Suffolk (/ˈsʌfək/) is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important towns include Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Felixstowe, one of the largest container ports in Europe. It is one of the few counties in the United Kingdom that does not contain a city. Suffolk has a distinctive dialect.
Our town list is:
- Bury St Edmunds
- Carlton Colville
- Needham Market
The county is low-lying with very few hills, and is largely arable land with the wetlands of The Broads in the North. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
By the 5th century the Angles, after whom East Anglia and England itself are named, had established control of the region and later became the “north folk” and the “south folk”, hence, “Norfolk” and “Suffolk”. Suffolk, and several adjacent areas, became the kingdom of East Anglia, which was settled by the Angles in the 5th century AD, later merging with Mercia and then Wessex.
Suffolk was divided into separate Quarter Sessions divisions. These were originally four in number, reduced to two in 1860, the eastern division being administered from Ipswich and the western from Bury St Edmunds. The two divisions were made separate administrative counties as East Suffolk and West Suffolk under the Local Government Act 1888, with Ipswich becoming a county borough. A few Essex parishes were also added to Suffolk: Ballingdon-with-Brundon, and parts of Haverhill and Kedington.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, East Suffolk, West Suffolk and Ipswich were merged to form a unified county of Suffolk on 1 April 1974. This was divided into several local government districts: Babergh, Forest Heath, Ipswich, Mid Suffolk, St. Edmundsbury, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney. This Act also transferred some land near Great Yarmouth to Norfolk. As introduced in Parliament, the Local Government Bill would have transferred Newmarket and Haverhill to Cambridgeshire, but Colchester would have been transferred in from Essex; but those changes were not included in Act as passed.
In 2007 the Department for Communities and Local Government referred Ipswich Borough Council’s bid to become a new unitary authority to the Boundary Committee. The Boundary Committee consulted local bodies and reported in favour of the proposal. It was not, however, approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Beginning in February 2008, the Boundary Committee again reviewed local government in the county, with two possible options emerging. One was that of splitting Suffolk into two unitary authorities – Ipswich & Felixstowe and Rural Suffolk; and the other, that of creating a single county-wide controlling authority – the “One Suffolk” option. In February 2010 the then Minister Rosie Winterton announced that there would be no changes imposed on the structure of local government in the county as a result of the Review, but that the Government would be “asking Suffolk councils and MPs to reach a consensus on what unitary solution they want through a countywide constitutional convention”. Following the May 2010 General Election, all further moves towards any of the suggested unitary solutions ceased on the instructions of the incoming Coalition Government, and the administrative structures of the county are therefore unchanged.
West Suffolk is, like nearby East Cambridgeshire, renowned for archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Bronze Age artifacts have been found in the area between Mildenhall and West Row, in Eriswell and in Lakenheath. Many bronze objects, such as swords, spearheads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, rapiers, armour, decorative equipment (in particular for horses) and fragments of sheet bronze, are entrusted to St Edmundsbury heritage service, housed at West Stow just outside Bury St Edmunds. Other finds include traces of cremations and barrows.
In the East of the county is Sutton Hoo, the site of one of England’s most significant Anglo-Saxon archæological finds; a ship burial containing a collection of treasures including a Sword of State, gold and silver bowls and jewellery and a lyre.
The majority of agriculture in Suffolk is either arable or mixed. Farm sizes vary from anything around 80 acres (32 hectares) to over 8,000. Soil types vary from heavy clays through to light sands. Crops grown include winter wheat, winter barley, sugar beet, oilseed rape, winter and spring beans and linseed, although smaller areas of rye and oats can be found in lighter areas along with a variety of vegetables.
The continuing importance of agriculture in the county is reflected in the Suffolk Show, which is held annually in May at Ipswich. Although latterly somewhat changed in nature, this remains primarily an agricultural show.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Suffolk at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added||Agriculture||Industry||Services|
Well-known companies in Suffolk include Greene King and Branston Pickle in Bury St Edmunds. Birds Eye have their largest UK factory in Lowestoft, where all their meat products and frozen vegetables come from. Huntley & Palmers biscuit company are now in Sudbury. The UK horse racing industry is based in Newmarket. There are two USAF bases in the west of the county close to the A11. Sizewell B nuclear power station is at Sizewell on the coast near Leiston. Bernard Matthews Farms have some processing units in the county, specifically Holton. Southwold is the home of Adnams Brewery. The Port of Felixstowe is the largest container port in the United Kingdom. Other ports, are Port of Lowestoft and port of Ipswich run by Associated British Ports. BT has its main research and development facility at Martlesham Heath.
Much of Suffolk is low-lying, founded on Pleistocene sand and clays. These rocks are relatively unresistant and the coast is eroding rapidly. Coastal defences have been used to protect several towns, but several cliff-top houses have been lost to coastal erosion in the past, and others are under threat. The continuing protection of the coastline and the estuaries, including the Blyth, Alde and Deben, has been, and remains, a matter of considerable discussion.
The coastal strip to the East contains an area of heathland known as “The Sandlings” which runs almost the full length of the coastline. Suffolk is also home to nature reserves, such as the Trimley Marshes, a wetland under the protection of Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
The west of the county lies on more resistant Cretaceous Chalk. This chalk is the north-eastern extreme of the Southern England Chalk Formation that stretches from Dorset in the south west to Dover in the south east. The Chalk is less easily eroded so forms the only significant hills in the county. The highest point of the county is Great Wood Hill, the highest point of the Newmarket Ridge, near the village of Rede which reaches 128 m (420 ft).
