Lowestoft beach and outer harbour
|OS grid reference|
|o London||110 mi (180 km) South-west|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||NR32, NR33|
|Ambulance||East of England|
Lowestoft is an English North Sea coast town and civil parish in the county of Suffolk. On the edge of The Broads, it is the most easterly UK settlement, 110 miles (177 km) north-east of London, 38 miles (61 km) north-east of Ipswich and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Norwich. As the main town in the district of East Suffolk, it had an estimated 73,775 inhabitants in 2018. A port town, it developed out of the fishing industry and as a seaside resort with wide, sandy beaches. As its fisheries declined, oil and gas exploitation in the southern North Sea in the 1960s added to its development, as it did in nearby Great Yarmouth. These roles have declined, but Lowestoft is developing as a regional centre of the renewable energy industry.
Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Britain was found here. The discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield in south Lowestoft in 2005 means that human habitation of the Lowestoft area can be traced back 700,000 years.
The area was inhabited in the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages and in the Roman and Saxon periods. Several finds have been made at a Saxon cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill in south Lowestoft. The place name derives from a Norse personal name, Hlothver, and toft, an Old Norse word for homestead. It has been variously spelt as Lothnwistoft, Lothuwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft and Laystoft.
The 1086 Domesday Book gives Lothuwistoft village a population of some 16 households in three families, with ten smallholders and three slaves. The manor formed part of the king's holding in Hundred of Lothingland, worth about four geld in tax income.Roger Bigod was the tenant in chief. The lost village of Akethorpe may have lain close by.
In the Middle Ages, Lowestoft became an increasingly important fishing town that grew to challenge its neighbour, Great Yarmouth. The trade, particularly for herring, continued as the town's main identity into the 20th century.
Lowestoft Porcelain Factory, between 1757 and 1802, was in production for longer than any English soft-paste porcelain manufacturer other than Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby, producing domestic ware such as pots, teapots and jugs. It was built on the site of an existing pottery or brick kiln, and used later as a brewery and malt kiln. Most of its remaining buildings were demolished in 1955.
Sir Samuel Morton Peto's arrival in 19th-century Lowestoft brought a change in the town's fortunes that included improving the fishing industry. To help stimulate the fishing industry, Peto was given the task of building a railway line for the Lowestoft Railway and Harbour Company, connecting the town with Reedham and the city of Norwich. Its completion had a profound impact on the town's industrial development - its fishing fleets could sell to markets further inland, and it assisted other industries such as engineering, through boosted trade with the continent. Peto's railway was key also to establishing Lowestoft as a flourishing seaside holiday resort.
During World War I, Lowestoft was bombarded by the German Navy on 24 April 1916 in conjunction with the Easter Rising. The port was a major naval base during the war, including for armed trawlers such as Ethel & Millie and Nelson used to combat German U-boat actions in the North Sea such as that of 15 August 1917. In World War II the town was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe for its engineering industry and role as a naval base. It is sometimes claimed as one of the UK's most heavily bombed towns per head of population. The Royal Naval Patrol Service, formed mainly by trawlermen and fishermen of the Royal Naval Reserve, was mobilised in August 1939. Its central depot HMS Europa, was also known locally as the Sparrow's Nest.
Lowestoft is the major settlement in the East Suffolk district. It lost its status as a municipal borough in 1974, but retains a ceremonial mayor elected annually by its councillors.Suffolk County Council is the county authority. A civil parish was created on 1 April 2017.
The town is part of the Waveney parliamentary constituency, represented at Westminster by the Conservative Peter Aldous. Former MPs include Bob Blizzard, David Porter and Jim Prior, a cabinet minister and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Thatcher governments. Prior also represented the former constituency of Lowestoft. For European Union elections Lowestoft lay in the East of England constituency.
Before 1 April 2019, as part of Waveney District Council, Lowestoft was divided into ten electoral wards, with Carlton Colville treated as a separate electoral area. Harbour, Kirkley, Normanston, Pakefield, St Margarets and Whitton wards elected three councillors each, and Carlton, Gunton and Corton, Oulton and Oulton Broad wards two. Of the 48 council seats in the district, 26 represented wards within Lowestoft and 3 Carlton Colville. In 2010 the council changed to a Whole Council process, with all seats elected every four years.
The most recent district council elections (and final ones as Waveney) were on 7 May 2015, when the Labour party held 19 of the Lowestoft seats, mainly in the central areas of the town. The Conservative Party won seven seats.
