Suffolk Facts

How Much Do You Know About Our County?

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Work and Industry

In July 1833, the Oxford Movement was launched at the Deanery Tower of St Mary’s Church, Hadleigh. The movement was a movement of high church Anglicans that sought to renew Roman Catholic practice within the Church of England.

Red Poll Cattle were developed in the 19th century by crossing milky Suffolk Dun cattle with the meaty Norfolk Red.

The Ipswich-based company Ransomes and Rapier built the first railway in China: the Woosung Road ran from Shanghai to Woosung and opened in 1876.

Samuel Morton Peto, who bought Somerleyton Hall in 1844, was a partner in Peto and Betts, the building firm that built the Houses of Parliament in 1840, Trafalgar Square in 1841 and Nelson’s Column in 1843.

The inhabitants of Trimley St Mary and Trimley St Martin were called treacle miners because of the coprolite that was dug there.

HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, was designed by Thomas Slade, who is buried in St Clement’s churchyard, Ipswich. Note that Slade Point, Queensland, Australia, is named after him.

In the 14th century, Edward III used a fighting ship built in Woodbridge  as did Sir Francis Drake in the 16th century.

It is claimed that Woolpit’s white bricks were used to build the White House, Washington – although this claim has never been substantiated.

The first British sailing lifeboat was the Frances Ann, named after the earl of Stradbroke’s youngest daughter. It was launched at Lowestoft on 28th February 1808.

The chippings from the annual cutting of the yew maze at Somerleyton Hall are processed for the production of cancer drugs as yew contains taxol.

In 2005, Gulliver – the UK’s largest wind turbine – was built at Ness Point, Lowestoft.

Sir William Cavendish (from the Suffolk village of the same name) built Chatsworth House in 1552. The current Dukes of Devonshire are descended from his marriage to Bess of Hardwick.

The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s largest and busiest container port. Britain’s first container terminal was created there in 1967. In 2011, it became the first UK port capable of accommodating the next generation of giant container ships.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger II was built by Brooke Yachts Ltd at Lowestoft. In 1986, the Atlantic Challenger II broke the Blue Riband record for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic (3 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes).

David Walters Fabrics, Sudbury, wove the silk for the wedding dresses of Princess Anne in 1973 and the Lady Diana Spencer in 1981; they also wove the silk for the gown for Prince Charles’ investiture in 1969.

Suffolk cheese used to be a standing joke: “Suffolk cheeses are hard as stones, but Suffolk ales are sharp enough to cut them with”. In the 18th century, the Admiralty declared it unfit for consumption on its warships

Architectural Facts

Parts of the organ of St James’s Church, Nayland, came from Canterbury Cathedral in 1787.

When it opened in of enclosed water of its kind in England.

The oldest ring of eight bells in the world is at St Mary’s Church, Horham. The oldest bell was cast in 1568.

With a total weight of 4.25 tons, St Mary’s Church, East Bergholt, has the heaviest peal of five bells currently being rung in England.

Orford Castle – which was built by King Henry II between 1165-73 – is the earliest castle in England for which detailed records of construction and costs survive. It cost £1413.

Founded in 1248, Clare Priory was the first English house of Augustinian friars and is one of the oldest religious houses in England.

Sporting Facts

Football: In 1989, Ipswich FC signed Sergei Baltacha – the first Russian player signed to play in the English football league.

Football: Former England captain, Mick Mills, played for Ipswich FC from 1966-82; Alf Ramsey and Bobbie Robson both once managed Ipswich FC.

Flying: Oswald Gayford of Hadleigh set a world record for long distance flying in 1927, 1933 and 1938.

Flying: in the 1934 London to Melbourne air race, the race actually began from Mildenhall aerodrome. British pilots Charles Scott and Campbell Black set a new world England to Australia record of 52 hours 33 minutes when they made an emergency landing at Darwin.

Horseracing: The Town Plate, Newmarket, is the world’s oldest surviving horse race. It began in 1665 when Charles II used an Act of Parliament to enable it to be run each October. In 1671 Charles II won when riding his own horse and received a flagon worth £32. Note that the Rowley Mile racecourse is named after Charles II’s favourite horse.

Horseracing: Sir Charles Bunbury from Mildenhall and the 12th Earl of Derby tossed a coin to decide what a race should be called – Sir Charles lost the toss and so The Epsom Derby was born in 1779. Sir Charles’ horse, Diomed, did win the first race, however.