The county flower of the county of Suffolk is the oxlip
The Census 2001 Suffolk recorded a population of 668,553. Between 1981 and 2001 the population of the county grew by 13%, with the district of Mid Suffolk growing fastest at 25%. The population growth is due largely to migration rather than natural increase. There is a very low population between the ages of 15 and 29 as the county has few large towns and institutions of higher education, though the 15-to-29 population in Ipswich is average. There is a larger population over the age of 35, and a larger than average retired population.
Historically, the county’s population have mostly been employed as agricultural workers. An 1835 survey showed Suffolk to have 4,526 occupiers of land employing labourers, 1,121 occupiers not employing labourers, 33,040 labourers employed in agriculture, 676 employed in manufacture, 18,167 employed in retail trade or handicraft, 2,228 ‘capitalists, bankers etc.’, 5,336 labourers (non-agricultural), 4,940 other males aged over 20, 2,032 male servants and 11,483 female servants. The same publication records the total population of the county at 296,304.
Most English counties have nicknames for people from that county, such as a Tyke from Yorkshire and a Yellowbelly from Lincolnshire; the traditional nickname for people from Suffolk is ‘Suffolk Fair-Maids’, or ‘Silly Suffolk’, referring respectively to the supposed beauty of its female inhabitants in the Middle Ages, and to the long history of Christianity in the county and its many fine churches (from Anglo-Saxon selige, originally meaning holy).
Figures for the number of established communities in Suffolk vary greatly among sources because of the treatment of the large number of all but non-existent hamlets which may consist of just a single farm and a deconsecrated church: remnants of wealthy communities, some dating back to the early days of the Christian era. Suffolk encompasses one of the most ancient regions of the UK: A monastery in Bury St. Edmunds founded in 630AD, plotting of Magna Carta in 1215; the oldest documented structural element of a still inhabited dwelling in Britain found in Clare.
This comparatively recent evidence is but a coda to the widespread settlement in the region shown by earlier archaeological evidence of Mesolithic man as far back as c.7000BC, (Grimes Graves, Norfolk – a 5000 y/o flint mine) with Roman settlements Lakenheath, Long Melford, later Bronze and Saxon settlements. Sutton Hoo: burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon pagan kings of East Anglia.
Suffolk is noted for having been the home to two of England’s best regarded painters, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable – the Stour Valley area is branded as “Constable Country” – and one of its most noted composers, Benjamin Britten.
King of East Anglia and Christian martyr St Edmund (after whom the town of Bury St Edmunds is named) was killed by invading Danes in the year 869. St Edmund was the patron saint of England until he was replaced by St George in the thirteenth century. 2006 saw the failure of a campaign to have St Edmund named as the patron saint of England, but in 2007 he was named patron saint of Suffolk, with St Edmund’s Day falling on 20 November. His flag is flown in Suffolk on that day.
University Campus Suffolk, a collaboration between the University of Essex, the University of East Anglia, partner colleges such as Suffolk New College and local government, began accepting its first students in September 2007. The main Ipswich based waterfront campus building is due for completion in September 2008. Prior to this Suffolk was one of the few English counties not to contain a University campus.
The county’s sole professional football club is Ipswich Town. Formed in 1878, the club were Football League champions in 1961–62, FA Cup winners in 1977–78 and UEFA Cup winners in 1980–81. Ipswich Town currently play in the Football League Championship – the next highest ranked teams in Suffolk are Bury Town and Lowestoft Town of the Isthmian League Premier Division.
The town of Newmarket is the headquarters of British horseracing – home to the largest cluster of training yards in the country, many key horse racing organisations, including the National Stud, and Newmarket Racecourse. Tattersalls bloodstock auctioneers and the National Horseracing Museum are also in the town. Point to point racing takes place at Higham and Ampton.
Speedway racing has been staged in Suffolk since at least the 1950s, following the construction of the Foxhall Stadium, just outside Ipswich, home of the Ipswich Witches. The Witches are currently members of the Speedway Premier League, the UK’s second division. Speedway National League team Mildenhall Fen Tigers are also from Suffolk. ‘Casper’ from the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway squad was also a native of Suffolk for a brief period in the 1970s.
Suffolk C.C.C. compete in the Eastern Division of the Minor Counties Championship. The club has won the championship three times outright and has shared the title one other time as well as winning the MCCA Knockout Trophy once. Home games are played in Bury St Edmunds, Copdock, Exning, Framlingham, Ipswich and Mildenhall.
Founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, the annual Aldeburgh Festival is one of the UK’s major classical music festivals. Originating in Aldeburgh, it has been held at the nearby Snape Maltings since 1967. Since 2006, Henham Park, has been home to the annual Latitude Festival. This mainly open-air festival, which has grown considerably in size and scope, includes popular music, comedy, poetry and literary events. More recently, LeeStock Music Festival has been held in Sudbury.
The Rendlesham Forest Incident is one of most famous UFO events in England and is commonly referred to as “Britain’s Roswell”.
The Fourth Protocol, a novel written by Frederick Forsyth, is a Cold War spy thriller partly set in Suffolk and was made into a film starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan. Other novels set in Suffolk include Unnatural Causes by P.D. James and among Arthur Ransome’s children’s books, “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea” and “Coot Club”. Peter Greenaway’s 1988 film, Drowning by Numbers was largely shot in the area near Southwold.
A TV series about a British antiques dealer, Lovejoy, was filmed in various locations in Suffolk. The reality TV Series Space Cadets was filmed in Rendlesham Forest, although the producers pretended to the participants that they were in Russia. Several towns and villages in the county have been used for location filming of other television programmes and cinema films. These include an episode of Kavanagh QC and the film Iris.