On 1 April 2019, governance arrangements for Lowestoft changed with the merger of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal District Councils to form a new district council of East Suffolk. Elections were held on 2 May 2019 for the 6 new Lowestoft wards. The seats, 14 in all, are allocated to Carlton and Whitton (2), Gunton and St. Margarets (2), Harbour and Normanston (3), Kirkley and Pakefield (3), Lothingland (1), and Oulton Broad (3). There are also changes to wards adjacent to Lowestoft. After the inaugural 2019 East Suffolk District Council election of 2 May, eight of the 14 Lowestoft seats over the six new wards went to the Conservatives and six to Labour.
On Suffolk County Council, Lowestoft and its area are represented by eight councillors, split equally between four electoral divisions: Gunton, Lowestoft South, Oulton and Pakefield. For county council elections, Pakefield division includes Carlton Colville. Elections take place every four years. After the 2017 election, seven of Lowestoft's county councillors represented the Conservatives and one Labour. In 2018, one Conservative councillor left the party and became an Independent.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Lowestoft, the easternmost town in the United Kingdom, lies on the North Sea coast 110 miles (177 km) north-east of London, 38 miles (61 km) north-east of Ipswich and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Norwich. It is divided by Lake Lothing, which forms the inner part of Lowestoft Harbour and gives access via Oulton Broad and Oulton Dyke to the River Waveney and the Broads. The northern half is on the island of Lothingland.
Lowestoft is mainly low-lying, with hilly areas in the north and high points of 20-30 metres (66-98 ft) above sea level. The rock beneath is crag-sand with overlying sand and glacial till deposits with gravel, with the crag exposed at coastal cliffs such as Pakefield's. Areas around Lake Lothing feature alluvium silt; some marshland remains west of Oulton Broad. The sandy beaches south of the harbour have Blue Flag status. To the north of the harbour is an area of old sand dunes known as the Denes, along with more beaches and Ness Point, the easternmost point of the UK.
Lowestoft has been subject to periodic flooding, notably in January 1953, when a North Sea swell driven by low pressure and an extreme high tide swept away many earlier sea defences and deluged most of the southern town. Heavy rain caused flash flooding in the town in September 2006. In December 2013, a storm surge caused severe flooding of Lowestoft and its suburbs.
Lowestoft is among the UK's driest areas: annual rainfall averages under 600 mm distributed fairly evenly through the year. Mean daily summer temperatures peak at 21°C in August, when the town averages over 200 hours of sunshine, while in winter minima average 2 °C. Marked snowfall is rare. Sea fog and cool onshore breezes can affect the town.
|Climate data for Lowestoft, elevation: 15 m (49 ft), 1981-2010 normals, extremes 1889-2010|
|Record high °C (°F)||14.4
|Average high °C (°F)||6.9
|Daily mean °C (°F)||4.6
|Average low °C (°F)||2.2
|Record low °C (°F)||-11.2
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||50.4
|Average precipitation days||11.7||9.2||10.2||8.9||8.2||9.1||8.8||8.3||9.0||10.3||12.2||11.6||117.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||51.7||78.0||114.1||174.8||202.4||181.0||196.4||199.8||147.0||111.0||62.4||40.8||1,559.2|
|Source 1: Met Office|
|Source 2: KNMI|
Lowestoft is Suffolk's second largest town after Ipswich, with an estimated population of 58,560 in 2010. Including the suburban areas of Oulton and Carlton Colville, which are part of the wider urban area, brought the estimated population of the built-up area to 73,755 in 2018 from 68,850 at the 2001 census. The town contains business and residential areas, with a main shopping centre just to the north of Lake Lothing. Its wider urban area includes the suburbs of Carlton Colville, Gunton, Pakefield, Oulton and Oulton Broad and the district of Kirkley. Associated outlying villages include Blundeston, Corton, Gisleham, Kessingland and Somerleyton.
About 10 per cent of the area population at the 2001 census was aged 75 or over and 20 per cent under 16. In general the population of several wards is slightly skewed towards the elderly. The population is mainly classed as "white", with minority ethnicities making up 1.4 per cent, compared with 8.7 per cent nationally.
At the 2001 census there were 27,777 households, giving an average household size of 2.40. In total 8,430 (30 per cent) were classified as one-person households, while 26 per cent included children aged 15 or under. The proportion of households without a private car was 29 per cent, whilst 22 per cent had two or more. In housing tenure, 72 per cent of homes were owner-occupied.
