One-time Somer­ley­ton Hall owner Sir Sa­muel Mor­ton Peto’s le­gacy to Low­est­oft is some fine town­houses, in­clud­ing Welling­ton Ter­race, over­look­ing the North Sea.

EADT Suffolk - - Inside - Words and im­ages by Tony Hall

SIR Sa­muel Mor­ton Peto (1809-1889) would, I think, be ‘most pleased’ with the re­nais­sance of Low­est­oft, par­tic­u­larly of the ter­race of grand houses, Welling­ton Ter­race on Welling­ton Esplanade, which he designed and built in 1860. It over­looks for­mal gar­dens, owned by res­i­dents, but leased to Waveney Dis­trict Coun­cil. Peto was a lead­ing en­tre­pre­neur and en­gi­neer of his time who man­aged con­struc­tion firms that built many ma­jor build­ings and mon­u­ments in Lon­don, in­clud­ing The Re­form Club, The Lyceum, Nel­son’s Col­umn and the new Houses of Par­lia­ment. It made him a mil­lion­aire.

In 1844 he bought Somer­ley­ton Hall, re­build­ing it with con­tem­po­rary ameni­ties, and con­structed a school and more houses in the vil­lage. He was fun­da­men­tal to the con­struc­tion of the rail­way from Nor­wich to Low­est­oft, which meant fish freshly caught at dawn could be avail­able the same day for high tea in such places as Manchester. He not only built the rail­way sta­tion but sev­eral other build­ings in the town, in­clud­ing the im­pos­ing Welling­ton Ter­race. He was a man of true vision, even though his for­tunes de­clined and he died in ob­scu­rity in 1889.

Also show­ing vision are lo­cal cou­ple Mike El­lis and Ruth Bran­der, from Bec­cles, who bought a house in Welling­ton Ter­race in Jan­uary 2015, which they now share with their chil­dren, Rosie and Evie. Ruth is Bec­cles born and bred to par­ents who were both chil­dren of Ger­man Jewish refugees. Af­ter school she went to Cam­bridge to do a de­gree in phi­los­o­phy, then worked for the Bri­tish Coun­cil in Hong Kong. Re­turn­ing to the UK, she stud­ied law, spe­cial­is­ing in hu­man rights, and fol­low­ing a stint work­ing for death-row pris­on­ers in Ja­maica, she be­came a ten­ant at Doughty Street Cham­bers in Lon­don.

Mike is orig­i­nally from Rings­field. His fam­ily moved to Sheer­ness in Kent, be­fore re­turn­ing to Suf­folk, where he went to The John Le­man School in Bec­cles. His in­ter­est in art and sci­ence shaped his ca­reer. Af­ter Low­est­oft Col­lege of Art and De­sign, Mike took a de­gree in de­sign com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Suf­folk Col­lege in Ip­swich, fol­lowed by a job as a run­ner at Mov­ing Pic­ture Com­pany, in Lon­don. His next move was to the de­sign depart­ment at Sky TV, then two years with Star TV in Hong Kong.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence opened my eyes to a very dif­fer­ent cre­ative cul­ture and gave me won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties, like mak­ing my first short film,” he says. Back in Lon­don, Mike worked on de­sign­ing chan­nel iden­ti­ties, ti­tle se­quences and pro­mos for TV, and cre­at­ing visual ef­fects for fea­ture films. Now, his com­pany, Eel, has gained a rep­u­ta­tion for open­ing ti­tles and graph­ics for fea­ture films. He does much of this work at his stu­dio in Suf­folk.

‘ The ex­pe­ri­ence opened my eyes to a very dif­fer­ent cre­ative cul­ture and gave me won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties, like mak­ing my first short film’

Mike and Ruth share a sim­i­lar set of child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences of go­ing to the beach and sea­side at Low­est­oft. “Lots of nos­tal­gia, a beau­ti­ful spot, golden sands,” says Ruth. “Even be­fore buy­ing the house our chil­dren just loved it. Now one of their big­gest joys is

com­ing home from school and go­ing to play or walk on the beach op­po­site.”

Mike says they both yearned for a home over­look­ing the sea, but most prop­er­ties along the her­itage coast were out of their league. “This el­e­gant ter­race was once a prime location, but over more re­cent years most had be­come ei­ther B&Bs, or split up into flats. Here was, for­tu­nately, al­ready one house, put back to­gether by pre­vi­ous own­ers in the 1970s.”

Ren­o­va­tion of the Grade II Listed prop­erty took Ruth and Mike 18 months. Ev­ery­thing had to be ap­proved by the lo­cal coun­cil, and the cou­ple have busy day jobs. But the struc­ture was sound, and their ef­forts have pro­duced a won­der­ful fam­ily sea­side home in this unique location.

The first floor sit­ting room that spans the en­tire width of the house is spec­tac­u­lar, with its panoramic sea and beach views. “It’s very mag­i­cal,” says Ruth, “but I also like the top

floor front bed­room which, hav­ing the high­est van­tage point in the house, has an even bet­ter view and is a quiet, peace­ful place to be.”

More peo­ple like Ruth and Mike are sim­i­larly cap­ti­vated with Low­est­oft and are spear­head­ing a re­nais­sance. “Just around the cor­ner,” says Ruth, “we have Co­conut Loft, a cafe and venue for lo­cal artists and writ­ers, whose own­ers want to get Low­est­oft go­ing. There is a real com­mu­nity spirit and vi­brancy about this part of Low­est­oft, with lots of small shops, and busi­ness own­ers giv­ing the place a real buzz. Rock­salt restau­rant, just op­po­site on Clare­mont Pier, is great, and we love a meal out at Tramways in Pake­field, an ex­cel­lent fish restau­rant run by Mark G.

“Our favourite walk – one we do when ever we can – is along the beach to the Jolly Sailors at Pake­field, but equally I just en­joy walk­ing our dog, Kiki, a Heinz 57 type ter­rier along the beach and prom op­po­site.

“The house has turned out ex­actly as we hoped, very peace­ful and light, with those high ceil­ings and, of course, the fan­tas­tic views, which I find mag­i­cal and rest­ing.”

In his spare time Mike en­joys row­ing and is a mem­ber at Bec­cles Row­ing Club. “I also do a park run here when pos­si­ble. There’s al­ways plenty to do in and around the town.”

“With the trav­el­ling I have to do,” says Ruth, “I re­ally en­joy de­com­press­ing with long walks on the beach. The huge skies here are a won­der­ful an­ti­dote to the stresses of work.”

Mike re­flects that Sir Sa­muel Mor­ton Peto built a most ex­cel­lent ter­race, in a quite spec­tac­u­lar location.

“We’re very priv­i­leged to con­tinue his vision into the twenty first cen­tury, and to be part of this re­nais­sance of Low­est­oft,” he says.

‘The house has turned out ex­actly as we hoped, very peace­ful and light, with those high ceil­ings and, of course, the fan­tas­tic views, which I find mag­i­cal and rest­ing’

Sump­tuos in­te­ri­ors at Welling­ton Ter­race

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