It may not be sports in the strictest sense, but Suffolk can claim a couple of Guinness World Records. In 1997, Dean Gould of Felixstowe created a world record for the fastest winkle picker when he picked 50 shells within 1 minute 22.34 seconds; Dean also holds other world records such as flipping/catching the most number of 10p coins on the elbow, eating the most sweetcorn kernels (113) with a cocktail stick in 3 minutes and flipping beer mats 800 times in 40.01 seconds.. At Stradbroke in 2002, Edward Wynn and James Cullingham set the record for the fastest tidddlywink mile. The record for the longest walk around the British Isles was 9469 miles and was set in 1990-1 by John Westley from Kessingland.


Suffolk means land of the Southern People.

The oft repeated phrase, “Silly Suffolk“, is actually a corruption of Selig Suffolk meaning “holy Suffolk”.

Like Loch Ness, our county has its very own legendary water serpent. In 1750, the Kessingland Sea Serpent was described in “The Gentleman’s Magazine” as being 5 foot long with a beard like a lion, and a head like a dog and spotted skin like a leopard.  In 1912, Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s daughter, Lillias, was sitting on the lawn looking at the coast when she saw “what looked like a thin, dark line with a blob at one end, shooting through the water at such a terrific speed”; she described it as about 60 feet long. Henry Rider Haggard wrote to the “Eastern Daily Press” and the story was duly published in 24th July 1912. In 1923, the captain of a survey ship – the H M Kellett – recorded seeing “a long, serpentine neck, projecting from six or seven feet above the water” but could not make out further details. In 1978, a tourist wrote to the “East Anglian Magazine” describing “the head of a seal on a long neck sticking up out of the water. There seemed to be some humps behind the head”.

On a clear day, it is said that 30 churches are visible from the top of St Andrew’s church, Weybread.

Suffolk and Cheshire have the highest densities of ponds in the UK.

Lavenham is known as England’s best preserved medieval village and has over 300 listed village..

There are more pigs than people in the county.

Orford Ness is the largest vegetated single spit in Europe.

The 1000 ft high Mendlesham mast was the tallest TV mast in Europe at the time of construction.

John Stevens Henslow, who was a rector at Hitcham, recommended Charles Darwin for HMS Beagle.

Ness Point, Lowestoft, is the most easterly point in the UK.

English Nature states that the Brecklands have the lowest rainfall in Britain.

The ant-lion was discovered at Dunwich Heath in the 1990s; it was previously thought to be extinct in the UK.

Our county has an estimated 4000 species of fungi.

The Suffolk Punch dates back to the 16th century and is the oldest breed of heavy horse in the UK. The Suffolk Horse Society, founded in 1877, is said to be the oldest such society in the world.


“Discerning Visitor’s Guide to East Anglia: Four Seasons” by Ian Mathew, 1 Aug 1998

“Discover the Suffolk Coast” by Terry Palmer, 1 Apr 1996

“East Anglia (Country Series)” by Rob Talbot and Robin Whiteman, 14 Mar 2002

“In Praise of Suffolk” by Norman Scarfe, Alistair Press, 6 Oct 1988

“Ipswich and District Visitor Guide 2007”

“From Melford to Clare: In Old Postcard”s by Richard Wigmore and Elizabeth Deeks, 1 Jan 1994

“Popular Guide to Suffolk Place Names” by James Rye, 1 Jan 1997

“Suffolk at Work Trades & Industries” by Robert Malster, 1 Jan 1996

“The Suffolk Coast – A Millennium Portrait”, 1 Jan 2000

“Suffolk Signs: Bk. 2” by Maureen Long and Shirley M. Addy, 1 Aug 1996

“Suffolk Signs: Bk. 3” by Maureen Long and Shirley M. Addy, 1 Aug 1998

“Suffolk Signs: Bk. 4” by Shirley M. Addy and Maureen Long, 28 Sep 2001

“Timpson’s Other England : A Look at the Unusual and the Definitely Odd” by John Timpson,  1 Jan 1995

“Traditions of East Anglia” by Robert Simper, 1 Apr 1980

“The Villages of Suffolk” by Mark Mitchels and Elizabeth Mitchels, Countryside Books, 7 Oct 1999

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