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10 Historical Southwold Facts

Written by Leah Smith on

Southwold has an incredibly extensive history with its reference in the Domesday Book, connections to famous writers and its fishing industry. Over the years Southwold has seen many changes so we’ve put together some interesting facts about Southwold which you may or may not have known…

1) Mills and Sons Butchers…

Mills and Sons Butchers is the oldest shop in Southwold with continued use. Its butchery history dates back to around 1684 and a sign outside the shop provides us with names of all the butchers to date.

2) Southwold School of Industrial Art…

In 1894 local resident Arthur Flowers set up the Southwold School of Industrial Art located along Park Lane. His goal was to help local fishermen provide for their families in the winter and he set up wood-carving classes. However in 1914 the school closed. After the war the property became a tea shop and subsequently a private house.

3) Southwold Had Many Mills…

In 1841 Baggott’s Mill, a wind-powered flour mill opens along Field Stile Road. The mill continued in operation until 1876 where a fire destroyed the mill. The following year two semi-detached cottages were built on the site. There were also additional mill sites through the town.

4) Pubs a Plenty…

Many of the houses we see today used to be former pubs. Lorne House on the High Street was formerly known as The Marquess of Lorne pub. The pub was fully functional until around 1956 when the premises was de-licensed. There was also another pub located in Victoria Street called The Old Royal which was an Adnams pub and closed in the 1980s.

5) Stradbroke Road…

Known as the ‘Lighthouse Road’, only recently has Stradbroke Road become a residential street. In past years most of the street and the adjoining streets were dotted with shops, bakeries, a post office, greengrocers, veterinary clinic, library and more.

6) A Writers Haven…

Southwold is famed for being home to some of the most famous literary figures. Eric Blair, known as George Orwell, came to the town when his Father retired and used to reside at Montague House. PD James, renowned crime writer also lived in Southwold just off the market place. Strickland House in Park Lane is named after the Strickland sisters who lived there.

7) Schools…

Southwold used to have an all-boys school in the heart of the town called Eversley School which was operating between 1895 and 1998. The school also had a separate gymnasium (now known as The Old Gymnasium) and playing field in Reydon off the Wangford Road. The school closed due to falling pupil numbers and the site has now been converted into housing. Saint Felix School also used to reside in Southwold – along Centre Cliff which has stunning views of the sea. The headmistress lived in the right hand side of the school and the property formerly had another floor which was bombed during the war. Saint Felix School is now based in Reydon. Today Southwold still has its Primary School which is located in Cumberland Road, just behind St Edmunds Church.

8) Salt Works and Bath House…

Sea salt was manufactured on the junction of Gardner Road and Queens Road since around 1660 and became a key player in the town’s herring industry. Adjacent to site was ‘The Bath House’ where salt water was pumped to the bath house boiler by a wind pump.  Hot salt water baths with so called ‘therapeutic benefits’ became a popular tourist attraction and contributed to the Salt Works success.  However the salt works ceased in the 1900s when the site was sold. Today the public toilets occupy the former Bath House site.

9) Sailors Reading Room…

Founded by Mrs Rayley in 1864, The Sailors Reading Room is one of the most interesting landmarks in Southwold’s history and was built in memory of Charles Rayley, her husband. The idea behind The Sailors Reading Room was for local fishermen to seek refuge when they were not at sea to keep them out of the pubs and to exercise Christian values. Inside you can find a collection of maritime history from pictures of the fishermen to model boats and ships and memberships can be purchased for snooker tournaments.

10) Southwold Pier…

When the Second World War began a section of the Pier was removed due to fear of invasion. In 1941 a wayward sea mine hit the Pier which destroyed another section and again in 1955 further damage was created when another storm struck and washed away the end. In more recent years a reconstruction began in 1999 and was finally finished in 2002. 

Leah Smith

Written by

Admin & Homeowner Liaison Assistant
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