Southwold benches hold a few secrets

ARE you sitting comfortably? If so, and you happen to be sitting on one of Southwold's hundreds of benches that are conveniently placed around the town, take a look at the inscription carved in the wood.

ARE you sitting comfortably?

If so, and you happen to be sitting on one of Southwold's hundreds of benches that are conveniently placed around the town, take a look at the inscription carved in the wood.

For there's every chance that there's a human story lurking beneath that bench.

On Monday, all will be revealed, when Southwold resident Janet Gershlick launches her little book which tells the stories of some of the people – and animals – remembered by those places of welcome relief to tired and aching feet.


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Once you start to look, Southwold probably has more benches per capita that anywhere else in Suffolk.

They line the walks and pathways along the coastline, they litter the greens. There is always somewhere to sit and enjoy the bracing breeze, eat ice creams, or enjoy the distant horizon.

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Just about all of them have been placed as a memorial to someone special who loved Southwold.

So there is one dedicated to Monty Python star and travelling man Michael Palin's mother Mary. Another to Ben the Labrador paid for by his many friends at the pub his owner, John Illston, publican now of the Lord Nelson, ran at the time.

But Janet Gershlick's favourite is the heart-wrenching memorial at the top of Gun Hill to Howard Rose, a radio man who broadcast from the North Sea which the bench overlooks, and whose story is one of tragedy and romance.

"It's been so uplifting doing the research," said Ms Gershlick.

"I love the history of ordinary people's lives. Some of them are very moving. I spoke to many relatives and friends of the people remembered, and they loved the idea of the book, bringing back the memories of their loved ones."

She is now working on a companion version to Southwold Benches – Southwold Beach Huts, which she will publish on July 1, and which examines the origins of the names of the 250 brightly painted huts that line the coast.

And, of course, there are all those people who bought plaques to fund the new pier, who will also be remembered in another book.

Southwold Benches, priced £4.99 and illustrated both with old photographs and new paintings by local artist Serena Hall, will be launched at the Orwell Bookshop in the High Street on Monday May 26.

Author Janet Gershlick will sign copies on Tuesday May 27 from 11.30-12.30pm.

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