My favourite type of British seaside resort is one that is not too big, not too small, one that offers a traditional atmosphere, with plenty of history and character along with the beach, pier and so forth. Places like Lyme Regis, Whitstable – and Southwold, which manages to do the traditional seaside thing in the best possible taste, whether it is the smart pier with its pleasant boardwalk cafe and its quirky Under The Pier Show, or the delightful beach huts arranged in multi-coloured rows (a quick check online reveals one for sale at £50,000). Southwold even has its own lighthouse, unusually situated right in the town, towering proudly over everything. Another building which dominates the skyline is the fascinating church, with its typical Suffolk flint and stone ‘flushwork’. The church is dedicated to St Edmund, King and Martyr, the 9th century East Anglian king who was killed by the invading Danes for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The church has many interesting features, including the figure called “Southwold Jack”, a representation of a soldier from the Wars of the Roses, with his stubbly beard and bloodshot eyes, armed with a sword and a battle axe.
Southwold’s entry in the Domesday Book included a reference to the large numbers of herrings sent every year to the monks of Bury St Edmunds. There is a creek to the north of the town called Buss Creek, named after the ‘busses’ or herring boats. The scariest episode in Southwold’s history came in 1659 when most of it was destroyed by fire. But the town rose like a phoenix from the ashes, this time in a decidedly Dutch style of architecture. As if the fire were not enough trauma, 13 years later in 1672 there was a fierce battle in Sole Bay just off Southwold between the English and French on one side and the Dutch on the other, leading to around 2,500 English casualties and the destruction of the English flagship. The battle is recalled in the pub sign outside the Sole Bay Inn.
For a list of events in Southwold see here.
Map of the area.