Clambering over (or, if you’re a tad more dignified, being photographed beside!) the cannon on Gun Hill is must-do for every Southwold holiday.
On the green just above the beach, the six 18-pounder cannon commemorate the Battle of Sole Bay, fought in 1672 between English and French fleets on one side and the Dutch on the other. The battle was bloody and many bodies were washed ashore – Southwold Museum has mementos of the event. The guns were last fired in 1842, to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, with tragic results: soldier James Martin looked down the muzzle of one after a misfire and the delayed explosion blew his head off.
During World War I it was widely thought that the cannon were one reason why this part of the coast was bombarded by the German Fleet. In World War II the cannon were prudently removed, and returned to their former position once hostilities ceased.
The only building on Gun Hill is the Casino – originally a reading room – though it’s thought that there were more before the 1659 fire which ravaged much of Southwold. The town’s famous ‘Greens’ were created in response to this: evidence of early town planning designed to prevent a similar disaster in the future.