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Ancient title of 'Keeper of the Muckhill' revived

Cllr Nockolds and Cllr Bower presenting a certificate to the Keeper of the Muckhill Mr Barry Howard. Also in the photo are Cllr Brian Long and Mr Simon Bower the mayor's consort.

Published: Friday, 1st December 2017

Mr Barry Howard was appointed to the ceremonial position of Custodian of the South Gate and Keeper of the Muckhill by the mayor Cllr Carol Bower and Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds.

The Mayor of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, Cllr Carol Bower, held a civic reception at Stories of Lynn to honour the borough’s heritage volunteers, and thank them for their hard work and commitment.

At the reception, Mr Barry Howard was appointed to the role of Custodian of the South Gate and Keeper of the Muckhill. This title belonged to the official gatekeeper of the South Gate in the 16th century. The gatekeeper would exact tolls on the passage of goods, close the doors of the gate at curfew, and control who could enter Lynn in times of plague. He would also have been responsible for organising the town’s rubbish into muckhills. This was a crucial role, as saltpetre would be made from the muckhills and used to make gunpowder.

Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds, borough council deputy leader and cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Health, said: “Our heritage volunteers make it possible for thousands of people to visit our historic buildings, and we are incredibly grateful to them. So when the volunteers at the South Gate told us about this ancient title, we thought it would be only fitting to revive it, as a small sign of our appreciation. We’re delighted Barry has agreed to accept this title – we don’t intend to hold him to the part about the muckhill!”

As part of the ceremony, Mr Howard was presented with a certificate, and the text of the oath that medieval custodians of the South Gate would take.

The wording of the oath is:

"Sire, ye shall well and trewlye kepe the South Gates, and lete the pepyll in and oute in lawful tyme, and buxome be to my master the Mayre and to his commandments, for the profitte and worship of this towne; so God you help at holy dome."

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