Shingle Street – German Ocean Mansion

Shingle Street is not somewhere you go for the architecture. Pevsner ignores it in his Suffolk, though that is no surprise.  Its distinctions are found in the works of nature, not humankind.  Yet the hamlet is not without interest, with some vernacular cottages, the roughcast drum of a Martello tower (c.1812) and the solid beacon-like terrace of the coastguard cottages (c.1879).  Plus something unique: the German Ocean Mansion, two single storey red brick wings running north-south from a central sun room below a lookout reached by spiral stairs.

The Marine Lodging Houses were built ‘on the continental model in two attached blocks, North and South’ by Thomas Neale Fonnereau in 1876.  An advertisement offered: ‘Furnished residence of seven rooms can be let for one, two or three months.  The let can either be in five or seven rooms’.  In 1878 the south block was sold and it became one house renamed the German Ocean Mansion – the German Ocean was the usual name for the North Sea up until 1914.  The Mansion became the summer home of the Colleys, a Roman Catholic family that arrived each year with horses, yachts, friends and a chaplain.  Residents supplemented their often precarious incomes by gardening, domestic work and looking after the horses.

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