Blythburgh is an English village in area known as the Sandlings, part of the Suffolk heritage coast. The milestone in the village shows it is thirty miles from Ipswich, and twenty-four miles south of Great Yarmouth, and is divided by the London trunk road.

The village is noteworthy for its huge area of flooded marshes which lead to the estuary of the River Blyth, the river flows from west of Halesworth to the North Sea between Southwold and Walberswick. Originally the river joined the sea at Dunwich (one of Parliaments rotten boroughs. Southwold is reach by the A1095 road which crosses a causway near Reydon claimed to have been built by the family of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, passing over Wolsey Creek using Wolsey Bridge with views over the adjacent Hen Reedbeds bird reserve.

Following the North Sea Flood of 1953 along the east coast the river banks were not repaired which created a large tidal lagoon. The surrounding reed-beds are the haunt of Bittern and Marsh Harrier, the mud-flats are feeding grounds for Shelduck, Avocet and Curlew.

It has a population of about 300. Blythburgh is best known for its church, Holy Trinity, internationally known as the Cathedral of the Marshes which is a regular venue for the summer Aldeburgh Festival. The church has been flood-lit since the 1960s and is a landmark for travels on the arterial road to Norfolk. Standing beside the main road to Lowestoft (England's most easterly point), the White Hart Inn owned by Adnams the local brewer, is known for its Dutch gable ends to the building and beamed interior, which is claimed to have been the court-house for this prosperous town in the middle-ages.

Across the river north from Blythburgh is the hamlet of Bulcamp infamous for its workhouse and adjacent to the site of the Latitude Festival an annual event at Henham Park the home of the Rous family. The majority of the land to the south of the village is owned by the Blois family from Cockfield Hall.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., eldest brother of US President John F. Kennedy, was killed when his aircraft crashed a mile south of the village during World War II.

Approaching Blythburgh from Darsham, the nearest railway station and the only level-crossing on the A12 road, travellers pass Toby's Walks Picnic Site on the common. The site is named after a young man who was hanged nearby and is reputed to haunt the area. Adjacent to the picnic area is an attractive site of free range pigs, [Cite web
url =
title = Free Range Pigs
publisher = Blythburgh Pork
accessdate = 2007-07-04
] which are highly prized by major supermarket chains and quality restaurants.

Famous ex-residents

*William Alwyn - composer
*Group Captain Kenneth Hubbard - H-bomb testing
*Dr Martin Shaw - hymn music
*Major Wood - brother Peter owned Herm, CI
*Jack Pritchard - Isokon designs
*Peter Harold Wright - World War II VC winner
*Sir John Seymour Lucas RA - portrait painter
*Ernest Crofts RA - military artist
*William Benner - Southwold Railway artist
*Sir Cyril English - educationalist
*Simon Loftus OBE - brewer and vintner
*Mark Fiennes - photographer and illustrator.

Holy Trinity Church

Known as the Cathedral of the Marshes, Blythburgh was one of the earliest Christian sites in East Anglia. There was a church there in 654 to which the bodies of the East Anglian King Anna and his son, descendants of King Wehha were brought after their deaths in battle at Bulcamp with the Mercian King Penda. At the time of the Norman Conquest Blythburgh was part of the royal estate and had one of the richest churches in Suffolk, possibly a Saxon Minster, with two daughter churches. It was probably the rich parent church that was granted by King Henry I to Augustinian canons some time between 1116 and 1147, becoming the priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A daughter church is likely to have been the predecessor of Holy Trinity. It was rebuilt in the 15th century. In the movement to dissolve the monasteries, the suppression of the priory was authorised in 1528 and it was dissolved in 1537, the reversion of the property being granted to local gentleman Sir Arthur Hopton [Cite web
url =
title = Sir Arthur Hopton
publisher = Sole Bay Ministry
accessdate = 2007-07-03
] in 1548.

