A flourishing town, which grew up after the prosperous medieval centre of Slaughden was partially destroyed by the sea, Aldeburgh took over its role as a fishing and shipbuilding port. Drake’s ship the Pelican, later to be renamed the Golden Hind, was built here and local men sailed with him. The area is a setting in ‘The Village’ and ‘The Borough’, poems by the Reverend George Crabbe, who was born here in 1754 and later lived at Slaughden. Aldeburgh church has a commemorative bust to him. Wilkie Collins’ novel No Name is also set locally. Benjamin Britten also lived here. His opera Peter Grimes (1945) was based on a character in Crabbe’s ‘The Borough’ (1810) which dealt with the harsh lives of the working people of Aldeburgh. Britten used the 16th century Moot Hall as the setting. The annual Aldeburgh Music Festival, originally organized by Britten, is held nearby at Snape. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman mayor, and one of the first women doctors, lived at Alde House.
BRANDON and the BRECKLAND
Brandon is largely built on flint and there has been a flint-knapping industry here since prehistoric times, and primitive tools have been excavated here and at Grimes Graves, 3 miles north east of the town. Breckland is a 300-square-mile stretch of rough heathland shared between Norfolk and Suffolk. ‘Brecks’ are pieces of land long ago broken up for cultivation but then allowed to become wild again.
It is an indication of Bungay’s long history that its civic head still holds the office of Town Reeve. Originally it was a market town, but printing and leatherworking were introduced in the 18th century, and today its position on the River Waveney also makes it a popular yachting centre. Only the foundations of the castle – originally 12th century remain ,they show an unfinished mineshaft that was intended to destroy the castle after Hugh Bigod’s rebellion against Henry II. St Mary’s Church had its bells melted by a fire that swept that part of the town in 1688, and the Bungay Stone (near the north porch) is said to be a Druid Cross 2000 years old. Earsham Otter Trust, one and a half miles out of the town has one of the largest collections of otters in the world.
Bury St Edmunds, the county town of West Suffolk, is named after the last king of East Anglia, who died at the hands of the Danes in AD 870 and whose bones were interred in the monastery here some 30 years later. The town became a place of pilgrimage, and the remains of the abbey founded in the 11th century show it to have been an imposing edifice. Both the parish church of St James, given cathedral status in 1914, and nearby St Mary’s were originally 15th century and the latter contains a magnificent hammerbeam roof and the grave of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. John Winthrop the younger was educated at the Grammar School. The Atheneum, the centre of social life in Regency times, stands on the town’s spacious square; Dickens is known to have given readings here, and he used the Angel Hotel as the setting for Pickwick Papers. Moyses Hall, perhaps once the home of a Jewish merchant, is a 12th-century building of flint and stone with a vaulted ground floor. It houses a museum of local and natural history and of archaeological items. Angel Corner, a Queen Anne mansion, contains the Gershom Parkington collection of clocks and watches. The Norton Bird Gardens, on the A1088 (off A45) contain foreign birds and waterfowl.
Four miles north west of Bury St Edmunds, Hengrave Hall was built in the early 16th century by Sir Thomas Kitson. His sister Margaret married John Washington and was the mother of Lawrence, purchaser of Sulgrave. It was at this stage in the family genealogy that the link between the Washingtons and the Spencers and thus Winston Churchill and the Princess of Wales occurred. A window at Hengrave depicts the Washington coat-of-arms.
In medieval times Dunwich was a prosperous port with its own charter, granted by King John, and rights over all wrecks on its shore, in return for payment of 5000 eels annually. It boasted nine churches in 1326 when three of them, together with 400 houses, were swept away by a storm. Over the years more of Dunwich has succumbed to the sea. However, the remains of the 13th century Greyfriars monastery and the ruined chapel of the 12th-century leper hospital indicate the town’s former architectural standing.
Dunwich was the birthplace of Sir George Downing of Harvard and Cambridge University, after whom Downing Street in London was named. Downing was the nephew of John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts. The town attracted several literary figures during the 19th century, among them, Jerome K Jerome and Henry James. Dunwich Heath offers Views of the coastal marshland, Minsmere Bird Reserve, and of Sizewell atomic power station.
John Constable was born here in 1776, the son of a local miller. The fortunes of East Bergholt flourished between the 13th and 16th centuries with the success of the wool trade many of the village’s fine old buildings date from this period. The Village and surrounding landscape were made famous through the artist’s paintings. Particularly well known is his picture of Flatford Mill, just a mile from East Bergholt on the River Stour. Constable worked here for a year before going to London to study art. Adjacent is Willy Lott’s white cottage which often featured in Constable’s work. Constable’s family home no longer stands, but a plaque marks its former site. The parish church has memorials to both the artist and his wife, Maria. His parents are buried in the graveyard, as is Willy Lott. The journalist and author Randolph Churchill lived here until his death in 1968. The grounds of his home have been re-landscaped as Stour Gardens. 2and a half miles north is Little Wenham Hall, an example of very early English brickwork.
