Pictures of Woodbridge
in the county of Suffolk
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Many of the houses that surround the old Market square round which this Port has grown are exceedingly attractive and of major historical interest. These wonderful buildings date mostly from the 16th-century, and the entire group is centred on the superb Shire Hall which features work from the 16th-19th-century and picturesque Dutch-style gables.
The history of Woodbridge goes way back to the 10th-century when King Edward the Peaceable re-established a Monastery in 970. This is the earliest record of a settlement and the Charter is the first document to mention Woodbridge. The Domesday Book of 1086 describes Woodbridge as the Port of Loes Hundred.
Much of Woodbridge was granted to the powerful Bigod family, who built the famous castle at Framlingham. From here-on, and by various means the village survived the turmoil of the centuries until the period of religious peace in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was during this time that Woodbridge industries began to prosper along with the wool trade, weaving, sail-cloth manufacture and salt manufacture. The port was enlarged, the ship building and timber trade became important, requiring a Customs House to be established in the year 1589.
The churchyard of St. Mary was another centre for business, despite official disapproval. In 1583 owing to increased trade and the close proximity of many inns, a urinal was built against the west wall of the church!
Woodbridge has several famous son's; Robert Beale was a powerful man, a puritan lawyer and a diplomat. In 1570 he became secretary to his brother-in-law, Sir Francis Walsingham and between 1580 and 1587 he was Secretary of State to the Jesuit Trials, he negotiated with Mary Queen of Scots and he carried the death warrant to Mary at Fotheringhay Castle. Following this he had the grim task of presiding at her execution.
Another famous son, was John Fox, a flamboyant Woodbridge seafarer, who in 1563 as a Master Gunner of the Three Half Moons, was captured by the Turks whilst on a voyage to Seville. He was imprisoned at Alexandria. After 14 years he planned a daring escape, and with several other prisoners killed their captors, released christian prisoners and seized weapons and a galley. Four weeks later, with the loss of eight men, the happy band landed on friendly territory and upon his return to England in 1579 John Fox was granted 1 shilling per day from Queen Elizabeth Ist for Valliant Action.
Thomas Seckford was perhaps the most famous of all Woodbridge citizens, certainly he held positions of influence and was a great benefactor to the town. His rise to power began in the reign of Mary Tudor, and his power continued until he died in 1587. He was buried in St. Mary's parish Church and even now, after more than 400 years, his charity still benefits Woodbridge.
The period of the 1700's saw a decline of ship building and in 1798 Thomas Churchyard was born. As a painter of water colours and oils he became one of the so-called 'Woodbridge Wits' he died in 1865.
Life continued bringing with it many changes, some good and some not so good and 1926 saw one of the last loads of wheat from Millwall Docks, unloaded for the Tide Mill.
Sadly, the port's status as a busy centre of ocean trade declined a long time ago, but today, Woodbridge is a busy sailing centre which offers locals and visitors alike, all that is best for relaxed sailing. The estuary of the River Deben is alive with colourful boats and beautiful yatchs, all wending their way down to the sea to enjoy a good day's sailing, followed by a glass or two in the local yatch club or one of the many inns and public houses to be found around the harbour.
As you travel around this pretty area you will perhaps spot a Windmill or two, one being a very rare example which depends on the tide can be seen in Woodbridge, there is also a museum which tells much of the industrial history of the town. The Felixstowe ferry leaves from the point where the sea enters the estuary towards Woodbridge.
The fabulous heritage coastline stretches for miles and there are spectacular views of the sea from the cliffs that line this dramatic coast.
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