable probably being Lynn United, Lynn CEYMS and Lynn Alexander – the later competing in the Norfolk County Cup along with Lynn Town in the 1881-82 season. At one time King’s Lynn could claim to be the centre of football in Norfolk. It was in the Black Horse in Chapel Street, that the Norfolk Football Association was formed in 1881 and prior to the arrival of professionalism in Norwich in 1905 King’s Lynn were regarded as probably the strongest team in the County. The town had it’s own football newspaper – The Lynn Football Star which was published from 3 October 1903 to 23 January 1915, three copies of this are in the King’s Lynn Museum.

In those days, it is said the football team had the nickname of “The Shrimpers”, although there seems little evidence of this in match reports, and their colours were not always as they are now with black and white being mentioned in some newspaper reports. The match report for the game against Cromer Town, on 17 March 1923, says that King’s Lynn “played in their new colours of old gold and royal blue” so perhaps this was the first time the now traditional colours were adopted, although black and white stripes were re-adopted in the mid 1920’s.

Different Leagues

Early league action saw the Club play in the Norfolk & Suffolk League and additionally in the East Anglian League, winning the former on 8 occasions. Football in those days had something of a charm to it in that the outcome was never too certain. Indeed on more than one occasion it is recorded that the visiting team refused to complete the match for fear of missing the train home.

It is said that after the First World War, Lynn Town changed their name to King’s Lynn, although photographs of the team in 1908 shows them under a KLFC banner. It wasn’t until 1935 – 36 season that Lynn changed competitions by joining the Eastern Counties League and also the East Midlands League.

After the Second World War King’s Lynn played in the United Counties League, but on turning “Professional” for 1948 – 49 season they moved back to the Eastern Counties League and achieved the League and League Cup double in the 1953 – 54 season. A brief spell in the Midland League, where they played such “Midland based” teams as Rotherham and Scarborough, they joined the Southern League for the 1958 – 59 season. King’s Lynn geographical position, and the structure of Non League competitions, has always meant a fair degree of travelling, whether it be to Taunton and Poole or Gateshead and Workington. A restructuring of the non league system at the end of 1979 – 80 season saw King’s Lynn moved to the Northern Premier League. This was quite a remarkable promotion as the 1979 – 80 season saw us finish in 8th position in the Midland Division of the Southern League.

Not surprisingly the first season in the Northern Premier League was a struggle, finishing in 19th position. The following season saw a very creditable 5th position finish, followed by a 9th position finish and winning the Northern Premier League President’s Cup. Unfortunately it was a trophy King’s Lynn were never allowed to defend as they were moved back to the Southern League for 1983 – 84 season. Their return South saw them finish in 6th position and finishing Runners Up the following season, the promotion contest being decided on the last day of the season.

There then followed a number of very disappointing seasons with King’s Lynn being relegated to the Midland Division at the end of the 1986 – 87 season. Further relegations might have followed but for other teams either opting to join other leagues or going out of business.

King’s Lynn won the Southern League Eastern Division in the 2003 – 04 season, but failure to win a “Play-off” against the Western Division Champions, Redditch United, for a place in the restructured Conference feeder leagues, resulted in King’s Lynn taking a place in the revamped Southern Premier League. The 2005 – 06 and 2006 –07 seasons saw King’s Lynn reach the play-offs for the Conference Regional Leagues, but once again just could not achieve the final step upwards. In the 2007 – 08 season, King’s Lynn were successful in securing promotion to Conference North after winning the Southern League title on the last day of the season, with a victory of 2 – 0 at Merthyr Tydfil, finishing 2 points clear of Team Bath. Unfortunately, due to ground grading issues, the Club was demoted after finishing in 17th place in the 2008 – 09 season.

The following season, playing in the Northern Premier League, the Club could not complete their campaign, due to being wound up in the High Court in December 2009 over an unpaid £77,000 amount owing to HMRC.

