The 100 year war against the North Sea

Protecting Southwold from erosion

In the 19th century, a variety of groynes and breakwaters were constructed to try to protect the shoreline. They needed constant repair and replacement and were unpopular with fishermen because they made sailing hazardous.

Since the 1900s sea defence work has continued. Concrete promenades stemmed the erosion to the coastal border of the town itself and the groynes were completely renewed in 1980.

Just two decades later these were once more judged to be not up to the job. 1n 2005 a major new sea defence programme was begun by the Environment Agency in conjunction with Waveney District Council. It involved the building of a completely new set of timber groynes in front of the town and huge rock groynes to the north of the pier. The beach was afterwards recharged with new sand to replace that which had been scoured away.

In spite of the action taken, high tides combined with gale force winds still, from time to time, drive the sea over the promenade, sometimes sweeping away a beach hut or two

1889/1890 - Timber breastwork was constructed

In 1899/90, timber breastwork was constructed on two levels as protection for the town,
The upper level formed a promenade. P1372.2

1903 - A major new defence project under way

Following further widespread erosion to the coastline in front of the town,
a major new project was undertaken in 1903 to create sea defences.
Photos show gangs working on the wooden shuttering,
looking south (above) and north (below) towards the old pier.
P1423 P045.2

1903 Sea defence project looking North

But alas, three years on, it was back to the drawing board!

1903 - Destruction of the three-year-old defences. Road and houses collapse into the sea