• Framlingham Castle - (c) Emily Fae Photography

5 historical moments that happened on The Suffolk Coast

The towns, villages, coast and countryside of The Suffolk Coast have been the setting for many historical events - from visiting royalty to scientific discoveries.

Mary Queen of Scots proclaimed Queen of England at Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle - Emily Fae Photography

It was behind the imposing walls of Framlingham Castle that Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England. 

Built on the Framlingham site in 1148, the original castle was destroyed by Henry II in the aftermath of the revolt of 1173–4. Its replacement was constructed by Roger Bigod, the Earl of Norfolk, and was unusual for the time because it had no central keep but instead a curtain wall with thirteen mural towers to defend the centre of the castle.

In 1216 the castle was taken by King John and by the end of the 13th century it became a luxurious home surrounded by parkland used for hunting. 

During the 15th and 16th centuries Framlingham was at the heart of the estates of the powerful Mowbray and Howard families. Extensive pleasure gardens were built within the castle and older parts redesigned to allow visitors to enjoy the views. But by the end of the 16th century, the castle fell into disrepair and the castle and the surrounding estates were sold off.

Framlingham Castle was given to Pembroke College 1636, after which the internal buildings were taken down to make way for the construction of a workhouse within the site. The castle was used in this way until 1839 when the facility was closed; the castle was then used as a drill hall and as a county court. During the Second World War, Framlingham Castle was used by the British military as part of the regional defences against a potential German invasion.

Today the Castle is managed by English Heritage and run as a tourist attraction. It is protected under UK law as a grade I listed building and a scheduled monument.

Radar was invented at Bawdsey

TTDA - Bawdsey Radar - Family

On 24th September 1937, RAF Bawdsey became the first fully operational Radar station in the world.

In the years immediately following the Great War, protecting the UK from attack was discussed at length by those responsible for the country’s defence. It took more than a decade for an air-defence exercise to be carried out.

In 1934, more than half of the bombers involved in the exercise got past the defences, despite their routes being known. This less-than-satisfactory outcome led the Air Ministry to investigate the idea of radio ‘death rays’ which would eliminate or disable pilots and their aircraft.

The Scots physicist Robert Watson-Watt, supervisor of a national radio research laboratory and descendant of James Watt, inventor of the first practical steam engine, was contacted and asked for his views. Watson-Watt dismissed the idea of death rays but said that radio beams could be bounced off enemy aircraft to detect them. He asked his assistant, Arnold “Skip” Wilkins, to undertake calculations to demonstrate the feasibility of ‘aircraft detection by radio waves’.

On 26 February 1935, Watson-Watt and Arnold Wilkins successfully demonstrated their system using a BBC transmitter, and managed to pick up a bomber being used as a test target. In May 1935 Watson-Watt, Wilkins and a small team of scientists moved to Orfordness to conduct a series of historic experiments over the sea that would lead to the world’s first working ‘RADAR’ system.

It soon became apparent that Orford Ness was inadequate for further research and the Bawdsey Manor Estate was purchased for £24,000.

Today, Bawdsey Radar now houses an interactive exhibition and displays that tell the story of the women and men who, in top secret conditions, developed radar that played such a crucial role in the Battle of Britain.

Hovercraft invented at Somerleyton


Somerleyton Pond - (c) Jon Gibbs

The idyllic village of Somerleyton is not only home to a grand stately home, but it was also the birthplace of the hovercraft! Invented by Sir Christopher Cockerell who owned and worked at his boatyard Ripplecraft.

From 1953 to 1956 Cockerell designed and built hire craft for the Broads, whilst attempting to make boat propulsion more energy efficient, inject air under the hull of his launch Spray. From this work he developed a working hovercraft model.

Unable to take the development further without aid, Cockerell demonstrated the model to Lord Somerleyton on the lawn at Somerleyton Hall. Lord Somerleyton was impressed and arranged for Sir Christopher to demonstrate the model to Lord Mountbatten who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. Eventually the National Research & Development Corporation backed the project; the prototype SR-N1 was built and crossed the English Channel on 25th July 1959 to widespread acclaim.

Treasure discovered at Sutton Hoo

TTDA - National Trust Sutton Hoo - Treasure

Sutton Hoo is England's Valley of the Kings, and the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in the King's Mound is the richest burial ever found in northern Europe.

1,400 years ago, a king or great warrior of East Anglia was laid to rest in a 90ft ship, surrounded by his extraordinary treasures. The discovery revolutionised our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period and provided a lens through which to examine this fascinating era of history. 

The most likely candidate for the man who belonged to this grave is King Rædwald, a great King of East Anglia who won both renown, for his victory over the Kingdom of Northumbria, and criticism, for establishing an altar for Christ and an altar for the old gods side by side.  

As the landowner at the time of the discovery, Edith Pretty was declared the owner of the priceless Anglo-Saxon treasures. She gave them all to the all to the nation and they can still be seen and enjoyed today at the British Museum. 

Discover more at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo

The Battle of Sole Bay

Southwold - Aerial View

The naval Battle of Solebay took place on the 7th June 1672 and was the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A fleet of 75 ships, 20,738 men and 4,484 cannon of the United Provinces, commanded by Lieutenant-Admirals Michiel de Ruyter, Adriaen Banckert and Willem Joseph van Ghent, surprised a joint Anglo-French fleet of 93 ships, 34,496 men and 6,018 cannon at anchor in Sole bay near Southwold

Losses were heavy on both sides and the battle ended inconclusively at sunset. Both sides claimed victory, the Dutch with the more justification as the English-French plan to blockade the Dutch was abandoned.