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Southwold

A nostalgic seaside resort with iconic lighthouse, pier and beach huts

An Introduction to Southwold in Suffolk

Market Place
Lavenders Blue
Church
BVR Engine

Southwold is described as the jewel of Suffolk's Heritage Coast, and it does not disappoint. With its famous pier, lighthouse and beach huts, Southwold is certainly one of the most popular resorts in East Anglia. Granted a Royal Charter back in 1489 by Henry VII, Southwold has a fascinating history and many links with the past can still be seen all over the town. The centre piece is the magnificent church, with its 100 foot tower and dedicated to the last king of East Anglia, St Edmund. Nearby, the lighthouse, also 100 feet tall, has given safe passage to sailors and fishermen since 1890. However, much of Southwold's historic legacy relates to a famous sea battle fought off the coast in Sole Bay during the 17th century, when thousands of men were lost. This military theme is repeated on Gun Hill, where 6 cannons face out to sea and today they are a reminder of all those lost in battle. But Southwold is not just about the past. It is a great place to have fun and enjoy yourself, no matter what the weather is doing. For example, the pier has a fantastic collection of unique slot machines that is a must for every visitor to the town. You will also find a variety of shops along the High Street in which you could quite easily loose a few hours just browsing. On a fine day, the beach makes a great place to relax or perhaps a picnic on one of Southwold's many greens.

Southwold Map

Aylsham Map Church Adnams High Street Pier Sea front Lighthouse Gun Hill
 

Southwold Guided Tour


We start our tour of Southwold adjacent to the famous pier, as this is where the main car-park is situated (pay & display, 60p per hour) and a public toilet (which bizarrely requires you to pay 10p). Adjacent to the car-park is a lovely boating lake and golf putting green.
Southwold Pier
Southwold Pier Front
Boating Lake
Southwold Boating Lake, which also hosts model yacht races
Golf Putting Green
Southwold Golf Putting Green

Nearby steps lead down to the North Beach, which is a lovely sandy beach with a row of Southwold's famous iconic beach huts behind it. There are around 300 beach huts stretching along the seafront at Southwold, and they evolved from being used by local fishermen into holiday huts. Often huts were linked to a property and selling the property, also sold the hut; but today many of these huts are so highly sought after that they are kept in families and passed between generations! There is a hut owners association and many books and television programmes have been made about them.
Beach Huts
Southwold Beach Huts
North Beach
North Beach

How much would you pay for a beach hut? One recently went up for sale in Southwold for an asking price of £70,000. The hut has no running water, no electricity and is only leasehold - so you don't even own the tiny piece of land the hut is sitting on! but the views are great and the neighbours are sure to be friendly. Click Here to view the property brochure!

Colourful Beach Huts
Pink Beach Hut
Blue Beach Hut
Yellow Beach Hut
Some of Southwold's colourful and iconic beach huts

Southwold Pier is one of the icons of Suffolk. The "T" shaped pier started life in 1900 as a landing jetty for steamers that used to run from London Bridge to Great Yarmouth, back in the days when we would travel by sea. In 1934 a storm badly damaged the pier and various sections were destroyed during the second world war. During the 50's and 60's the pier continued to weaken until finally in 1979 a storm reduced it's length to a mere 60 feet!! Thanks to a private purchase, the pier was eventually rebuilt using the latest piling techniques and finally reopened in 2001. The rejuvenated pier was named "Pier of the Year" in 2002 and its length of 623 feet allows it to accommodate occasional visits by Britain's only surviving sea-going passenger steamer, the Waverley. Today the pier houses various leisure and refreshment facilities and is one of the major attractions on the Suffolk Coast.
Southwold Pier Sign
Southwold Pier Sign
Southwold Pier
Looking out over Southwold Pier
Southwold Pier
Southwold Pier
Southwold Pier
Walking on the Pier

One thing not to miss on the pier is the water clock. It was designed and made by Tim Hunkin in 1998 and aims to show how water can be recycled in the home. The clock performs every 30 minutes and click here to see the highlight of the show - but why not visit and see for yourself!
Southwold Pier
Southwold Pier Water Clock
Southwold Pier
Trousers UP!