The church underwent a series of disasters, man-made and natural. The most dramatic of the latter variety came in August 1577, when a storm hit the area, and during morning service lightning hit the church, "cleft the door, and returning to the steeple rent the timber, [and] brake the chimes". The falling spire damaged the font and the roof (which wasn't repaired until 1782), destroying the angels in the west end bays. The door shows marks, which have the appearance of burns caused by candle flames, which the credulous associate with the devil's fingerprints. They have been associated with the 'Black Shuck' legend, which is the title of a song by the Lowestoft rock group The Darkness which mentions Blythburgh in the lyrics.

During the 17th century Holy Trinity was badly damaged when Parliament set out to remove what the puritans deemed to be superstitious ornamentation from churches; Blythburgh was assigned to William Dowsing, a local puritan, and on 8 April 1644 he went to the church and ordered the removal of "twenty superstitious pictures, one on the outside of the church; two crosses, one on the porch and another on the steeple; and twenty cherubim to be taken down in the church and chancel... and gave order to take down above 200 more within eight days".

General neglect also played its part in the church's deterioration, resulting in part from rural poverty, and in part from the rise of Methodism (a Primitive Methodist chapel was founded in the village in the 1830s).

By the late 19th century the church was in a very poor state of repair, and in 1881 a restoration fund made possible the repair of the church, and then its maintenance after its reopening in 1884. The restoration was controversial with William Morris and his Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings opposed to the radical plans of the local building committee. Shortage of funds restricted the work that could be done. While the fabric was repaired, modern taste ruled out any return to the 15th-century colour scheme of the church; the thirty-six angels, set back to back in pairs on the arch-braced, firred, tie-beam roof had been brightly painted in red and green with much use made of tin foil and gold leaf. A modern reproduction is mounted above the south door.

In 1962 the acoustic of the building was discovered by Benjamin Britten, and some of the concerts of the Aldeburgh Festival are performed in the church.


Blythburgh had a railway station on the narrow gauge Southwold Railway, which ran from Halesworth to the Suffolk coast at Southwold via Walberswick, but this closed, with the rest of the line, on 11 April 1929.



*Hugh Roberts, Mary Montague, & Barry Naylor. "Holy Trinity, Blythburgh: Cathedral of the Marshes". Jarrold Publishing, 1999.
* [ History Notes] — Blythburgh Society
* [ King Anna of East Anglia] — Early British Kingdoms
* [ Holy trinity, Blythburgh] — The Suffolk Churches Site
* [ Solebay Ministry] — St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocese
* [ Blythburgh, Suffolk] — photographs of the church and its scorched door
*Alan Mackley, Mary Montague. 'Blythburgh. A Suffolk Village'. Blythburgh Church and Jarrold Publishing, 2003.
* [ Blythburgh Village] — Suffolk County Council

External links

* [ The Poaching Priors of Blythburgh] — Blythburgh Society, 2002, Alan Mackley (ed.)
* [ Map of Village] — Blythburgh Net
* [ Jack Pritchard] — The Pritchard Papers, UEA Norwich
* [ Peter Wright VC] — Wright family website, Suffolk, England
* [ Martin Shaw] — Musicweb International
* [;jsessionid=NTPSBE54FX1MZQFIQMFSFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2004/01/27/db2701.xml Kenneth Hubbard] — The Daily Telegraph
* [ William Alwyn] — Musicweb
* [ Village Sign] — Blythweb, Richard Maslen
* [ Toby's Ghost] — Fox Earth
* [ Blythburgh Video Tour] — BBC East
* [ Blythburgh Hospital] — (Bulcamp) Blything Union Workhouse, Suffolk Churches
* [ Sandlings] — Suffolk Coast & Heaths
* [ Priors of Blythburgh] — British History
* [ Thirty miles to Ipswich] — Milestone Web
* [ Imogen Holst with Benajmin Britten at Blythburgh Church] — Britten Pears Library 1956
* [ Blythburgh War Dead] — Roll of Honour
* [ Neal's Charity] — Charity Commission
* [ Hen Reedbeds] - Suffolk Wildlife Trust
* [ Simon Loftus OBE] — Morning Advertiser
* [ Joe Kennedy] — Flixton Air Museum

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