History of All Saints


All Saints is the oldest Christian foundation in the town, and is the original parish church of Lynn. It was formerly known as All Hallows, the old English form of  'All Saints'.  It is referred to in a document concerning the building of St Margaret’s, dated 1101, and is described as the church of William, son of Stanquin, lying to the south of Sewaldsfled, the present Millfleet. The Saxon church, of which nothing now survives, was rebuilt by Ralph de Toeni in c.1095, and was under the patronage of the Augustinian Priory of West Acre until 1534. Traces of this building can be found in the south wall of the chancel near the anchorhold.  

The parish was called 'South Lynn' from the 13th Century, to distinguish it from Bishop’s Lynn, the newer township and port which developed around the great Priory Church of St Margaret, St Mary and all the Virgin Saints now known as The Minster.Like the other churches of Lynn, All Saints was a splendid medieval building, endowed by the rich merchants of the parish. Much of the church as we see it now dates from about 1400.

After the Reformation, the church entered a period of decline, the church was divided in two with panelling separating the chancel from the nave, and encasing the medieval rood screen. The chancel was used as a school room.  The church was bigger than it is now, but in 1763 the tower collapsed, taking with it the west bay of the nave.You can see the cracks in tombstones damaged by the fall at the west end of the church.

The fortunes of the church revived in Victorian times when the church was restored, with two major restorations in 1841-3 by the local architect William Newham and 1867-9, by Ewan Christian.  As the housing of the parish extended towards the south, the South Lynn estate was built. A daughter church of St Michael and all Angels was built in 1901 in  Saddlebow Road, served by the clergy of All Saints. This church closed in 1972, and was partly demolished. The remains of it are incorporated into a community centre. At that time of liturgical reform, a central nave altar was installed at All Saints and a wall built behind to convert the chancel into St Michael’s Chapel. This wall was recently removed leaving the church as we see it today.

Since Victorian times, All Saints has been firmly part of the Catholic tradition of the Church of England.