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Lowestoft beach and outer harbour.jpg
Lowestoft beach and outer harbour
Grid reference: TM548933
Location: 52°28’48"N, 1°45’0"E
Population: 64,358  (2001)
Post town: Lowestoft
Postcode: NR32, NR33
Dialling code: 01502
Local Government
Council: East Suffolk

Lowestoft is a coastal town in Suffolk. The town is on the North Sea coast and Lowestoft Ness on the coast in the town is the most easterly point of Great Britain and indeed of the whole of the United Kingdom.

The town is found 38 miles north-east of Ipswich and 22 miles south-east of Norwich. It is situated on the edge of the Broads, and is the major town of this part of the Suffolk coast, with a population of 64,358 at the 2001 census. To the north is its Norfolk counterpart, Great Yarmouth.

The town

Lowestoft is a port town which developed due to the fishing industry and a traditional seaside resort. It has wide, sandy beaches, two piers and a number of other tourist attractions. Whilst its fisheries have declined, the development of oil and gas exploitation in the southern North Sea in the 1960s led to the development of the town, along with nearby Great Yarmouth, as a base for the industry. This role has since declined and the town has begun to develop as a centre of the renewable energy industry within East Anglia.

Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Britain has been found in Lowestoft and the town has a long history.

Lowestoft retains a number of narrow lanes with steps running steeply towards the sea, known locally as "scores". These were used by fishermen and smugglers in the past and are now the site of an annual race which raises money for charity.[1][2]

Mariners' Score

Culture and community

The Marina Theatre is the largest theatre in the town. The Seagull theatre in Pakefield is smaller.

Lowestoft Museum, which holds a collection of Lowestoft Porcelain as well as artifacts describing the town's history, is in Nicholas Everett Park in Oulton Broad.[1] Lowestoft's other museums include the Maritime Museum and Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum, both located in Sparrow's Nest park in the north of the town, and the Heritage Workshop Centre.[3]

The Mincarlo is the last surviving sidewinder trawler of the Lowestoft fishing fleet and can be visited at Lowestoft Harbour. The East Anglia Transport Museum, which holds a collection of buses, trams and trolleybuses is located in Carlton Colville.

Lowestoft library, located in the centre of the town, contains a local history section and a branch of the Suffolk Record Office.[4]

The Beach radio station broadcasts to Lowestoft and the surrounding area as does BBC Radio Suffolk.

The local weekly paper is the Lowestoft Journal.


St Margaret's church, Lowestoft

The borough church is St Margaret's and is a Grade I listed building.[5][6]

Churches in the town include:


Following the discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield in south Lowestoft in 2005, the human habitation of the Lowestoft area can be traced back 700,000 years. This establishes Lowestoft as one of the earliest known sites for human habitation in Britain.[7] The area was settled during the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages and during the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods; an Anglo-Saxon cemetery has produced a number of finds at Bloodmoor Hill in south Lowestoft.[8][9]

The town's name is from the Viking period, from the personal name Hloþver, and toft,[10] a Viking word for 'homestead'. The town's name has been spelled variously: Lothnwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft and Laystoft.

At the Domesday survey of 1086, the village was known as Lothuwistoft and was relatively small with a population of around 16 households.[11] The manor formed part of the King's holding within the Hundred of Lothingland and was worth about four geld in tax income.[11][12] Roger Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk was the tenant in chief of the village.[12] The village of Akethorpe may have been located close to Lowestoft.[13]

In the Middle Ages Lowestoft became an increasingly important fishing town. The industry grew quickly and the town grew to challenge its neighbour Great Yarmouth.[1][14] The trade, particularly fishing for herring, continued to act as the town's main identity until the 20th century.

