Long Shop Museum
 Leiston shown within Suffolk
Population 5,508 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceTM445623
DistrictSuffolk Coastal
Shire countySuffolk
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post town LEISTON
Postcode district IP16
Dialling code 01728
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK ParliamentSuffolk Coastal
List of places

Coordinates: 52°12′22″N 1°34′44″E / 52.206°N 1.579°E / 52.206; 1.579

Leiston is a town in eastern Suffolk, England, near Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the North Sea coast, 21 miles (34 km) north-east of Ipswich and 90 miles (140 km) north-east of London. The town had a population of 5,508 at the 2011 Census.[1]


The 14th-century remains of Leiston Abbey lie north-west of the town.[2]

Leiston thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a manufacturing town, dominated by Richard Garrett & Sons, owners of Leiston Works, which boasted the world's first flow assembly line, for the manufacture of portable steam engines.[3][4] The firm also made steam tractors and a huge variety of cast and machined metal products, including munitions during both world wars. The works closed in 1981 and the site was reused as a mixture of housing, flats and industrial sites. The Long Shop Museum, showing the history, vehicles and products of the works, remains as a heritage tourist attraction.[4]

In the Second World War, RAF Leiston, 1 mile (1.6 km) north-west of the town in the neighbouring village of Theberton, sent fighter squadrons of the American 357th Fighter Group to fight the Luftwaffe. Famous American test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager (later, first to break the sound barrier) flew out of RAF Leiston. The Friends of Leiston Airfield hold a memorial service and flying display at the end of May each year, with veterans and their families attending.[5]

In the 1960s, Leiston became famous as the home of the Summerhill School, founded by A.S. Neill in the 1920s as the first major "free school" – referring to freedom in education.[6] Children are not required to attend classes and discipline is given by pupil self-government meetings. Summerhill has inspired a large "free school" movement and, more recently, democratic schools in several countries. The school occupies the former mansion of Richard Garrett, owner of Leiston Works.


There is an electoral ward named Leiston. Its population at the 2011 census was 6,360.[7]

Economy, culture and community

Since the closure of Garrett's, the town's economy has been dominated by two nuclear power stations on the coast at Sizewell: the now decommissioned Magnox reactors of Sizewell A and the more modern Pressurised Water Reactor of Sizewell B. A number of smaller companies operate from industrial areas within the town.

Leiston's High Street serves as the business and market hub of the surrounding agricultural district. The town's facilities include a post office, library, banks, pubs and a range of shops and other services.

Leiston Film Theatre, a half-timbered building with street front shops, is the oldest purpose-built cinema in Suffolk. The cinema is owned and run by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council and supported by the Leiston Film Theatre Support Club, which has raised money for stage refurbishment and enabled the cinema to install the latest digital 3D projection system.[8]

The town has a traditional Anglican church, St Margaret's, with an ancient tower and an unusual 19th century nave. In addition there are Roman Catholic and Baptist churches on the edge of the town.

Sport and leisure

Leiston F.C. play in the Isthmian Premier Division and in November 2008 reached the 1st round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Leiston also has a leisure centre, a skate park and several parks.

Leiston & Thorpeness Rugby Club was in existence in the late 1980s and early 1990s; unfortunately the club closed in 1995. However the club was revived in March 2010 as Aldeburgh & Thorpeness Rugby Club, with many previous Leiston Rugby Club members.


A railway branch spur from the Great Eastern Line, known as the Aldeburgh Branch Line, went from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh, with intermediate stations at Leiston and Thorpeness. On 12 September 1966 British Rail withdrew all passenger services to Leiston and beyond.[9] However, the line to Leiston remains active for the purpose of removing nuclear materials from Sizewell power station. This was expected to cease permanently by 2012.

Leiston has direct bus services to Ipswich, Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Halesworth.


Other than Summerhill School, Leiston also has its own primary and high school. Leiston Primary School caters for pupils aged 5 to 11. The school also provides a nursery with 52 places.[10]

Alde Valley Academy is a secondary school and sixth form with academy status. The school was formerly known as Leiston Community High School, changing its name to Alde Valley School in September 2012 following a reorganisation of schools in Suffolk. This saw the closure of Leiston Middle School and the school convert from a 13-to-18 school to one taking pupils from the age of 11.[11] The school converted to academy status in January 2015 and renamed Alde Valley Academy.

In 2001 the school became a Specialist Technology College, and in following years it was named as one of the most improved schools in England. It is the lead school in the Schools Energy Network based at the Orbis Centre in Lowestoft[12] and has strong links with Sizewell nuclear power stations.[13]

Notable people


  1. "Town population 2011". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  2. Leiston Abbey, English Heritage. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  3. "Long Shop Museum". Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  4. 1 2 "Richard Garrett and Sons". www.longshopmuseum.co.uk. Long Shop Museum. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. "Friends of Leiston Airfield". www.friendsofleistonairfield.co.uk. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  6. "Summerhill School: Brief History". www.summerhillschool.co.uk. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  7. "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  8. "Leiston Film Theatre". film.list.co.uk. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  9. "The Railway | Aldeburgh Museum Online". www.aldeburghmuseumonline.co.uk. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  10. Leiston Primary School profile, Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  11. Potter.T (2012) Leiston: Pupils take first lessons in new-look high school, East Anglian Daily Times, 6 September 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  12. Waveney students become energy ambassadors, Eastern Daily Press, 19 September 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  13. Green.D (2007) School benefits from station link-up, East Anglian Daily Times, 20 January 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2011.

External links

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