Suffolk is a county of historic origin in East Anglia. Low-lying with very few hills it’s largely arable land with the wetlands of The Broads to the North. It borders Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east and the Suffolk Coast and heaths are an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The county town is Ipswich and the port of Felixstowe is one of the largest container ports in Europe. Other ports include those of Lowestoft and Ipswich itself. Suffolk boasts a coastal strip that hosts an area of ‘natural’ heath-land 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 agriculture in Suffolk is arable and ‘mixed’ and remains important, a fact reflected in the annual Suffolk Show, an event generally held in May at Ipswich.
The town of Newmarket is the headquarters of British horseracing and home to Newmarket Racecourse. Many key horse racing organisations, including the National Stud, Tattersalls the bloodstock auctioneers and the National Horseracing Museum have also made their home here.
Other well-known companies in Suffolk include the brewer 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 while Huntley & Palmers, the biscuit company are currently based in Sudbury while Southwold is the home of Adnams Brewery.
Most English counties have nick- names 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’ referring to the supposed beauty of its female inhabitants in the Middle Ages! (though whether this remains the case today remains unclear . . .)
There is a long history of Christianity in the county that has left it’s mark in the form of many fine churches. Indeed, Suffolk encompasses one of the most ancient regions of the UK. It encompasses a monastery in Bury St. Edmunds founded in 630AD, the ‘plotting’ of Magna Carta in 1215 and in Clare there exists the oldest documented structural element of a still inhabited home in Britain.
Evidence remains too of Roman settlements at Lakenheath and Long Melford that later became Saxon settlements while Sutton Hoo was the burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon pagan kings of East Anglia.
Edmund, King of East Anglia and Christian martyr (after whom the town of Bury St Edmunds is named) was killed by invading Danes in the year 869. He subsequently became the patron saint of England until he was replaced by St George in the 13th entury. Following a failed attempt to have him reinstated in 2007 he was named patron saint of Suffolk, with St Edmund’s Day falling on 20th November when his flag is flown throughout the county.
Other significant ecclesiastical figures from Suffolk include the Tudor-era Catholic prelate (Thomas) Cardinal Wolsey, Witch-finder General Matthew Hopkins, Simon Sudbury, a former Archbishop of Canterbury and John Lydgate, author, poet, and Benedictine monk.
Two of England’s best regarded painters, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable are among other Suffolk ‘notables’ including Benjamin Britten the noted composer, Carl Giles the cartoonist, the poets George Crabbe and Robert Bloomfield, the actors Ralph Fiennes and Bob Hoskins while the influential DJ and radio presenter, the late John Peel made the county his home.
Sussex & Surrey to follow . . .