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Lowestoft
Lowestoft beach and outer harbour.jpg
Lowestoft beach and outer harbour
Lowestoft shown within Suffolk
Population 71,010 
OS grid reference TM548933
• London 110 mi (180 km) South-west
District
  • Waveney
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Lowestoft
Postcode district NR32, NR33
Dialling code 01502
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • Waveney
List of places
UK
England
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Lowestoft (/ˈl.əstɒft/, /ˈlstɒft/ or /ˈlstəf/) is a town in the English county of Suffolk. The town is on the North Sea coast and is the most easterly settlement of the United Kingdom. It is 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 situated on the edge of The Broads system and is the major settlement within the district of Waveney with a population of 71,010 in 2011.

Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Britain has been found in Lowestoft and the town has a long history. It is a port town which developed due to the fishing industry, and a traditional seaside resort. It has wide, sandy beaches, two piers and a number of other tourist attractions. Whilst its fisheries have declined, the development of oil and gas exploitation in the southern North Sea in the 1960s led to the development of the town, along with nearby Great Yarmouth, as a base for the industry. This role has since declined and the town has begun to develop as a centre of the renewable energy industry within the East of England.

History

Following the discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield in south Lowestoft in 2005, the human habitation of the Lowestoft area can be traced back 700,000 years. This establishes Lowestoft as one of the earliest known sites for human habitation in Britain.

The area was settled during the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages and during the Roman and Saxon periods, with a Saxon cemetery producing a number of finds at Bloodmoor Hill in south Lowestoft. The settlement's name is derived from the Viking personal name Hlothver and toft, a Viking word for 'homestead'. The town's name has been spelled variously: Lothnwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft and Laystoft.

At the Domesday survey the village was known as Lothuwistoft and was relatively small with a population of around 16 households comprising, in 1086, three families, ten smallholders and three slaves. The manor formed part of the king's holding within the Hundred of Lothingland and was worth about four geld in tax income. Roger Bigod was the tenant in chief of the village. The village of Akethorpe may have been located close to Lowestoft.

In the Middle Ages Lowestoft became an increasingly important fishing town. The industry grew quickly and the town grew to challenge its neighbour Great Yarmouth. The trade, particularly fishing for herring, continued to act as the town's main identity until the 20th century.

In June 1665 the Battle of Lowestoft, the first battle of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, took place 40 miles (64 km) off the coast of the town. The battle resulted in a significant victory for the English fleet over the Dutch.

The Lowestoft Porcelain Factory, active from 1757 to 1802, was in production for longer than any English soft-paste porcelain manufacturer other than Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby, producing domestic wares such as pots, teapots and jugs. The factory, built on the site of an existing pottery or brick kiln, was later used as a brewery and malt kiln. Most of its remaining buildings were demolished in 1955.

Lowestoft
Lowestoft's Yacht Basin in 1929.

In the 19th century, the arrival of Sir Samuel Morton Peto brought about a change in Lowestoft's fortunes. Railway contractor Peto was contracted by the Lowestoft Railway & Harbour Company to build a railway line between Lowestoft and Reedham. This stimulated the further development of the fishing industry and the Port of Lowestoft in general. The development of the port boosted trade with the continent. Peto's railway not only enabled the fishing industry to get its product to market, but assisted the development of other industries such as engineering and helped to establish 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 significant naval base during the war, including for armed trawlers such as Ethel & Millie and Nelson which were used to combat German U-boat actions in the North Sea such as the action of 15th August 1917. In World War II, the town was heavily targeted for bombing by the Luftwaffe due to its engineering industry and role as a naval base. It is sometimes claimed that it became one of the most heavily bombed towns per head of population in the UK. The Royal Naval Patrol Service, formed primarily from trawlermen and fishermen from the Royal Naval Reserve, was mobilised at Lowestoft in August 1939. The service had its central depot HMS Europa, also known as Sparrow's Nest, in the town. Many Lowestoft fishermen served in the patrol service.

