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Lowestoft Promenade - - 73623.jpg
Lowestoft Promenade
Map showing location of Lowestoft
Map showing location of Lowestoft
Lowestoft shown within Suffolk
Population 64,358 [1]
OS grid reference TM548933
• London 110 mi (180 km) South-west
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Lowestoft
Postcode district NR32, NR33
Dialling code 01502
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°29′N 1°45′E / 52.48°N 1.75°E / 52.48; 1.75Coordinates: 52°29′N 1°45′E / 52.48°N 1.75°E / 52.48; 1.75

Lowestoft (/ˈlstɒft/, /ˈlstəf/, or /ˈl.əstəft/) is a town in the English county of Suffolk, with a population of approximately 64,400. The town is on the North Sea coast and is the most easterly point of the United Kingdom. It is 110 miles (177 km) north-east of London, 38 miles (61 km) north-east of Ipswich and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Norwich. It is situated on the edge of the Broads, an English National Park, and is the largest settlement within the district of Waveney.

As a seaside resort the town is a popular tourist destination, with beaches in the south of the town having acheived Blue Flag status. Other tourist attractions are also located within or close to the town.

Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in the United Kingdom have been found in Lowestoft and the town has a long history. It is a port town which developed due to the fishing industry and a traditional seaside resort. It has wide, sandy beaches, two piers and a number of other tourist attractions. Whilst its fisheries have declined, the town has developed as a centre for the renewable energy industry within the East of England.


Following the discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield in south Lowestoft in 2005, the human habitation of the Lowestoft area can be traced back 700,000 years. This establishes Lowestoft as one of the earliest known sites for human habitation in the United Kingdom.[2]

The area was settled during the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages and during the Roman and Saxon periods, with a Saxon cemetery producing a number of finds at Bloodmoor Hill in south Lowestoft.[3][4] The settlement's name is derived from the Viking personal name Hlothver, and toft,[5] a Viking word for 'homestead'. The town's name has been spelled variously: Lothnwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft and Laystoft.

At the Domesday survey the village was known as Lothuwistoft and was relatively small with a population of around 16 households.[6] The manor formed part of the King's holding within the Hundred of Lothingland and was worth about four geld in tax income.[6][7] Roger Bigot was the tenant in chief of the village.[7] The village of Akethorpe may have been located close to Lowestoft.[8]

In the Middle Ages Lowestoft became an increasingly important fishing town. The industry grew quickly and the town grew to challenge its neighbour Great Yarmouth.[9][10] The trade, particularly fishing for herring, continued to act as the town's main identity until the 20th century.

In June 1665 the Battle of Lowestoft, the first battle of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, took place 40 miles (64 km) off the coast of the town. The battle resulted in a significant victory for the English fleet over the Dutch.[11]

Lowestoft's Yacht Basin in 1929
Lowestoft's Yacht Basin in 1929.

In the 19th century, the arrival of Sir Samuel Morton Peto brought about a change in Lowestoft's fortunes.[10] Railway contractor Peto was contracted by the Lowestoft Railway & Harbour Company to build a railway line between Lowestoft and Reedham. This stimulated the further development of the fishing industry and the Port of Lowestoft in general.[12] The development of the port boosted trade with the continent.[12] Peto's railway not only enabled the fishing industry to get its product to market, but assisted the development of other industries such as engineering and helped to establish Lowestoft as a flourishing seaside holiday resort.[10][12]

During World War I, Lowestoft was bombarded by the German Navy on 24 April 1916. The port was a significant naval base during the war, including for armed trawlers such as Ethel & Millie and Nelson which were used to combat German U-boat actions in the North Sea such as the action of 15th August 1917. In World War II, the town was heavily targeted for bombing by the Luftwaffe due to its engineering industry and role as a naval base.[13][14] It is sometimes claimed that it became one of the most heavily bombed towns per head of population in the UK.[13] The Royal Naval Patrol Service, formed primarily from trawlermen and fishermen from the Royal Naval Reserve, was mobilised at Lowestoft in August 1939. The service had its central depot HMS Europa, also known as Sparrow's Nest, in the town. Many Lowestoft fishermen served in the patrol service.[15]

