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Leiston is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
Population5,508 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceTM445623
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLEISTON
Postcode districtIP16
Dialling code01728
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°12′22″N 1°34′44″E / 52.206°N 1.579°E / 52.206; 1.579Coordinates: 52°12′22″N 1°34′44″E / 52.206°N 1.579°E / 52.206; 1.579

Leiston (/ˈlstən/ LAY-stən) is an English town in the East Suffolk non-metropolitan district of Suffolk, near Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, about 2 miles (3 km) from the North Sea coast, 21 miles (34 km) north-east of Ipswich and 90 miles (145 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 1927, A. S. Neill relocated Summerhill School from Lyme Regis to Leiston. This was the first major "free school" – referring to freedom in education.[5] Children are not required to attend classes and discipline is meted 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.

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.[6]

Notable people[edit]

In birth order:


There is an electoral ward named Leiston, with a population at the 2011 census of 6,360.[7]

Economy and community[edit]

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 backed by Leiston Film Theatre Support Club, which has raised money for stage refurbishment and enabled the cinema to install a 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. There are Roman Catholic and Baptist churches on the edge of the town.

Sport and leisure[edit]

Leiston F.C. plays in the Bostik Premier Division and in November 2008 reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in its history.

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

Leiston and Thorpeness Rugby Club was in existence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It closed in 1995, but was revived in March 2010 as Aldeburgh and Thorpeness Rugby Club, with many of the previous club's 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 remained active for the purpose of removing nuclear materials from Sizewell power station.

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


Other than Summerhill School, Leiston also has conventional primary and secondary schools.

Leiston Primary School caters for pupils aged 5–11 and runs a nursery with 52 places.[10]

Alde Valley Academy is a secondary school and sixth form with academy status, formerly known as Leiston Community High School, then as Alde Valley School from September 2012, after reorganisation involving the closure of Leiston Middle School and conversion from a 13–18 school to one taking pupils from the age of 11.[11] The school received academy status in January 2015 and was renamed Alde Valley Academy.

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


  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  2. ^ Leiston Abbey, English Heritage. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Long Shop Museum". Archived from the original on 1 June 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Richard Garrett and Sons". www.longshopmuseum.co.uk. Long Shop Museum. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Summerhill School: Brief History". www.summerhillschool.co.uk. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Friends of Leiston Airfield". www.friendsofleistonairfield.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. ^ T. Potter (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[edit]