Blythburgh, The Village c.1955

Blythburgh, The Village c.1955

Neg. B125004


Caption for Blythburgh, The Village C1955

WE MUST NOT become too enthralled with the sea and the excitements of coastal villages and small towns. Small towns like Saxmundham and Leiston and villages such as Middleton and Westleton speak of a different life, involved in the diverse world of agriculture. Saxmundham and Leiston both claim a Saxon heritage. Certainly the former of these was a substantial settlement by the time of Domesday Book, and enjoyed market rights in the Middle Ages. It was at the centre of the farming community for centuries with regular livestock markets. The railway arrived in 1859, and included a branch line to Aldeburgh. However, one associates Saxmundham with the old turnpike and the modern A12, and here the Bell Inn could tell some tales from all the travellers who have rested there. Today the by-pass, long fought for, has brought the town a measure of peace and quiet, especially from those rumbling monsters of the road, trucks and lorries. It is ironic, perhaps, that its convenience has prompted a house- building programme, so that the population of Saxmundham has risen above 4000. A strong sense of small-town community spirit seems to exist there, we are happy to say. Leiston owes its medieval prosperity to a substantial abbey which flourished up to the Dissolution in 1537. In the 19th century, the firm of Garretts dominated the town, and the manufactures of the company, including formidable steam engines of all kinds, were sold world wide. We must not forget that Suffolk played an important part in the early and developing Industrial Revolution. Today a fascinating museum records the triumphs of Garretts of Leiston. In the 1950s, a nuclear power station was commissioned, a Magnox reactor of formidable potential, bringing new employment opportunities. Later came Sizewell B, the PWR reactor, proudly state-of-the-art; today the giant white dome stands rather incongruously where smugglers once plied a profitable trade. Both towns claim to be the hub of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and indeed they are both useful starting points for a journey of exploration in such a special place.

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