Lowestoft porcelain[edit]

During the second half of the 18th century a factory in Crown Street produced soft-paste porcelain ware.[10][16] Items still exist, and there are collections at the museum in Nicholas Everett Park, Oulton Broad, and at the Castle Museum, Norwich. The factory produced experimental wares in about 1756 and first advertised their porcelain in 1760, operating until about 1801.[16][17] The factory was in production for longer than any English soft-paste porcelain producer other than Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby.[17]

Lowestoft collectors divide the factory's products into three distinct periods, Early Lowestoft circa 1756 to 1761, Middle-Period circa 1761 to 1768 and Late-Period circa 1768 to the closure of the factory in about 1801.[17][18] During the early period wares decorated with Chinese-inspired scenes in underglaze blue were produced. This type of decoration continued throughout the life of the factory but scenes were gradually simplified. Overglaze colours in enamel were used from about 1768.[9]

The factory, which was built on the site of an existing pottery or brick kiln, was later used as a brewery and malt kiln. Most of the remaining buildings were demolished in 1955.[17]


Lowestoft is the major settlement in Waveney District Council. It is a former municipal borough, having lost this status in 1974, although it retains a ceremonial mayor. The mayor of Lowestoft is elected by councillors on an annual basis.[19] Suffolk County Council is the local authority.

The town is part of the Waveney parliamentary constituency and currently represented at Westminster by Conservative Peter Aldous. Former M.P.s include Bob Blizzard, David Porter and Jim Prior, a cabinet minister and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Thatcher governments, who also represented the former constituency of Lowestoft. For European Union elections Lowestoft forms part of the East of England constituency.

For district election purposes, Lowestoft is divided into ten electoral wards, with Carlton Colville treated as a separate electoral area. Harbour, Kirkley, Normanston, Pakefield, St Margarets and Whitton wards elect three councillors each, with Carlton, Gunton and Corton, Oulton and Oulton Broad wards electing two district councillors.[20] Of the 48 council seats in the district, 26 represent wards within Lowestoft, with three more representing Carlton Colville. In 2010 the council changed to a Whole Council election process, with all seats on the council elected at one set of elections every four years.[21] The most recent district council elections were on 5th May 2011 at which the Labour party won 19 of the Lowestoft seats, a gain of four seats, concentrated in the central areas of the town. The Conservative party won six seats with one Independent candidate retaining their seat in Oulton ward.

At Suffolk County Council, Lowestoft and its immediate surrounding area are represented by eight councillors, split equally between four electoral divisions–Gunton, Lowestoft South, Oulton and Pakefield.[22] For county council elections Pakefield division includes Carlton Colville. Elections take place every four years, with the most recent elections in June 2009.[22] Seven of Lowestoft's county councillors represent the Conservative party, with South Lowestoft electing a UK Independence Party councillor in 2009.[23]


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Met Office

Lowestoft is the easternmost town in the United Kingdom. It lies on the North Sea coast and is located 110 miles (177 km) north-east of London, 38 miles (61 km) north-east of Ipswich and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Norwich. The town is divided in two by Lake Lothing which forms Lowestoft Harbour and provides access via Oulton Broad and Oulton Dyke to the River Waveney and the Broads.

Lowestoft is mainly low lying, although with areas of steep hills in the north of the town where the highest points are 20–30 metres above sea level.[24] The underlying rock is crag-sand with overlying sand and glacial till deposits with gravel, with the crag being exposed at coastal cliffs such as at Pakefield.[24] Areas around Lake Lothing feature alluvium silt and some marshland remains west of Oulton Broad.[24] The beaches to the south of the harbour are sandy and have Blue Flag status.[25][26] Towards the north of the harbour is an area of old sand dunes known locally as the Denes as well as more beaches and Ness Point, the easternmost point of the U.K.

