The building, until recently referred to as 'The Dutch Barn' was constructed in approximately 1840 as a fishing net shed and later in the century as a sail loft specialising in the fabrication of sails for the wherries which were built in the nearby workshops such as the one documented at this link. then as a manufacturing facility for cod-liver oil, and as part of the salt works. An OS map of 1874 suggests that building originally had a large rear extension.(Source: English Heritage). Sail-making evidently continued into the 1920s and '30s in a separate out-house located in what is now the car park, although the main building had by then been converted to residential accommodation.
For most of its existence the freeholder has been Southwold Corporation and, from 1974 to c 2002 Southwold Town Council.
c1861 - 1874
William & Samuel Powditch - Coastal traders and cargo ship owners, are believed to have used the building to store their equipment at about this time.
Note: Brothers William (b 1830) and Samuel Powditch (b 1824) are from Brancaster in North Norfolk and moved to Southwold in the early 1860s. Both have cargo boats of their own and, for a time, are business partners:
William, who is described as a 'mariner', owns the vessel 'The Good Intent' and seems to specialise in transporting and dealing in coal. By 1868, though, Kelly's and White's Directories describe him as an 'old clothes' dealer living at an unspecified house in Queen Street with his wife, Maria (nee Lord). However, it is likely that second-hand clothing is a sideline, as he continues his involvement in coastal trading until the 1880s.
His brother Samuel, a 'Master Mariner', owns at least four ships over the course of his career. However, he has suffered three serious personal setbacks. The first was the death in childbirth of his wife, Isabella Brightmer and of their newborn son in 1853, just a year after their marriage. The second is his involvement in a serious accident at the recently developed Royal Victoria Docks in London which disables him and brings his seagoing career to an end. The third tragedy is the loss of his ship, 'The Mariner's Hope' in 1869. Now captained by his brother, William, it is in collision with the schooner 'Time' and sinks off the coast of South Shields. William and his two crew are rescued by the crew of 'Time'.
After this misfortune, the people of Southwold organise a collection for Samuel and raise £111 - a generous gesture, particularly considering that he and his second wife, Eliza, have been Southwold residents for less than nine years. Samuel, Eliza and their six daughters set up home at No 8 High Street where, by 1879, they are running a confectionery business (K1879).
William, meanwhile continues to captain his own ship, 'The Good Intent' until the early 1880s, when he and his wife Maria retire to run the Sole Bay Inn at No 7 East Green.
We are grateful to Carol Stone, great-great granddaughter of William Powditch, for sharing her family research with us. For a fuller account of the Powditch story, click here.