Halesworth is a market town in north east Suffolk with a population of over 5,000. It is approximately ten miles inland from the Suffolk Heritage Coast and 9 and 11 miles respectively from the nearby Suffolk market towns of Bungay and Beccles. Nearby villages include Holton, Cratfield, Wissett, Rumbrugh, Chediston, Walpole, Blyford, Wenhaston, Linstead Parva, Spexhall and Bramfield.
Halesworth is twinned with both Bouchain in France and Eitorf in Germany.
Halesworth has a rich history. The river Blyth (estuary in Southwold) runs close to the town. There is evidence of Neolithic inhabitation near this river and its tributaries. There were nearby Roman settlements at Chediston and Wenhaston. Archaeology, undertaken when the town’s bypass was constructed in the late 1980s, uncovered more of its Saxon and medieval heritage. It has a medieval church, St Mary’s, with Victorian additions and a variety of historic buildings, from early timber-framed constructions to the remnants of Victorian prosperity built on an extensive malting and brewing industry which profited from the ‘New Cut’ connecting the town river to the Blyth. The town expanded in the 50s, 60s and 70s with new housing being built to the south and north. New industry (printing and engineering) was responsible for much of this expansion in the 60s and 70s. The Town Trail walk provides an opportunity to discover the history of Halesworth and Halesworth and District Museum houses a variety of historical artefacts, from Bronze Age axe heads to a model of Tudor Halesworth and Victorian railway memorabilia.
Halesworth railway station is on the East Suffolk line with hourly connections to Lowestoft to the north and London to the south (change at Ipswich). There are bus connections to Bungay, Norwich, Beccles and Southwold and other surrounding towns and villages. A volunteer community bus service runs the ‘Hoppa’ buses through town. National Cycle Route 1 passes through Halesworth – the route runs through the Millennium green and Town Park connecting to the Station.
Shopping and Services
The town centre was bypassed in 1989 leaving its main shopping street, Thoroughfare, a pedestrianised street. At the end of the Thoroughfare is the Market Place. There are many independently owned shops in the Thoroughfare and Market Place. Shops include: 2 butchers, 2 delicatessen/health food shops, a pet shop, 2 jewellery shops, 2 art shop/galleries (one run by the Woodland Trust Charity), antique/gift shops, electrical white goods, hardware store (which houses the Post Office), stationers, fruit and veg shops, haberdashers, bookshop, newsagents and confectioners, clothing shops. A range of professional services include solicitors, insurance companies, building societies, estate agents, opticians and, on the road to Bungay, a veterinary practice. There is a small Spar shop in the Thoroughfare and a large Cooperative Supermarket (once called ‘The Rainbow’) at the end of the bypass. The town has a Barclays and Lloyds banks. There are service stations on Bungay Road and at the supermarket. On the road leaving Halesworth towards Holton is a large garden centre.
Town Facilities and Social Life
At one end of Thoroughfare is Bridge Street where the Library is situated. The Library offers a variety of activities to local residents including courses and talks. Near to the station, on New Cut Road is the New Cut Arts Centre – known locally as ‘The Cut’ – a performing arts and education centre in a converted Maltings. In the Autumn, the annual two-week long Halesworth Arts Festival holds the majority of its events here. The Cut also offers dance and physical education such as Pilates, and media classes. Some events and classes are also held at the Rifle Hall, a community facility in an historic building currently being refurbished.
At the top of station road, converted from the old station buildings, is Halesworth and District Museum. Opposite St Mary’s Church behind the Market Place is Halesworth Art Gallery, housed in former 17th century Almshouses, which stages exhibitions from local and visiting artists.
Across the bypass road, via an underpass from the main car park, is the Town Park with garden and recreation areas. The Town Park adjoins the Millennium Green, which is the largest of its kind in the UK at around 50 acres of open space for walking, cycling and wildlife.
The town has a number of clubs and societies including local branches of the Women’s Institute, Lions, Probus, and a number of other social groups. Both a scout group and Girl Guide Sections operate in the town and a youth club is run from the Apollo Centre on the site of the former middle school.
Various groups organise social events throughout the year, including an annual Scarecrow Festival, Christmas Tree Festival, Antique Street Fairs, Halesworth in Bloom.
In 1974 the local government functions which had been carried out by Halesworth Urban District Council were replaced by Waveney District Council. Suffolk County Council also provides governance and services. Halesworth is part of the Suffolk Coastal constituency. In the 2015 elections both the local district council and constituency were confirmed as Conservative.
Halesworth Town Council was formed in 1974 when the Urban District Council was dissolved. The 12 Town Councillors are elected every four years unless otherwise by co-option. The Chairman and Vice Chair are elected by fellow councillors and usually serve for two years in office.