Lowestoft has been subject to periodic flooding, most notably in January 1953 when a North Sea swell driven by low pressure and a high tide swept away many of the older sea defences and deluged most of the southern town.[27] Heavy rain caused flash flooding in the town in 2006.[28]

Lowestoft is in one of the driest areas of the United Kingdom and receives less than 600 mm of rainfall a year on average.[29] Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. Summer temperatures will tend to reach 21°C in August, when the town averages over 200 hours of sunshine, whilst in winter minimum temperatures average 2°C.[29] Significant snowfall is rare, although has occurred in recent years. Sea fog and cool onshore breezes can affect the town.

Lowestoft is Suffolk's second largest town (second to Ipswich) with a population of 64,358 at the 2001 census.[1][30] The town contains a variety of business and residential areas, with the main shopping centre lying just to the north of Lake Lothing. The wider Lowestoft urban area includes the suburbs of Carlton Colville, Gunton, Pakefield, Oulton and Oulton Broad as well as the district of Kirkley. Outlying villages associated with Lowestoft include Blundeston, Corton, Gisleham, Kessingland and Somerleyton.


Around a tenth of Lowestoft's population of 64,358 at the 2001 census was aged 75 or over, whereas 20% was aged under 16.[30] In general the population of a number of wards within the town is slightly skewed towards elderly people. The population is mainly classified as "white" with minority ethnic groups making up around 1.4% of the population of the town compared to around 8.7% nationally.[31][32][33][34][35][36]

At the 2001 census there were 27,777 households with an average household size of 2.40.[30] In total 8,430 households (30%) were classified as one person households while 26% included children aged 15 or under.[30] The proportion of households without a car was 29% whilst 22% had two or more cars. In terms of housing tenure, 72% of households were owner occupied.[30]


Originally based on the fishing and engineering industries, the economy of Lowestoft has declined over the years.[37] Although the tourism sector has grown, the major employers in the town are in the wholesale and retail sector, making up 18% of employment.[35] Service industries, including health and social care and education are significant employers, whilst manufacturing employs around 10% of the workforce.[35] Employment in the town can vary seasonally due to the importance of tourism to the economy.[38] In early 2011 around 10% of the working population of the town claimed Jobseekers Allowance.[38]

Traditional industries[edit]

Until the mid 1960s, fishing was perceived as Lowestoft's main industry,[10] although from the 1930s the percentage of those employed directly and in trades associated with fishing was actually only around 10% of the working population [citation needed]. Fleets of drifters and trawlers caught fish such as herring, cod and plaice. Catches have diminished since the 1960s[39] and, although by the 1980s 100 boats remained, there are now only a few small boats operating out of Lowestoft, with no trawlers remaining.[37][40][41] By 2011 just three traders remained at the towns fish market which is under threat of closure due to the redevelopment of the port.[42][43] The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), a large fisheries research centre, which is a part of Defra is still located in Lowestoft.[37]

Other major traditional employers included the Eastern Coach Works and a variety of engineering and ship building companies clustered around the harbour.[10][37] These included Brooke Marine and Richards shipbuilding companies, who together employed over a thousand men but went out of business in the 1990s, and Norwich based engineering company Boulton and Paul.[10][44] Some ship building and repair still goes on in the harbour.[45][46]

Modern economy[edit]

Major local employers include Birds Eye frozen foods which employs 700 workers.[37][47][48] The company has been located in the town for over 60 years.[49] Food processing company Wessex Foods closed its Lowestoft plant in 2010 after a major fire destroyed the factory and the company was unable to find alternative premises.[50]

A number of other local employers have had to make redundancies in recent years. The Sanyo plant in the town closed down in 2009 with the loss of 60 jobs.[51] The plant once employed 800 people.[52] Timber company Jeld-Wen closed their factory in the town in 2010.[44]

From the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, the oil and gas industry provided significant employment in the Lowestoft area.[53] For many years the Shell Southern Operations base on the north shore of Lowestoft Harbour was one of the town's largest employers.[53] A decision to close the Shell base was finally made in 2003.[54] The oil and gas industry is still a significant industry within the town.[55][56][57]