In June 1665 the Battle of Lowestoft, the first battle of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, took place 40 miles off the coast of the town. The battle resulted in a significant victory for the English fleet over the Dutch.[15]

Lowestoft's Yacht Basin in 1929

In the 19th century, the arrival of Sir Samuel Morton Peto brought about a change in Lowestoft's fortunes.[14] Railway contractor Peto was contracted by the Lowestoft Railway & Harbour Company to build a railway line between Lowestoft and Reedham. This stimulated the further development of the fishing industry and the Port of Lowestoft in general.[16] The development of the port boosted trade with the continent.[16] Peto's railway not only enabled the fishing industry to get its fish to market, but assisted the development of other industries such as engineering and helped to establish Lowestoft as a flourishing seaside holiday resort.[14][16]

During First World War, Lowestoft was bombarded by the German Navy on 24 April 1916. The port was a significant naval base during the war, including for armed trawlers such as Ethel & Millie and Nelson which were used to combat German U-boat actions in the North Sea such as the action of 15th August 1917. In Second World War, the town was heavily targeted for bombing by the Luftwaffe due to its engineering industry and role as a naval base.[17][18] It is sometimes claimed that it became one of the most heavily bombed towns per head of population in the UK.[17] The Royal Naval Patrol Service, formed primarily from trawlermen and fishermen from the Royal Naval Reserve, was mobilised at Lowestoft in August 1939. The service had its central depot HMS Europa, also known as Sparrow's Nest, in the town. Many Lowestoft fishermen served in the patrol service.[19]

Lowestoft porcelain

During the second half of the 18th century a factory in Crown Street produced soft-paste porcelain ware.[14][20] Items still exist, and there are collections at the museum in Nicholas Everett Park, Oulton Broad, and at the Castle Museum, Norwich. The factory produced experimental wares in about 1756 and first advertised their porcelain in 1760, operating until about 1801.[20][21] The factory was working for longer than any English soft-paste porcelain producer other than Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby.[21]

Lowestoft collectors divide the factory's output into three distinct periods, Early Lowestoft circa 1756 to 1761, Middle-Period circa 1761 to 1768 and Late-Period circa 1768 to the closure of the factory in about 1801.[21][22] During the early period wares decorated with Chinese-inspired scenes in underglaze blue were produced. This type of decoration continued throughout the life of the factory but scenes were gradually simplified. Overglaze colours in enamel were used from about 1768.[1]

The factory, which was built on the site of an existing pottery or brick kiln, was later used as a brewery and malt kiln. Most of the remaining buildings were demolished in 1955.[21]

Traditional industries

Traditional trawler, the Mincarlo now a museum ship

Until the mid 1960s, fishing was perceived as Lowestoft's main industry,[14] although from the 1930s the percentage of those employed directly and in trades associated with fishing was actually only around 10% of the working population. Fleets of drifters and trawlers caught fish such as herring, cod and plaice. Catches have diminished since the 1960s[23] and, although by the 1980s 100 boats remained, there are now only a few small boats operating out of Lowestoft, with no trawlers remaining.[24][25] By 2011 just three traders remained at the town's fish market which is under threat of closure due to the redevelopment of the port.[26][27] The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), a large fisheries research centre, which is a part of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is still located in Lowestoft.

Other major traditional employers included the Eastern Coach Works and a variety of engineering and ship building companies clustered around the harbour.[14] These included Brooke Marine and Richards shipbuilding companies, who together employed over a thousand men but went out of business in the 1990s, and Norwich based engineering company Boulton and Paul.[14][28] Some ship building and repair still goes on in the harbour.[29][30]

Modern economy

Windfarm construction in Lowestoft Harbour

Major local employers include Birds Eye frozen foods which employs 700 workers.[31][32] The company has been located in the town for over 60 years.[33] Food processing company Wessex Foods closed its Lowestoft plant in 2010 after a major fire destroyed the factory and the company was unable to find alternative premises.[34]

A number of other local employers have had to make redundancies in recent years. The Sanyo plant in the town closed down in 2009 with the loss of 60 jobs.[35] The plant once employed 800 people.[36] Timber company Jeld-Wen closed their factory in the town in 2010.[28]

From the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, the oil and gas industry provided significant employment in the Lowestoft area.[37] For many years the Shell Southern Operations base on the north shore of Lowestoft Harbour was one of the town's largest employers.[37] A decision to close the Shell base was finally made in 2003.[38] The oil and gas industry is still a significant industry within the town.[39][40][41]

