photographs of the Saxmundham to Aldeburgh branch line
Leiston is a unique town
among the wide
variety of villages and settlements in Suffolk. In early history,
Leiston was known only for its proximity to the river Mismer and
important ports at Syzewell and Minsmere Havens (and therefore
lucrative wrecking and smuggling activity) and the presence of nearby
Leiston Abbey which would have dominated the local economy until the
dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. By fluke of history,
the business of one bladesmith, Richard Garrett (born 12.10.1757), grew
steadily from 1778 to metamorphose into an important Victorian
engineering factory. Famous for its threshing machines, traction
engines and many other products, Garretts engineering works transformed
Leiston from a hamlet of a few hundred inhabitants into an industrial
town. See below for The Long Shop.
Many other businesses were drawn into Leiston to
population including that of corn miller. In 1865, we find the first
mention of a smock mill run by James Bedwell operating on a ridge
carrying the railway line from the station over Valley Road and towards
Thorpe Halt and Aldeburgh. Henry James Lambert is first mentioned as
operating the windmill in 1892, alongside a steam driven mill. The
slope from Valley Road up to the site is still known as Lambert's Lane
and the cottage on the corner carries the familar cartouche of
cream-white paint with the decorative serif lettering (note the
inward-sloping 'H'): 'MILL HOUSE'.
But surely there must
perhaps an arrow, above the name? The mill was dismantled in 1917 when
the use of wind power to grind corn became uneconomical, however some
of the original buildings still exist at the top of Lamberts
Lane. Demolition was carried out by John 'Tiny' Brown who also
demolished the mill at Snape, the base of which was later used as a
house by the Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten. The mill stones from
Snape were used in the refurbishment of Saxtead mill, just outside
[UPDATE: 16.6.2014: "I have just
chanced upon your photo of the old sign in Leiston (usually now called
a "ghost sign") which refers to Mill House. My
old school teacher, a Miss Reilly, lived there in the 60s (and probably
had for years before that) when I was at junior school until her death
(I think) in the 80s.
You ask if there was an arrow above the words "MILL
HOUSE". The sign actually said "To Mill House" and above that there was
a hand pointing to the left. It looked a lot like the "Go to
Jail" hand pointing on the Monopoly board. Shame that has disappeared
but pleased to see the sign itself has at least survived in part.
Hope this is of interest to you and your community.
Thanks for the photos! Best regards, Melanie Emmerson." Thanks to Melanie for the additional
This is a gravestone
to the main
door of Leiston church in Waterloo Avenue. An earlier photograph of the
same stone from the 1970s formed the basis of a recently rediscovered oil painting by
Borin Van Loon. We think it must have been the name of
the grave's occupant which caught the eye in the early 1970s:
Hopefully Ann was not known in her lifetime as "Lot's
wife. This 2005 view
is replete with molehill, dead leaves and a wealth of algae and moss to
obscure the ancient carved script. The nearby church is one of the most
distinctive, not to say eccentric, ecclesiastical buildings in a county
groaning with hundreds of historic churches and monastic ruins.
to the memory of
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
Aged 74 years
ANN RELICT OF
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
AGED 86 YEARS'
Leiston Church is
dedicated, along with
nineteen others in the county, to St Margaret of Antioch. She is said
to have been the Christian daughter of a pagan priest, Aesidius of
Antioch, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was
denounced as a Christian by the prefect Olbrius after she rejected his
suit and was subjected to a number of hideous ordeals including being
swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon. According to legend, the
dragon's belly burst open and she emerged unharmed. She killed the
dragon (surprisingly still alive!) with a cross-tipped spear
symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. She is the patron saint of
women in childbirth and her emblem is a dragon. The church itself was
probably built on the site of an earlier Saxon church, one of three
known to have been in the area. A major rebuild, apart from the 14th
century tower, in 1854 by maverick Gothic Revival architect Edward
Buckton Lamb reshaped the interior of the church as a large auditorium
for the evangelical preachings of the current incumbent John Blathwayt.
Imaginitive use of Kentish rag stone, flint and French Caen stone for
detailing gives the exterior a period appearance, but the interior is a
riot of timber roofing beams and carving with some attractive painted
surfaces in the chancel.
No mention of Leiston's history is worth it's name if
Garrett's is not
included. Once the dominant employer in the area, Garrett's engineering
works once occupied two large sites and was to Leiston what Ransome's
was to Ipswich: big, wealthy, stinky, filthy and hard for the workers.
Garretts was a family business from 1778 to 1932, after which the
company passed into the hands of Beyer Peacock. The works finally
closed in 1981. However, the historic core was preserved and opened as
a museum in 1984.
Now residential, the Works Hall still stands and is (just about) named
in screw-on lettering in the central triangle:
In the upper stone shield with
lion rampant is a scroll bearing the words:
'A DEO OMNIA'
which is Latin for 'From God in
A glance across the road in summer 2013 showed that the once excellent
The Engineers Arms was no longer open for business:
The 'frosting' on the glazed doors are almost certainly vinyls reading:
Adnams Fine Ales'
with the Adnams of Southwold
emblem above. The door on the right bears the brass plate: 'LOUNGE
A sad sight at a period when so many public houses are closing
throughout the country.
Two of the windows on this street have leaded light lettering:
The Long Shop is the name given to the oldest part of Garrett's
historic engineering site with its collection of buildings full of
exhibits and information. The door below at one end of the actual Long
Shop building bears a cast iron lintel with the (slightly wonky) date:
'1852'. The Long Shop, built in 1852-53, is a
early example of a building designed for assembly-line production.
Given the importance of water in foundry-work, the works has the
deepest well in Suffolk along with a large, restored, Grade II-listed
Outside behind chairs and tables on a terrace is a large cast beam
bearing the notice:
RECOVERED FROM EASTBRIDGE, NEAR LEISTON
PRESENTED BY A.J. MEW (SAXMUNDHAM)
17th SEPTEMBER 1987'
The beam itself in restored
condition has three cartouches carrying the legend:
'R. GARRETT & SON
The museum has several of Garrett's steam engines, including Consuelo Allen, a road roller
rescued from Spain, a very rare Suffolk Punch steam tractor and the
rescued and restored Sirapite,
the works' shunting engine. As well as steam engines, the works was
famous for agricultural implements, and many are on display, including
a threshing machine. There's also a living wagon, one of the wonderful
caravans used as accommodation by the drivers of the engines when on
the road. Much recommended.
Ashford Jeweller, 58 High Street
In the summer of 2016 the small shop near
the corner of the Cross Street, Sixewell Road, High Street crossroads
had its name board removed to reveal a previous occupant:
Although listed as 'Paradise Place' on some maps, the street nameplate
– an attractive, cast iron, cartouche design (perhaps made in Leiston
Works?) – is unequivocal. Paradise is defined as 'a place of timeless
harmony', but quite why it is applied to street names is unclear. There
is a Paradise Street, home of Birmingham Town Hall, in Birmingham. The
same name can be found in Richmond, Southwark (both London), Bristol,
Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge and Sheffield. Paradise Lane can be found
in Clitheroe; Paradise Parade is in Kings Lynn and there are doubtless
further examples. Perhaps it is the age-old reason that Paradise is a
pleasant word for a thoroughfare.
May, D.Y. and K.: 'From flint knappers to atom splitters: a
history of Leiston-cum-Sizewell'. Quickthorn Books, 2001.
Whitehead, R.A.: 'Garretts of Leiston'. Model and Allied Publications,