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