Suffolk's prettiest homes: A quayside haven in Woodbridge
PUBLISHED: 13:50 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:50 25 September 2018
Peter and Lorraine Finn have found their ideal place to get away from it all right on their Woodbridge doorstep | Words & Photos: Tony Hall
As someone who has enjoyed his boats over the years, it is always a delight to be invited to a waterside home, particularly where the owners are also sailors.
This time, I know the exact location in Woodbridge, over the railway line and past Andy Seedhouse Boats, and then on to the quay, overlooking the moorings and the River Deben.
I’ve come to meet Lorraine and Peter Finn, owners of The Harbour Master’s House, part of the former boat yard occupied by Frank Knights. Frank – remembered affectionately as ‘Mr Deben’ – is well known by many in Woodbridge. Originally from Felixstowe, after leaving the Navy in 1946, he began repairing boats, travelling on his bike as far as Waldringfield.
When The Woodbridge Quay Company was formed he borrowed a small sum of money to buy into the company. With his girlfriend, Christine, who became his wife, he restored a 1938, 30ft Colchester oyster smack called the Yet, which Frank owned for 64 years.
They lived on board and for 20 years they also lived on a converted assault craft, before moving to a flat above the boat yard. After Frank died in 2008, a local developer bought the property and renovated it. Peter and Lorraine have owned The Harbour Master’s House, as a holiday home, since 2013.
“Most people who have holiday homes,” he says, “buy at a distance from where they live. We’re setting a new trend – buying ours in the town where we live. It’s much easier – it means no travel, we’re on hand, should any need arise, and can keep a regular check, and, of course, we can enjoy the property ourselves from time to time.”
Peter is from Lincolnshire. He studied veterinary medicine at Bristol University, which was followed by posts at the University of Saskatchewan and at Davis, California.
This eventually led to working for an American pharmaceutical company near Clermont Ferrand, France. After two years there, in 1983 they returned to Suffolk, started their own consultancy and opened a veterinary diagnostic laboratory service in the Waveney valley, where they lived at the time.
Lorraine, originally from Mountnessing, Essex, met Peter at work in the 1970s. With a professional qualification in quality assurance she has worked as an auditor, fulfilling necessary requirements for regulatory authorities.
When the couple came to Suffolk, it was initially to Aldringham, which was halfway between both sets of parents. They moved to Woodbridge in 1992 so their son could attend the Abbey School and later Woodbridge School. The river was also a big attraction. Peter has always been interested in boats since he started sailing a Cadet dinghy at the age of nine.
“Over the years sailing has taken me from Bermuda to Venice, and many points in between. Boats have included a Moody 33, a Maurice Griffiths Tidewater, both moored locally at the Tide Mill Marina, an open Cornish Oyster boat, followed by a Fontaine Pajot 34, and my Rolls Royce catamaran, a Catana, which spent most of her time cruising the waters around the Mediterranean, and then on to the Adriatic mooring in Croatia.
“After the sailing boats we had a Beneteau Swift Trawler that we would take up to St Katherine’s Dock at Chatham, and out on Suffolk rivers.”
They eventually decided to move on from boats and when the Harbour Master’s House became available they jumped at the opportunity to own such as unique property where they can still enjoy the river in their beloved town of Woodbridge, with all amenities at hand. From the windows and balcony they enjoy the ever changing river and the estuarine bird life.
“Whether it’s breakfast on the balcony,” says Lorraine, “or a glass of fizz at sunset, there is always so much to see. We’re right in town, but with no traffic.
“It’s very quiet here – just the sounds of the birds – and the view over the boats along the river to the countryside beyond is pure bliss. One of our favourite rooms is the main kitchen/dining/living area, with the added bonus of a cosy wood burning stove.
“But we do love to take a break from the view and pop downstairs for a game of snooker or pool. We have some fond decorations in the house – favourites are the 3D woven wall hangings by Elizabeth Chester, that came from Suffolk Craft Society at the Peter Pears Gallery in Aldeburgh.
“We have an excellent selection of independent shops in the town. Two favourites are The Happiness Store, and Barretts – helpful, super staff.”
Being close to the railway station makes it possible to get a train to London for a day out, or they can take the coastal route in the other direction.
“The river walks along the Deben are delightful, even in winter, with lots of wildlife, including curlews, oyster catchers, redshanks, to name a few,” says Lorraine.
“Further afield, we like the Bawdsey to Shingle Street walk. Although we both love cooking we do go out to The Anchor, which is close and handy, with good food, and Milsoms, Kesgrave Hall. After all our sailing around the world it’s a pleasure to return to here, Destination Deben.”
The Harbour Masters House is available for holidays lettings through Suffolk Cottage Holidays
T: 01394 389185 suffolkcottageholidays.com/woodbridge-cottages
Owners: Peter and Lorraine Finn
Property: The Harbour Master’s House, Quayside, Woodbridge
Favourite room: main kitchen/dining/living area
Favourite item: 3D woven wall hangings by Elizabeth Chester
Favourite shops: The Happiness Store, Barretts, The Cake Shop Bakery, Woodbridge Greengrocers-Market Garden
Favourite part of Suffolk: Here
Favourite waste of time: Peter – watching TV. Lorraine – yoga.
Favourite walk: Bawdsey to Shingle Street
Favourite pub: The Anchor, Woodbridge
Favourite restaurant: Milsoms, Kesgrave Hall
Hobbies: Cooking curry
Most magical moment in Suffolk: Peter – glow worms on Thorpeness Golf Course. Lorraine – every day by the river in Woodbridge