Explore Westleton

Less than a mile from Leiston, Aldringham Suffolk is a tiny village, big on history and warm welcomes, that’s worth the walk or bike ride. Track down its remote church hidden amidst the  Suffolk Sandlings heathland and wonder what happened to this one-time market town… and where its windmill went to.

You’ll find many an answer plus fine food and drink at its ever-popular 16th century former smuggling inn and family-friendly tearooms at the Old Blacksmith’s.   

Visit Leiston


village sign & its stories  

Blah blah -The journey to discover Aldringham Church is a real pilgrimage, because it is hardly visible from any road. Perhaps on the site of an early Saxon church, St Andrew’s was built after 1183 by the monks of Leiston Abbey – itself founded by Ranulph de Glanville who fought with Richard the Lionheart. You’ll find this Leiston Abbey connection remembered on the village sign.

Owned by Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk after the Reformation, by the 1800s it had lost its tower – surely a smugglers’ look out? Only 1870s restoration saved the medieval features we see today, but the church is home to other ‘saved’ items too – from St Mary’s Church Thorpeness, when it fell out of use.

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A sign of the times

village sign & its stories  – barrel fair etc
Beautifully restored, Aldringham’s white postmill still stands proud today… but you’ll have to head to the coast to find it!

It originally stood on Mill Hill just off the  B1353 behind The Parrot & Punchbowl, but was dismantled in 1922/3 and re-erected near the Meare in Thorpeness to serve as a wind drainage pump. Now in private hands, it can be viewed from the public footpath to the golf course, alongside the quirky converted water-tower landmark, the House-in-the-Clouds.

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Visit Leiston

Did you know? 

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What’s Westleton’s History in a Nutshell? Or a sign of the times

Travellers, traders, farmers, monks, engineers and more have helped to shape Aldringham over the centuries, as well as its tidal river… 

Harbours & homesteads

These days, it’s hard to imagine barges travelling along the River Hundred just south of Aldringham.

However, the Romans reputedly navigated it to reach Cogimagus, their settlement where the village of Knodishall is today.

The names of both Thorpe and Aldringham point to the Anglo Saxon and Viking settlers who travelled up-river too; the stone for the church and Leiston Abbey may have made the same journey. As late as Tudor times, there was possibly even an anchor point close to Aldringham’s crossroads.

Smugglers’ haunts… 

Aldringham-cum-Thorpe’s remote marshes and heaths made perfect smuggling territory in the 1700s and 1800s.

Poor local wages turned smuggling goods like tobacco and brandy into an attractive option, so transporting and hiding contraband before it was moved on towards Ipswich became big business.

By the crossroads, The Parrot & Punchbowl Inn  was the ideal spot for smugglers to plot and plan! These days, it’s still a local favourite haunt, but its reputation focuses more around great food and drink!  

And a fairytale resort on the horizon

By the early 1900s, the industry and rapid growth of Leiston saw attention shift to the coast and the transformation of Thorpe from little fishing to holiday pleasure ground Thorpeness. The railways  gave Aldringham a wide berth, but the villages postmill moved with the times!  

Famous Westleton Folk/ Visitors (The Crown Inn)

Cecil Lay, poet, artist and architect – A tortoise-keeping man of many talents and frequent visitor to the Parrot & Punchbowl, Cecil was Aldringham born and left his mark on the village. His architectural work can be found in or close to the village, including Raidsend (1912-14, now Aldringham Court residential nursing home). Built in Art Nouveau style with Dutch gabling close to the River Hundred bridge on Aldeburgh Road, it is a striking house, said to be his finest creation.

Look out for Cecil’s grave in St Andrew’s churchyard, as well as those of other local ‘big’ names such as the Garretts (of Leiston Works), or the Ogilvies (of Thorpeness) the family who built the row of 19 almshouses beside the church in 1880.