Further along the pier is an amazing collection of unique slot machines, also designed by Tim Hunkin. These include a slot machine that gives you an amazing beach body in just 3 minutes! and the Bathscape that claims to take you on an epic underwater sea adventure, showing you some of the North Sea's best kept secrets!
Quick Fit
Quick Fit Aerobics Workout - if only it were this simple!
Bathscape
The Bathscape underwater sea adventure

From the pier, we continue our tour along the seafront towards the town centre. The main sandy beach gives great views of the pier and is backed by a row of lovely victorian terrace houses. The lucky owners of these properties have absolutely fabulous views - no wonder these 3-storey terrace houses change hands for about half a million pounds!
Southwold Beach
Southwold Terrace
Sea-front Terrace House
House View
A Room with a View!

Midway along the seafront, we come to St James Green. This green used to be the location of Southwold’s Coastguard Station, hence the rigged mast, which was used for signaling. The two small canons are 18th-century castings recovered from shipwrecks in Sole Bay, where a famous sea battle took place during the 17th century. The English fleet teamed up with the French to take on the Dutch. The allied fleet was led by the Duke of York, who planned the battle from Southwold. The outcome of the battle was a draw, but thousands of men were lost on both sides and for many weeks bodies and limbs were washed up on the Suffolk shore!
St James Green
St James Green
Sole Bay Inn
Sole Bay Inn just behind St James Green

On the eve of the Battle of Sole Bay, the Earl of Sandwich met and fell in love with a red-headed serving girl. They spent the night together and as a result the Earl was late for the battle! He was killed during the fighting and his body was washed up along the coast. It is claimed that the ghost of the distraught servant girl roams the corridors of Sutherland House awaiting her lover’s return.

From the green we now start to head into the town centre. The first point of interest is the magnificent lighthouse, another of Southwold's iconic structures. This lighthouse was constructed by Trinity House and first came into operation in 1890 as a coastal marker for passing ships and as a guide into Southwold Harbour. The original light was lit by oil and then petroleum vapour, finally converted to electricity in 1938, when the lighthouse also became unmanned. The lighthouse opens its doors on certain days and you can climb the 100-feet to the top to view the lamp close-up and get great views over the town and coast.
Southwold Lighthouse
Southwold Lighthouse
Southwold Lighthouse
Looking up Southwold Lighthouse
Trinity House Coat Arms
Trinity House coat of arms at the base of the lighthouse
Lighthouse Top
The light at the top
Lighthouse Stairs
92 steps to the top of the lighthouse!
Lighthouse Lamp
The light is powered by 3 small 12-volt bulbs!
Lighthouse View North
The view North
Lighthouse View South
The view South

Next we come to the main gates of the Adnams Brewery. Records dating as far back as 1345 show that 18 Southwold wives were charged in the courts for brewing ale on this site. In 1872 George and Ernest Adnams bought the local Sole Bay Brewery and Adnams was born. Amazingly 8 years later, George decided to leave Suffolk and live in South Africa, where his life was tragically cut short when he was eaten alive by a crocodile! However, his brother continued to build up the brewery and in 1902 the Loftus family joined the business. These 2 families have continued to build this impressive local business and both families are still represented on the board today. The Adnams brand continues to go from strength to strength.
Adnams Factory
Adnams Main Factory. Notice the figure of Southwold Jack, a famous local figure from the War of the Roses.
Adnams Brewery Sign
Adnams Logo on a nearby wall

Across a small green you will come to the towering church of St Edmund's. A church has stood on this site since about 1200, with the current building dating from 1460. It is built from stone shipped in from Caen in France, with local flint used for the detailed patterns. The tower soars 100 feet above ground and contains a peal of 8 bells.
St Edmunds
St Edmund Figure
Tied up figure of St Edmund above the door
Flintwork
Detailed Flintwork

Do you know the story of Kind Edmund? Way back in the year 869AD, Edmund was King of East Anglia. A great army of Danes attacked from the North and Edmund engaged them fiercely in battle, but the Danes had the upper hand and won. Stories tell how the victorious heathen Danes tried to force Edmund to renounce his Christian beliefs, but he refused. So they tied him up and shot him with arrows. He died a martyr and was buried in a shrine in what is known today as Bury St Edmund's. You will find churches dedicated to his memory all over England and he is the patron saint of Suffolk.