In January 2010 the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk awarded the Lease of The Walks Stadium to the Company running the very successful Speedway Team in King’s Lynn. The Club was reformed for 2010 – 11 season, joining the United Counties League, where they were runners up, with 103 points, to St. Neots Town with 105 points. The following season 2011-12, King’s Lynn Town finished on 106 points, runners up to the U.C.L. Premier Division winners Long Buckby, who accumulated 108 points. King’s Lynn Town were promoted to Step 4 of the Contributory League System, joining The Northern Premier League in 2012-13 season, based on the highest average points per game achieved by all Clubs who finished in the runners up position at Step 5. In their first season back in the Northern Premier League, King’s Lynn Town won the Division One South title with 92 points, moving into the Premier Division, Step 3, for the season 2013-14, finishing in the top half of the League..

The Club’s Reserves have also had a very successful 4 seasons. In the 2010–11 season they convincingly won the U.C.L. Reserves Division 2 title and in 2011–12 won the U.C.L. Reserves Division 1 title. Moving into the Peterborough and District League, for the 2012-2013 season, they became Champions of Division 1. In the 2013-14 season they won the Premier Division of the Peterborough and District League, Step 7 of the National Contributory League and move to Level 6 competing in the Eastern Counties League for the current season.

UP FOR THE CUP

One of the lesser known facts that may come up in a sports trivia quiz is that King’s Lynn are one of the most successful teams in the F.A.Cup. Successful, that is, in terms of the proportion of games won compared to the number of games played.

King’s Lynn’s F.A. Cup debut came in 1900 – 01 season and ended in the third qualifying round, with defeat against Luton Town at the Walks Stadium, having accounted for Kirkley, Harwich and Lowestoft in the previous rounds. This must have been quite a season for King’s Lynn, as they also reached the final of the F.A. Amateur Cup. King’s Lynn took Crook Town to a replay but lost by a score line of 3 – 0, this being in the era before Cup finals were played at Wembley.

The next notable foray in the F.A.Cup was in 1906, when home advantage was conceded, and travelling to Aston Villa the match was lost by 11 – 0 in front of a 23,000 crowd.

Cup success, in terms of appearances in the First Round Proper of the competition, was hard to come by prior to the Second World War, although defeat in the qualifying rounds often came at the hands of what might now be considered tough opposition such as Shrewsbury, Southend and Stockport County.

The visit of Exeter City, in the First Round Proper of the competition in the 1951 – 52 season, saw King’s Lynn defeated by 3 – 1 in front of their biggest gate of 13,000. According to match reports there may have been a very different result, if only the team in the second half had played as well as they did in the first half, although they only finished the game with ten fit players. (No substitutes in those days.)

The 1959 – 60 season produced a dream Cup draw in Norfolk terms, Norwich versus King’s Lynn. The only trouble was that Norwich had to overcome Reading in a Cup replay, but unfortunately Norwich lost. So King’s Lynn went to Reading in the Second Round Proper and lost 2 – 4. A few seasons later King’s Lynn reached the Third Round Proper, their only appearance at this stage of the Cup, they bowed out of the competition, defeated by Everton, playing in front of a crowd of 44,916 at Goodison Park and receiving a very nice share of the proceeds which amounted to £4,300. Previously in this season’s Cup, King’s Lynn defeated Coventry City, which resulted in the sack of the Coventry Manager who was replaced by a certain Mr. Jimmy Hill. Had it not been for King’s Lynn’s Cup exploits, it may be claimed, Jimmy Hill may never have become the household name he is today. (KLFC has much to answer for!!)

History was made in the 2006 – 07 season, when King’s Lynn reached the Second Round Proper of the Cup, being drawn at home to League Division 1 side Oldham Athletic. The match was chosen by Sky Sports to be broadcast live, whilst BBC Radio Five ran live commentary on the second half. In addition to reaching an international audience, the Club received £75,000 from Sky Sports and £4,500 from BBC Radio, although a substantial sum had to be spent in advance on ground improvements in order to obtain a crowd safety certificate to get the ground capacity increased to 5,733.

