Southwold North Parade.jpg
The lighthouse from the North Parade
Southwold is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
Area2.68 km2 (1.03 sq mi)
Population1,098 (2011 Census)[1]
• Density410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtIP18
Dialling code01502
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°19′37″N 1°40′48″E / 52°19′37″N 1°40′48″E / 52.327; 1.680

Southwold is a small town and civil parish on the English North Sea coast in the East Suffolk district of Suffolk. It lies at the mouth of the River Blyth within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town is about 11 miles (18 km) south of Lowestoft, 29 miles (47 km) north-east of Ipswich and 97 miles (156 km) north-east of London, within the parliamentary constituency of Suffolk Coastal. The "All Usual Residents" 2011 Census figure gives a total of 1,098 persons for the town. The 2012 Housing Report by the Southwold and Reydon Society concluded that 49 per cent of the dwellings in the town are used as second homes and let to holiday-makers.[2]


Crews rush to their 3.7-inch guns, 127th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 9 October 1944

Southwold was mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) as a fishing port, and after the "capricious River Blyth withdrew from Dunwich in 1328, bringing trade to Southwold in the 15th century",[3] it received its town charter from Henry VII in 1489. Over the following centuries, however, a shingle bar built up across the harbour mouth, preventing the town from becoming a major Early Modern port: "The shingle at Southwold Harbour, the mouth of the Blyth, is ever shifting," William Whittaker observed in 1887.[4]

Southwold was the home of a number of Puritan emigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, notably a party of 18 assembled under Rev. Young, which travelled in the Mary Ann in 1637.[5] Richard Ibrook, born in Southwold and a former bailiff of the town, emigrated to Hingham, Massachusetts, along with Rev. Peter Hobart, son of Edmund Hobart of Hingham, Norfolk. Rev. Hobart had been an assistant vicar of St Edmund's Church, Southwold, after graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge.[6] Hobart married in America Rebecca Ibrook, daughter of his fellow Puritan Richard Ibrook. The migrants to Hingham were led by Robert Peck, vicar of St Andrew's Church in Hingham and a native of Beccles.[7]

A fire in 1659 devastated most of the town and damaged St Edmund's Church, whose original structure dated from the 12th century. The fire created a number of open spaces within the town which were never rebuilt. Today this "series of varied and very delightful village greens"[8] and the restriction of expansion by the surrounding marshes, have preserved the town's genteel appearance.

On the green just above the beach, descriptively named Gun Hill, 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 (under Michiel de Ruyter) on the other. The battle was bloody but indecisive and many bodies were washed ashore. Southwold Museum has a collection of mementos of the event. It has occasionally been said that these cannon were captured from the Scots at Culloden and given to the town by the Duke of Cumberland, who had landed at Southwold in October 1745 having been recalled from Europe to deal with the Jacobite threat, but they are much larger than those used by Charles Edward Stuart's army in that campaign. During World War I, it was widely thought that these cannon were one reason why this part of the coast was bombarded by the German Fleet as a "fortified coast". In World War II the cannon were prudently removed, reputedly buried for safety, and returned to their former position after hostilities.[citation needed]

On 15 May 1943 low-flying German fighter-bombers attacked the town and killed eleven people.[9]

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