Susan Ellis Wood


Next to the Geldeston Lock in Beccles is a small wood named after Susan Ellis, born in 1890, who was the formidable landlady of the Locks Inn until the 1960s.

The wood had suffered extensive damage in the Great Storm of October 1987. It was not until many years later that tree surgeons fought their way in, to what had become an almost impenetrable jungle to tidy things up. Fortunately four of the fallen willows were spared the chain saw and now add to the character of the resulting glades.

There are many clues to be gleaned regarding the wood and its association with the past. The stinging nettles, the daffodils, the hops and the spindle tree all suggest human occupation on this site in keeping with the nearby inn and the lock, which has been there since 1670.

The life of Susan Ellis

This wood is dedicated to the memory of the legendary former landlady of the Geldeston Locks Inn, Dorothy (Susan) Ellis.  This Ulster woman, a spinster from Londonderry, worked at and later ran the pub for 34 years.  She was well educated, bilingual, had a passion for reading and kept up to date with current affairs.  She was much loved by her customers and always had a loyal band of volunteers to help with the day-to-day tasks involved in running the business, made more challenging by its remote location, lack of services and its damp marshy atmosphere, which had an impact on her health as she suffered from bronchitis and chilblains.

Susan was particularly kind to children and many families would relax on a nearby sandy river beach or paddle in safety at the old sluice.  Beer was only available in bottles and Susan, a teetotaller, ran a tight ship.  Unlike some public houses at the time, there was no opportunity to over-indulge under her watchful gaze. She was much loved and admired and during the harsh winters and floods, local people would battle their way out to check on her and at times she would accept offers to come and stay with them.  On one occasion during a particularly cold spell, Beccles police skated up to the pub, seated her on a sledge and brought her back to safety along the frozen river. 

During her long tenure, Susan made many friends due to her warm and generous personality and desire to chat.  People knew of her from all over the country and beyond.  They would keep in contact with her and in jest some would address their correspondence to “the Dragon of the Broads” or sometimes “Boadicea of the Broads”.  Such was her fame that the Post Office would know exactly where to deliver! 


The Wood can be found next door to the Geldeston Locks Inn: Locks Lane, Geldeston, NR34 0HW


New volunteers are always very welcome. 


Andrew Mackney