Originally based on fishing and engineering, the economy of Lowestoft has declined over the years. Although the tourism sector has grown, the major employers in the town are the wholesale and retail sector, with 18 per cent of employment. Service industries, including health, social care and education are significant employers, while manufacturing employs about 10 per cent of the workforce.
Employment can vary seasonally due to the importance of tourism to the economy. In early 2011, around 10 per cent of the working population of the town claimed Jobseekers Allowance.
Until the mid-1960s, fishing was seen as Lowestoft's main industry, although from the 1930s the percentage so employed directly and in trades associated with fishing was actually only about 10 per cent. Fleets of drifters and trawlers caught fish such as herring, cod and plaice. Catches have diminished since the 1960s and although 100 boats remained by the 1980s, there are now only a few small boats operating out of Lowestoft, with no large trawlers. By 2011 just three traders remained at the town's fish market, which is under threat of closure due to redevelopment of the port. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), a large fisheries research centre that is a part of Defra, is still located in Lowestoft.
Other major traditional employers included Eastern Coach Works and engineering and shipbuilding companies clustered around the harbour. These included the Brooke Marine and Richards shipbuilding companies, which together employed over a thousand men but went out of business in the 1990s, and the Norwich-based engineering company Boulton and Paul. Some shipbuilding and repair still goes on at the harbour.
Major local employers include Birds Eye frozen foods, with 700 workers. This has been located in the town for over 60 years. The food-processing company Wessex Foods closed its Lowestoft plant in 2010 after a fire destroyed the factory and it failed to find alternative premises.
Several other employers have shed labour in recent years. The Sanyo plant in the town closed down in 2009 with a loss of 60 jobs, having once employed 800. The timber company Jeld-Wen closed its factory in the town in 2010.
From the mid-1960s to the late 1990s, the oil and gas industry provided significant employment in the area. For many years the Shell Southern Operations base on the north shore of Lowestoft Harbour was town's largest employer. A decision to close the Shell base was finally made in 2003. Oil and gas is still a major industry.
The town has made efforts to develop as a centre for renewable energy in the east of England. The non-profit Orbis Energy centre has been set up to draw business in the green-energy sector and features solar thermal heating. In April 2009, Associated British Ports announced that the harbour is to become the operations centre for the 500 MW Greater Gabbard wind farm, which when completed will be the world's largest offshore windfarm. The turbines will be located 15 miles (24 km) off the Suffolk coast and the Outer Harbour will be used to house the necessary operational support facilities. Other developments in the renewable energy sector include a prototype tidal energy generator being produced by local company 4NRG and wave power systems developed by Trident Energy.
Rainbow Saver Anglia Credit Union, a savings and loans co-operative established in 1999 and operating throughout East Anglia, is based in the town. Hoseasons, the self-catering UK Holiday specialist, is also a large employment provider.
The town centre is the main shopping area in Waveney district. The retail chain Marks & Spencer has a store. Chadds independent department store was founded in 1907, and after nearly 100 years trading in the High Street, was taken over in 2004 by the Great Yarmouth-based Palmers group. Specialist shopping areas, branded as The Historic High Street and the Triangle Market Place, have been developed on the northern edge of the centre. Several retail parks have appeared, the largest being North Quay Retail Park in Peto Way.
Lowestoft is a traditional seaside resort, first developed as a bathing site in the 1760s. The coast has been called the "Sunrise Coast". The town's main beaches are south of the harbour, where two piers, the Claremont and South piers, provide tourist facilities, and the East Point Pavilion the tourist information service. The beach south of the Claremont Pier is a Blue Flag beach. Lifeguard facilities are provided during the summer and water sports take place along the coast. Tourism is a significant aspect of the town's economy.
The town features two major attractions, the first being Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park, situated on the northern edge of the town, while the second is the Africa Alive! wildlife park, situated in the south at Kessingland. The town maintains a holiday park at Pakefield, operated by Pontins, and a small caravan site near its northern beach. The natural attractions of the Broads and the River Waveney on the west edge of the town, also attract visitors and been the site for boat trips and water sports events, with companies such as Hoseasons operating hire boats from Oulton Broad.
Between 1996 and 2012, the town hosted a major air show during the summer, dubbed the Lowestoft Airshow. A major attraction, the two-day event took place in August, and featuring a wide range of aircraft including the Red Arrows, a Lancaster bomber, Spitfires and an Avro Vulcan. From 2004, it was run by Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival Ltd, a non-profit company, but suffered financial difficulties. In 2010, the event made a loss of £40,000 and raised concerns over its sustainability, whereupon further financial difficulties coupled with bad weather and low visitor numbers made the 2012 airshow the last before it was discontinued.
