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The Little Book of Suffolk
By Neil R. Storey
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey
All rights reserved.
The name of the county comes from after the Saxons and Anglos divided Britain into kingdoms and the foundation of East Anglia in AD 575. Those in the north of the new kingdom were soon known as the North-folk and those in the south, the South-folk; this was soon corrupted to Suffolk. Although this name for the locality was in use for many years previously, the earliest written reference to Suffolk found to date was in AD 1045.
The administrative county of Suffolk covers 1,466 square miles.
Suffolk shares its borders with Norfolk to the north, Essex to the south, Cambridgeshire to the west and the North Sea to the east.
Suffolk is the most easterly county of England.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011 the population of Suffolk was 730,100 and rated as the thirty-second largest county population in England. It has a population density of 192 per square kilometre and ranks as the thirty-eighth county for population density.
The county of Suffolk covers 1,467 square miles and ranks as the eighth largest ceremonial county of England.
At its greatest length, Suffolk is 52 miles across.
At its greatest breadth, Suffolk measures 48 miles.
Much of Suffolk is low-lying and founded on Pleistocene sand and clays. It is only the west of the county that stands on the more resistant Cretaceous chalk.
The soil of Suffolk varies, but a strong loam on clay marl bottom, ideal for agriculture, predominates throughout the county.
The Red Crag geological deposit reaches a depth of 147ft at Southwold.
The highest point of the county is Great Wood Hill, on the Newmarket Ridge near Rede. It has an elevation of 420ft.
Lowestoft is the most easterly town in the county and therefore the United Kingdom.
Ness Point, also known as Lowestoft Ness, is the most easterly place in the United Kingdom.
The Suffolk coastline is mostly bordered by heathland known as the Sandlings.
The Suffolk Coast and Heaths, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, stretches over 60 miles from Kessingland to the Shotley Peninsula, and encompasses 155 square miles of wetlands, heaths, beaches, towns and villages.
Alton Water Reservoir is the largest area of inland water in the county. Opened in 1987, the construction work and completion took thirteen years. The pumping station and water treatment works below the dam is capable of treating 10 million imperial gallons of water a day.
In 2005, there was a discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield, and as a result the human habitation of the Lowestoft area can now be traced back 700,000 years.
When the Orwell Bridge was opened in 1982 it was one of the largest pre-stressed concrete structures in Europe.
The Port of Felixstowe is the largest container port in the United Kingdom.
In 1929, there were a total of 503 civil parishes in the county of Suffolk.
The parish of Dallinghoo Wield, which covered just 34 acres, was claimed as the smallest parish in England until 1980 when it was declared an anachronism by the boundary commissioners and abolished as a parish in its own right.
East Suffolk, West Suffolk and Ipswich were merged to form the unified county of Suffolk on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972.
Today, Suffolk is divided into seven districts: Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal, Waveney, Mid Suffolk, Babergh, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath.
Historically, Suffolk was divided into two divisions, East and West, containing the following hundreds:
Eastern Division: Blything, Bosmere and Claydon, Carlford, Colners, Hoxne, Loes, Mutford and Lothinghland, Plomesgate, Samford, Thredling, Wangford, and Wilford.
Western Division: Babergh, Hartismere, Stow, Blackbourn, Cosford, Hartismere, Lackford, Risbridge, Stow, Thedwestry, and Thingoe.
THE RIVERS OF SUFFOLK
The River Alde has its source at Lawfield, near that of the River Blyth. It becomes tidal at the village of Snape and runs to the east of Aldeburgh, after which this part of the river takes its name.
The River Alde becomes known as the River Ore as it approaches Orford, where it once entered the sea. The mouth of the river is now a further 5 miles south.
The River Blythe has its source at Laxfield and a tidal estuary between Southwold and Walberswick. The Blyth Navigation canal was opened in 1761 and ran a total of 7 miles from Halesworth to the Blyth estuary. It became insolvent in 1884, was used occasionally until 1911 and was formally abandoned in 1934.
The River Deben rises in Debenham, runs through Woodbridge and turns into a tidal estuary before entering the North Sea at Felixstowe Ferry.
