The town of 'Southwold' on the East coast of England is the Jewel in the crown of East Suffolk seaside resorts. It is a tranquil place, a peaceful haven, holding its own elaborate history.
The popular common area was donated to the town by Thomas Godyll in 1509, and was in itself a monumental act, and it has been preserved through the years. Today it is one of the most widely used areas, and is home to the golf, football, and rugby clubs. Southwold was incorporated in a charter of Henry VII in 1489, and is an ancient town that remains remarkably un spoilt.
In 1659 a devastating fire destroyed much of the borough, with the resultant rebuilding work creating the distinctive Southwold 'Greens' as fire breaks in case such a disaster should reoccur. Beneath these greens it is believed that some of the ruins of the properties destroyed in the fire may still be found.
Southwold has a superb award winning beach, and one of the country's most famous piers. The pier built in 1900, was devastated by a severe gale in 1934 when the force of the storm destroyed the head of the pier. The pier was further damaged during the second world war, and for many years was a shadow of its former glory. Following a major refurbishment by its present owner, the pier has seen enormous visitor numbers and has served to reverse the former declining interest in coastal piers. It represents one of the many highlights of the town.
As we stand on the beach beside the famous beach huts and the pier looking out across the North Sea we are reminded of one of the most famous sea battles to be fought off of our coast. The battle of 'Solebay' was fought in 1672, it was a monumental struggle. The English and French fleets clashed with the Dutch just off shore. Within the English and French fleets there were a combined total of 71 warships with the Dutch totaling 61 vessels. The total number of men involved in this battle is said to have been 50,000. The brother of Charles II, James Duke of York was the admiral of the English fleet, and took up residence in Sutherland House.
There still remains links to the Dutch within the town, possibly one of the finest examples is to be found at the museum in Bartholomew Green, which is a grade II listed building with Dutch gables. On Gun Hill, (again overlooking the sea) you could not fail to be impressed by the eighteen pound cannons. It is said these guns were given to the town in 1746 by the Royal Armouries, as a protection to shipping against raids. The last known firing was in 1842 to celebrate the Prince of Wales birthday. Tragically whilst re-loading one of the cannons, a man was killed by an explosion.
Southwold (like many towns) was bombed in the 1914-18 war. The German army considered that Southwold might be a 'fortified place' because of the Cannons on Gun Hill. The cannons were subsequently buried during this period. In the second world war the guns were concealed.
Southwold has three dominant landmarks, when approaching from inland, the huge water tower is the first of these visible, others being the tower of the parish church of St. Edmund's, and the magnificent whitewashed lighthouse. The first water tower built in 1896 was replaced in 1937 by a 150,000 gallon building. The parish church of St. Edmund's (1460) was established on the site of a far older church dating from 1200. The lighthouse which commenced operation in 1890 is located near East Green. It replaced the original wooden structure at Gun Hill. This present 101 foot high tower was originally illuminated by paraffin, being converted to electricity in 1938. This superb building is one of the most photographed shoots in the town, being visible from many locations.
Southwold has an array of fine pubs, restaurants, and tea rooms. The famous Adnams brewery also forms part of the towns history. Adnams has recently opened a brand new 'cellar and kitchen' wine store, on the site of their old distribution centre. Beer is still brewed in Southwold today, and has been brewed for more than 300 years.
Southwold has an exquisite harbour, and is a delight to visit. It was once a very busy fishing port, and it is recorded in the doomsday book, that Southwold was a prosperous fishing port in the 11th Century. There are still a variety of inshore fishing vessels operating from the harbour, with fresh fish regularly on sale along the Blackshore area. There are regular ferry and river trips available. The Harbour Inn is quite renowned, and serves excellent food. Harbour Marine Services, along the shore offers a comprehensive Service to all vessel owners. At the Harbour entrance you will find the Royal National Lifeboat Station, again with its own history of rescue from the sea. The spectacular views are a magnet for artists.