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10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT SUFFOLK

As a county, Suffolk is famous for several things such as classical music, its foodie ethos, medieval history, and being the home of BBC Springwatch. However, there are lots of lesser-known facts about Suffolk that deserve to be heard. These are the 10 things you didn’t know about Suffolk:

1. SUFFOLK HAS ITS OWN BREED OF HORSE

Suffolk Punch horses are chesnut in colour, gentle and hardworking in nature, and very stocky, hence the ‘Punch’ in their name. They were bred as draught horses, and their existence dates back to at least 1506. Amazingly, the male line of Suffolk Punches can be traced back to just one stallion! You can see these gorgeous, gentle giants at Easton Farm Park, or the Suffolk Punch Trust in Hollesley Bay.
Suffolk Punch horse (c) Rictor Norton & David AllenSuffolk Punch horses are gentle giants
Photo (c) Rictor Norton & David Allen

2. SUFFOLK IS WHERE YOU'LL FIND BRITAIN'S SMALLEST PUB

At 15ft by 7ft, the Nutshell pub in Bury St Edmunds is officially Britain’s smallest pub. It stands at the heart of that historic Suffolk town, and has been serving beer since 1867. The record for the most people to have ever squeezed in at once currently stands at 102, though thankfully you can expect far fewer than that on a normal Friday night.

3. THE PATRON SAINT OF SUFFOLK IS ST EDMUND...

…and his story is fascinating. Very little is known about mysterious St Edmund, aside from that he was king of East Anglia from 855 until 869, when he was killed by the Great Heathen Army of Norse warriors. As the story goes, when Edmund refused to renounce Christ to the invaders, he was shot with arrows and beheaded, and his head thrown into the woods. Later, when his followers went in search of the head, they heard a wolf howling ‘hic, hic, hic,’ or ‘here, here, here.’ When they followed the sound, they came across a wolf guarding the king’s head. But the strangest events were yet to come: according to some ancient texts, upon the exhumation of his body in the 900s, Edmund’s head had miraculously reattached to his body, and all his arrow wounds had healed.

4. SUFFOLK IS THE FURTHEST EAST YOU CAN GO IN THE UK

Travel as far east as you can within mainland Britain and you’ll reach Ness Point in Lowestoft. This quiet place is the first place in the country to see the sunrise, and is also home to the tallest wind turbine in the UK.
Ness Point in Lowestoft SuffolkA blazing sun rises at Ness Point in Lowestoft, the UK's most easterly point

5. HARRY POTTER WAS BORN IN SUFFOLK... AND SO WAS VOLDEMORT

The medieval village of Lavenham in Suffolk was the inspiration for Harry Potter’s fictional birthplace, Godric’s Hollow, and its magical streets feature in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2. You can even spend a week in the Potters’ cottage (known to muggles as De Vere House), which is a cosy, historic holiday home, thankfully free of any long-term magical damage. And it’s not just Harry Potter who was born in Suffolk: the actor who plays Lord Voldemort is Ralph Fiennes, a Suffolk-born actor who also starred in Schindler’s List, The English Patient and The Avengers.

6. GEORGE ORWELL TOOK HIS NAME FROM A SUFFOLK RIVER

In his youth, Eric Arthur Blair spent several summers at his parents’ house in Southwold, Suffolk. From that beautiful coastal town he went on long voyages through the surrounding countryside, now designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The place that he loved the most was the River Orwell, a picturesque waterway where yachts sail and flocks of wading birds line the banks. He loved it so much that when he came to publishing his first book in 1933, the author’s name on its spine read not ‘Eric Arthur Blair,’ but ‘George Orwell.’
George Orwell (c) Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Orwell took his name from the River Orwell in Suffolk
Photo (c) Wikimedia Commons

7. SUFFOLK IS HOME TO ONE OF TWO WORKING TIDEMILLS IN BRITAIN

The Woodbridge Tide Mill on the tranquil River Deben is one of just two working tide mills left in Britain (the other is in Eling, Hampshire). A tide mill has existed on that spot since 1170, meaning that man has been harnessing the power of the waves there for almost 850 years. Today the mill is an engrossing, interactive museum with a working waterwheel that is used to mill flour in live demonstrations once or twice a day during the summer.

8. SUFFOLK HAS THE LONGEST TURF STRAIGHT IN THE WORLD

The Rowley Mile at Newmarket Racecourses boasts the longest turf straight in the horseracing world, stretching for 1 mile 2 furlongs (1.25 miles). The course is one of two in Newmarket, where horseracing has existed since at least 1147. As the home of British horseracing, Newmarket holds racing days throughout the year, including the most glamorous event of the summer: the Moët & Chandon July Festival. As a town, it is as quirky as you would expect from a place that has a population of 3,000 horses and just as many trainers and jockeys – there are even special ‘horse pavements’ for those travelling on four legs!

9. THE UK'S SILK CAPITAL IS IN SUFFOLK

As one of the Suffolk Wool Towns, Sudbury grew wealthy at the close of the Middle Ages thanks to the booming wool trade that swept across the county, and the remnants of this prosperous time can be seen in its grand medieval architecture. However, Sudbury’s present day textile trade is of a much silkier nature: with four working mills manufacturing with 110 metric tonnes of Chinese silk every year, this Suffolk town is officially the silk capital of the UK.
The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds (c) Karen RoeThe Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds has had several famous guests
Photo (c) Karen Roe

10. VISITORS TO SUFFOLK CAN SLEEP IN CHARLES DICKENS' OLD BED

In Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers, he writes: “The coach rattled through the well-paved streets of a handsome little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped before a large inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the old abbey.” The town he described is Bury St Edmunds, and the inn is the Angel Hotel: a Georgian coaching inn where Charles Dickens himself stayed, once in 1835 while reporting on the elections for The Morning Chronicle, and again in 1859 and 1861 when he gave readings of his novels at the nearby Athanaeum. His favourite room, 215, is now known as the Charles Dickens room, and still contains the original four-poster bed he slept in!

KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T?

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