Suffolk schools reorganisation resulted in the closure of Halesworth Middle School in 2012. The Edgar Sewter Primary School now offers education from 5-1l (nearby Holton has its own 5-11 school) and also has pre-school nursery provision. There is also a private nursery on School Lane. The North Suffolk Skills Academy offers vocational courses for children aged 14-16 from a number of local secondary schools and also some full-time post-16 provision. Adult education is offered via U3A and the WEA and through classes and courses held at The Cut.
Places of Worship
St Mary’s Church is behind the Market Place. The present church is essentially early 15th century with outer aisles built and restoration taking place in the late 19th century. St Mary’s is part of the Blyth Valley Team Ministry of eleven parishes. St Edmund King and Martyr Catholic Church is on Church Farm Lane. The Halesworth Methodist Church is on London Road and the United Reformed Church is on Quay Street.
Public Houses, Restaurants and Cafés
Halesworth has had 30 public houses over the years. Presently there are 3 public houses in the heart of town: the White Hart, the Angel and the White Swan. All these serve food and the Angel has a separate Italian Restaurant called Cleone’s. The Triple Plea, in Upper Holton on the outskirts of town towards Bungay, has a large restaurant. In nearby Holton the Nelson Public House also serves food.
There is an Indian Restaurant in the Market Place and a Thai Restaurant on London Road. Tilly’s Restaurant offers lunch and some early evening menus. There are cafés at Holton Road Garden Centre, Pinky’s in the Market Place, Papa’s Pizza in Bridge Street, with Café Frappe opposite, and cafés serving hot meals in both The Cut and Chinny’s Cue Club. There are two Fish and Chip shops (one with seating area for dining) and two Chinese take-away and one Turkish take-away outlets.
There is local employment at Bernard Matthews Factory (meat processing) in nearby Holton, and in local retail and car sale provision and in the offices and businesses situated on two industrial estates, one to the north and one to the south of the town. Among the larger employers are Hammonds Car Franchises and Garages, Spectra (packaging) Herrco (cosmetics and toiletries) and Ridgeons (builders suppliers).
Sports and Recreation
The Halesworth Playing Fields charity (HPF) on Dairy Hill is the current home to Halesworth Tennis Club, Halesworth Bowls Club, Football and playing fields and Kuk Sool One. In 2013 the HPF voted to sell its site on Dairy Hill to purchase new facilities on the site which became vacant when Halesworth Middle School on Bungay Road closed in 2012. Halesworth has a 27 hole golf club which is open to non-members. Chinny’s Cue Club offers snooker and pool.
There are a number of clubs and societies which offer recreational activities. For example, there is a swimming club, an art group, a gardening society and recreational classes with U3A and at the Cut.
The Angel Hotel in the Thoroughfare offers accommodation and there are several Bed and Breakfast providers in the town and surrounding area.
The Cutlers Hill Surgery provides primary health care in Halesworth and surrounding villages. The Patrick Stead Hospital has in-patient beds and works with the GP practice to support primary and secondary health care. There is an NHS dentist practice on Quay Street and a private practice on the Angel Link road as well as a chiropodist. Beech House is a ‘Partnership in Care’ residential care home in Halesworth and there a private BUPA nursing home. Several complementary therapists offer their services in the town. There is also sheltered accommodation and day centre provision for the elderly. Organisations such as Halesworth Dementia Carers Fund and Mencap provide advice and support to individuals and their friends, family or carers.
Health care providers in Halesworth, which has a substantial elderly population, have significant plans for future development.
Halesworth has a number of groups supporting developments in the town which will enhance provision for its residents. In 2015 the town held an event which brought together a many of these groups under the title ‘Halesworth Rising’.
Among the developments showcased were those to improve health care by the provision of a new multi-faceted health facility incorporating in-patient NHS beds and new health care capacity. New facilities will include an innovative rural Inform and Support Centre adjacent to the Surgery which will offer support, counselling and finance and benefits advice to people who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, as well as support to their families, friends and carers. The Grandparent and Parents Play Association plans to improve and extend the children’s play area in the Town Park. There are plans to redevelop the Rifle Hall to increase its potential as a community venue. Halesworth Campus Ltd is embarked on an ambitious plan to develop the site of the former Middle School to offer enhanced sports provision, working in partnership with the Health group on their new plans for development on the same site. The new Men’s Shed has started as a social and supportive environment where men can meet to work together on personal or community projects and has plans to move to new premises to extend its work. The Cut has plans to develop a new social and meeting space at the venue.