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Walberswick 1.jpg
Walberswick is located in Suffolk
 Walberswick shown within Suffolk
Shire county Suffolk
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Southwold
Postcode district IP18
Dialling code 01502
EU Parliament East of England
List of places

Coordinates: 52°18′50″N 1°40′01″E / 52.313983°N 1.666911°E / 52.313983; 1.666911

Walberswick is a village on the Suffolk coast in England, across the River Blyth from Southwold. Coastal erosion and the shifting of the mouth of the River Blyth meant that the neighbouring town of Dunwich was lost as a port in the last years of the 13th century. Following a brief period of rivalry and dispute with Dunwich, Walberswick became a major trading port from the 13th century until World War I. Almost half of the properties in the village are holiday homes. A small rowing boat ferries passengers across the river Blyth to Southwold during the high season.


The name Walberswick is believed to derive from the Saxon Waldbert – probably a landowner – and "wyc" meaning shelter or harbour. At the top of the village is the 15th century St. Andrew's Church. The size of the St. Andrew's ruins demonstrate how large the parish once was.

The name 'Walleburyswyke', appearing in a Latin legal record, dated 1440, may refer to the village.[1]

With over 1,000 acres (4 km2) of heath and marshland protected within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Walberswick has good varied local habitats for birds. The village and surrounding beach and marshland have long attracted residents drawn from the arts, film and media. In the 1890s and 1900s the village became associated with Philip Wilson Steer and his circle of English Impressionists. It was home to the noted artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh from 1914. It was also the birthplace of Oscar nominated documentary film maker Humphrey Jennings famous for his World War II documentaries.

The World War Two defences constructed around Walberswick have been documented. They included a number of pillboxes, landmines and flame fougasse installations. The beaches were protected with extensive barriers of scaffolding.[2]

The ornate metalwork village sign on the Green is a replica of the one erected in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The original sign went missing in the 1980s but after changing hands has since been returned and restored to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The restored sign has been erected opposite the church.

Considering its size, an inordinate number of British celebrities own or have owned holiday homes in the village including the late Sir Clement Freud and his wife Jill, and their daughter, Emma Freud and her husband Richard Curtis. Martin Bell, and Geoffrey Palmer, maintain properties here while Paul Heiney and Libby Purves live nearby. Film director Paul Greengrass has a house in the village, as does ITV's Director Peter Fincham. The village is the setting for Esther Freud's novel, The Sea House, thinly disguised as 'Steerborough' - presumably a coded reference, or in-joke, towards one-time resident, Philip Wilson Steer (see above). Esther Freud, the cousin of Emma Freud and daughter of painter Lucian Freud, also has a house in the village with her husband, actor David Morrissey.

The village was famous for its annual crabbing competition - The British Open Crabbing Championship, last held in August 2010. The person who caught the single heaviest crab within a period of 90 minutes was declared the winner. The proceeds supported many charitable causes.

A derelict windmill stands on the marshes near Walberswick. The area around the village makes up the Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve, a protected area on 1,340 hectares (3,300 acres) with a range of wetland and heathland habitats.[3]

Walberswick is reputedly haunted by a phantom coach, drawn by headless horses and driven by the murderer Tobias Gill, who was hanged in the area in the 18th century.[4]


Walberswick had a railway station on the Southwold Railway but the line and station closed on 11 April 1929.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; CP 40/717; National Archives; http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no717/bCP40no717dorses/IMG_1936.htm - first entry, the home of John Reve, a shipman ; line 4
  2. ^ Foot 2006, p. 105.
  3. ^ Suffolk Coast NNR, Natural England. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  4. ^ Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 247. ISBN 9780340165973. 
  • Foot, William (2006). Beaches, fields, streets, and hills ... the anti-invasion landscapes of England, 1940. Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 1-902771-53-2. 

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