Near the town centre is Lowestoft Maritime Museum, open from late April to late October, which has exhibits of maritime artefacts, an extensive collection of ship models and medals, marine art, fishing and the fishing industry, activities with the Royal Navy in WWII, and shipwrights' and coopers' tools.
Lowestoft is among the more socially deprived areas in Suffolk, with Kirkley the county's most deprived ward, ranking 173rd most deprived in England out of 32,486. The area attracted European Union redevelopment funding. The Waveney Sunrise Scheme invested £14.7 million, funding transport improvements and tourist facilities such as fountains on Royal Plain, as stimulants. Regeneration company 1st East, which focused on the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth areas, closed in 2011.
Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone was announced in 2011 and launched in April 2012. The zone, developed by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, has six redevelopment sites across Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. The bid for the zone in 2011 envisaged creating 13,500 jobs by 2036. It involved the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance and focused on developing the energy sector initially using tax incentives, simplified planning regulations and the provision of improved broadband internet services. The sites in Lowestoft are Mobbs Way, Riverside Road and South Lowestoft Industrial Estate.
The harbour is a focus of redevelopment proposals for Lowestoft through the Lake Lothing and Outer Harbour Area Action Plan, submitted in February 2011. The plan focuses on the redevelopment of brownfield sites in and around the harbour area to create jobs, particularly in the renewable energy and retailing sectors.
The town has three theatres: the Marina, the Players (Lowestoft) and The Seagull. The 800-seat Marina, operated as a charitable trust, was restored and refurbished in 2012 and its cinema upgraded to digital in 2013. A small four-screen cinema, the independently owned East Coast Cinema, underwent modest refurbishment in late 2011 to upgrade facilities and allow 3D films to be shown. The Beach radio station broadcasts to Lowestoft and the surrounding area, from studios in Norwich as does BBC Radio Suffolk, from Ipswich. The local weekly paper is the Lowestoft Journal, which is part of the Archant group. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has played regularly at the Marina Theatre since 2005.
Lowestoft Museum, which holds a collection of Lowestoft Porcelain and artifacts describing the town's history, is in Nicholas Everett Park in Oulton Broad. There are some small museums in Sparrow's Nest Park in the north of the town, including the Lowestoft War Memorial Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum. The Heritage Workshop Centre is also located there. The Mincarlo, the last surviving sidewinder trawler of the Lowestoft fishing fleet, can be visited at Lowestoft Harbour. The East Anglia Transport Museum holds a collection of buses, trams and trolleybuses in Carlton Colville.
The borough church, dedicated to St Margaret, is a Grade I listed building. In the town centre is Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, a Grade II listed building in the Arts and Crafts style and the most easterly Catholic church in the British Isles.
Lowestoft's town-centre library contains a local-history section and a branch of the Suffolk Record Office.
Lowestoft Hospital closed in 2016. Services are now provided by the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston. The main burial grounds for the town are Lowestoft Cemetery and Kirkley Cemetery.
Ness Point, the most easterly location in the United Kingdom, is located in the town close to a 126-metre wind turbine, known locally as Gulliver. At the time it was completed it was the country's tallest.
Belle Vue Park is the site of the Royal Naval Patrol Service memorial. The central depot for the service was in Lowestoft when it was mobilised in August 1939, on a site known as Sparrow's Nest, adjacent to the memorial. The memorial has the names of the 2,385 members of the service who died in World War II.
Lowestoft Lighthouse, built in 1874 to the north of the town centre, stands 16 metres high at 37 metres above sea level, with a range of 23 nautical miles (43 km). It was automated in 1975. It is the United Kingdom's most easterly lighthouse.
The first two lighthouses in Lowestoft were built in 1609 on the foreshore and candlelit, to warn of the dangerous sandbanks around the coast. These were the first constructed by Trinity House. The Low Light was discontinued in 1706 after sea encroachment, but re-established in 1730 in a form that could be easily moved in response to further changes to the Stamford Channel and shoreline. It was discontinued in August 1923. The High Light tower was rebuilt as the present lighthouse in 1874 with the intention of displaying an electric light, but when opened paraffin oil was used instead; not until 1936 was it electrified. The lighthouse, with two cottages originally for lighthouse keepers, is a Grade II listed building.