The River Dove is a tributary of the River Waveney, which starts at Horham and runs through the market town of Eye to the Waveney.
The River Gipping rises near Mendlesham Green and flows through Stowmarket, Needham Market and on to Ipswich, where it becomes the River Orwell. The old Ipswich and Stowmarket Navigation canal, opened in 1793, was achieved by the construction of some fifteen locks. It closed in 1922.
The River Kennett rises to the south of Dalham, flows through Moulton and Kennett, and joins Lee Brook, a tributary of the River Lark, south of Freckenham. The River Kennett usually runs dry in the summertime.
The River Lark is a tributary of the River Great Ouse. It rises at Bradfield Combust near Bury St Edmunds and flows through Bury, Mildenhall and across the Cambridgeshire border into Prickwillow and on to join the River Great Ouse south of Littleport.
The Little Ouse is a tributary of the River Great Ouse, and rises near Thelnetham and flows through Rushford, Thetford, Brandon and Hockwold before it joins the Great Ouse north of Littleport. The Little Ouse is also used to delineate part of the border between Norfolk and Suffolk.
The Minsmere river is formed out of the River Yox at Yoxford and flows through Middleton, Eastbridge and on to the Minsmere New Cut (built in 1812) and reaches the sea at Minsmere Sluice.
The Butley river, otherwise known as Butley Creek, has its source in Rendlesham Forest and is tidal from its confluence with the Ore at Boyton, and goes as far inland as Butley Mills and Butley village. The Butley Ferry, run by the volunteer ferrymen of the Alde & Ore Association, crosses the Butley Creek river and provides a link for pedestrians and cyclists between Orford, Boyton and Butley between Easter Saturday and September every year.
The River Ore is the name given to the final section of the River Alde from just above Orford until it joins the sea. It has one tributary, the Butley river, and Havergate Island is to be found at their confluence.
Oulton Dyke is about one mile long and connects Outon Broad to the River Waveney.
The River Waveney has its source near Redgrave and flows through Hoxne, Needham, Weybread, Homersfield, Earsham and Bungay, Beccles, Soerleton and over the border into Norfolk, where it flows through Haddiscoe, Breydon Water and out into the North Sea at Great Yarmouth.
The River Rat has its source at the village of Rattlesden and is the major tributary of the River Gipping.
The River Brett has its source near Lavenham. It flows through Hadleigh, Monks Eleigh, Brent Eleigh and Chelsworth to its confluence with the River Stour.
The River Orwell has the River Gipping, above the tidal limit at Stoke Bridge, as its source river. The Orwell broadens into an estuary at Ipswich, joins the River Stour at Shotley and flows into the North Sea at Felixstowe.
The River Stour rises in Eastern Cambridgeshire, flows east of Haverhill and through Cavendish, Bures, Sudbury, Nayland, Stratford St Mary and Dedham Vale. The Stour becomes tidal just before Manningtree and joins the North Sea at Harwich. It also forms most of the county boundary of Suffolk and Essex.
Stour Brook begins to the west of Haverhill and soon joins the River Stour near Wixoe, Essex.
The River Yox flows from the west of Peasenhall through Sibton and Yoxford, where it becomes the Minsmere river.
The Lark and the Little Ouse are the only notable Suffolk rivers that do not flow directly to the sea.
THE LOST TOWN OF DUNWICH
Through the years, the erosion of the county's soft cliffs and encroachments by the sea along the East Coast have caused the loss of hundreds of acres of land, and a number of settlements, including Covehithe, Pakefield, Aldeburgh and Slaughden, have all suffered from the loss. The hamlet of Newton has completely disappeared, but the most famous and important of all was the loss of the flourishing port town of Dunwich.
The decline of Dunwich began in 1328, when a tempest hit the coast and the hurricane-force winds drove the sea against the spit of land known as the King's Holme and pushed it into the harbour area, effectively rendering it impassable. All trade and revenues simply moved to Walberswick and left Dunwich to rot. Four hundred houses, along with shops, barns, windmills and two churches, St Martin and St Leonard, fell in the maelstrom. By the early twentieth century, all of the other churches and chapels eventually succumbed to the sea, as did most of the town. Despite the decline of the town they still maintained the ancient right to return two Members of Parliament. By the time of the 1832 Reform Act, there were only eight residents left in the constituency!