A handsome market town amid the open Suffolk farmland, Framlingham has an impressive ruined castle, built in 1190 by Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk, and extensively rebuilt in the 16th century. The alms-houses within the walls were built from materials from the Great Hall. As a result of Bigod’s treachery, the castle was sequestrated and became the seat of some of the great East Anglian families: primarily the Howards, created Dukes of Norfolk after the Battle of Flodden. St Michael’s Church, a fine example of late Perpendicular, houses the splendid Howard family tombs. Several important Americans had links with Framlingham. It was the ancestral home of Josiah Quincy, President James A Garfield, and Richard Henry Dana. Thomas Danforth, President of Maine from 1679-86, and benefactor and treasurer of Harvard College, left Framlingham with his father at the age of 12. His father was to found Framlingham, Massachusetts. The town is surrounded by beautiful Suffolk villages such as Parham, 2 miles to the south, with its moated hall, and Dennington, 2 miles to the north, which has a beautiful 14thcentury church. Saxtead Green, 1 mile to the west, has one of the finest Suffolk windmills.
Fine houses in the long High Street of this former wool town on a tributary of the River Stour represent an unusually wide variety of architectural styles; timber-framed, brick, plasterwork with and without the decoration known as pargeting. The 14th to 15th century church contains an unusual 14th-century bench-end depicting a wolf holding the decapitated head of St Edmund, illustrating an old legend. The nearby 15th-century Deanery Tower is all that remains of the palace of Archdeacon Pykenharn, while the fine 15th-century timbered Guildhall (open daily) has two overhanging storeys.
The 18th-century mansion of Ickworth is a vast elliptical rotunda, set in parkland designed by Capability Brown, housing collections of Regency furnishings, silver and pictures including Benjamin West’s ‘The Death of General Wolfe’. The house is considered remarkable.
The county town of Suffolk acquired its name from an Anglo Saxon settlement called Gippeswic. The town was granted a charter by King John in 1200 and steadily grew in importance, reaching a peak as a flourishing cloth port in the 16th century. Its development then tailed off until the mid-19th century when a second upturn in fortune resulted in its present significance as a port, market town and East Anglian seat of administration. The docks now handle millions of tons of cargo a year, ideally placed for European trading.
Architecturally, Ipswich has many places of interest including the Ancient House in Butter Market. built in 1567 (also known as Sparrowe‘s House, after a one-time occupant). The front of the house features the intricate decorative plasterwork known as pargeting, an art characteristic of East Anglia. Beneath the front windows are thematic panels depicting the then known continents of the world. Cardinal Wolsey was born in Ipswich and later founded the Cardinal College of St Mary. All that is left of the building today, though, is the red brick gateway in College Street. Old Ipswich had medieval walls and Northgate Street, Westgate Street and Tower Rampart are all reminders, along with Priory Street which once had houses built by Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelites.
At the junction of Tavern and Northgate Streets is the Great White Horse Hotel. Murals on the dining room walls record the activities here of Charles Dickens’ Samuel Pickwick, hero of Pickwick Papers. Dickens worked here as a reporter and used the town in the book. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon’s Mines, attended Ipswich School. Christchurch Mansion, in Christchurch Park, has a fine art gallery which includes works by both Gainsborough, who lived in the town, and Constable, who was born nearby.
Just outside Ipswich, Playford was the house of the anti-slave trade leader Thomas Clarkson, who died at the moated Elizabethan hall; an obelisk commemorates him.
Ixworth has several Roman connections and in nearh Stow Lane are the remnants of a building believed to have been part of an lceni camp.Ixworth Abbey dates, in part, from 1170 when an Augustinian priory was built here; the remains are incorporated into a 17th-century house. The church of St Mary contains a decorative tomb in memory of Richard Coddington and his wife, and portrait brasses of other members of the Coddington family. Close by is the village of waorth Thorpe, where All Saints Church has a thatched roof. The church door is only 5ft high and the pews have carved ends depicting animals, birds and humans.
At one time most of the working men of England were clad in tough Kersey cloth, while their women folk wore the softer fabric made in neighbouring Lindsey. The fine perpendicular church of this charming village reflects the early prosperity that the wool trade brought; the roof of its south porch is particularly notable, being made up of16 magnificently carved 15th-century panels. The colour-washed houses lining the main street as it runs steeply down to a water splash are dark timbered with age and include a group of pre-Reformation weavers’ cottages.
