Forbidden Suffolk: 6 places you can't visit in the county
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Ruins, former buildings and forbidden places galore are dotted around the region.
While these structures are no longer in use, accessible, or even exist anymore, they sure do have some interesting stories to tell.
First on this list is the former Cliff Brewery in Ipswich. Anyone who’s grown up in the town (or loves their beer) will know all about this building, and how much of an iconic structure it is.
Located on the waterfront, this now-disused brewery was once where Tolly Cobbold brewed some of its biggest and best beers until 2002 when operations ceased. In 1989, it became a Grade-II listed building, and in 2015 it made The Victorian Society’s list for ‘Top Ten Most Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings’.
Over the years, the former brewery has been the talk of the town, with many wondering what will happen to it next. Various planning permission requests have been put in, including turning it into a business and education centre, housing, and even a theatre.
However, in 2020 a fire broke out, causing substantial damage to the already old building. But in 2021 the former brewery was bought once again under auction. Who knows what the future holds for this once-thriving brewery, but I’m sure we can all agree it’s a stunning piece of architecture that deserves a second lease of life.
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Anyone who’s ever stood on Felixstowe beach on a clear day will no doubt have noticed the structure that’s roughly 12km out to sea. That’s Sealand – an unofficial micronation that was founded as a sovereign principality in 1967 on HM Rough Sands, a former World War II Maunsell sea fort.
Established by former British Army major Paddy Roy Bates, it claims to be the world’s smallest nation – with an approximate area of 4,000 square metres. It began life as the home of a pirate radio station, and in 1975, Bates introduced a national flag, national anthem, currency, and passports for the principality. At its peak in the 1970s, around 50 people lived on the platform – but today its population has dwindled to just two residents.
According to its official website, the principality is pretty much off-limits to visitors. It states: “Due to the current international situation and other factors, visits to the Principality of Sealand are not normally permitted. Accordingly, the application list for visas is for the time being closed.”
So sadly no day trips this summer.
This historic Georgian manor in the heart of the Suffolk countryside certainly looks impressive from the outside – but that’s as far as you can go. The Coddenham country house has been closed to the public since 2017, and has had a rather interesting history since its inception.
Built in the 1770s, this 288-acre estate has played a number of roles over the years, including hosting nobility. During World War One, it became a home for wounded soldiers, and in the 1960s it was a detox health clinic that actress Joan Collins once visited. It’s even been a film set – and can be seen in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball.
More recently, it briefly reopened as a hotel, restaurant and spa in the mid-2010s but sadly closed shortly after – and has been shut ever since.
Earlier this year, the East Anglian Daily Times conducted an investigation which found it was being marketed as a wedding venue – with photos suggesting it had hosted two weddings there in 2019 and 2021. However, the hall indeed remains closed to the public.
It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it anytime soon though – after all, its parklands and Italian-style gardens are Grade I-listed, and the hall itself is a Grade II-listed building.
Bury St Edmunds Abbey
Once the largest Romanesque church in all of northern Europe, the former Abbey at Bury St Edmunds helped put this Suffolk town firmly on the map during England’s medieval years.
It was first established in the 11th century under the reign of King Cnut, with a stone rotunda constructed as a shrine for the slain King Edmund’s body.
It prospered and grew for centuries (and at one point even ran its own mint), and in the 13th century it played a vital role in British history - as the abbey was the very place where a group of barons met to swear an oath, in which they urged King John the accept a ‘Charter of Liberties’ - later to become the Magna Carta.
But the abbey was a cause of contention with the local residents, and was eventually torn down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s and 1540s.
What remains today however are its impressive ruins, which you can visit. These can be found in the eponymous Abbey gardens.
Just stand among these stone ruins and try to envisage how statuesque and towering this abbey once was, all those years ago. It must’ve been a sight to behold.
“If the abbey church was still intact today, like some of the minsters up north or Westminster in London, Bury St Edmunds wouldn’t be the wonderful town it is today. Instead, it would be a sprawling, metropolitan city, and a mass of urbanisation,” explains local historian and Bury St Edmunds expert Martyn Taylor.
When you hear the word ‘Henham’, you tend to think of ‘Henham Park’, where the annual Latitude Festival takes place every summer. Having played host to some of the planet’s biggest and best indie, folk, dance, and alternative acts around, it’s one of the county’s most prestigious green spaces, and a hallowed turf for any music fan.
But did you know it was once home to a large country manor? The former Henham Hall used to occupy this sprawling stretch of land, and was constructed in the 1790s. Designed for John Rouse, sixth Baronet and later first Earl of Stradbroke, it was built on the site of a previous Tudor mansion which sadly was destroyed by a fire in 1773.
The new hall was completed in 1796 – and in 1858 fell foul to a fire once again. However, the insurance money wasn’t enough to help fix it, and shortly after the Second World War, the home was demolished due to a combination of insufficient funds and wartime damage. Today, all that remains of the former hall are the stables and some lodges.
Over the border in Essex is Severalls Hopsital in Colchester – a former mental health hospital that was in use throughout the 20th century. Severalls opened in 1913 as the Second Essex County Asylum, and once covered a 300-acre site.
During the Second World War, it was bombed by the Luftwaffe, and 38 patients were killed in the hospital’s west wing. However, the former healthcare centre is more known for administering treatments on patients deemed unethical today, such as frontal lobotomies, during the mid 20th century.
By the 1980s, most of the hospital fell into decline, and it officially closed in 1997. Since its closure, it has been the subject to a number of paranormal investigations, as well as trespassers making their way onto the site.
Have you got a favourite former place, abandoned building or set of ruins in Suffolk that didn’t make the list? Get in touch with email@example.com to share yours.