The village of Thorpeness was a sleepy fishing hamlet until wealthy Scottish barrister G. Stuart Ogilvie bought the area and built a private fantasy holiday village in mock Tudor and Jacobean styles, where he invited friends and colleagues to stay during the summer months. He even created a shallow boating lake he called the Meare, with several coves and landings marked with names on a Peter Pan theme (author J.M. Barrie was a personal friend of Ogilvie and his family). Little islands on the Meare also contain locations inspired by the novel, such as Wendy's home, the pirates' lair and many others, where children are encouraged to play. The old crocodile still lurks around the place too! The outstanding feature of this dreamland of Thorpeness is its water tower, disguised as a five-storey clapboard house with imitation windows and a pitched roof 60ft up in the air. Ogilvie named it 'The Home of Peter Pan', but tenant Mrs Malcolm Mason loved it so much she was inspired to write the poem 'The House in the Clouds', and the name stuck.
SOME OF THE LESSER KNOWN MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC SITES OF SUFFOLK
Bawdsey Manor RADAR Transmitter Block, Bawdsey
Bentwaters Cold War Museum, Woodbridge
British Resistance Organisation Museum, Parham Airfield
Centre for Computing History, Haverhill
Clifford Road Air-Raid Shelter, Ipswich
Felixstowe Museum in the old Submarine Mining Establishment near Landguard Fort
Greene King Brewery Museum, Bury St Edmunds
HMS Ganges Museum, Shotley Marina, Shotley
Laxfield & District Museum, the Guildhall, Laxfield
Long Shop Museum, at the old works of Richard Garrett & Sons engineers
Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Museum, Sparrow's Nest Gardens, Lowestoft
Lowestoft War Memorial Museum, Sparrow's Nest Gardens, Lowestoft
Martlesham Heath Control Tower Museum
Mechanical Music Museum, Cotton
Mincarlo, sidewinder fishing trawler museum ship, Lowestoft
Museum of Knots and Sailors' Ropework, Ipswich
Packhorse Bridge, Moulton
Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum, Lowestoft, Sparrow's Nest Gardens, Lowestoft
Ruins of Leiston Abbey (founded 1182)
Southwold Sailors' Reading Room, East Cliff, Southwold
St James' Chapel (built about 1250), Lindsey
Suffolk Underwater Studies Museum, Orford
Suffolk Heavy Horse Museum, Shire Hall, Woodbridge
The Amber Museum, Southwold
The ruins of the great church at Covehithe
Woodbridge Museum, Woodbridge
THE HEIGHTS OF IPSWICH
In 1930, the highest structures of Ipswich were recorded as:
St Mary's Church tower 176ft
Ipswich Electric shaft 176ft
St Peter's Church tower 93ft
St Lawrence's Church tower 90ft
Spring Road Viaduct 61ft
Lowestoft (High), current structure built 1874, station established in 1609. A white flash every fifteen seconds.
Lowestoft North Pier, built 1847. Green light: four seconds on, one second off.
Lowestoft South Pier, built 1847. Red light: four seconds on, one second off.
Pakefield, built 1832. Inactive since 1864.
Southwold, built 1890. Four flashes every twenty seconds, white or red depending on direction.
Landguard Point, established in 1848. Light house built in 1861. Destroyed by fire in 1925.
Orfordness (High), current structure built in 1793. Station established in 1637. A white flash every five seconds.
Orfordness (Low), established in 1836. Lost to beach erosion in 1887.
THE MAGPIE GALLOWS SIGN
The present version of the unusual pub sign for the Magpie pub at Little Stonham, which straddles the Norwich-Ipswich turnpike (now the A140), was designed for Tollemache's Breweries by Messrs Cautley and Barefoot, architects in about 1931. A magpie was also kept in a cage by the pub door as a living sign for the pub. A gallows sign existed before this one, consisting of three or four small casks slung by a chain from the crossbeam. The casks were not of the usual barrel shape but the long cylindrical type of brandy cask.
