Woodbridge, Suffolk


Woodbridge harbour, with Woodbridge Tide Mill in the background
 Woodbridge shown within Suffolk
Population 7,749 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceTM272491
DistrictSuffolk Coastal
Shire countySuffolk
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode district IP12
Dialling code 01394
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK ParliamentSuffolk Coastal
List of places

Coordinates: 52°05′37″N 1°19′04″E / 52.0935°N 1.3179°E / 52.0935; 1.3179

Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England. It is in the East of England, about 8 miles (13 km) from the coast. It lies along the River Deben, with a population of about 11,000. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line and is located just a few miles from the wider Ipswich urban area. Woodbridge is twinned with Mussidan in France. Woodbridge is close to the most important Anglo-Saxon site in the United Kingdom, the Sutton Hoo burial ship. With 1100 years of recorded history, the town has retained a variety of historical architecture, and there are facilities for boating and riverside walks on the River Deben.


Woodbridge lies in the Suffolk Coastal district of the shire county of Suffolk. The Town Council was formed in 1974 as a third-tier successor to the Urban District Council and has a mayor and 16 councillors elected for four wards.[2] The town lies in Suffolk Coastal parliamentary constituency and is currently represented by Conservative Therese Coffey.[3] and County Councillor Liberal Democrat Caroline Page.

History and heritage

Archaeological finds in the area show habitation from the Neolithic Age (2500-1700 B.C.).

The area was under Roman occupation for 300 years following Queen Boadicca's failed rebellion in 59 A.D. but there is little evidence of the Romans' presence. When the Roman soldiers were recalled to Rome in 410 A.D., there was a substantial Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) settlement. It was the Angles who gave East Anglia its name.

In the early 7th century King Rædwald of East Anglia was Bretwalda, the most powerful king in England. He died in around 624, and he is probably the king buried at Sutton Hoo, just across the river Deben from Woodbridge. The burial ship is 89 feet long, and when its treasures were discovered in 1939 they were the richest ever found in British soil. They are kept in the British Museum in London. Replicas of some items, and the story of the finds, are to be found in the Woodbridge Museum, and the National Trust has built a Visitor Centre on the site.

The earliest record of Woodbridge dates from the mid-10th century, when it was acquired by St Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester, who made it a part of the endowment of the monastery he helped to refound at Ely, Cambridgeshire in AD 970. The Domesday Book of 1086 describes Woodbridge as part of the Loes Hundred. Much of Woodbridge was granted to the powerful Bigod family, who built the famous castle at Framlingham.

The town has been a centre for boat-building, rope-making and sail-making since the Middle Ages. Edward III and Sir Francis Drake had fighting ships built in Woodbridge.[4] The town suffered in the plague of 1349, but recovered enough, and with encouragement from the Canons, and growing general prosperity, to have a new church (now St. Mary's, behind the buildings on the south side of Market Hill) constructed with limestone from the Wash and decorated with Thetford flint. By the mid 15th century the Brews family had added a tower and porch.

On 12 October 1534, Prior Henry Bassingbourne confirmed Henry VIII's supremacy over the Church and rejected the incumbent "Roman Bishop". Nonetheless, Woodbridge Priory was dissolved three years later.[5]

As religious unrest continued in the reign of the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor, Alexander Gooch, a weaver of Woodbridge, and Alice Driver of Grundisburgh were burnt for heresy on Rushmere Heath. Alice previously had her ears cut off for likening queen Mary to Jezebel. The subsequent religious settlement under Elizabeth I helped Woodbridge industries such as weaving, sail-cloth manufacture, rope-making and salt making to prosper, along with the wool trade. The port was enlarged, and shipbuilding and timber trade became very lucrative, so that a customs house was established in 1589.

