Facts about Leiston
Leiston thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a manufacturing town, dominated by Richard Garrett & Sons, owners of Leiston Works, which boasted the world’s first flow assembly line, for the manufacture of portable steam engines. In the Second World War, RAF Leiston, 1-mile north-west of the town in the neighbouring village of Theberton, sent fighter squadrons of the American 357th Fighter Group to fight the Luftwaffe.
In the 1960s, Leiston became famous as the home of the Summerhill School, founded by A. S. Neill in the 1920s as the first major “free school” – referring to freedom in education. Children are not required to attend classes and discipline is meted by pupil self-government meetings. Summerhill has inspired a large “free school” movement and more recently, democratic schools in several countries.
Leiston’s High Street serves as the business and market hub of the surrounding agricultural district. The town’s facilities include a post office, library, banks, pubs and a range of shops and other services. Leiston Film Theatre, a half-timbered building with street-front shops, is the oldest purpose-built cinema in Suffolk. The cinema is owned and run by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council and backed by Leiston Film Theatre Support Club, which has raised money for stage refurbishment and enabled the cinema to install a digital 3D projection system.