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.
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.