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Rachel's Weekend Visits

You are in: Suffolk > BBC Radio Suffolk > Rachel's Weekend Visits > Pakefield

Pakefield Church from the beach

Pakefield Church from the beach


There are some places that it is easy to feel you know, when really all you know is the name on a road sign. Pakefield is a bit like that.

Driving into Lowestoft from the Ipswich direction you see the sign for Pontins Holiday Centre and think, 'Oh yes, Pakefield'.

Turn off the main road and explore the beach and side streets and it quickly becomes clear that Pakefield is a community in itself. Most of the original fishing village may have fallen into the sea and the remainder swallowed up by the town of Lowestoft but ask locals if they live in Pakefield or Lowestoft and "Pakefield" is the emphatic reply.

Canon Bob Baker

Canon Bob Baker

Church under threat

I began my visit at the intriguing church of All Saints and St Margaret's, perched above the cliff and beach. It has only been the changes in sea defences further up the coast that has saved the parish priest from the daily job of collecting bones from the shingle as the graveyard slipped ever more into the sea.

Now a reassuring stretch of beach stretches from the church to the water's edge. Standing on the cliff top path, popular with walkers and dog-owners, the roofline of the church gives you a hint of the unusual layout within.

"It was a semi detached church with a solid wall down the middle and two rectors," explained Canon Bob Baker, the vicar. "One half is St Margaret's and one half is All Saints. No one really knows why it happened.

"The most popular theory is that, in the base of the tower, is an ancient stone known as a Sarson stone and what they believe is, that this stone came across in the Iron Age and was used for heathen, pagan, worship. So when Christianity came (we think around 400 AD), a church was built on this site to show that Christianity had overcome the pagan religion.

Sheep cutting the grass at Pakefield Church

Grass cutting the natural way!

"We think that eventually there were two main landowners who both wanted to give a church to their communities but both wanted it here, where this stone was, and where the existing church was. So they both built a church with the stone in the middle at the base."

The church, badly damaged in the Second World War, was one of the first to be rebuilt, and the dividing wall between the two churches is now a series of arches but the two sides of the church are mirror images with two altars, two rood screens and two sets of pews. Certainly a challenge for preachers and congregation alike, especially when a projection screen is needed for a service!

Across the churchyard, kept neat by the efforts of two pet sheep, is the church hall and a bustling plant sale was on when I arrived  - organised by the thriving Mothers Union, and their main fundraising event for the year.

Art in Pakefield

Walking past the war memorial I came to a crossroads with an art gallery on one corner and a fish and chip shop on the other. As it was too early for fish I went into the Ferini Art Gallery, which has been in Pakefield for 11 years and looks very modern with white walls to display the canvases and stripped wooden floors.

Michaela Barber at the Ferini gallery, Pakefield

Michaela Barber at the Ferini Gallery

"Although it looks like a modern building it used to be an old net store," explained Michaela Barber who showed me around. "It was all wood clad and used to look like a barn but we redesigned it in 1996 to look like this."

Although unusual to find an art gallery in the middle of a residential area, Michaela said that is worked well as there were quite a few second-home owners in the area: "They buy a painting for their Pakefield home – and then come back for another one for their London house!"

No concrete jungle

Placing an order for some delicious fish and chips at The Pakefield Plaice we popped into the nearby pub, The Trowel and Hammer, which claims to be Lowesoft's oldest recorded pub. There we had a welcome drink before going, after lunch, to visit one of Pakefield’s holiday centres – and no, it wasn't Pontins!

The Pakefield Caravan Park has 373 caravans including a hire fleet of 15, but doesn't have provision for touring vans any longer. With well-tended caravans surrounded by gardens, some with front row places for a sea view, families of all ages relaxed in the sunshine. 

Philip Key with the beachside caravans

Philip Key with the beachside caravans

General Manager, Phillip Key has only been at the park since last season, when he moved here with his family from a larger holiday centre, but it is obvious he is very proud of the park.

