TAST­ING SUF­FOLK’S HIS­TORY

A new book by Sarah E Doig tells the story of Suf­folk in bite-sized chunks

Let's Talk - - CONTENTS - Rachel Ban­ham re­ports.

The Lit­tle His­tory of Suf­folk by Sarah E Doig is a small book with a huge punch. It is per­fect to read as a whole or dip in and out of – an ac­ces­si­ble his­tory of a county that the author clearly loves.

Sarah says: “What I try to bring out is the so­cial his­tory as­pect – you know, what peo­ple re­ally got up to in the Tu­dor era, for in­stance, in Suf­folk - not the usual Tu­dor his­tory that peo­ple learn about in school, like Henry VIII and his six wives, just go­ing be­yond that and how it af­fected peo­ple in Suf­folk.

“There was no way it could be a com­pletely com­pre­hen­sive his­tory, so what I did was choose my favourite bits and if they ap­peal to me, then hope­fully they ap­peal to some­body else.”

She adds: “For in­stance, my favourites are about the boom of the sea­side town - when the rail­ways came it helped places like Felixs­towe, South­wold, Aldeburgh to be­come these won­der­ful chic Vic­to­rian sea­side re­sorts and to tell the story of that and how they de­vel­oped be­cause of that.

“Also, things like gram­mar schools back in the Tu­dor times - how they changed ed­u­ca­tion, for not only the rich boys pre­dom­i­nantly then, but every­body in so­ci­ety.”

Sarah’s book re­veals the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect of the dis­so­lu­tion of the monas­ter­ies, the de­cline of the once-boom­ing cloth trade, dras­tic ero­sion of the coast­line, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of large coun­try es­tates.

She also writes about the cap­tains of the brew­ing and iron in­dus­tries who put Suf­folk firmly on the post-In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion

map, and the key wartime role the county played over many cen­turies.

Sarah was born in Hert­ford­shire and grew up in Bury St Ed­munds.

She moved back to Suf­folk in 2010 af­ter a 20-year ca­reer in the For­eign Of­fice and now works as a free­lance lo­cal his­tory re­searcher, writer and speaker.

Sarah says: “To me, Suf­folk to­day is spe­cial. And I think it’s spe­cial be­cause of what it has gone through over the cen­turies.

“It’s got such a wide va­ri­ety – you’ve got that won­der­ful coast­line which I ab­so­lutely adore. You’ve got the Breck­lands right in the north, a com­pletely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter again and they’ve got a story to tell be­cause they’ve of­fered up lots of flints and things like that which peo­ple used over the years.

“Bury St Ed­munds is where I grew up, so I’m slightly bi­ased, but it has that won­der­ful story to tell. It is what it is to­day be­cause the monks founded a monastery there and it was so large and pow­er­ful and wealthy. But since the monas­ter­ies were dis­solved by Henry VIII the town has taken it upon it­self to go from strength to strength and it’s the won­der­ful tourist place it is to­day.”

She adds: “Some of the vil­lages in Suf­folk are so pic­turesque it’s un­be­liev­able. Laven­ham, ob­vi­ously the prime ex­am­ple, is there be­cause peo­ple made money and did a lot of work mak­ing money from the wool trade – so it is there for us to en­joy to­day be­cause of what it’s gone through over the cen­turies.”

Sarah is keen to share her pas­sion and in­ter­est in his­tory with oth­ers.

“I’m not an aca­demic his­to­rian, I’m re­ally some­body who has come to it pretty much later, as a sec­ond ca­reer,” she says. “And so, there­fore, I just work on the premise that if I find some­thing in­ter­est­ing and I can put that across in an in­ter­est­ing way, whether in print or do­ing my talks, then some­body else might be hooked and in­ter­ested enough to find out more.”

It’s spe­cial be­cause of what it has gone through over the cen­turies

The Lit­tle His­tory of Suf­folk is pub­lished by The His­tory Press (www.the­his­to­ry­press.co.uk) priced £12.

Take a look at Sarah’s web­site at www.an­ces­tral-her­itage.co.uk

The old cast-iron bridge at Stoke, Ip­swich, man­u­fac­tured by Ran­somes. The il­lus­tra­tions here are from The Lit­tle His­tory of Suf­folk.

A thresh­ing ma­chine.

But­ley Pri­ory, as it was in 1785.

Sarah E Doig in­dulges her pas­sion for Suf­folk’s his­tory in her lat­est book.

A me­dieval il­lu­mi­na­tion de­pict­ing the mar­tyr­dom of King Ed­mund.

A bathing ma­chine, as pic­tured in Sarah E Doig’s new book.

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