The town has attempted to develop itself as a centre for the development of renewable energy in the east of England.[42] The non-profit Orbis Energy centre has been set up to attract business in the green energy sector to the town and features Passive solar building design|solar thermal heating.[43][44][45][46] In April 2009, Associated British Ports announced that the harbour is to become the operations centre for the 500 megawatt Greater Gabbard offshore windfarm which, when completed, will be the world’s largest offshore windfarm. The turbines will be located 15 miles off the Suffolk coast, and Lowestoft’s Outer Harbour is to be used to house the necessary operational support facilities. Other developments in the renewable energy sector include a prototype tidal energy generator being produced by local company 4NRG[47] and wave power systems developed by Trident Energy.[48]

Lowestoft is also bidding for to be the operational base for the proposed 5,000 megawatt 'Zone 5' wind farm, planned for construction off-shore.[49][50]


Lowestoft beach at the airshow

Lowestoft is a traditional seaside resort, first developing as a bathing site in the 1760s.[1] The coast has been branded the "Sunrise Coast". The town's main beaches are to the south of the harbour and have Blue Flag status. Two piers, the Claremont and South piers, provide tourist facilities and the East Point Pavilion is the site of the tourist information service.[1][51] Lifeguard facilities are provided during the summer and watersports take place along the coast.[51]

Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park is situated on the northern edge of the town.[52] In the west at Oulton Broad boat trips and watersports on the Broads and River Waveney are attractions, with companies such as Hoseasons operating hire boats from Oulton Broad.[39] To the south Africa Alive at Kessingland is a major attraction whilst Pontins operates a holiday park at Pakefield where 160 jobs were created in 2010.[39]

A major attraction in recent years has been Lowestoft Airshow, founded in 1996. The two day event, which takes place in August, features a wide range of aircraft including, in the past, the Red Arrows, a Lancaster bomber, Spitfires and an Avro Vulcan.[53] In 2002, a Royal Air Force Harrier plane crashed into the sea during the festival.[54] An RAF board of inquiry later established that the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Cann, had accidentally operated the controls for throttle and nozzle direction lever at the same time, causing it to drop sharply.[55]

The event, which has been run by Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival Ltd, a not for profit company, since 2004, has had financial difficulties in the past and made a £40,000 loss in 2010.[56][57] Waveney District Council has helped support the event, which has significant economic benefits to the town, but it has lacked a main sponsor since 2007 when Birds Eye withdrew its sponsorship of the £250,000 cost of staging the show.[56][57][58] The event raises money through collections for local charities which, in turn, provide stewarding. In 2010, despite the operating loss, £27,000 was donated to groups.[59] It has been estimated that the show generates 180 jobs and benefits the local economy by more than £13 million a year.[56]

Lowestoft Ness

Lowestoft High lighthouse

Lowestoft Ness is the short projection of land from the town's owtherwise smooth north-south coastline, whose head is known as "Ness Point". This is the most easterly location in the United Kingdom, and is located in the town. By Lowestoft Ness At the most easterly point is a large compass rose, the Euroscope, set in the ground which gives the direction and distance to various cities in Britain and Europe.[60]

Sights of the town

Belle Vue Park is the site of the Royal Naval Patrol Service memorial. The central depot for the service was in Lowestoft when it was mobilised in August 1939 on a site known as Sparrow's Nest adjacent to the memorial. The memorial has the names of the 2,385 members of the service who died in World War II.[19]

Lowestoft High Lighthouse, located to the north of the town centre, was built at its present location on the cliffs above the Denes in 1676, although two candlelit lights were first established in the town in 1609.[61] The present structure was built in 1874 and stands 52 feet tall, 120 feet above sea level. The light, which has a range of 23 nautical miles, was electrified in 1936 and automated in 1975.[61]

Sport and leisure

Lowestoft has a variety of sports clubs and facilities.

  • Cricket: Lowestoft Cricket Club plays at the Denes Oval sports ground.[62]
  • Football: Lowestoft Town Football Club plays at Crown Meadow and Kirkley & Pakefield Football Club plays at Walmer Road.
  • Other sports clubs include Waveney Gymnastics club[63] and Rookery Park golf club.[64]

The town's main leisure centre is the Waterlane leisure centre.

The Broads conserved area extends to Lowestoft at Oulton Broad. (The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are not a national park, though considered "part of the national park family"). Water activities and boat tours can be taken here. Powerboat racing also occurs every Thursday throughout the summer, hosting local boats and occasionally a round of a national or international championship throughout classes of powerboat.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Lowestoft)


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