"What you've got here in a lovely peaceful tranquil setting near the sea, is a holiday park with a David Bellamy conservation award and  lots of wildlife. It's not a concrete jungle.

"We've got an entertainment club room, we've got a pool, and what we have is very nice surroundings and nice people, some of whom have been on the site for 50 years - it's amazing."

Meeting the people of Pakefield I was really taken with their friendliness – and the pride they have in the area they live in.

They may be glad of the amenities of their big brother, Lowestoft, a short walk along the beach, but their hearts are definitely in the village that was once Pakefield.

last updated: 11/06/2008 at 12:27
created: 25/05/2007

Have Your Say

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michael starling, cambridge
I remamber several family holidays with my parents to cresta caravan site in the 60's. This was then owned / run by mr minny who kept a very close eye on the camp he had a right hand man by the name of cliff who lived in a caravan on site. I remember walking along the cliff top by the riflerange to pontins and my father having a drink in the odd fellows ph.great days' great holidays.

Caroline Tadhunter
I have several photographs of my late father on the beach at Pakefield in 1922. Where would a working class family of 4 have stayed for a week's holiday? Did caravan/camping sites exist then or would they have stayed in a B&B?

Shirley Petersen, Ankeny, Iowa, USA
Pakefield Church was part of my daily routine last May while visiting family in Lowestoft. I'd walk every morning from the Hotel Victoria along the beach to the church and then back for breakfast. It was my favorite time during the three weeks I was there. I still walk, but have to imagine the sea and sand!

Mike Horne
I have some great memories of childhood holidays spent at Colby's Pakefield caravan site (1959, 1960 & 1961). My parents used to travel down overnight from east Leeds (where we lived then) in an old Fordson 5cwt van . We had some great times on this caravan site with my relatives (that then lived at Sweffling, Suffolk). I remember that the site had its own food shop in those days. I also remember seeing Pakefield church near the beach.

Elaine Dowell
WE have recently purchased a caravan on the Pakefield caravan park and love we now feel like Pakefield is our second home and often wish it was our first. A gem

John Merrigan Tasmania Australia
I enjoyed the lovely scenery of Suffork when i was over there in 2oo2.I liked the town of BECCLES and the Broards

David Wigg
Was it you who interviewd Len and Valerie Butcher the weekend before Xmes.I grew up with the group of children , including those two,who played together. I was very interested in the comments about the village on the "Beach" where I also grew up . Although the houses are long gone there is a model of the area whiche was put together 5 or 6 years ago. This was a big project, it's about 20 by 10 feet and might make an interesting item for your programme, or you might just be interested in seeing the modeil. I look forward to your reply.David Wigg.

a lovely site
I am shortly hoping to move to pakefield - looking forward very much

Robin (from Phoenix, AZ)
I had the honor of visiting Pakefield Church twice in the last couple years. The last time was two months ago where the caretaker opened the church just for me to have a look around the inside. I was truly amazed! The sheep are adorable and I loved their little house. I hope to visit Lowestoft again in the near future. Thank you for the very interesting article on one of the most beautiful churches in Suffolk.

George H. Percival
Lived in Pakefield till 2000now live in mexico. great to read some news of the village best wishes

shirley young, Pakefield MU
thank you for including Pakefield Mothers' Union in your programme yesterday. We did very well in our plant sale which will in turn help us to help MU's various projects. Best wishes and love to you Rachel.

Mrs Maureen Hill M.U. Member.
It would have been nice if Mothers Union, AWAY FROM IT ALL HOLIDAYS was mentioned on the site as this is a very important part of our local work for the families that have never had a holiday. thank you for listening.

So refreshing to hear your weekend programmes ( and when standing in for others early morning ) Am amazed the struggle some of the folk of Suffolk have to get the three places on a Sunday, even when you hear them rustling maps ! Thanks

Garanog James
Very interesting article learnt a bit more about our village listening to you Programme

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