The town has attempted to develop itself as a centre for the development of renewable energy in the east of England.[58] The non-profit Orbis Energy centre has been set up to attract business in the green energy sector to the town and features solar thermal heating.[59][60][61][62] In April 2009, Associated British Ports announced that the harbour is to become the operations centre for the 500 megawatt Greater Gabbard offshore windfarm which, when completed, will be the world’s largest offshore windfarm. The turbines will be located 15 miles (24 km) off the Suffolk coast, and Lowestoft’s Outer Harbour is to be used to house the necessary operational support facilities. Other developments in the renewable energy sector include a prototype tidal energy generator being produced by local company 4NRG[63] and wave power systems developed by Trident Energy.[64]

Lowestoft is also bidding for to be the operational base for the proposed 5,000 megawatt 'Zone 5' wind farm, planned for construction off-shore.[65][66]


The town centre is the main shopping area within Waveney district.[67] Major retailers such as Marks & Spencer and British Home Stores have stores in the town. Chadds independent department store was founded in 1907 and after nearly 100 years trading on the high street and was taken over in 2004 by the Great Yarmouth based Palmers group.[68][69] Specialist shopping areas, branded as The Historic High Street and the Triangle Market Place, have been developed on the northern edge of the centre, while a number of retail parks have been developed in the town.


Lowestoft beach crowd
Lowestoft beach at the airshow

Lowestoft is a traditional seaside resort, first developing as a bathing site in the 1760s.[9] The coast has been branded the "Sunrise Coast". The town's main beaches are to the south of the harbour and have Blue Flag status.[25][26] Two piers, the Claremont and South piers, provide tourist facilities and the East Point Pavilion is the site of the tourist information service.[9][70] Lifeguard facilities are provided during the summer and watersports take place along the coast.[70]

Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park is situated on the northern edge of the town.[71] In the west at Oulton Broad boat trips and watersports on the Broads and River Waveney are attractions, with companies such as Hoseasons operating hire boats from Oulton Broad.[55] To the south Africa Alive at Kessingland is a major attraction whilst Pontins operates a holiday park at Pakefield where 160 jobs were created in 2010.[55]

A major attraction in recent years has been Lowestoft Airshow, founded in 1996. The two day event, which takes place in August, features a wide range of aircraft including, in the past, the Red Arrows, a Lancaster bomber, Spitfires and an Avro Vulcan.[72] In 2002, a Royal Air Force Harrier plane crashed into the sea during the festival.[73] An RAF board of inquiry later established that the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Cann, had accidentally operated the controls for throttle and nozzle direction lever at the same time, causing it to drop sharply.[74]

The event, which has been run by Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival Ltd, a not for profit company, since 2004, has had financial difficulties in the past and made a £40,000 loss in 2010.[75][76] Waveney District Council has helped support the event, which has significant economic benefits to the town, but it has lacked a main sponsor since 2007 when Birds Eye withdrew its sponsorship.[75] The festival and has asked for contributions to raise the £250,000 cost of staging the show.[75][76][77] It has been estimated that the show generates 180 jobs and benefits the local economy by more than £13 million a year.[75]


Lowestoft is one of the more socially deprived areas in Suffolk, with Kirkley the most deprived ward in the county ranking 173rd most deprived in England (out of 32,486).[35] The area has attracted European Union redevelopment funding. The Waveney Sunrise Scheme invested £14.7 million in the town, including the transport improvements and the development of tourist facilities such as fountains on Royal Plain, in an attempt to stimulate the local economy.[78][79] Regeneration company 1st East, which focussed on the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth areas, closed in 2011.[80]

The harbour is the focus for redevelopment proposals for Lowestoft in the form of the Lake Lothing and Outer Harbour Area Action Plan submitted in February 2011.[81] The plan focusses on the redevelopment of brownfield sites in and around the harbour area to create jobs, particularly in the renewable energy and retailing sectors.[82][83]

Culture and Community[edit]

The Marina Theatre is the largest theatre in the town. The Seagull theatre in Pakefield is smaller. The Beach radio station broadcasts to Lowestoft and the surrounding area as does BBC Radio Suffolk. The local weekly paper is the Lowestoft Journal which is part of the Archant group.