In 2011-12 season, The Linnets went out of the F.A. Cup away to Tamworth, in the Fourth Qualifying Round, in a very close fought game, the hosts winning by a margin of 2 – 1.

Before season 2012-13, in the F.A. Trophy, results had invariably been disappointing, but The Linnets reached the Third Round Proper going down by 2 goals without reply to Southport, having beaten Barwell, Carshalton Athletic, Eastbourne, Telford and Worksop in previous Rounds.

In the season 2010-11, in the F.A. Vase the Club reached the Semi-Final stage, being defeated by Coalville over the two legged tie. Away from the F.A. Competitions, on a Norfolk County level, King’s Lynn have regularly picked up the Norfolk Senior Cup and have had success in the East Anglian Cup, although have not participated

The WALKS

It seems that football has been played at The Walks since the Club was formed in 1879. Newspaper reports give some hints as to the history of how it progressed from a field to a football ground. The Eastern Daily Press of October 1892 informs that it is no longer possible to watch games without paying admission as “Huge canvas screens have been erected and the playing part of the field is now fully wired in”. By 1893, there appears to be some form of segregation – season tickets costing 2 schillings for admission to the North and East sides of the ground and double the cost for the South and West sides. In September 1986, it is reported that a covered stand was used for the first time, possibly the stand that was in such a bad state of repair by 1905 that it had to be demolished. A sum of £250 had to be borrowed and builder William Smith was employed to build a wooden grandstand, measuring one hundred feet long and capable of seating five hundred. This debt was paid off, the following year, by the Club’s share of proceeds of the visit to Aston Villa in The F.A. (then English) Cup. This was almost certainly one of the reasons why King’s Lynn switched the tie from The Walks to Villa Park. The match arrangements stating £250 plus a percentage of the gate over a certain figure, which amounted to £264 16s 4d the Club received.

The ends of the ground have been referred to by different names over the years – the one to the east being Tennyson Road, Workhouse or Poor House end and the west end as the Walks, Hospital or Seven Sisters. The Hospital is now long gone and the Seven Sisters refer to seven lime trees which were planted at that end of the ground back in1760. Over the passage of time the trees have been replaced and at one time became seven flower beds. Some reports describe King’s Lynn as “kicking down the slope”, one assumes towards the seven sisters end. It is not clear when the ground was levelled.

It was the Supporters Club who were largely responsible for how the ground appears today. When the Club became professional in 1948, it became the ambition of the Supporters to build a new grandstand together with offices, dressing rooms, canteen an gymnasium. A reserve fund for the project was opened in 1950 and stood at £500. However, by the end of the 1954 season, the Club had debts of £2,600. The Supporters Club rose to the challenge, and whilst attempting to clear the Club’s debts, they erected concrete terracing to accommodate four thousand people, with seating for seven hundred and eighty, on the north side of the ground. (Incidentally, the seating was later sold to Hereford United on their promotion to the Football League.) On completion of the north stand the Supporters turned their attention back to the original project and in May 1955 the Club announced that it had sold the now fifty year old stand to a Spalding firm and had planning permission for a new grandstand made of brick and steel, which would be over two hundred feet in length with seating for 1,400 and a front enclosure for a further 3,000. The plan was to have a ground that could provide covered accommodation for 8,000. In August 1956 the aim was realised. On Saturday 18th August, 1956 the new grandstand was opened by Mr. Arthur Drewry, the Chairman of the F.A. and President of F.I.F.A. The grandstand cost £27,000 to build and a crowd of over six thousand attended the opening at the Midland League fixture, in which Rotherham United Reserves defeated King’s Lynn by 2 – 1.

The F.A. Cup run, culminating in the visit to Everton was probably one of the few bright spots in the 1960’s as the Club struggled against debt. In the early months of 1960 the Club was wound up and restarted as a Limited Company and almost immediately a “Save the Linnets” fund was launched. An amount of £5,000 was required to complete the football season. Finances have, in effect, dominated the fortunes of the Club ever since and therefore changes to the ground have been more modest.