Inside, this beautiful church has many interesting features. The most famous is Southwold Jack, who represents a soldier from the Wars of the Roses. He is dressed in armour and holds a sword and battle axe, which rings a bell to tell the congregation that the service is about to start! The font has an elaborate cover, which is a staggering 24-feet high! The original cover was destroyed during the reformation in 1643, with this replacement made in 1935. Finally, the east window depicts scenes of Kind Edmund's martyrdom and was installed in 1954 after the original window was blown out by a German bomb in 1943.
Adnams Factory
The view inside St Edmund's
Adnams Brewery Sign
The magnificent roof above the alter
Southwold Jack
Southwold Jack
Font and Cover
The Font and cover
Stained Glass Window
The east window by Sir Ninian Comper

Returning back over the green, we pass the Southwold Museum which charts the history of Southwold in objects, pictures and models. On the corner with the High Street is the town sign, depicting the famous sea battle fought off Southwold in 1672. Above the 2 galleons, notice the town seal with the motto ‘Defend They Ryght’,
Southwold Museum
The Southwold Museum
Town Sign
Southwold Town Sign

We are now at the start of the High Street, Southwold's main shopping street. It extends to the market place and contains many varied shops, galleries, hotels and the town hall. It's a great place to spend an hour or two, either browsing the shops or on a fine day, sitting outside and enjoying a refreshment. The main hotels along the High Street - the Crown and the Swan - are both owned by Adnams.
High Street
High Street
Southwold Gallery
Southwold Gallery
Crown Hotel
Crown Hotel
Swan Hotel
Swan Hotel
Town Hall
Town Hall
Tea Shop
A hidden tea shop off the High Street

From the Market Place, we continue our tour passing South Green towards Gun Hill. Previously known as Eye Hill, this area was renamed when 6 guns were placed here during the 18th century. The guns were used for various celebrations and in 1842 when celebrating the Prince of Wales birthday, one gun misfired. A young soldier named James Martin, looked down the barrel and unfortunately the gun blew his head off. He died leaving a widow and 3 young children - many claim to have seen his ghost walking on the hill. The guns were never fired again. Today, Gun Hill is a great place for a picnic on a fine day or to play a family game of cricket or rounders.
Gun Hill
The cannons on Gun Hill
War Memorial
50th anniversary war memorial on Gun Hill

Suffolk Cottages

Southwold summary of what to SEE and DO

Enjoy the lovely sandy beach
Admire the colourful beach huts
Stroll along the pier and discover the water clock
Have a laugh in the "under the pier show"
Browse the pier shops or take a break in the cafe
Wander along the sea-front and admire the property
Sit on the seat overlooking the sea at St James Green
Visit the lighthouse and climb to the top
Explore the magnificent church of St Edmund
Visit the Southwold Museum
Browse the shops in the High Street
Relax in one of the towns pubs
Enjoy or game of cricket on Gun Hill or South Green
Hire a rowing boat on the boating lake

Our Verdict

Southwold is a great place to visit, a place where cultural heritage meets modern charm, we thoroughly recommend it!
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Tour Index

Harbour

Nearby Tours

Local Attractions

Southwold Pier
Southwold Museum
Coastal Voyager

Other Pictures

Along the Pier
Looking along the pier
Decoration Direct
Decoration Direct Slot Machine
Pier Piano
Playing a piano on the pier
St James Green Cottage
Cottage overlooking St James Green
Rood Screen
The Rood Screen in St Edmund's Church
Lord Nelson Inn
The Lord Nelson Inn
Jubilee Clock
Silver Jubilee Clock in the Market Place
Nutters
Nutters Delicatessen
Serendipity
Serendipity Card Shop
Beach Huts
Beach huts below Gun Hill

The Southwold Store

 
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Church Adnams High Street Pier Sea front Lighthouse Gun Hill