The Longshore Fishery at Southwold - Past, Present and Future
Although Southwold has had a harbour (of varying degrees of capacity and accessibility) for many centuries, it was mainly used up to the Second World War by larger fishing vessels, including steam and sailing drifters from Scotland following the annual herring fishery. Other boats using the harbour were "half and halfers" of about 40 tons. There was also a small amount of commercial shipping visiting the haven, bringing in such things as coal (possibly the origin of the name Blackshore, which refers only to the quay at the Harbour Inn end of the harbour); and taking away mainly agricultural products. The River Blyth was navigable by wherries as far inland as Halesworth, but this trade died out before the First World War.
Despite the presence of the harbour, the small boats engaged in the longshore fishery were almost entirely worked off Southwold Beach, which they shared with famous beach yawls such as the "Bittern". As may be seen in old photographs, the beach provided net drying grounds, storage sheds and even a boatbuilder.
With the coming of the Second World War, the beach was mined and defended against invasion, and with a few exceptions, the boats moved into the harbour, where many were laid up with their owners away in the Services. After the War, considerable work was needed to make the beach safe again, and most of the boats remained in the river.
However, some small boats, rowed, sailed or powered with outboard engines (or a combination of these), continued to work off the beach near the "Penny Pier" at the North end of the beach, until quite recently. The vestiges may still be seen in the form of sheds and crab winches. These boats fished mostly with driftnets for herring and sprats in their seasons.
Old photographs of Southwold beach and harbour. Click on images to enlarge.
More information and pictures on the old longshore fishery from the Southwold Museum website
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