Around the town there are various buildings from the Tudor, Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras. Woodbridge has a tide mill in working order, one of only two in the UK and among the earliest. The mill first recorded on the site in 1170 was run by the Augustinian canons. In 1536 it passed to King Henry VIII. In 1564, Queen Elizabeth I granted the mill and the priory to Thomas Seckford. In 1577 he founded Woodbridge School and the Seckford Almshouses, for the poor of Woodbridge. Two windmills survive, Buttrum's Mill, and Tricker's Mill. The former is open to the public.[6]

Education and the arts

The town has state and grant-aided primary and secondary education at Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge Primary School, Kyson Primary School, and St Mary's Church of England Voluntarily Aided Primary School.[7] It has a coeducational independent school, Woodbridge School, with junior and senior departments and facilities for boarding.[8]

Woodbridge has its own brass band, the Excelsior, which was formed in 1846 and is the oldest community brass band in East Anglia.[9] There is a local radio station.[10] The town also has a well-maintained two-hectare walled park.[11] Also of interest ecologically are the Quaker Burial Ground[12] and Fen Meadow, 2.67 hectares of traditionally managed grassland.[13]

Sport and leisure

Woodbridge has a Non-League football club Woodbridge Town F.C. who play at Notcutts Park.

There are numerous clubs and associations in the town, including sports clubs for association football, badminton, birdwatching, bowls, cricket, cruising, netball, road running, rowing, rugby football, swimming, tennis, golf (Ufford Park), yachting and archery.[14] They include Deben Rowing Club and Deben Yacht Club.

Places of worship

There are two Church of England churches: the medieval St Mary's on Market Hill,[15] and the Victorian St John's on St John's Hill.[16]

Woodbridge Quay Church in Quay Street, once known as the Quay Meeting House, took its present form when the town's Baptist and United Reformed congregations merged in 2006. It is now affiliated to the Baptist Union of Great Britain and to the Evangelical Alliance.[17] There is also a Methodist Church in St John's Street, a Salvation Army hall in New Street,[18] and the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in St John's Street forms a joint parish with Framlingham.[19] Avenue Evangelical Church is located on the outskirts of Woodbridge. It is affiliated to the FIEC.[20]

UFO sighting

The so-called Rendlesham Forest incident took place in nearby Rendlesham Forest in 1980. Unexplained lights were seen in the sky close to RAF Woodbridge, a United States Airforce airfield, and there were claims that a UFO had landed in the forest. The incident continues to interest ufologists and vigorous debates take place between those who believe that an alien spacecraft landed there and the people who offer alternative explanations.[21]

Notable residents

Writers Edward FitzGerald and Anne Knight were born in Woodbridge, and fellow writer Bernard Barton lived in the town in later life. Other residents of note include musicians Nate James and Charlie Simpson; actors Brian Capron and Nicholas Pandolfi; painter Thomas Churchyard; Director-General of the BBC Ian Jacob; abolitionist John Clarkson; Roy Keane the football manager, Thomas Seckford, official at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and John Calver clockmaker. Musician Brian Eno was born in the town.[22]

See also


  1. "Town population 2011". Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  2. "About Woodbridge Town Council". Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  3. "Election 2010: Results:UK>England>Eastern>Suffolk Coastal". BBC. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  4. Long, Peter (2004). The Hidden Places of England. Traveller Publishing Ltd. p. 514. ISBN 1904434126.
  5. The Abbey (Junior School), Woodbridge, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  6. Links to English Heritage descriptions: Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  7. "A to Z of schools by village/town". Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  8. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  9. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  10. Community Radio for Woodbridge & The Deben Valley. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  11. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  12. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  13. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  14. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  15. Community: Retrieved 20 December 2010. Architecture: Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  16. Community: Retrieved 20 December 2010. Architecture: Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  17. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  18. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  19. Community: Retrieved 20 December 2010. Architecture: Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  20. "Avenue Evangelical Church - A Christ-centred, Bible-teaching, Evangelical church in Woodbridge". www.avenueevangelicalchurch.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  21. The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  22. Miller, Andy (5 July 2008). "The life and times of Brian Eno". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
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