What do we know about Southwold’s early history ?

From earliest times records show that the Church owned Southwold, In 1020 Alfric, Bishop of East Anglia, seized control of the town. In 1044 he gave it to the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds.

By 1086 Southwold was just sufficiently established to warrant an entry in William the Conqueror’s Domesday survey. It was then a very small hamlet with, surprisingly, no recorded fishermen

In 1202 Bishop Sampson had a small chapel built and dedicated to St Edmund.

In 1259 the Church lost control to the aristocracy; Richard Clare, Earl of Gloucester; who, under King Henry II was given the town in exchange for property elsewhere.

In 1300 another Earl of Gloucester made an application to the King for permission to fortify his property on a hill in the town. He hoped to defend his land against marauding pirates with a structure called ‘The Castle’. It was never built. (The hill was later named after Richard Skilman who, in 1451 was granted a licence to trade with Spain).

See also our Timeline page