CASTLES IN SUFFOLK
Bungay Castle: A Norman castle built by Roger Bigod around 1100, enlarged and improved, including the addition of the impressive gate towers by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, in the thirteenth century.
Landguard Fort: Sited at Felixstowe, the fort is one of England's best preserved coastal defences, with a history that dates back almost 450 years.
Clare Castle: Originally a motte-and-bailey castle built by Richard Fitz Gilbert in the eleventh century, it was improved in stone during the thirteenth century.
Denham Castle: A motte-and-bailey fortification built in the twelfth century. Only some of its earthworks are visible today.
Eye Castle: Originally built by William Malet shortly after the Norman Conquest. Malet died while fighting Hereward the Wake in 1071. The castle was sacked and largely destroyed during the Second Baron's War in 1265.
Framlingham Castle: Originally built as a Norman motte-and-bailey, it was destroyed by Henry II after the revolt of 1173–74. The replacement, a structure of curtain wall and no keep, built by Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk and completed by 1213, is what can be seen today. Open to the public, it is well worth a visit.
Great Ashfield Castle: A medieval motte-and-bailey castle. Its few remains are overgrown.
Haughley Castle: With a base 210ft wide and 80ft tall, a motte-and-bailey castle built in the late eleventh century by Hugh de Montford. Besieged during the revolt of Henry's sons (1173–74), the castle was surrendered and burnt to the ground. The castle was not rebuilt after its destruction but most of its earthworks and motte may still be discerned.
Ipswich Castle: Built after the Norman Conquest, it was destroyed upon the orders of King Henry II after the revolt of his sons in 1173–74. The castle was not rebuilt, and nothing is known to remain of it today; even its location in the town is uncertain.
Lidgate Castle: Motte-and-bailey castle built about 1143 during a time of civil unrest, when King Stephen was keen to check any advances by rebel Baron Geoffrey de Mandeville into the region. The castle was abandoned about 1260 and has been largely destroyed through the development of the village and agriculture.
Mettingham Castle: Built under license in the fourteenth century by Sir John de Norwich as fortifications around his manor house. The castle was largely demolished in the eighteenth century.
Milden Castle: A twelfth-century motte-and-bailey castle. All that remains of it today is the earth mound upon which it was constructed.
Orford Castle: Built by Henry II between 1165 and 1173 to consolidate his royal power in the region. Its keep is of unique design (thought to be based on Byzantine architecture), is well-preserved and was described by historian R. Allen Brown as 'one of the most remarkable keeps in England'.
Wingfield Castle: Built as a fortification, under license, for the manor house of Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk in the fourteenth century. Many of the old fortifications were extant up to the early twentieth century, when the north and south walls were demolished.
TREASURES OF THE ANCIENTS ... ON YOUR DOORSTEP!
The Anglo-Saxon cemetery containing the outstanding ship burial for a king, complete with all his grave goods, was excavated by self-taught Suffolk archaeologist Basil Brown at Sutton Hoo in 1939. The helmet that has become the undoubted icon of the Sutton Hoo burial along with his sword, heavily decorated buckles, shoulder clasps, bowls and plate form one of the greatest treasures of the British Museum.
The Hoxne Hoard, discovered by metal detector enthusiast Eric Lawes in November 1992, is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain and the largest collection of gold and silver coins from the fourth and fifth centuries to be discovered anywhere in the Roman Empire. In November 1993, the Treasure Trove Reviewing Committee valued the hoard at £1.75 million, which was paid to Lawes, as finder of the treasure. He shared his reward with Peter Whatling, the farmer of the land where it was found.
Excerpted from The Little Book of Suffolk by Neil R. Storey. Copyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. About Suffolk,
2. The Military, Battles and War,
3. Suffolk People – Famous and Not So Famous,
4. That's Entertainment,
5. Suffolk at Work,
6. Sense of Place,
7. Crime and Punishment,
9. Food and Drink,
10. Myths, Legends and Curiosities,
11. Sports Roundup,
12. On This Day,