SOUTHWOLD
"A Desirable Town but an Inconstant Port"
 
9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ - Tel: 01502 726097 email
 
 
 
 
 
In the beginning
The Sea
Natural Southwold
Fishing
Transport to Southwold
Southwold at war
Christianity in Southwold
Industry
Arts & Crafts
Holidays & Leisure
Southwold the town
Southwold Shops & Trades

 

 

 
 
 

DID A CANNY SOUTHWOLD MERCHANT DO A SECRET DEAL WITH
HENRY VII?

King Henry VII

Read Ronnie Waters' article on Southwold's benefactor, William Godell. Click the picture.

The Godell Will:

Altruism or enlightened
self-interest?

 

WHY IS SOUTHWOLD COMMON NOT
'A COMMON' ?

 
OYEZ!
 
 
John Barber, the Town Bellman
 

Southwold has a long ceremonial tradition, much of which survives to this day. John Barber, Southwold's current Bellman, announces the formal reading of the Town Charter at the opening of Trinity Fair. To read more about Southwold's traditions and see some movies of the fair, click the picture.

"ON THE TOWN"
How Southwold's young enjoyed a night out in the 1940s



Dancing! Oh I loved it!


The Cinema screened two perfomances a week throughout the war

  Culture, commerce and local characters, plus events such as fire and the silting of the river, have shaped Southwold’s development since the Domesday Book. “…Southwold has a long tradition of independence which has inspired fierce loyalty, independence even from the Crown…”
 

Southwold’s ancient names recall the nearby woods – Suwald, Sudholda, Southwaud and Southwood. But the town’s location is characterised more by the waterways that surround it on every side. Almost an island, a bridge has been for many years the only connection to Reydon and beyond. A benefactor, Emma Lord, bequeathed money for a permanent bridge in 1524.

The town’s geographical isolation is matched by a fierce tradition of independence. In 1489 King Henry VII granted Southwold a charter, releasing it from legal obligations to the Crown. Soon after, in 1509, local merchant William Godell left the majority of his lands to the town’s people. These two acts did much to make the town not only self-governing but also self-financing.

Southwold’s economic fortunes fell in 1659 when a fire destroyed most of the town in the space of four hours. The Town Hall and the town records it contained, the market place, prison, shops, granaries and warehouses all went. Three hundred families were made homeless. Many people remained destitute for years, despite charitable donations from all over the country. The town’s famous greens are evidence of early town planning designed to prevent the spread of fire in the future.

By the 1750s, the town was looking up. Some wealthier families were building big houses and holding office in the town. Fishing was prospering – even though the town struggled to keep the harbour in good repair – and Southwold had established itself as the tourist destination it remains today.

In 1974, by Government edict, Southwold lost its autonomy and most of its self-governing powers were assumed by Waveney District Council.

 

A few samples from our collection
Click the pictures for explanations

 
  Customs and Excise weight     Prisoner's manacles  
 

Use the links below to explore different aspects of Southwold's history:

What do we know about Southwold’s early history?
How and when did Southwold gain its independence?
How has Southwold been managed since gaining independence?
How many people have lived in Southwold and when?
How did Southwold develop?
How was the wealth in Southwold generated?
How important have the Harbour and River been to Southwold?

South Green in the 1900s

South Green in the 1900s looking towards the High Street P2589

 
Can you help us uncover the history of Southwold shops and trades?

Click here to see how far we've got!
 
   
     
 

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IN THE BEGINNING | THE SEA | NATURAL SOUTHWOLD | FISHING | TRANSPORT | SOUTHWOLD AT WAR | CHRISTIANITY | INDUSTRY | ARTS & CRAFTS | HOLIDAYS & LEISURE | SOUTHWOLD THE TOWN

Southwold Museum & Historical Society, 9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ
Tel: 01502 726097 email

A Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Registered Charity No 1159790,

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