St Mary’s Church is particularly fine, with a Norman chancel arch and a 16th century wooden roof embellished with angels; the bench ends in the nave and the 15th-century pulpit also have beautifully carved motifs.
The finest of the Suffolk wool towns, with beautiful medieval timber houses. The market square is dominated by a 16th-century cross. In the past the Guildhall has been used as a prison, a workhouse and an alms-house. The Swan Hotel incorporates, the old Wool ‘Hall. Inside a section of the bar-counter is scored with the signatures of American airmen who were based in the district during World War II.
Lavenham church has a massive tower which was built largely by John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, and by Thomas Spring a local clothier. John Constable went to school in the town and was a regular visitor to the Taylors of Shilling Old Grange. Jane Taylor was the author of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’; she and her sister wrote many children’s rhymes.
A plaque at Boxted airfield, west of Lavenham, commemorates US airmen operating from here during the war.
Long Melford, with its attractive main street, almost two miles long, of line old shops and houses, is one of the most impressive villages in Suffolk. At the upper end of its triangular green stands Melford Hall (NT), a turreted, red brick Tudor house containing collections of Hne paintings, furniture and porcelain. It was built in the 16th century by Sir William Cordell, Speaker of the House of Commons and Master of the Rolls during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. He died in 1580 and is commemorated by a monument in the church. Kentwell Hall lies to the north of the village, surrounded by a moat and beautiful gardens and approached by a 300-year-old avenue of lime trees. Holy Trinity Church is a huge 15th century building occupying the site of a Roman temple; its exterior is decorated with flushwork and the interior has notable stained glass and beautiful worked pillars. The Lady Chapel still has a child’s multiplication table on the wall, dating from its days as a schoolroom, between 1669 and 1880.
The great fishing fleets are now a thing of the past, but Lowestoft is still a busy port, with trawlers docking and unloading. The lifeboat is famous, and the station was founded in 1801, 20 years before the RNLI came into being. The Maritime Museum contains model ships and fishing gear. Joseph Conrad first set foot in England here in 1878. Lowestoft was badly damaged in the war but the ‘Scores’ are a reminder of the old town: these narrow alleyways descend steeply from the level of the High Street until they reach the shore where the fish houses for curing herrings used to stand. South town is developing a ‘seaside’ atmosphere and offers attractions for children notably a boating lake and a miniature steam railway. Lowestoft Ness is Britain’s most easterly point. Nearby Oulton Broad is popular for water sports and is used for yacht, dinghy and motor boat racing. The East Anglia Transport Museum, with all types of old cars and commercial vehicles is an added attraction.
The setting for the huge American Air Force Base is, in fact, a rather lovely village situated beside the River Lark. Of particular interest is the church of St Mary, with its 110ft tower and its elaborately carved roof. Biblical scenes, a host of angels, and fantastic beasts are depicted. The Puritan zealots did their best to destroy it in the 17th century, but only managed to fire off a few shots in its direction. In 1946, the Mildenhall Treasure which consisted of a rich hoard of 4thcentury Roman silver dishes, some of them probably manufactured in Rome itself was discovered at nearby Thistley Green. It is now in the British Museum.
Joseph Priestley, a minister of the Congregational Church at Needham Market, was also a gifted scientist. In 1774, he isolated a gas which he called ‘Dephlogisticated air’, in other words, he ‘discovered’ oxygen. Benjamin Franklin encouraged his scientific interests. In 1793 he publicly supported the French Revolution and was forced to leave England. He settled in America where he was a friend of Jefferson and John Adams. He died in 1804 in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. The village church has a fine wooden hammer beam roof.
James I built a palace here as a base for is hunting and hawking expeditions and when, in 1619, the first horse race took place on Newmarket Heath, His Majesty was a delighted spectator. Charles II did rather better: he actually rode in events. In 1752, the Jockey Club (the ruling body of the Turf) took note of Newmarket’s importance and moved its headquarters from the Star and Garter Inn in London. Nowadays, the statistics that proclaim this town on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border as the capital of the racing world are impressive. There are more than 40 training stables, 1500 race horses in residence, two race courses, more than 4000 race horses sold each year for a sum adding up to several million pounds, and 35 stud farms. The National Stud and the Equine Research Station are situated here. Newmarket’s most famous races are the One Thousand and Two Thousand Guineas (both held in the spring), the Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire (in October). Newmarket’s elegant Regency Assembly Rooms are the home of the National Racing Museum. Exhibits include famous racing silks, paintings, and equine equipment and memorabilia of all sorts.
