Main St Leiston IP16 4ES 01728 832 189
Leiston is the Suffolk Coast's gritty, industrial heart, a refreshingly workaday place, quite unlike its chic-chi neighbours, whose Leiston Works, founded by Richard Garrett in 1778, was a pioneer of steam-driven machinery and equipment, employing over 2000 staff and exporting its products all over the world. Unfortunately Garretts the business is long gone, supplanted by nearby Sizewell in the town's affections (and as its major employer), but the family had a lasting influence – Garrett's grandaughter Millicent Fawcett was an early founder of the suffragette and feminist movement, and her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the UK – and the firm's original headquarters live on in the Long Shop Museum. You can visit the offices, where there's a fancy board room and adverts for staff dating back to the 1880s, looking for 'sober and hardworking boilermakers'; but the real treats are on display in the old workshops – all manner of steam-driven machinery, including fire engines, threshing machines, steam and traction engines, and a rare shunting engine, Sirapite, which was used at the turn of the twentieth century to carry goods between the plant and the station. A fascinating bit of industrial heritage in a place you would least expect it.
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