Mincarlo, Lowestoft

Lowestoft's museums include the Maritime Museum in Sparrow's Nest park in the north of the town. The Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum is in the same location. The Mincarlo is the last surviving sidewinder trawler of the Lowestoft fishing fleet and can be visited at Lowestoft Harbour. It was revived as a walkthrough museum by a team of local students from The Denes High School. Lowestoft Museum, which holds a collection of Lowestoft Porcelain as well as artifacts describing the town's history, is in Nicholas Everett Park in Oulton Broad.[9] The East Anglia Transport Museum, which holds a collection of buses, trams and trolleybuses is located in Carlton Colville.

Lowestoft retains a number of narrow lanes with steps running steeply towards the sea in the north of the town, known locally as "scores". These were used by fishermen in the past and are now the site of an annual race which raises money for charity.[9][84] The borough church is dedicated to St Margaret and is a Grade I listed building.[85][86]

Lowestoft library, located in the centre of the town, contains a local history section and a branch of the Suffolk Record Office.[87] Lowestoft Hospital provides community care for the elderly as well as a variety of other services.

The town is currently twinned with the French town of Plaisir in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France to the west of Paris. It was formerly twinned with Dutch town of Katwijk which is due east from Lowestoft on the North Sea coast.


Ness Point

Ness Point, the most easterly location in the United Kingdom, is located in the town close to a 126 metre high wind turbine known locally as Gulliver. At the time it was completed the turbine was the tallest in the United Kingdom.[88] At the most easterly point is a large compass rose, the Euroscope, set in the ground which gives the direction and distance to various cities in Europe.[89]

Belle Vue Park is the site of the Royal Naval Patrol Service memorial. The central depot for the service was in Lowestoft when it was mobilised in August 1939 on a site known as Sparrow's Nest adjacent to the memorial. The memorial has the names of the 2,385 members of the service who died in World War II.[15]

Lowestoft High Lighthouse, located to the north of the town centre, was built at its present location on the cliffs above the Denes in 1676, although two candlelit lights were first established in the town in 1609.[90] The present structure was built in 1874 and stands 16 metres tall, 37 metres above sea level. The light, which has a range of 23 nautical miles, was electrified in 1936 and automated in 1975.[90]


Lowestoft railway station, originally known as Lowestoft Central station, is centrally placed within the town, within walking distance of the beach and the town centre. It provides services to Ipswich on the East Suffolk Line and to Norwich along the Wherry Line.[91][92] Both lines were originally part of the Great Eastern Railway and are currently operated by National Express East Anglia. The suburb of Oulton Broad has two stations: Oulton Broad North station lies on the line to Norwich, while Oulton Broad South is on the line to Ipswich.

Lowestoft North railway station, which was originally operated by the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway, closed in 1970 when the Yarmouth to Lowestoft line closed. The site is now occupied by Beeching Drive, a residential area.

Buses in Lowestoft are operated by First Eastern Counties and Anglian Bus with Lowestoft bus station as the hub for routes. Buses link the town with Norwich and Great Yarmouth and provide public transport within the town and to surrounding villages. The X1 service operates a direct link to Peterborough and National Express Coaches stop in Lowestoft on the route from London to Great Yarmouth.

The main A12 road from London to Great Yarmouth passes through the centre of Lowestoft, crossing the harbour in the centre of the town on the Bascule Bridge. The A146 links Lowestoft with Beccles and Norwich, providing a second road crossing of Lake Lothing. Both bridges can be raised if vessels need to pass through the harbour and Lake Lothing and this can cause congestion in the town and routes can become gridlocked.[93][94] A third crossing of Lowestoft Harbour is proposed[94] but has yet to receive planning or funding, although a southern relief road diverts traffic away from the seafront to help reduce congestion.[79]


Lowestoft has a number of primary, middle and high schools, currently including three 13–18 high schools: The Benjamin Britten High School, The Denes High School and Kirkley Community High School.[95] Lowestoft College provides a range of academic and vocational courses whilst the high schools operate a sixth form consortium.

