Thursday, 16 August 2012

Immerse Yourself in Suffolk’s History - Your Guide to Some of the Historic Villages to Visit

Suffolk has a wealth of history, so if you are interested in bygone years there are many fascinating places to visit during your log cabin holidays including some wonderful historic villages.

While you will not be able visit all the locations listed here,Windmill Lodges is a great starting point to explore the surrounding area and enjoy a peaceful country break.

Here we shall look at the history of some of the ancient or historic villages in east Suffolk and give you some interesting snippets of information.

So if you are planning to immerse yourself in history during your log cabin holidays, here are a few of the attractions you can see along the way.

Windmill Lodges in East Anglia - Click here to view our four and five star luxury lodge accommodation for couples, groups of friends or families.

Historic Villages

If you are interested in years gone by, you will not have to travel far from Windmill Lodges to see Saxtead village’s attraction: Saxtead Green Post Mill. The grade II listed building is an 18th century corn mill, open to visitors on Fridays and at weekends and bank holidays during the spring and summer months.
Milling stopped taking place here when the last miller, Alfred Stephenson Robert Alfred, died in 1947, but it is still in full working order.  The mill was built on the site of a mill built in the early 1300’s. Climb the steps of the triple floored, 46 ft high mill to see the working machinery.

Just a thirty minute drive (15 miles) from Saxtead is the ancient ‘village’ or town of Dunwich where you can discover more about its eroding coastline. Incredibly, 1500 years ago, Dunwich was the capital of East Anglia. In 1086, the Domesday Book records a population of 3,000, but this has dwindled to around 80 people as most of the town’s buildings have disappeared into the sea.
Dunwich’s decline began in the late 13th century when a massive storm hit the East Anglian coast. Further storms hit in subsequent years and all eight 13th century built churches, hundreds of homes, and the harbour were eventually swept away. It is said the church bells can be heard beneath the waves at certain tides. You can find out more about the town by visiting Dunwich Museum.

Shingle Street
Shingle Street, which lies between Orford and Bawdsey, is a coastal hamlet with a fascinating history. It was once a fishing village and many buildings were obliterated during the Second World War, including the only pub: The Lifeboat Inn. During the war, there were many mysterious goings on including reports of a failed German invasion.

The civilian population were evacuated in May 1940 but there were no eyewitness reports to back this up. However, official documents have since shown this evacuation relates to a time when The Lifeboat Inn was used to test an uncharged chemical bomb.   

Without the right sea defences, it is said that Shingle Street will disappear into the sea within the next 20 years.

The medieval village of Lavenham is just 23 miles from Saxtead and is awash with pretty timber framed buildings - 320 of these in total. Lavenham was once the centre of the wool trade. It was granted a royal charter by Henry III which saw a rise in its fortunes and in the early 1500’s it was ranked the 14th most prosperous town in the country. The timber framed houses were built for people to show off their wealth, including Lavenham Priory and the Guildhall.

Take a wander around the village and visit the independent shops, boutiques, cafes and pubs.  The 15th century Swan pub has an interesting history and you can even see a wall here signed by allied servicemen stationed at Lavenham Airfield during World War One. American servicemen, including the legendary American jazz musician Glenn Miller, had drinks here before going on missions.

Snape (13 miles) has a history that stretches back two thousand years as there is evidence of some sort of settlement here during the Roman times and it was used as burial site in Anglo-Saxon times.
The village became a tourist destination for more than 150 years in the 18th and 19th centuries when it was used by race-goers. It also had a small, but busy port in the 19th century and three windmills - one, Hudson Mill, played a role in Suffolk’s Gold Rush after experiments here led to the creation of a new form of fertiliser which made some people’s fortunes.

Today Snape Maltings is the home of the world famous Concert Hall, which serves as the main venue for Aldeburgh Festival, founded by Benjamin Britten, one of the most important composers in the 20th century, and tenor Peter Pears, who lived and worked with him for more than 30 years.

The Maltings is a busy tourist destination and offers a great day out with many independent shops based here including clothing, antiques, books, crafts and homeware shops. After a day’s retail therapy, you can enjoy a cake at the tea room or a pint in the local pub.

Orford was an important fishing village in the Middle Ages and a 12th century castle was built here by Henry II who wanted to establish his royal influence in the region. The 27 metre high tower was regarded as the best keep in England and overlooks the Orford Ness. It was thought that the design of the keep was based on a hall in Constantinople by John II Komnenos.

As well as viewing the castle, you can make a day of your visit and take a river cruise, eat out at one of the local pubs or enjoy fine food at the two restaurants: The Crown and Castle Hotel and the Butley-Orford Oysterage.

Although this certainly does not come under the bracket of historic villages, the world’s smallest nation, called Sealand, lies just seven miles off the Suffolk coast. Just 27 people (claimed) and 4 (permit residing) live on this 550 sq metre island - which even has its own declared prince and princess, currency and stamps.

While it is unlikely you may visit it during your trip, it is interesting to know that there is, albeit unrecognised, an independent sovereign state off the Suffolk coast!

It has been occupied since 1967 by British Major Paddy Roy Bates and was established as a nation in 1975. It also has its own newspaper, sporting events, national flag and national anthem.

Related articles:

Log Cabin Holidays - Suffolk is Steeped in History

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