Geography

Weather chart for Lowestoft
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source: Met Office

Lowestoft is the easternmost town in the United Kingdom. The town lies on the North Sea coast and is located 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. The town is divided in two by Lake Lothing which forms Lowestoft Harbour and provides access via Oulton Broad and Oulton Dyke to the River Waveney and the Broads.

Lowestoft is mainly low lying, although with areas of steep hills in the north of the town where the highest points are 20–30 metres above sea level. The underlying rock is crag-sand with overlying sand and glacial till deposits with gravel, with the crag being exposed at coastal cliffs such as at Pakefield. Areas around Lake Lothing feature alluvium silt and some marshland remains west of Oulton Broad. The beaches to the south of the harbour are sandy and have Blue Flag status. Towards the north of the harbour is an area of old sand dunes known locally as the Denes as well as more beaches and Ness Point, the easternmost point of the U.K.

Lowestoft has been subject to periodic flooding, most notably in January 1953 when a North Sea swell driven by low pressure and a high tide swept away many of the older sea defences and deluged most of the southern town. Heavy rain caused flash flooding in the town in September 2006. December 2013 storm surge caused severe flooding of Lowestoft and its suburbs in December 2013

Lowestoft is in one of the driest areas of the United Kingdom and receives less than 600 mm of rainfall a year on average. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. Summer temperatures will tend to reach 21 °C in August, when the town averages over 200 hours of sunshine, whilst in winter minimum temperatures average 2 °C. Significant snowfall is rare..

Demography

Lowestoft is Suffolk's second largest town (second to 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, brings this population to 71,010, up from 64,358 at the 2001 census. The town contains business and residential areas, with the main shopping centre lying just to the north of Lake Lothing. The wider Lowestoft urban area includes the suburbs of Carlton Colville, Gunton, Pakefield, Oulton and Oulton Broad as well as the district of Kirkley. Outlying villages associated with Lowestoft include Blundeston, Corton, Gisleham, Kessingland and Somerleyton.

Around a tenth of the Lowestoft areas population of 64,358 at the 2001 census was aged 75 or over, whereas 20% was aged under 16. In general the population of a number of wards within the town is slightly skewed towards elderly people. The population is mainly classified as "white" with minority ethnic groups making up around 1.4% of the population of the town compared to around 8.7% nationally.

At the 2001 census there were 27,777 households with an average household size of 2.40. In total 8,430 households (30%) were classified as one person households while 26% included children aged 15 or under. The proportion of households without a car was 29% whilst 22% had two or more cars. In terms of housing tenure, 72% of households were owner occupied.

Culture and community

Churchyard, St. Margaret, Lowestoft - geograph.org.uk - 910808
St. Margaret's Church, Lowestoft

The town has two theatres, the Marina Theatre and The Seagull community theatre. Operated as a Charitable Trust, the 800 seat Marina was substantially restored and refurbished in 2012 and its cinema was upgraded to digital in 2013. A small four screen cinema, the independently owned East Coast Cinema, underwent a 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 as does BBC Radio Suffolk. The local weekly paper is the Lowestoft Journal which is part of the Archant group. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has been resident at the Marina Theatre since 2005.

Lowestoft Museum, which holds a collection of Lowestoft Porcelain as well as artifacts describing the town's history, is in Nicholas Everett Park in Oulton Broad. A number of small museums are located 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 in the park. The Mincarlo is the last surviving sidewinder trawler of the Lowestoft fishing fleet and can be visited at Lowestoft Harbour. The East Anglia Transport Museum, which holds a collection of buses, trams and trolleybuses is located in Carlton Colville.

Lowestoft retains a number of narrow lanes with steps running steeply towards the sea, known locally as "scores". These were used by fishermen and smugglers in the past and are now the site of an annual race which raises money for charity. The borough church is dedicated to St Margaret and is a Grade I listed building.

Lowestoft library, located in the centre of the town, contains a local history section and a branch of the Suffolk Record Office. Lowestoft Hospital provides community care for the elderly as well as other services. The main burial grounds for the town are Lowestoft Cemetery and Kirkley Cemetery.

