I first came across the Coconut Loft when hunting for the 5 best coffee shops in Lowestoft; it was one I was enthusiastically impressed by when visiting. The Coconut Loft has such an amazing history I felt it rightly deserved an extended review of its own!
Although the Coconut Loft opened in 2014 the building it uses is steeped in fascinating history. In 1803 public records indicate that this area of Kirkley (ward in Lowestoft) was common land, by 1854 a development area was identified on local maps, although no buildings were present at that early stage. In the late 1870’s construction of the development area was underway but during the construction of Wellington Road (now Waterloo Road, Lowestoft) works were stopped after the discovery of a natural seawater source.
The landowner Mr Thomas Hubbard-Leggett decided to instead utilise the natural seawater source. Since 1844 an Association for Promoting Cleanliness among the Poor had established public wash-houses and public bathhouses for the working classes in London. Thomas was clearly a savvy entrepreneur and took advantage of the situation by providing Lowestoft’s first public Hot and Cold Seawater (Slipper) Bathhouse. The Slipper Baths provided 15 separate, private bathrooms, each with hot water and cold water and a WC and was in use by 1892.
credit Lowestoft Journal
Premises at the rear were subsequently built upon providing the South Lowestoft Seawater Swimming Baths. The swimming baths were opened in 1896/97, water was pumped from the Bathhouse well and pipework and a pump house in-between the buildings allowed for drainage at low tide. By the 1920’s the Swimming Baths became the Grand Cinema and now the Kirkley Centre.
When the Coconut Loft was renovated a ‘heave’ in the floor at the centre of the shop was excavated and a set of steps were revealed leading down to the seawater well. This has now become a brilliant viewing chamber in the shop. From the late 1920’s the Slipper Baths became Café Cosmo (until 1960’s); Clutterbucks, Andrew’s Labany, The Palace (Chinese restaurant); Barkers Pet Shop and finally, The Coconut Loft.
Now providing a wonderful place to relax while shopping or taking a break from the beach during summer to enjoy refreshment, or casually browse local art work in the side gallery this really is a place making the effort to visit. The staff are full of knowledge and wonderfully warm, friendly and helpful. You can have a picture in the pier style feature ‘sitting in a bath’.
More is yet to come since the Pump House in between the rears of the Coconut Loft and Kirkley Centre is becoming home to the first Lowestoft Community Radio. A non-profit local enterprise providing music, discussions, interviews and phone-ins, as well as local affairs. Initially available online, the radio is available across the world so you can always take a piece of Lowestoft home with you.
I’d like to thank Richard Toombe (Owner of Coconut Loft) for the history lesson and you can visit their official website here: http://www.thecoconutloft.co.uk/
You can listen to Lowestoft Community Radio here: http://lowestoftcommunityradio.co.uk/index.html