Leiston is a compact town close to the Suffolk Coast, between Aldeburgh and Southwold. Boasting a leisure centre with indoor Olympic size swimming pool & gym, a large Co-Op supermarket and a variety of caravan and campsites, Leiston is also the closest town to the Sizewell Power station (open to visitors, click on the link) and Sizewell Beach.
The town was actually an ancient Saxon settlement and you can see signs of this at Leiston Abbey ruins. Once a very wealthy Abbey, this fell into disrepair after the dissolution of the monasteries in 16C, but is now a stunningly beautiful ruin and home to a national school for young chamber music players. Leiston also offers the oldest purpose built cinema in Suffolk which celebrates its centenary in 2014. However the popcorn is fresh!
The opening of a railway line in the 19C brought a new kind of engineering prosperity to the town, and in 1862 Richard Garrett was employing over 600 workers at his Leiston Works engineering plant. Steam engines, munitions, shell making lathes and box making machines were all engineered here but it finally closed as a commercial business in 1980. Today you can visit the Long Shop museum – Leiston Long Shop Museum. Unfortunately the railway line closed for passengers in 1966, so the nearest station (Liverpol Street line to Ipswich, then Lowestoft line from Ipswich) is a couple of miles away in Saxmundham.
The Leiston Airfield Heritage Centre
Leiston Airfield was the most easterly airfield in the UK during WW11 and the nearest to enemy occupied Europe. From Jan 1944 to July 1945 the airfield was home to the 357th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force who flew long range escort missions in their P-51 Mustang aircraft. Our mission is to welcome Veterans, their family, friends and anyone else who is visiting and to ensure that the sacrifices of the 82 men who died and all who served here are not forgotten. Our Heritage Centre has a large collection of photographs and documents, and is open from 10am until 6pm or dusk whichever is the earlier on weekends and Bank Holidays, and other times by arrangement. There is no charge but a donation if welcomed if you found the centre interesting.
The Friends of Leiston Airfield are a small group of enthusiastic people with holiday homes on The Cakes and Ale Park whose aim is to ensure the sacrifice of those young men who gave their lives operating from this airfield is not forgotten, to provide a place where the history of the 357th Fighter Group and the airfield can be studied, and to enable the wider community to pay their respects at our Annual Service of Remembrance & Thanksgiving which is held on the last Sunday in May on the Park. This service precedes Memorial Day which is a Federal Holiday in the United States of America, held on the last Monday in May to remember all those who died whilst serving in the their armed forces
There are three Memorials run by the Friends. The original is a 1/3rd scale P-51 Mustang erected in 1990 outside the Park offices, and painted in in the colours of Major Leonard ‘Kit’ Carson the top scoring ‘Ace’ of the 357th Fighter Group. The second, erected by the local Air Training Corps Squadron, is now set underneath the wings of the Mustang. The third was built on Harrow Lane as a replacement for the one removed from the hardstand, and is adjacent to the park and set on the taxiway where it crosses Harrow Lane.
The infamous Lord Haw-Haw, the traitor German propagandist, used the term ‘The Yoxford Boys’ in one of his ‘Germany Calling’ broadcasts in describing the 357th, and the name was adopted by them. The father of the current owner of the park named the lounge bar on the park ‘The Yoxford Boys Bar’ as a tribute to the all those who served on the base, the most easterly in Britain and nearest airfield to enemy held territory, and it was he who erected the 1/3rd scale model P-51 Mustang.
For many years we held our service at the Harrow Lane memorial but the ever increasing number of people attending forced us to move the event to the park itself where we have almost unlimited space around the model Mustang. After the service we transfer half of the wreaths laid to the Harrow Lane memorial.
For further information on our activities and access to the Heritage Centre please contact us at email : [email protected]
One of the oldest and most famous democratic or ‘free’ schools in the world, Summerhill is located in the town. Founded in 1921 and based upon the philosophy of A. S. Neill, it is still a democratic community, demonstrating that children learn to be self-confident, tolerant and considerate when they are given space to be themselves.
Find Leiston accommodation nearby –
Field End B&B;
Cakes & Ale Holiday Park