Lowestoft Lifeboat Station, at the mouth of the outer harbour at the South Pier, is one of Britain's oldest, founded in 1801 and open to visitors throughout the year. The lifeboat is Patsy Knight, a Shannon class lifeboat which replaced the Tyne class boat Spirit of Lowestoft in 2014. A former Lowestoft lifeboat was used during the Dunkirk evacuation of British forces from France in 1940. The South Broads Lifeboat Station, an inland RNLI station, operated at Oulton Broad in 2001-2011.
Lowestoft Town Hall stands in the High Street. Various forms of local government have met or been based on this site since its establishment as a Town House and Chapel in 1570. In 1698 a new Town House was built, incorporating a 'corn cross' on the ground floor with the meeting chamber and chapel above. This in turn was replaced by the present building, designed by architect J. L. Clemence in 1857. The building houses the town clock and the curfew bell, which dates from 1644 and is rung each evening at 8 p. m. The building is a Grade II listed building.
Lowestoft railway station, originally Lowestoft Central, is centrally placed within walking distance of the beach and the town centre. It provides services to Ipswich on the East Suffolk Line and to Norwich on the Wherry Line. Both lines were originally part of the Great Eastern Railway and are operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. The suburb of Oulton Broad has two stations: Oulton Broad North station lies on the line to Norwich, while Oulton Broad South is on the line to Ipswich.
Lowestoft North railway station, originally operated by the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway, closed in 1970 with the Lowestoft to Great Yarmouth line. The site is now taken by the residential Beeching Drive.
Buses in Lowestoft are mainly operated by First Norfolk & Suffolk, with Lowestoft bus station as the hub. They link the town with Norwich and Great Yarmouth and provide services within the town and to surrounding villages. The Excel X1 route runs a link to Peterborough. National Express Coaches stop in Lowestoft on the London-Great Yarmouth route.
The main A12 road to London passes through Carlton Colville, Pakefield and Kirkley in the southern area of Lowestoft, ending at the town's harbour Bascule Bridge. It connects there to the A47 road, which runs around the centre of town, before exiting along Great Yarmouth Road, crossing the county border into Norfolk.
A second road from the town centre, the A1044, links the town to Oulton Broad, via its second road crossing over Lake Lothing, and connects with the A146 that runs between Lowestoft, Beccles and Norwich. Both bridges can be raised if vessels need to pass through the harbour and Lake Lothing, though this can cause congestion in the town and routes can become gridlocked. A third crossing of Lowestoft Harbour is proposed, but has yet to receive planning or funding. A southern relief road was built to divert traffic from the seafront, while a proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge is planned as an alternative crossing alongside the Bascule Bridge.
Lowestoft's cycle network has routes that link areas to the town centre. About 12 per cent of residents cycle to work. The town is seen as "ideally suited" to cycling due to its relatively small size and flat landscape. Suffolk County Council aims to promote cycling by working with employers and schools and by funding a town-centre pedestrian and cycle bridge.
Lowestoft has several primary and high schools, including four 11-16 high schools: Benjamin Britten Academy, Ormiston Denes Academy, East Point Academy and Pakefield High School. After reorganisation, all eight middle schools in the town closed in 2011 and Pakefield High School opened. Post-16 education is provided at Lowestoft Sixth Form College, which opened in September 2011 as part of the reorganisation, and at East Coast College (Lowestoft Campus), which offers a range of academic and vocational courses.
East Coast College (Lowestoft Campus) provides some higher education courses through an affiliation to University Campus Suffolk. Degrees are validated by the University of East Anglia and University of Essex. The college also has courses in boat building and some to support the offshore and maritime industries that are major employers in the town. Other adult education courses are run by the County Council from a base at the town library.
Lowestoft's sport clubs and facilities include Lowestoft Town Football Club at Crown Meadow and Kirkley & Pakefield Football Club at Walmer Road. Lowestoft Cricket Club plays at the Denes Oval sport ground. Other sport clubs include Waveney Gymnastics club and Rookery Park Golf Club.
Lowestoft and Yarmouth rugby football club www.lyrugby.club also has its Gunton Park home based in Lowestoft. Founded in 1879, it is one of the oldest rugby union clubs in England.
The town's main leisure centre, the Waterlane Leisure Centre, was redeveloped at a cost of £8 million in 2010-2011. Facilities include a gym and climbing wall as well as a 25-metre swimming pool with a movable floor. Lowestoft has a number of parks and recreation grounds.
The Broads national park extends to Lowestoft on Oulton Broad. Water activities and boat tours can be taken here. Powerboat racing takes place throughout the summer, mainly on Thursday evenings. Fixtures are organised by the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club and can attract up to 1500 spectators. The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club has its club house in Lowestoft harbour.