Old cities and towns that have seen better days retain pockets of interest from past times. A street in Deptford, London, that seemed derelict decades ago has become a feature of gentrified dockland dwelling. Perhaps that awaits Lowestoft High Street now that the “Daily Telegraph” has claimed the town will knock Southwold off its perch.
Planners did their worst, after war damage and the demise of herring fishery, by driving a dual carriageway theough the central north-south axis. West of this axis are the stores like M&S that towns look to for success; east of it all is dowdy, barely relieved by some good restaurants and views over the cliffs and out to sea. In this area is High Street, where medieval merchants built town houses on proceeds from the fishing fleet. Behind dingy facades are high class carved timber features and the signs of great prosperity.
High Street curves at its northern end, following the cliffs below. Its is then interrupted by a minute grassed area, flattened by bombs. Beyond is Arnold House, once owned by the family related to Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, and Mattew Arnold, poet of “Dover Beach”. Although not written there, it is easy to imagine the poem being inspired by the view from Arnold House, as the cliff path runs steeply down from a view of the sea to Whapload Road beside the beach. Along this road are the remains of “fish houses” where nets were dried and repaired and fish cured. Their future is now as industrial unitrs are refurbishment as homes.
The work done by the fishermen has now been taken by the Birds Eye factory that dominates much of the shoreline. This seems unlike to generate much employment as most of the work will be automated. Equally low in employment prospects are the wind turbines along the shore and out to sea. Prosperity will have been found by some, however, since an electric car charging facility is within sight of one turbine.
Another sign of prosperity (for some) is the quality of food at the former Blue Anchor pub at the southern end of High Street. Conversation there included the “Telegraph” feature. Enough said.
Our visit was to a different pub, though we did enjoy the Blue Anchor lunch. That had some of the most flamboyant carved timber we have seen. The pub is dated 1551, according to a bressumer. Presumably it, like the other High Street properties we visited, was spared by the fire that swept through Lowestoft in 1645. This must have been confined to the lower area, with High Street protected by the “scores”, tracks named after owners of the mercantile properties that gave access to and from the shore. The fish houses were all rebuilt after the fire.
Another house we visited had a tower frontage to High Street and domestic rooms behind. Business and storage were presumably conducted in the front areas. The garden here would have been multi-purpose, with storage near the house, fruit trees and market gardens with fish treatment and servicing lower down. Hare again carved timbers were a feature, as well as a spiral staircase making us of expensive (for this area) stone.
Presumable once a barn, an early seventeenth century building now serves as headquarters of Crown Street Motors. The timbers of the roof are well-maintained and double-pitched roof is clear to see.
It has to be hoped that the “Telegraph” feature will encourage people to visit Lowestoft and challenge Southwold. The town already has one unique feature: Ness Point is the most easterly place in England, although the sandy tints inshore show where people could once grow crops long before leisure interest took precedence and longshore drift threatened the east c.oast