The name is said to come from 'toft' (a Viking word for 'homestead') and 'loth' or 'lowe' (a Viking male name). The town's name has been spelled variously: Lothnwistoft, Lestoffe, Laistoe, Loystoft, Laystoft. The town is divided in two by Lake Lothing, the northern half being the commercial centre, the southern half the holiday resort. The surrounding area is known as Lothingland. There are two piers. Lowestoft Ness is Britain's most easterly point.
In the Domesday Book, Lowestoft is described as a small agricultural village of 20 families, i.e. about 100 people. Rent for the land was paid to the landowner Hugh de Montfort in herrings.
In the Middle Ages, Lowestoft developed into a fishing port. Great Yarmouth saw Lowestoft as a rival and tried to push it out of the herring trade.
During the 1790s, Lowestoft's fishing community established their own "Beach Village", living in upturned boats.
In the 19th century, the arrival of Sir Samuel Morton Peto brought about a huge change in Lowestoft's fortunes. Peto started by building a rail link between Lowestoft and Norwich, and links with other town soon followed. He developed the harbour and provided mooring for 1,000 boats. This gave a boost to trade with the Continent. He also established Lowestoft as a flourishing seaside holiday resort.
Literary and artistic connections
The composer Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft in 1913.
Edward Fitzgerald, the translator of the Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam, lived in Lowestoft.