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The River Waveney - - 1919012.jpg
The mooring sited on the River Waveney
Somerleyton 5.JPG
Somerleyton Hall
Somerleyton is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
OS grid referenceTM 485 974
Civil parish
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLowestoft
Postcode districtNR32
EU ParliamentEast of England
List of places
52°31′04″N 1°39′41″E / 52.5178°N 1.6614°E / 52.5178; 1.6614Coordinates: 52°31′04″N 1°39′41″E / 52.5178°N 1.6614°E / 52.5178; 1.6614

Somerleyton /ˈsʌmərˌltən/ is a village of medieval origin in the English county of Suffolk.[1] It is centred 4.5 miles (7 km) north-west of Lowestoft and 5.7 miles (9 km) south-west of Great Yarmouth. The land associated with the village is partly in The Broads National Park including its free moorings and marina on the River Waveney close to its public house. Somerleyton is in the civil parish of Somerleyton, Ashby and Herringfleet which maintains a village hall elsewhere and cricket ground and tennis court in the village. Other amenities include a village shop and a railway station.

Many of the houses are in the model village, which were built around a green that in medieval times until the 20th century belonged to Somerleyton Hall whose key owners have been the Jernegan family, Sir Morton Peto and the Lords Somerleyton; the latter were philanthropists with industrial wealth — a major infrastructure engineer/railway developer and family founded in carpet manufacturing respectively. The hall is a house significantly open to the paying public and the estate, 7.7 square miles (20 km2), surrounds the village and the attractions at Fritton Lake. The hall's façades, paintings, reception rooms and grounds are a display of wealth and artisanry, including a yew hedge maze and features to the gardens from across Europe; the 1843-built three-storey mansion with loggia and square belvedere tower has been critically acclaimed as "an Anglo-Italian architecture masterpiece".[2]

Its isolated church in a nearby field has seven stained glass windows depicting models of devotion, a fifteenth century tower and twelve low medieval panels which have survived the English Reformation (break from the Catholic Church) to be re-incorporated into an elaborate rood screen — an ornate pierced framework spanning the building between the chancel and the nave.

Its industrial history centres on a former brickworks and the commercial boatyard run by Christopher Cockerell during his invention of the hovercraft commemorated by a round column monument built in 2010.

Shops and public house[edit]

The village has a County Primary school and a thatched combined post office and village shop. Somerleyton railway station on the Norwich to Lowestoft line is on a dog-leg 850-metre road from the heart of the village; the foot of the village street — which is near flat — has the village's pub, The Duke's Head.


Somerleyton is described in the Domesday Book under the name of Sumerledetuna.[3]

St Mary's Church, Somerleyton

Somerleyton Hall was established in 1240 and has been home to Admiral Sir Thomas Allin and Samuel Morton Peto, who oversaw the latest rebuilding in 1843.[4] Peto also had the ancient Parish Church of St Mary rebuilt in 1854[5] but retaining many historic features including the 15th century tower; it is a Grade II* listed building, the middle of the three categories;[6] this isolated church in a nearby field has seven stained glass depicting wise and serene figures and the twelve low panels of its medieval rood screen are finely painted. It mirros in style and content that at Ranworth, Norfolk. From left to right, the saints are Michael, Edmund, Apollonia, Laurence, Faith, Thomas of Canterbury, Anne, Andrew, John, Mary Magdalene, Felix, Petronilla, Stephen, Dorothy, Edward the Confessor and George.[5]

The Hovercraft Column is by the main road between St Olaves and Lowestoft near the edge of the parish

Somerleyton was the home of Christopher Cockerell while he invented the hovercraft in his post-war career founding in Somerleyton a boatyard and hire business Ripplecraft — cabin cruisers for hire serving holidaymakers cruising the Norfolk Broads. Unveiled in 2010 the Hovercraft Column commemorates Cockerell's invention during this time.[7] The Waveney runs runs west of Somerleyton giving access to the Broads and a rail swing bridge crosses the river in the south-west; this can be viewed from the end of the un-metalled lane starting south of the 'Duke's Head'.

A small brickworks in the village produced bricks such as for the building of Liverpool Street station before closing circa 1947. Ruins are beside the track which leads from Brickfields Cottages to the railway station; its last remaining chimneys were demolished with dynamite in about 1959.

Until circa 1959 an additional pub, The Crown was open in the village officially an 'off-licence' meaning selling drinks for off-site consumption; the resident policeman, whose house was between Policeman's Loke and Somerleyton CP School, routinely made his approach known so that drinkers could have their pints hidden under the bar in time to avoid prosecution.[citation needed] The village store, part of Waveney Co-operative Society and closed circa 1968, was on the opposite side of the road from The Crown adjacent to the village pond in the Street and operated a door-to-door delivery service for groceries via trade-bike and the milk delivery van. Both are now private houses as is The Reading Room, which was provided for the use of residents with snooker table etc. until being closed and converted to a dwelling circa 1968.

Somerleyton Gardens.
Somerleyton Gardens as they appeared in 1930

A memorial to two airmen killed in a friendly fire incident during World War II is on Waddling Way, an un-metalled road east of the village which runs to Flixton, Lothingland, near Blundeston; the aircraft was an RAF Mosquito nightfighter being flown by two young airmen of the United States Navy. On 14 November 1944, British anti-aircraft fire mistakenly shot them down, they were chasing an air-launched V1 flying bomb.[8]

In literature and television[edit]

The BBC's Antiques Roadshow took place at Somerleyton Hall in 2009, with selected excerpts to form its standard one-hour broadcast in 2010; the roadshow provides free-to-the-public expert valuations and takes place at a small number of popular British country houses each year.[9] The broadcaster has published on its website a panorama of some features of the estate.[2]


  1. ^ Kelly, E. R., ed. (1875). "SOMERLEYTON". The Post Office Directory of Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. London: Kelly & Co. p. 911.
  2. ^ a b Somerleyton Hall in 360 degree views with article Panoramas of attractions by county - Suffolk. BBC website. Retrieved 20 January 2013
  3. ^ Suffolk: page 6 (English translation from the heavily abbreviated Latin with excerpt of the record)
  4. ^ "Somerleyton Hall and Gardens". The Somerleyton estate. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b "St Mary, Somerleyton" Descriptions of the church, family memorials and village. Simon Knott.
  6. ^ Historic England, "Church of St Mary (1183419)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 19 October 2017
  7. ^ Monument and history in the invention of the Hovercraft Somerleyton Hovercraft (a Somerleyton estate business and museum initiative). Retrieved 22 February 2012
  8. ^ Final Flights, Ian McLachan, 1994 (republished), Patrick Stephens Ltd (Publisher) ISBN 978-1852601225
  9. ^ Antiques Roadshow Retrieved 17 January 2013

External links[edit]

Media related to Somerleyton at Wikimedia Commons