Heritage > Counties > England

Suffolk

The eastern county of Suffolk covers an expanse of some 1,500 square miles and has a population of just 640,000. Indicating just how reliant the county is on agriculture.

Suffolk has the town of Ipswich as it's administrative headquarters with the ports of Felixstowe and Lowestoft and the capital of the Saxon kingdom of Anglia, Bury St Edmunds, as it's other main towns. Suffolk has no cities but these and other fine market towns are resplendent in their nature.

The county lists its main products as cereals, sugar beet, fertilizers, agricultural machinery and the famous Suffolk Punch breed of working horse.

Famous sons and daughters of Suffolk include the artists Constable and Gainsborough and the composer Sir Benjamin Britten.

The headquarters of British horse racing is to be found at Newmarket in the west of the county.

Facts on the region

Origin of name: Of Anglo-Saxon origin meaning 'Southern people' to distinguish them from the 'Northfolk'.

Name first recorded: 895 as Suth Folchi.

County Motto: Opus Nostrum Dirige ('Direct Our Work').

County Town: IPSWICH A rich trading port in the Middle Ages. Despite insensitive urban planning, the Ancient House (1567) with its exceptional decorative plasterwork and Christchurch Mansion are well worth a visit.

County Rivers: Deben, Stour, Waveney, Lark.

Highest point: Rede at 420 feet.

Suffolk’s local government: A two-tier system of Suffolk County Council and then seven district councils; Babergh, Forest Heath, Ipswich, Mid-Suffolk, St Edmundsbury, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney. Around Suffolk’s Gorleston and Little Yarmouth, Norfolk County and Great Yarmouth District councils take control.

The local landscape

On its North Sea front it is gentle, with shingle shores, sandy beaches or low cliffs, though King Neptune has not always been kind for here the sea can storm in to take away as much as it gives in other parts of Britain. However, birdlife thrives along parts of this coast, especially at Minsmere Bird Sanctuary where avocets and other wading birds seek refuge.

Inland the softly undulating land is cut into fields and farmsteads, enfolding gold, often picturesque villages sunk into flowery meads bordered by slow-flowing steams. The soil base is a soft, friable loam, sometimes clay, over a base of sand. It is a largely agricultural county with belts of woodland; several kinds of crops are produced here alongside cattle farms and smallholdings, with many of the fields still enclosed in low hedges.

To the west the land breaks up somewhat with high pine-wooded heath around the racing town of Newmarket. There is even some fen. Little dramatic scenery here, but plenty of surprises lie in store in the secrets of Suffolk.

Local Towns and Villages

ALDEBURGH: Reputedly the best sprats and herring are caught in November and December along its famous long, straight and somewhat desolate shore.

BURY ST EDMUNDS: A busy market town manufacturing agricultural instruments.

FELIXSTOWE: Seaside resort and container port with Edwardian buildings and a handsome promenade nearly 2 miles long.

FRAMLINGHAM: An impressive castle ruin with square towers rather than round ones set in a market town with many attractive buildings centre round the market square. Many film and TV programmes have been shot here.

GORLESTON: Seaside resort with a long sandy beach.

HAVERHILL: In the far southwest by the border with Essex the centre of Haverhill has been buried by modern development.

LAVENHAM: Hardly changed since its heyday as an important Middle Ages wool town, it is one of the most outstanding places in the county. The popular antiques sleuth show Lovejoy has been filmed here.

LONG MELFORD A stately village because of all the stately manors and other residences that dot this impressively wealthy area.

LOWESTOFT A centre of fishing from the 14th century and the fleets still unload their catches for the busy fish market. The scores are narrow alleys going down steeply from the High Street to the shore where the herring curing houses stood.

NEWMARKET In a small shepherd’s crook of the county, Newmarket offers a handsome and spacious red-brick town that has been a centre of racing for centuries. The Jockey Club’s HQ since 1750. Woodbridge This compact town near Bury was a thriving shipbuilding port, now more famous for antiques and yachts. Along with old houses it has several half-timbered inns.

Bungay

Halesworth

Leiston

Little Yarmouth

Lakenheath

Stowmarket

Places to Visit

Kenwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk

Abbey Visitor Center, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Belchamp Hall, Sudbury, Suffolk

Euston Hall, Norfolk

Framlingham Castle, Framlingham, Suffolk

Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk

Calendar

The Suffolk Agricultural show, the Military Tattoo in Ipswich and the Southwold Fair take place in June.

Founded by Benjamin Britten (who was born in Lowestoft) in 1947, the Aldeburgh Festival takes place each year for three weeks in June.

Framlingham Castle hosts events from Civil War battles to Shakespeare plays and dog trials.

Flat racing at Newmarket in spring and summer.

Power-boat racing at Oulton Broad and Lowestoft.

Late August: Felixstowe Fuschia Festival.

July: Bungay Festival, drama, music parade. Music and fireworks at Bungay Castle.

Famous names from the region

Outspoken theatre director Sir Peter Hall is a native of Bury St Edmunds.

Author and critic V.S. Pritchett was born in Ipswich.

BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson spent much of his childhood in crumbling Dunwich.

King John was brought to book by the barons at Bury St Edmund’s and a butcher's son, later Cardinal Wolsey, from Ipswich achieved the high office of Chancellor under Henry VIII.

The Merry Monarch, King Charles II, made Newmarket famous, lending his name to events.

Gregory Peck came to Alpheton and its American air base to star in the film Twelve O’Clock High

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