Oulton BroadThe most southerly of the Broads, this popular yachting centre lies to the wee of Lowestoft. The waters of the Broad were the first testing ground for the hovercraft.
This Village stretches out along the main road, and has many fine buildings. The Church of St John the Baptist has a hammerbeam roof and interesting monuments. Bruisyard Winery and Vineyard lies just outside the village main street at Bruisyard, 4 miles north west from Saxmundham.
In the 19th century, Newson Garrett, father of Britain’s first woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, established a maltings on the edge of the village. It was served by sailing barges travelling up and down the River Alde to the Maltings Quay. As a result of the Aldeburgh Music Festival inaugurated in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, part of the premises was transformed into a concert hall.
Southwold is an altogether delightful little resort at the mouth of the River Blythe. Among its many pleasant features are numerous greens, which came about as the result of a hre that laid waste most of the town in 1659. The parish church of St Edmund is a beauty with a fine tower (100ft), a medieval painted pulpit, and a Seven Sacraments font. Next to neighbouring Blythburgh and Long Melford it is 1ndlsputably the finest church in Suffolk. The beach is a mixture of sand and shingle. Unusual but by no means unattractive features of Southwold are the lighthouse, which stands within the town, and the famous Adnams brewery. Southwold was the home of Eric Blair, better known by his penname, George Orwell. The town is connected with Southwold, Long Island, founded in 1640 by people from here led by the Reverend John Young.
Sotterley Agricultural Museum, which is housed in Alexander Wood Farm, presents a splendid collection of hardware -mechanical and non-mechanical. The blacksmith’s shop, the farmhouse kitchen, and agricultural implements splendidly evoke the past. There is also a collection of cars and motorbikes.
John Milton used to visit his tutor in this small market town. George Crabbe is another poet associated with it; he spent some of his schooldays here. An unusual feature of its Perpendicular church is a wig stand. The Victorian mock-Elizabethan railway station is not without interest. For a graphic review of East Anglian rural life, there is the Museum of East Anglican Life. Stow Lodge Hospital (late 18th century) used to be a workhouse, or ‘House of Industry’ as they liked to call it.
Readers of Pickwick Papers will perhaps recognise this ancient borough as ‘Eatanswill’. Art lovers will recall that this was the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), the 18th-century artist and founder of the Renal Academy in London. His statue stands in the market place and his father‘s Regency-front Tudor house is now a museum. St Peter‘s Church contains the ‘Sudbury Pall’, a fine piece of embroidered velvet, while St Gregory‘s preserves the head of the Archbishop of Canterbury murdered in the Peasants Revolt of 1381. East Anglia sent many early settlers to Massachusetts, whose first counties were Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Sudbury is surrounded by places of Anglo-American interest: to the south west lies the Castle Hedingham area; to the east is Groton. The manor at Groton was the ancestral home of the Winthrop family.
The 14th-century church, with a carved nave roof, is surrounded by thatched cottages.
Woodbridge, a market town on the River Deben, was once a busy seaport; it has a Shire Hall that dates back to the 16th century and several interesting old houses, including a half-timbered one with an old weighing machine attached in New Street. Edward Fitzgerald, translator of The Rubaiyat of Omar Kloayyam, once lived at Little Grange. The building of the abbey in Church Street began in 1564; the Perpendicular church contains a Seven Sacraments font and part of a 15th-century screen; and the Friends’ Meeting House dates from 1678. The famous 18th-century Tide Mill on the estuary has now been restored.
Woolpit’s name derives from ‘wolfpit’, a pit into which captured wolves were flung before they were killed in Saxon times.The church has a magnificent south porch, reminiscent of a castle gateway, and a fine hammerbeam roof carved with angels; the 16th-century brass eagle lectern is said to have been a gift from Queen Elizabeth I. The waters of nearby Lady’s Well were reputed in the 14th century to cure any ailment. Beside the green is an 18th-century coaching inn, and attractive timber-framed Tudor and Georgian houses are scattered throughout the village.
Yoxford, surrounded by the parklands of Cockfield Hall, Rookery Park and Grove Park, is known locally as ‘the garden of Suffolk’. Cockfield Hall (not open) was built during the reign of Henry VIII; the central block was rebuilt early in the 17th century and the Great Hall added in the 19th. The main street of the village contains attractively timbered, balconied and bow-windowed houses, whilst St Peter’s Church has a large number of, brasses. 4 miles to the east lies the National Nature Reserve of Westleton Heath.