The harbour, with Woodbridge Tide Mill in the background
|Population||7,749 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||IP12, IP13|
|Ambulance||East of England|
Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England, about 8 miles (13 km) from the seashore, along the River Deben. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the East Suffolk Line. It lies a short distance from the wider Ipswich urban area. Woodbridge is close to some of the main archaeological sites from the Anglo-Saxon period, one of which includes the Sutton Hoo burial ship. The town's 1100 years of recorded history have bequeathed a variety of historical architecture. There are facilities for boating and for riverside walks.
Woodbridge lies in the East Suffolk district of the shire county of Suffolk. The town council was formed in 1974 as a third-tier successor to the urban district council and has a mayor and sixteen councillors elected for four wards. The town lies in Suffolk Coastal parliamentary constituency and is currently represented by the Conservative Therese Coffey. The county councillor is the Liberal Democrat Caroline Page.
Archaeological finds in the area point to habitation from the Neolithic Age (2500-1700 BC). A ritual site was discovered while excavations were made for the East Anglia Array, a wind farm at Seven Springs Field.
The area was occupied by the Romans for 300 years after Queen Boudica's failed rebellion in AD 59, but there is little evidence of their presence. After the Roman soldiers were recalled to Rome in AD 410, there came a substantial Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) settlement. The Angles gave their name to East Anglia.
In the early 7th century, King Rædwald of East Anglia was Bretwalda, the most powerful king in England. He died about 624 and is probably the king buried at Sutton Hoo, across the River Deben from Woodbridge. The burial ship is 89 feet (27 m) long. When its treasures were discovered in 1939, they were the richest ever found on British soil. They are held now in the British Museum in London, but replicas of some items and the story of the finds can be seen in the Woodbridge Museum. The National Trust has built a visitor centre on the site.
The earliest record of Woodbridge as such dates from the mid-10th century, when it was acquired by St Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, as part of the endowment of the monastery that he helped to refound at Ely, Cambridgeshire in 970. The Domesday Book of 1086 describes Woodbridge as part of the Loes Hundred. Much of Woodbridge was granted to the powerful Bigod family, who built the famous castle at Framlingham.
The town has been a centre for boat-building, rope-making and sail-making since the Middle Ages. Edward III and Sir Francis Drake had fighting ships built in Woodbridge. The town suffered in the plague of 1349, but recovered enough, with encouragement from the Canons, and growing general prosperity, to have a new church (now St Mary's, behind the buildings on the south side of Market Hill) constructed with limestone from the Wash and decorated with Thetford flint. By the mid-15th century the Brews family had added a tower and porch.
On 12 October 1534, Prior Henry Bassingbourne confirmed Henry VIII's supremacy over the Church and rejected the incumbent "Roman Bishop". Nonetheless, Woodbridge Priory was dissolved three years later.
As religious unrest continued in the reign of the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor, Alexander Gooch, a weaver of Woodbridge, and Alice Driver of Grundisburgh were burnt for heresy on Rushmere Heath. Alice previously had her ears cut off for likening Queen Mary to Jezebel. The subsequent religious settlement under Elizabeth I helped Woodbridge industries such as weaving, sail-cloth manufacture, rope-making and salt making to prosper, along with the wool trade. The port was enlarged, and shipbuilding and timber trade became lucrative, so that a customs house was established in 1589.
The town has various buildings from the Tudor, Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras. Woodbridge has a tide mill in working order, one of only two in the UK and among the earliest. The mill first recorded on the site in 1170 was run by Augustinian canons. In 1536 it passed to King Henry VIII. In 1564, Queen Elizabeth I granted the mill and the priory to Thomas Seckford, who in 1577 founded Woodbridge School and the Seckford Almshouses for the poor of Woodbridge. Two windmills survive, Buttrum's Mill, and Tricker's Mill, of which Buttrum's is open to the public.
In 1943, the Royal Air Force (RAF) built a military airfield east of Woodbridge. RAF Woodbridge was used during the Cold War by the United States Air Force as the primary home for two Tactical Fighter Squadrons until 1993.
The town has state and grant-aided primary and secondary education at Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge Primary School, Kyson Primary School, and St Mary's Church of England Voluntarily Aided Primary School. It has a co-educational independent school, Woodbridge School, with junior and senior departments and facilities for boarding.
Woodbridge has a community brass band, the Excelsior, formed in 1846, which makes it the oldest in East Anglia. There is a local radio station. The town also has a well-maintained two-hectare (5-acre) walled park. Also of interest ecologically are the Quaker Burial Ground and Fen Meadow, 2.67 hectares (7 acres) of traditionally managed grassland.
The numerous clubs and associations in the town cover association football, badminton, birdwatching, bowls, cricket, cruising, netball, road running, rowing, rugby football, swimming, tennis, golf (Ufford Park), yachting and archery. They include Deben Rowing Club and Deben Yacht Club.
The town's Deben Leisure Centre and swimming pool underwent refurbishment in 2017-2018 and now provides fuller services since reopening.
Woodbridge Quay Church in Quay Street, once known as the Quay Meeting House, embodies a 2006 merger of the town's Baptist and United Reformed congregations. It is affiliated to the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Evangelical Alliance. There is a Methodist Church in St John's Street, a Salvation Army hall in New Street, and the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in St John's Street. The last forms a joint parish with Framlingham. Avenue Evangelical Church, on the outskirts of Woodbridge, is affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.
The so-called Rendlesham Forest incident took place in nearby Rendlesham Forest in 1980. Unexplained lights were seen in the sky close to RAF Woodbridge, a United States Air Force airfield, and there were claims that a UFO had landed in the forest. The incident continues to interest ufologists and there is debate between those who believe an alien spacecraft landed there and those who offer alternative explanations.
Other residents of note include musicians Nate James and Charlie Simpson; actors Brian Capron and Nicholas Pandolfi; painter Thomas Churchyard; Director-General of the BBC Ian Jacob; abolitionist John Clarkson; Roy Keane the football manager, and Thomas Seckford, official at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The clockmaker John Calver lived in the town. Musicians Brian Eno and Brinsley Schwarz were born there. The world's most tattooed man, Tom Leppard, was born in the town. So were the actor Gavin Lee and the footballer Vernon Lewis.