The town is twinned with the French town of Plaisir in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France to the west of Paris. It was formerly twinned with Dutch town of Katwijk which is due east from Lowestoft on the North Sea coast.

Landmarks

Ness Point, the most easterly location in the United Kingdom, is located in the town close to a 126 metre high wind turbine known locally as Gulliver. At the time it was completed the turbine was the tallest in the United Kingdom. At the most easterly point is a large compass rose, the Euroscope, set in the ground which gives the direction and distance to various cities in Europe.

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.

Lighthouse

Lowestoft Denes lighthouse - geograph.org.uk - 229057
Lowestoft Lighthouse

Lowestoft Lighthouse, located to the north of the town centre, was built in 1874 and stands 16 metres tall, 37 metres above sea level. The light, which has a range of 23 nautical miles (43 km), was automated in 1975. It is the most easterly lighthouse in the United Kingdom.

The first two lighthouses in Lowestoft were built in 1609, on the foreshore and candlelit, to give warning of the dangerous sandbanks around the coast. These were the first lighthouses constructed by Trinity House. The Low Light was discontinued in 1706 following 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 finally 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; it was not until 1936 that it was electrified. The lighthouse, along with two cottages originally used by lighthouse keepers, is a Grade II listed building.

Lifeboat station

Lowestoft Lifeboat Station is located at the mouth of the outer harbour at the South pier. The station is one of the oldest in the British Isles, founded in 1801, and is 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 between 2001 and 2011.

Town Hall

Lowestoft Town Hall, Historic High Street
Lowestoft Town Hall

Lowestoft Town Hall stands on the High Street. Various forms of local government have met or been based on this site since the establishment of a Town House and Chapel here 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 8pm. The building is a Grade II listed building.

In 2012 Waveney District Council announced that it planned to leave the town hall, and share Suffolk County Council's offices on Riverside Road. This took place in 2015.

Transport

Diesel Multiple Units stand at Lowestoft - geograph.org.uk - 1460645
Trains at Lowestoft station

Lowestoft railway station, originally known as Lowestoft Central station, is centrally placed within the town, within walking distance of the beach and the town centre. It provides services to Ipswich on the East Suffolk Line and to Norwich along 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, which was originally operated by the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway, closed in 1970 when the Yarmouth to Lowestoft line closed. The site is now occupied by Beeching Drive, a residential area.

Buses in Lowestoft are mainly operated by First Norfolk & Suffolk and Anglian Bus with Lowestoft bus station as the hub for routes. Buses link the town with Norwich and Great Yarmouth and provide public transport within the town and to surrounding villages. The X1 service operates a direct link to Peterborough and National Express Coaches stop in Lowestoft on the route from London to Great Yarmouth.

The main A12 road from London to Great Yarmouth passes through the centre of Lowestoft, crossing the harbour in the centre of the town on the Bascule Bridge. The A146 links Lowestoft with Beccles and Norwich, with a second road crossing of Lake Lothing at Oulton Broad on the A1117. Both bridges can be raised if vessels need to pass through the harbour and Lake Lothing and 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, although a southern relief road diverts traffic away from the seafront to help reduce congestion and a pedestrian and cycle bridge is planned to provide an alternative crossing alongside the Bascule Bridge.

Lowestoft's cycle network is generally fairly well developed, with routes focussing on linking areas to the town centre. Around 12% of residents cycle to work and the town is considered to be "ideally suited" to cycling due to its relatively small size and flat landscape. Suffolk County Council is aiming to promote cycling in the town by working with employers and schools as well as through the funding of the pedestrian and cycle bridge in the town centre.

Sport and leisure

Lowestoft has sport clubs and facilities. Lowestoft Town Football Club play at Crown Meadow and Kirkley & Pakefield Football Club play at Walmer Road. Lowestoft Cricket Club play at the Denes Oval sport ground. Other sport clubs include Waveney Gymnastics club and Rookery Park Golf Club.

The town's main leisure centre, the Waterlane Leisure Centre, was redeveloped at a cost of £8million in 2010–11. 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 period, 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.

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