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Lynn is situated on the eastern side of Marshland, and of the Great Level, or Fen Country, about 12 miles from the Sea, 42 from Norwich, 46 from Cambridge, and 98 from London. It stands partly on each side of the Ouse, but chiefly on its eastern banks; though it is supposed to have stood originally all on the opposite shore, and hence that part of it is still called Old Lynn.
The Haven or Harbour is capacious, but the entrance to it is accounted somewhat difficult, and even dangerous, owing to the numerous sandbanks, and the frequent shiftings of the channel, occasioned by the loose and light nature of the sandy and silty soil at the bottom. On which account it is not deemed safe for ships to go in or out without pilots, who are, or ought always to be well acquainted with the variations and actual state of the channel. In the ages proceeding the 13th century this harbour, compared with its present width, is said to have been very narrow, being only a few perches over, though its depth of water was then, probably, no less, if not greater than it is at present.
The Ouse over against the town, is reckoned about as wide as the Thames above London Bridge. Its name is evidently of British origin, and corresponds with those of several others of our rivers; such as the Usk, Esk,Ex, Isis, &c. The word signifies, a stream, or the river, by way of eminence. It is called the great Ouse, to distinguish it from that called the little or lesser Ouse, which is now one of its tributary streams, and joins it some way below Ely, though it had formerly no connection with it. It is also called the eastern Ouse, to distinguish it from the northern, or Yorkshire river of the same name.
As Lynn owes most of its consequence to this river, which forms its communication with the sea, and gives it so great an extent of inland navigation, and consequently such a vast commercial intercourse with the interior parts of the country, it will not be improper here to give some account of it, together with its principal branches, or those tributary streams which render it so considerable among the British navigable rivers.
Kinderley, many years ago, has given the following account of this river and its several branches: “The Ouse (says he) formerly Usa or Isa, which is the most famous of all the rivers that pass through this Level, has its original head on a gentle rising ground full of springs, under Sisam in Northamptonshire, 54 miles from Erith bridge, at which place it first touches the Isle of Ely. It falls by Brackley, Buckingham, Newport Pagnel, Bedford, Huntingdon, and St. Ives, to Erith, and so on till it comes to Lynn. It has 5 rivers emptying themselves into it, beside many brooks and rills; Grant, Mildenhall, Brandon, Stoke, and the river Lenne, or Sandringham Ea [otherwise Nare,] which rises under Lycham, and comes by Castleacre, Narford, and Sechy.” [He omits theNene, which surely he ought to have mentioned.] Afterward he adds, “That the Ouse by its situation, and having so many navigable rivers falling into it from eight several counties, does therefore afford a great advantage to trade and commerce, since hereby two cities, and several great towns are therein served; as Peterborough, Ely, Stamford, Bedford, St. Ives, Huntingdon, St. Neots, Northampton, Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, Thetford, &c. with all sorts of heavy commodities from Lynn, as Coals, Salt, Deals, Fir-timber, Iron, Pitch, Tar, and Wine, thither imported; and from these parts great quantities of Wheat, Rye, Coleseed, Barley, &c. are brought down these rivers, whereby a great foreign and inland trade is carried on, and the breed of seamen is increased. The Port of Lynn supplies six counties wholly, and three in part.”