Another of my trips as things were opening up here in the UK was to visit the market town of Woodbridge, in Suffolk. Woodbridge is a special place to me as it’s where my Granny and Grandpa lived as I was growing up and we used to visit during school holidays and for Christmases regularly. I wanted to re-trace my childhood steps and discover more of the area on a visit.
Woodbridge is a great day trip, or one night stay destination. If you have longer in Suffolk, then you could also combine it with any of the following to make a long weekend (or even week long) break:
History of Woodbridge
Woodbridge is an historic market town, and lies on the River Deben. The area was occupied by the Romans for 300 years after Queen Boudica’s failed rebellion in 59 CE, and after the Romans left substantial Anglo-Saxon settlement ensued. The Angles gave their name to East Anglia (the region made up of the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in the East of England).
The town has various buildings from Tudor, Georgian and Victorian times and also has a tide mill in working order – one of only two left in the country. Woodbridge also has two windmills – Buttrum’s and Tricker’s, and is also home to RAF Woodbridge which was used during the Cold War by the US Air Force as the base for Tactical Fighter Squadrons until 1993.
Things to do in Woodbridge
1. Woodbridge Waterfront & Tide Mill
The waterfront has been a bustling place since the 1400s, with the area initially a thriving ship building centre. Merchant and naval ships were built here, including for Edward III and Sir Francis Drake! The quay allowed the town to prosper and local trade in cloth and rope helped build the town’s riches. Today the waterfront has a number of cafes, a nice maritime museum and some good walking paths so it’s worth dedicating an hour or so to.
Also at the waterfront is the Tide Mill, and there has been one on this site for over 800 years. It’s a fascinating contraption as when the tide rises, the water gets trapped in a large pool which is then released to turn the machinery and produce grain. Amazing! You can now visit inside the Mill to see it working.
2. Market Hill
The Market Hill is a stunning collection of old buildings, with the Shire Hall built in the 1500s at the centre. Also nearby is the wonderful St Mary’s Church (where my Grandpa used to be vicar), and a number of nice pubs and restaurants perfect for a spot of breakfast or cake.
3. Sutton Hoo
Now made famous by the film The Dig, Sutton Hoo is where the richest ever treasures were found on British soil. In 1939, Edith Pretty excavated some of the mounds on her estate- and it uncovered the burial site of an Anglo Saxon King! The most likely candidate is King Raedwald of East Anglia, the most powerful King in England in the 600s and who died in around 624 CE.
The visitor centre is amazing and you can see some of the treasures recovered. There are also lots of walking trails around the burial mounds and a lovely shop to browse as well.
4. Seckford Hall
Seckford Hall is a Tudor period house just outside of Woodbridge. It was the family home of Thomas Seckford who founded many local almshouses and schools (and is buried in St Mary’s church, mentioned above). Enid Blyton even visited here in 1915 and found inspiration for her books.
The Hall is now a hotel, where you can choose to have a very special stay. Or just visit for a lunch, dinner or afternoon tea and discover the beautiful grounds. We chose to stay here for the night and the rooms were comfortable and full of character.
5. Take a trip to Framlingham
Framlingham is a lovely market town, about a 30 minute drive away from Woodbridge, and is another spot where my grandpa was vicar (and he still lives there). The town’s biggest attraction is the incredible castle. Initially built in the Norman era, it was destroyed by Henry II to squash a rebellion against him, but rebuilt by Roger Bigod in the late 1100s. Interestingly, it wasn’t built as a royal castle, but instead has been a family home.
It played a significant role during the Wars of the Roses as home of the Howard family – Thomas Howard was attainted in 1547 for his part in supporting the claim of Mary Tudor to the throne, however Henry VIII died the day before Thomas was due to be executed at the Tower, and his successor, Mary’s half-brother Edward VI spared him, though gave Framlingham to Mary. When Mary seized power in 1553 she collected her forces at Framlingham Castle before successfully marching on London. Thomas was released from the Tower by Mary as a reward for his loyalty but eventually Elizabeth I seized the throne, and the last of the next Thomas Howard was executed for treason in 1572 the castle passed to the Crown.
After the collapse of the Howard’s power, in the 1600s the castle became a work house and the chapel was destroyed. It was then used as an isolation unit during the Plague, became a prison and was used as an armoury during the Napoleonic Wars. Eventually it was passed to English Heritage, who maintain the site for the public to visit.
If you’re in Woodbridge for a day, or with an overnight stay, then I recommend starting the day in Woodbridge itself and covering the waterfront and market hill with a big breakfast or brunch along the way. Then head on to Sutton Hoo for a couple of hours, before heading to Seckford Hall for a 3pm afternoon tea. Finish the day in Framlingham by exploring the castle and indulging in dinner before heading home or back to your hotel.
What do you think of Woodbridge and Framlingham? Would you like to visit? I hope I’ve managed to show you another lovely part of England which might inspire you to visit one day. Stay safe and happy travelling!