Pakefield High School is due to open in September 2011.[96] At this time all high schools in Lowestoft will become 11–16 schools with post-16 provision at Lowestoft College or a newly built Lowestoft Sixth Form College. This will involve the closure of all eight middle schools in the town.[97]

Lowestoft College provides a small range of higher education courses through an affiliation to University Campus Suffolk.[98] Degrees are validated by the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex.[99] The college also runs courses in boatbuilding and a variety of courses designed to support the offshore and maritime industries which are important employers in the town.[100] Other adult education courses are run by the County council from a base at the town library.[101]

Sport and Leisure[edit]

Lowestoft has a variety of sports clubs and facilities. Lowestoft Town Football Club play at Crown Meadow and Kirkley & Pakefield Football Club play at Walmer Road. Lowestoft Cricket Club play at the Denes Oval sports ground.[102] Other sports clubs include Waveney Gymnastics club[103] and Rookery Park golf club.[104]

The towns main leisure centre is the Waterlane leisure centre which was redeveloped at a cost of £6.5 million in 2010–11.[105] Facilities include a gym and climbing wall and will feature a 25 metre swimming pool with a movable floor once refurbishment is complete.[105][106] Lowestoft has a number of parks and recreation grounds.[107]

The Broads national park extends into Lowestoft at Oulton Broad. Water activities and boat tours can be taken here. Powerboat racing also occurs every Thursday throughout the summer, hosting local boats and occasionally a round of a national or international championship throughout classes of powerboat.

Notable People[edit]

The composer Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft in 1913. He has been described as "without a doubt the greatest English classical composer of the last century"[108] and "the only person of real celebrity to have emerged from darkest Lowestoft".[109] The Benjamin Britten High School and a small shopping centre in the town are named after the composer.

Sir Samuel Morton Peto, bought Somerleyton Hall in 1843, and has one of the town's main roads named after him, leading to the train station he created. He was influential in developing the town's railway links and its harbour. Sir Christopher Cockerell, inventor of the hovercraft, lived in Oulton Broad, and tested craft in Somerleyton.

Admiral Sir John Ashby, who commanded HMS Victory at the Battles of Barfleur and La Hogue in 1692, grew up in Suffolk and is buried in Lowestoft. A memorial to him is sited in St Margaret's church in the town. Vice Admiral James Dacres fought in wars against America in the 19th Century and was born in the town. Captain Thomas Crisp V.C., Royal Navy officer, was born in the town – one of the town's main roads is named after him.

The Elizabethan pamphleteer Thomas Nashe, one of the fathers of modern journalism and a primary source for the literary milieux of William Shakespeare, was born in Lowestoft in 1567. Robert Potter, poet and translator of Greek drama, was vicar of Lowestoft until 1804. The 19th century writer and traveller George Borrow lived in Oulton Broad for many years and wrote most of his books there.

The children's author and illustrator Michael Foreman was born in 1938, and spent his childhood years in Pakefield where his mother kept the grocers shop.[109] He went to Pakefield Primary School, and played on Hilly Green – stories of which are recorded in his book War Boy. Photographer George Davison was born in Lowestoft, whilst actor Reece Ritchie attended school in the town.[110]

The comedian and actor Karl Theobald was born in Lowestoft as was BBC Radio 4 newsreader and television presenter Zeb Soanes and Tim Westwood, DJ and BBC radio presenter. Three of the founder members of the rock band The Darkness were educated in Kirkley and some of their songs feature landmarks or stories from the local area.[109] Lil Chris featured in Channel4s, Rock School programme filmed at Kirkley High School and went on to have a musical career.

Sportspeople associated with Lowestoft include former England football captain Terry Butcher who was educated in Lowestoft. Others born in the town include former Ipswich Town goalkeeper Laurie Sivell, Norwich City defenders Paul Haylock and Daryl Sutch, New York Mets pitcher Les Rohr and middleweight boxer Anthony Ogogo. Professional darts player Peter Wright lives in the town.


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