Long Shop Museum
|Population||5,508 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Leiston (// LAY-stən) is an English town in the East Suffolk non-metropolitan district of Suffolk, near Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, about 2 miles (3 km) from the North Sea coast, 21 miles (34 km) north-east of Ipswich and 90 miles (145 km) north-east of London. The town had a population of 5,508 at the 2011 Census.
Leiston thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a manufacturing town, dominated by Richard Garrett & Sons, owners of Leiston Works, which boasted the world's first flow assembly line, for the manufacture of portable steam engines. The firm also made steam tractors and a huge variety of cast and machined metal products, including munitions during both world wars. The works closed in 1981 and the site was reused as a mixture of housing, flats and industrial sites. The Long Shop Museum, showing the history, vehicles and products of the works, remains as a heritage tourist attraction.
In the Second World War, RAF Leiston, 1 mile (1.6 km) north-west of the town in the neighbouring village of Theberton, sent fighter squadrons of the American 357th Fighter Group to fight the Luftwaffe. Famous American test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager (later, first to break the sound barrier) flew out of RAF Leiston. The Friends of Leiston Airfield hold a memorial service and flying display at the end of May each year, with veterans and their families attending.
In the 1960s, Leiston became famous as the home of the Summerhill School, founded by A.S. Neill in the 1920s as the first major "free school" – referring to freedom in education. Children are not required to attend classes and discipline is given by pupil self-government meetings. Summerhill has inspired a large "free school" movement and, more recently, democratic schools in several countries. The school occupies the former mansion of Richard Garrett, owner of Leiston Works.
In birth order:
Since the closure of Garrett's, the town's economy has been dominated by two nuclear power stations on the coast at Sizewell: the now decommissioned Magnox reactors of Sizewell A and the more modern Pressurised Water Reactor of Sizewell B. A number of smaller companies operate from industrial areas within the town.
Leiston's High Street serves as the business and market hub of the surrounding agricultural district. The town's facilities include a post office, library, banks, pubs and a range of shops and other services.
Leiston Film Theatre, a half-timbered building with street front shops, is the oldest purpose-built cinema in Suffolk. The cinema is owned and run by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council and supported by the Leiston Film Theatre Support Club, which has raised money for stage refurbishment and enabled the cinema to install the latest digital 3D projection system.
Leiston also has a leisure centre, a skate park and several parks.
Leiston and Thorpeness Rugby Club was in existence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The club closed in 1995, but it was revived in March 2010 as Aldeburgh and Thorpeness Rugby Club, with many of the previous club's members.
A railway branch spur from the Great Eastern Line, known as the Aldeburgh Branch Line, went from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh, with intermediate stations at Leiston and Thorpeness. On 12 September 1966 British Rail withdrew all passenger services to Leiston and beyond. However, the line to Leiston remains active for the purpose of removing nuclear materials from Sizewell power station. This was expected to cease permanently by 2012.
Leiston has direct bus services to Ipswich, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Halesworth.
Other than Summerhill School, Leiston also has its own primary and secondary schools.
Leiston Primary School caters for pupils aged 5–11. It also provides a nursery with 52 places.
Alde Valley Academy is a secondary school and sixth form with academy status, formerly known as Leiston Community High School, then as Alde Valley School from September 2012, following a reorganisation that saw the closure of Leiston Middle School and the school convert from a 13–18 school to one taking pupils from the age of 11. The school converted again into academy status in January 2015 and was renamed Alde Valley Academy.
In 2001 the school had become a Specialist Technology College, and in following years it was named as one of the most improved schools in England. It was the lead school in the Schools Energy Network based at the Orbis Centre in Lowestoft and had strong links with the Sizewell nuclear power stations.