Thorpeness is a seaside village in East Suffolk, England. It belongs to the parish of Aldringham cum Thorpe and lies within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.

The House on Stilts - - 1467632.jpg
Thorpeness Meare
Thorpeness is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLeiston
Postcode districtIP16
List of places
52°10′46″N 1°36′53″E / 52.179333°N 1.614710°E / 52.179333; 1.614710Coordinates: 52°10′46″N 1°36′53″E / 52.179333°N 1.614710°E / 52.179333; 1.614710


The village was a small fishing hamlet originating in the late 19th century, with folk tales of it being a route for smugglers into East Anglia. However in 1910, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, a Scottish barrister who had made his money building railways around the world, increased the family's local estates to cover the entire area from north of Aldeburgh to past Sizewell, up the coast and inland to Aldringham and Leiston.

Most of this land was used for farming, but Ogilvie developed Thorpeness into a private fantasy holiday village, to which he invited his friends' and colleagues' families during the summer months. A country club with tennis courts, a swimming pool, a golf course and clubhouse, and many holiday homes, were built in Jacobean and Tudor Revival styles. Thorpeness railway station, provided by the Great Eastern Railway to serve what was expected to be an expanding resort, was opened a few days before the outbreak of World War I. It was little used, except by golfers, and closed in 1966.[1]

A notable feature of the village is a set of almshouses built in the 1920s to the design of W. G. Wilson. To hide the eyesore of having a water tower in the village, the tank built in 1923 was clad in wood to make it look like a small house on top of a five-storey tower, with a separate water-pumping mill next to it. It is known as the "House in the Clouds", and after mains water was installed in the village, the old tank was transformed into a huge games room with views over the land from Aldeburgh to Sizewell.[2]

For three generations Thorpeness remained mostly in the private ownership of the Ogilvie family, with houses only being sold from the estate to friends as holiday homes. In 1972, Alexander Stuart Ogilvie, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie's grandson, died on the Thorpeness Golf Course. Many of the houses and the golf course and country club had to be sold to pay death duties.

The MeareEdit

An artificial lake, "mere" or boating lake was created where there had once been an Elizabethan shipping haven that had silted up.[3] Many of the inspirations for the Meare came from a personal friend of the Ogilvies, J. M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan. Along with a large main pond, there are several channels with landings marked with names from the Peter Pan stories. Tiny islands on the Meare contain locations found in the novel, such as the pirates' lair, Wendy's house, and many others, where children are encouraged to play. The Meare was dug to a shallow depth for safety reasons.[3]

A variety of boats can be rented to enjoy the water, many of them originals dating from the creation of the Meare and named by the local workmen who had dug the lake.

In August, the Meare serves as the location for the Thorpeness Regatta which usually takes place around the same time as the carnival in neighbouring Aldeburgh and attracts many visitors. During the day, boat races are held, and at night, boats that have been decorated are paraded around the Meare. This is followed by a grand fireworks display.

Thorpeness todayEdit

The House in the Clouds is an unusual house, converted from a water tower in 1923.

Thorpeness is a quiet village of about 400 people in the winter, increasing to over 1,600 in the summer holiday season. Apart from the events centred on the Meare at the end of August, it is also a popular destination with day trippers, for its beach, amenities, and sights such as The House in the Clouds.

The landowning Ogilvie family, who began to buy into the area in 1859,[4] still have a strong presence in the village. Many of those holidaying in the village have been doing so for generations. Many of the families of the craftsmen who helped to build the village still live there.[citation needed] Thorpeness was listed as the Weirdest Village in England by Bizarre magazine in 2003.[citation needed]

To the south of the village lies the North Warren RSPB reserve, an area of wildlife and habitat conservation and nature trails run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It has Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) status.[5]

Like much of the East Coast, Thorpeness has a problem with coastal erosion.[6]

Notable personEdit

Sophie Lascelles (born in 1973 in the village) is a professional photographer. She is a great-great-granddaughter of King George V.[7]

In popular cultureEdit

A lifeboat crew from Thorpeness rescues Tim and his friend the sea captain in the Edward Ardizzone book Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (1936), and are awarded medals for heroism by the Lord Mayor.

The Second World WarEdit

  • Radar: A radar installation was located in Thorpeness, Chain Home Extra Low Station K164.[8]
  • Coastal artillery: a lone 18-pounder field gun was sited in a concrete gun emplacement on the cliffs of Thorpeness. The gun was named "John", and others elsewhere on the coast were named "Matthew", "Mark", "Luke" and "St. Peter." [9]
  • Anti-aircraft artillery.[10]
  • SS Magdapur fell victim to a mine and sank close inshore of Thorpeness.[11]
  • In the run-up to the Second World War, a small British merchant vessel named Thorpeness was sunk by a single torpedo fired by German forces off Spain.[12]
  • An anti-tank ditch ran from Aldringham to the Meare. This was dug by the 9th Bn. of the Cameronians.[13]
  • One regiment of the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers was stationed in Thorpeness, arriving in late 1943.[14]
  • From the RAF, a detachment of 2711 Squadron, RAF Regiment was stationed in Thorpeness,[15] as was 2783 Squadron RAF Regiment.[16]

The Archaeological Service of Suffolk County Council produced a detailed report of Second World War and other archaeological matters] in Thorpeness.[17]


  1. ^ "Thorpeness Halt". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  2. ^ Owners' website Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b Aldeburgh holiday site Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. ^ Sizewell Hall Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  5. ^ "The RSPB: North Warren". Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  6. ^ BBC News. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  7. ^ The Peerage Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  8. ^ Historic England. "Monument No. 1478352". PastScape. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  9. ^ WW2 Heritage website.
  10. ^ University of York, Archaeology Data Service website.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Haarr, Geirr H. The Gathering Storm: The Naval War in Northern Europe, September 1939 - April 1940 Seaforth Publishing (2013) p. 511, n.8
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ BBC.
  15. ^ National Archives.
  16. ^ National Archives.
  17. ^ [3]

External linksEdit