infobox UK place
country = England
population = 5,357 (2001 Census)
region= East of England
constituency_westminster= Suffolk Coastal
postcode_district = IP16
Leiston is a town in
Suffolk, in the United Kingdom. It is situated near Saxmundhamand Aldeburgh, about 2½ miles from the North Seacoast, and is 90 miles distant from London. Leiston Abbeylies northwest of the current town; its picturesque ruins are a popular tourist stop.
Leiston thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a manufacturing town dominated by
Richard Garrett & Sons, owners of the "Leiston Works". This firm made steam tractors and a huge variety of cast and machined metal products, including munitions during the World Wars. The works are closed now, and there is a large museum, the Long Shop Museum(http://gazeteer.interdart.co.uk/east/visit/LSMUSE.htm ), showing the history, vehicles and products of the Works.
World War II, the RAF Leiston airbase, a mile northwest of the town, sent fighter squadrons of the American 357th Fighter Group to fight the Luftwaffe. Famous American test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager(who, later, first broke the sound barrier) flew out of RAF Leiston. The Friends of Leiston Airfieldhold a memorial service and flying display at the end of May each year, with veterans and their families attending.
Since the 1960s Leiston became famous outside the UK as the home of the
Summerhill School, founded by A.S. Neillin the 1920s, which was the first major " free school" - referring to freedom in education. Children are not required to attend classes, and discipline is given by student self-government meetings. Summerhill has inspired a large "free school" movement and, more recently, " Democratic Schools" in several countries. The school occupies the former mansion of Richard Garrett, owner of the Leiston Works.
Leiston also has its own primary, middle and high schools.Leiston Primary School caters for pupils aged 5 to 9 and is a community school. The headteacher at the primary school is currently Mr A Twomey. The school also provides a nursery which currently has 52 places.
Leiston Middle School caters for pupils aged 9 to 13 and is a mixed comprehensive school. The headteacher at the school is currently Mr W Carson. Pupils join the school from schools at Leiston, Coldfair Green, Aldeburgh, Middleton and Yoxford. The middle school has recently undergone major building work which has created a new sports hall and four new classrooms.
Leiston High School is an inclusive community high school, catering for pupils aged 14 to 19. It takes on students from small towns such as Leiston, Saxmundham, and from the many surrounding villages including Dunwich. In 2001 it became a specialist technology college, and in the following year it was named as one of the most improved schools in England.
The Leiston High Street serves as the business and market hub of the surrounding agricultural district, and as an entry for tourists visiting the nearby towns of
Aldeburgh, Snape and Thorpeness. The town's facilities include a leisure centre, parks - including a skatepark-, post office, library, banks, pubs, a bakery, greengrocers and butchers selling local produce, a diverse range of restaurants and take-aways, coffee-shops, and various other shops. The town government includes nearby Sizewell, on the coast, site of two nuclear power plants: Sizewell A and Sizewell B. The closely-adjoining village of Aldringhamis officially associated with more distant Thorpe ( Thorpeness) rather than with Leiston.
A rail branchspur from the Great Eastern Line, known as the
Aldeburgh Branch Line, went from Saxmundhamto Aldeburgh, with intermediate stations at Leiston and Thorpeness. On 12 September1966 British Rail withdrew all passenger services to Leiston and beyond; however, the line to Leiston remains active, but only for the purpose of removing nuclear materials from Sizewell power station - which is expected to cease entirely by 2012. Under a proposal being floated, Leiston could see a direct hourly service to Ipswich via Saxmundham.
The Leiston Picture House (recently renamed the
Leiston Film Theatre), a half-timbered building with street front shops, is the oldest purpose-built cinema (movie theater) in Suffolk.
The town has a traditional church (
Church of England), St. Margaret's with an ancient tower and an unusual 19th Century nave. In addition there are Roman Catholic and Baptist churches at the edge of the town.
The people of Leiston used to speak with a heavy rural East-Anglian accent, but this lessened in the last half of the 20th century.
* [http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk Summerhill School]
* [http://www.longshop.care4free.net The Leiston Long Shop Museum]
* [http://www.leistonfilmtheatre.co.uk Suffolk's oldest cinema]
* [http://www.leistonabbey.co.uk Leiston Abbey]
* [http://www.friendsofleistonairfield.co.uk Friends of Leiston Airfield]
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