Floodlights were installed and switched on for the first competitive match on 25th September, 1963 when a crowd of 2,391 watched King’s Lynn defeat Cambridge City in the first leg of the Culey Festival Cup. (This was not the first time that a match had been played at the Walks under “lights”. On 15 September 1893, King’s Lynn entertained Wisbech in what was known as the “Electric Light Match” and lost 5 – 1.)

Since the early 1960’s it has been a process of improving and replacing as required, culminating in the spring of 1997 of being passed at a ground inspection to the standard for entry to the Conference. With ever changing Health & Safety regulations and revised Ground Grading standards the capacity of the Walks was often revised downwards. The King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Council were sympathetic to the demands of legislative standards and working with the Club, in January 2000, they contributed £8,000, matched by the Club in order to improve safety and increase capacity from 3,000 to 4,000 in the ground.

The summer of 2007 saw the roof of the grandstand and the seating replaced as part of £350,00 project. The plans to renovate the 50 year old grandstand were announced, after securing a £150,000 grant from the Football Foundation’s Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), in a joint bid with partners The Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk. More work took place than was anticipated due to very poor weather, very heavy rain, just after the old roof had been removed and the new roof being fitted. Rain water damaged the Boardroom and Function Rooms and so had to be totally refurbished. The stadium still did not meet the standards required to play Conference football. The size of the changing rooms and the lux value of the floodlights did not meet the specification and so the Club was demoted from Conference North.

The floodlights were upgraded to Football League standards for the season 2009 – 10, during which the Club was again “Wound Up”.

A new Club, now known as King’s Lynn Town, was formed in early 2010. Commencing in May 2010, the new owners totally gutted the changing rooms and function rooms, producing very high standard of upgrades to facilities for both spectators and guests. Ticketing systems and new turnstiles were installed together with fences being replaced. Alterations and improvements are continuing to upgrade the ground standards.

Timeline

1879 Established alongside other clubs such as Lynn Utd, Lynn CEYMS and Lynn Star

1897 – 1935 Members of the Norfolk & Suffolk League and occasionally, East Anglian League

1900 – 01 FA Amateur Cup runner-up

1935 – 36 Founder members of Eastern Counties League

1937 – 39 Also played in East Midland League

1946 – 47 Joined United Counties League

1948 – 49 Rejoined Eastern Counties League

1949 – 50 Eastern Counties League runner-up (on goal average)

1952 – 53 Eastern Counties League runner-up

1953 – 54 Eastern Counties League Champions & League Cup winners

1954 – 55 Joined Midland League

1958 – 59 Joined Southern League South Eastern zone

1962 Relegated to Division One

1963 – 64 Southern League Division One runner-up. Promoted to Premier Division.

1971 Relegated to Division One

1979 – 80 League re-organised to Southern & Midland Divisions (No Premier). Placed in Midland Division.

1980 – 81 Transferred to Northern Premier League

1983 – 84 Transferred to Southern League

1984 – 85 Southern League runner-up

1987 Relegated to Midland Division

1995 – 96 Southern League Midland Division runner-up, and promoted to Premier Division, despite having two points deducted.

2002 Relegated to Eastern Division

2003 – 04 Southern League Eastern Division Champions. Play-offs for places in new structure – King’s Lynn 0 Redditch United 1. Promoted to Premier Division

2007 – 08 Southern League Premier Division Champions , therefore promoted to Level 6 (Conference North) on the Tier “pyramid”.

2008 – 09 Demoted to Northern Premier League because stadium did not meet Conference North standards

2009 Club wound up by High Courts in regards to debts owed to HMRC.

2010 Club relaunched in UCL Premier Division under new name ‘Kings Lynn Town FC’

2012 Linnets promoted to Evo-Stik Division One South

2013 Lynn win the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League (Southern Division) to be promoted to the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

2014 King’s Lynn Town Reserves promoted to the Eastern Counties League Division One having won four successive titles since the club was “reformed”

2016 The Club was sold to local business man Stephen Cleeve

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