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"LOWESTOFT, a parish, market and seaport town, in the hundred of Mutford, county Suffolk, 10 miles S. of Yarmouth, 39 N.E. of Ipswich, and 113 from London by the turnpike road, or 117 by the Great Eastern railway, which has a branch line to this town. It is situated on the easternmost point of the county, overlooking the German Ocean, and is a packet station, a much frequented watering-place, and a principal seat of the herring fishery. Until recently the town was little better than an insignificant fishing village. It was anciently called Lothwinstoft and Laystoft, either derived from the name of a Saxon earl who resided here, or from "Low-toft," a market formerly held beneath the cliffs. In 1349 the great plague, which devastated the continent of Europe, raged here with such malignity that not more than one-tenth of the inhabitants escaped the contagion. It suffered much, also, from the plague in 1603, and was nearly destroyed by fire in 1645. In 1665 a naval engagement took place off shore between the English and Dutch fleets, when the latter were defeated. Since the construction of the harbour and the opening of the railway, this place has made rapid advancement, having increased in population from 6,580 in 1851 to 10,663 in 1561. The town is clean, well-paved, thoroughly drained, and lighted with gas. It has a good water supply. The main thoroughfare is above a mile in length, and on the heights are many terraces and villas overlooking the sea. The shore is well adapted for sea-bathing, consisting of sand and shingle of a close, firm nature.

There is a modern townhall, library, and news-rooms, a mechanics' institute, four commercial banks, and a savings-bank. Petty sessions are held weekly on Wednesday, also county courts once a month. The principal branches of industry are ship and boat building, rope and sail making, and corn and oil mills. A large number of the resident inhabitants are employed in the herring and other fisheries. On the Denes, under the town, is a population of 2,300 beachmen, &c., for whom the vicar and a committee are erecting a church. And on the common to the N. a bridge is to be erected across a ravine, to connect the two parts of the town together. The Mutford and Lothingland Infirmary, for indoor and outdoor patients, is situated in this parish. The harbour, constructed by Sir S. Morton Peto in 1846-8, consists of two massive stone piers 36 feet wide, the northern pier being about 1,800 feet in length, along which there is a tram-road, and the southern pier 1,200 feet, the former converging towards the latter at the entrance to the harbour, which is 160 feet wide. Each pier is terminated by a lighthouse, and the southern one is used as a promenade. The river Waveney flows into the inner harbour, which is about 2 miles across, and thus affords a means of transit for goods to the interior. Besides the lighthouses at the entrance to the harbour, there are two others, one to the N. of the town, called the Upper Lighthouse, and the other, a wooden one, called the Low Lighthouse, at a part called the Denes. The Trinity Board is now erecting a new lighthouse on the Needle Point, instead of the lower lighthouse. This is rendered necessary by the change in the entrance to the roads consequent on the shifting of the sands. The new lighthouse is to be built of iron and Aberdeen granite, on the newest principle, and will cost, including houses for the men, about £4,000. South Lowestoft, situated near the harbour and railway station, is the more fashionable locality, where the Grand Hotel stands, surrounded by a number of villa and semi-detached residences. Here is also the esplanade, a platform of about 2,400 feet in length, which, with South Pier, forms a marine promenade. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Norwich, value £323, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Margaret, is a structure of the 14th century, with a square tower surmounted by a spire rising to the height of 120 feet. The S. porch is decorated with a fan-roof in stone. The interior of the church contains an antique font, crypt, and a singular recess for penance; also numerous monuments, tablets, and two brasses, with traces of others which have been removed. In addition to the parish church there is the district church of St. John, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £100, in the patronage of trustees. There is also a chapel-of-ease dedicated to St. Peter. The parish register, which commences in 1650, contains also a register of the vicars from the year 1308 down to the last presentation. There are two free grammar schools, called Annott's, founded in 1571, which has an income of £30, and Wilde's, with £72; also six almshouses for decayed master fishermen, and several other charities, producing in all about £460 per annum. The Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National, British, and infant schools. George II. once landed here, as also did the first American ambassador, Adams. A regatta takes place annually. Amber and jet are occasionally found on the seashore. Wednesday is market day. Fairs are held on 12th May and 10th October for the sale of pedlery."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)



There are more than 30 churches identified in this place. Please click here for a complete list.

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Church History

Descriptions and photographs of churches in the parish may be found in Simon Knott's Suffolk Churches.

Description and Travel

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  • A description of Lowestoft transcribed from Stephen Whatley's "Gazetteer of England" (1750) by Mel Lockie © 2011.
" LAYSTOFF, (Suffolk) or LOWESTOF, 94 cm. 112 mm. from London, is a T. which seems to hang over the sea. The chief business here is fishing for cod in the N. Sea, and for herring, mackarel, and sprats, at home. The Ch. being 3 furlongs off, here is a chapel. This place, having been a part of the ancient demesnes of the crown, has a charter and a T. seal, by the former of which, the inh. are exempted from serving on juries. Here is a Mt. on W. Fairs May 1, and Sept, 29. Some take this to be the most eastern part of Britain. "

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Historical Geography

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