A History of Bay Cottage, Thorpeness


Photo of Bay Cottage

Bay Cottage today, looking much the same as it did in 1985

My late wife and I were frequent visitors to Aldeburgh and Thorpeness and often had weekends at various hotels and B and Bs, so I suppose it was inevitable if we were to buy a holiday cottage it would be somewhere we had got to know well. The decision was made to find such a property fairly near the sea and at a price we could afford. Bay Cottage was the third property we examined and was far and away in the worse condition. I thought it was beyond my D.I.Y. skills and certainly had not the inclination to undertake such a task. Nevertheless we obtained a report on the property by a local surveyor which was not encouraging, but my wife was a most persuasive lady and we duly made an offer to the owners, the Ogilvie Estate. The offer was accepted and it became ours on the last day of December 1985.

It was clear that it had been empty for a long time and most of the kitchen, including the boiler, had been dismantled, and the fittings for the open fire in the living room were missing. Part of the exterior of the cottage was brick and on removing numerous layers of wallpaper in the living room and a bedroom we found what I believe were cob type walls with lengths of timber inserted. There was a small cavity between the outer bricks and cob  interior. The ceilings in the living room and a bedroom were very low but on removing huge amounts of sandy soil and reeds, which had been used to line the roof space, the ceilings rose about fifteen inches. I had much advice and help from Charlie Wilson the plumber who lived nearby.

We estimated that it would take about eighteen months to complete but we suddenly found it needed to be made habitable much sooner. My oldest son Tim, who had been living and working in Switzerland, had decided to return to the UK to complete A Levels and obtain a university place. He had been forced to abandon the exams several years before because of illness. We offered the cottage and he was able to travel to Ipswich College to complete the exams successfully, gaining a place at Swansea University. Their first child was born whilst living at Bay Cottage and was baptised in Aldringham Church.

 

Photo of Bay Cottage

Bay Cottage from the north, showing the extension and garden

On the death of my wife in 2009 I decided that I would extend the cottage, something we had been thinking about for some while. The chimney breast in the living room was taken down and further wood was found in  the walls and also more in what had been a bedroom, all smelt strongly of tar. All became clear, the wood was from scrapped ships. It is known that Thorpe was a port in the mid-sixteenth century and there was trade to and fro across the North Sea. It is very likely that the moorings were at or near where The Meare is now as I have traced the course of the river serving the port by following the line of reeds running from where the sluice for the Hundred River is to within about 40 yards of the Meare.  Bay Cottage is probably the oldest building in Thorpeness.

My father was a Suffolk man but from the western half of the county so I've always felt  that there was a bit of 'Silly Suffolk' in me. The term is a corruption of the Anglo Saxon word selige meaning Holy. For many years I researched my family history and when Tim was at Swansea University he discovered the following item in the library.

 In 1525 Henry the Eighth wanted to raise more money to pursue his war with the French and it was decided to tax the population according to their means. As a result John Hoddy, a Farmer of Aldringham cum Thorpe had to pay an additional shilling that year.   Suggestions as to which farm invited!

John Hoddy


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