Lowestoft (or ) is a town in the English county of Suffolk. The town is on the North Sea coast and is the most easterly point of the United Kingdom. It is north-east of London, north-east of Ipswich and south-east of Norwich. It is situated on the edge of the Broads system and is the major settlement within the district of Waveney with an estimated population of 58,560 in 2010.
Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Britain has been found in Lowestoft, and the town has a long history. It is a port town which developed due to the fishing industry, and a traditional seaside resort. It has wide, sandy beaches, two piers and a number of other tourist attractions. Whilst its fisheries have declined, the development of oil and gas exploitation in the southern North Sea in the 1960s led to the development of the town, along with nearby Great Yarmouth, as a base for the industry. This role has since declined and the town has begun to develop as a centre of the renewable energy industry within the East of England.
Following the discovery of flint tools in the cliffs at Pakefield in south Lowestoft in 2005, the human habitation of the Lowestoft area can be traced back 700,000 years. This establishes Lowestoft as one of the earliest known sites for human habitation in Britain.
The area was settled during the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages and during the Roman and Saxon periods, with a Saxon cemetery producing a number of finds at Bloodmoor Hill in south Lowestoft. The settlement's name is derived from the Viking personal name Hlothver, and toft, a Viking word for 'homestead'. The town's name has been spelled variously: Lothnwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft and Laystoft.
At the Domesday survey the village was known as Lothuwistoft and was relatively small with a population of around 16 households comprising, in 1086, three families, ten smallholders and three slaves. The manor formed part of the king's holding within the Hundred of Lothingland and was worth about four geld in tax income. Roger Bigod was the tenant in chief of the village. The village of Akethorpe may have been located close to Lowestoft.
In the Middle Ages Lowestoft became an increasingly important fishing town. The industry grew quickly and the town grew to challenge its neighbour Great Yarmouth. The trade, particularly fishing for herring, continued to act as the town's main identity until the 20th century.
In June 1665 the Battle of Lowestoft, the first battle of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, took place off the coast of the town. The battle resulted in a significant victory for the English fleet over the Dutch.
The Lowestoft Porcelain Factory, active from 1757 to 1802, was in production for longer than any English soft-paste porcelain manufacturer other than Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby, producing domestic wares such as pots, teapots, and jugs. The factory, built on the site of an existing pottery or brick kiln, was later used as a brewery and malt kiln. Most of its remaining buildings were demolished in 1955.
During World War I, Lowestoft was bombarded by the German Navy on 24 April 1916 in conjunction with the Easter Rising. The port was a significant naval base during the war, including for armed trawlers such as Ethel & Millie and Nelson which were used to combat German U-boat actions in the North Sea such as the action of 15th August 1917. In World War II, the town was heavily targeted for bombing by the Luftwaffe due to its engineering industry and role as a naval base. It is sometimes claimed that it became one of the most heavily bombed towns per head of population in the UK. The Royal Naval Patrol Service, formed primarily from trawlermen and fishermen from the Royal Naval Reserve, was mobilised at Lowestoft in August 1939. The service had its central depot HMS Europa, also known as Sparrow's Nest, in the town. Many Lowestoft fishermen served in the patrol service.