Coordinates: 52°10′46″N 1°36′53″E / 52.179333°N 1.614710°E / 52.179333; 1.614710
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Thorpeness Meare
Thorpeness is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLeiston
Postcode districtIP16
List of places
52°10′46″N 1°36′53″E / 52.179333°N 1.614710°E / 52.179333; 1.614710

Thorpeness is a seaside village in the East Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, which developed in the early 20th century into an exclusive holiday village. It belongs to the parish of Aldringham cum Thorpe and lies within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.


For the earlier history of Thorpe, see Aldringham-cum-Thorpe.

The village was a small fishing hamlet originating in the late 19th century, with folk tales of it being a route for smugglers into East Anglia. The landowning Ogilvie family, began to buy into the area in 1859.[1] In 1910, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, a Scottish barrister whose father had made a fortune building railways around the world, increased the family's local estates to cover the entire area from north of Aldeburgh to past Sizewell, up the coast and inland to Aldringham and Leiston.[2]

Most of this land was used for farming, but Ogilvie developed Thorpeness into an elite private fantasy holiday village, to which he invited his friends' and colleagues' families during the summer months. An exclusive country club with tennis courts, a swimming pool, clubhouse; a golf club designed by the eminent James Braid with its own club house; and many holiday homes were built in Jacobean and Tudor Revival styles.[3] Thorpeness railway station, provided by the Great Eastern Railway to serve what was expected to be an expanding resort, was opened a few days before the outbreak of World War I. It was little used, except by golfers, and closed in 1966.[4]

A notable feature of the village is a set of almshouses built in the 1920s to the design of W. G. Wilson.[5] To hide the eyesore of having a water tower in the village, the tank built in 1923 was clad in wood to make it look like a small house on top of a five-storey tower, with a separate mill next to it, which pumped water to it. It is known as the "House in the Clouds", and after mains water was installed in the village, the old tank was transformed into a huge games room with views over the land from Aldeburgh to Sizewell.[6]

For three generations Thorpeness remained mostly in the private ownership of the Ogilvie family, with houses only being sold from the estate to friends as holiday homes. In 1972, Alexander Stuart Ogilvie, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie's grandson, died on the Thorpeness Golf Course. Many of the houses and the golf course and country club had to be sold to pay death duties.[7]

The Meare[edit]

An artificial boating lake known as the Meare was created where there had once been an Elizabethan shipping haven that had silted up.[8] Many of the inspirations for the Meare came from a personal friend of the Ogilvies, J. M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan.[7] Along with a large main pond, there are several channels with landings marked with names from the Peter Pan stories. Tiny islands on the Meare contain locations found in the novel, such as the pirates' lair, Wendy's house, and many others, where children are encouraged to play. The Meare was dug to a shallow depth for safety reasons.[8]

A variety of boats can be rented to enjoy the water, many of them originals dating from the creation of the Meare and named by the local workmen who had dug the lake. In August, the Meare serves as the location for the Thorpeness Regatta, which has been held since 1913.[9]

Thorpeness today[edit]

The House in the Clouds is an unusual house, converted from a water tower in 1923.

To the south of the village lies the North Warren RSPB reserve, an area of wildlife and habitat conservation and nature trails run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It has Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) status.[10]

Like much of the East Coast, Thorpeness has had intermittent problems with erosion. Discussions are still underway for further defences.[11][12]

In popular culture[edit]

A lifeboat crew from Thorpeness rescues Tim and his friend the sea captain in the Edward Ardizzone book Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (1936).[13]

The Second World War[edit]

  • Radar: A radar installation was located in Thorpeness, Chain Home Extra Low Station K164.[14]
  • Coastal artillery: a lone 18-pounder field gun was sited in a concrete gun emplacement on the cliffs of Thorpeness. The gun was given the name John, while others elsewhere on the coast were named Matthew, Mark, Luke and St Peter.[15]
  • Anti-aircraft artillery.[16]
  • SS Magdapur fell victim to a mine and sank close inshore off Thorpeness.[17]
  • In the run-up to the Second World War, a small British merchant vessel named Thorpeness was sunk by a torpedo fired by German forces off Spain.[18]
  • An anti-tank ditch ran from Aldringham to the Meare. This was dug by the 9th Battalion of the Cameronians.[19]
  • One regiment of the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers arrived in Thorpeness in late 1943 and was stationed there.[20]
  • A detachment of 2711 Squadron, RAF Regiment, was stationed in Thorpeness,[21] as was 2783 Squadron RAF Regiment.[22]
  • The Archaeological Service of Suffolk County Council produced a detailed report of the Second World War and other archaeological aspects of Thorpeness.[23]


  1. ^ "Sizewell Hall". Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Suffolk: The man who dared to dream, and then created Thorpeness". East Anglian Daily Times. 25 May 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  3. ^ "Thorpeness Golf Course". Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  4. ^ "Thorpeness Halt". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  5. ^ Wilson's firm. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  6. ^ Owners' website Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b Haines, Gavin (7 December 2022). "Is this Britain's most eccentric village? Inside Suffolk's Peter Pan-themed utopia". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b Aldeburgh holiday site Retrieved 15 February 2015. Archived 5 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Nostalgia: Magical lit parade still a favourite a century on". East Anglian Daily Times. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  10. ^ "The RSPB: North Warren". Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  11. ^ BBC News. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  12. ^ Ipswich Star. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  13. ^ Ardizzone, Edward (1936). Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Frances Lincoln Children's Books. ISBN 978-1847806291.
  14. ^ Historic England. "Monument No. 1478352". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  15. ^ "WW2 Heritage website".
  16. ^ University of York, Archaeology Data Service website.
  17. ^ "Minesweepers – World War 2 | Harwich & Dovercourt | History, Facts & Photos of Harwich".
  18. ^ Haarr, Geirr H. (24 September 2013). The Gathering Storm: The Naval War in Northern Europe September 1939 - April 1940. Pen & Sword Books Limited. ISBN 978-1-4738-3273-2.
  19. ^ "Blogger".
  20. ^ "BBC - WW2 People's War - Suffolk and the D-Day Funnies: Part 1".
  21. ^ National Archives.
  22. ^ National Archives.
  23. ^ "Part rear garden, Black Timbers 6, Old Homes Road, Thorpeness Aldringham cum Thorpe, Suffolk HER ref. ARG 068" (PDF). Archaeology Data Service. Retrieved 16 October 2023.

External links[edit]