One of Suffolk’s most popular towns, Woodbridge is located on the River Deben and has many interesting features that result from its fascinating history.
The name ‘Woodbridge’ probably refers to town being Woden’s burgh (town) rather than being a reference to a ‘wooden bridge’ in the town as often thought. During the 12th century a small priory of Augustinian Canons was founded in the town by Ernald Rufus, this is likely to have been on or near the site of the Abbey School today. From here the town began to grow and prosper.
Like so many other coastal Suffolk towns, Woodbridge’s heyday came in the 16th – 17th centuries when the town flourished due to its industry. Wool and weaving exports, sail-cloth manufacture and rope-making all played a part in this expansion and subsequent wealth and in the 17th century Woodbridge became a major town for ship building. A battleship built at Woodbridge fought in the battle of Sole Bay, the naval battle which played an important part in the history of the Suffolk coast.
An important figure in Woodbridge’s history was Thomas Seckford. He was an important lawyer and politician who found great favour with Queen Elizabeth I. In 1571 he became knight of Suffolk and founded an almshouse in Woodbridge. It was at his request that the Shire Hall was built, which still stands in the centre of the town today and is used for various activities from Civil ceremonies to council meetings. The foundation established by Seckford has continued to endow the town with many new features for generations. In 1876 the town pump was built from funds provided by the foundation. Today the foundation continues to support the hospital, Almshouse, Woodbridge School, the dispensary and the Seckford Library.
Famous for its stunning river walks and the Tide Mill, currently undergoing a major project of renovation, the bustling town of Woodbridge welcomes tourists all year round and provides a wide range of things to see and do.
Photo Credit: Martin Pettitt