Any article about the origins of the town of Felixstowe would be incomplete without a nod to the parish of Walton, Suffolk, for it was here where the story really begins.
The story of Walton castle is one that is connected to the famously submerged settlement of Dunwich which was once said to be the capital of the county of Suffolk, until it was consumed by a surge of seawater in a violent storm in 1286, followed by further destructive storms in 1328 and 1347.
Walton castle, which was a roman seafort, based strategically at the mouths of the Rivers Deben, Orwell and Stour, is considered by some as being the place referred to by East Anglia’s first Bishop, St Felix, when he established the first East Anglian cathederal in Dunmoc. The ruins can still be seen from the coast at old Felixstowe when the tide is at it’s lowest.
You can read more about this period at this excellent site about Suffolk Churches, from which this extract was taken.
“The English Kingdom of East Anglia was ruled by the Wuffing family, one of whom, Redwald, was probably the subject of the great ship burial at Sutton Hoo. Redwald’s son, Sigebert, converted to Christianity (as, in fact, Redwald had, but he was careful to keep an iron in both fires).
In 631, Sigebert invited the Burgundian missionary Felix to establish the Holy Catholic Church in East Anglia. Although Walton may seem geographically remote from the East Anglian capital at Rendlesham, in fact, it wasn’t.
The mouths of the three rivers were host to a conglomeration of communities and ports, nearly all of which are now lost to us; among them were Brackenbury and the Kingshaven at the mouth of the Deben, and Stratton and Grimston around the corner on the Orwell.
The first two are lost to the sea; the second two still survive in names of farms, and the sites of their medieval churches are known. Walton Castle is barely seven miles by boat down the Deben from the Royal burial ground at Sutton, barely ten overland from Rendlesham across the Deben peninsula“
Find out more about Walton castle in ‘Felixstowe as a Roman fort‘ by John Fairclough of the Suffolk Institute of Archeology & History. (pdf)
c. 1170-80 Felixstowe Piory
Roger Bigod, in the reign of William Rufus, gave the church of St. Felix at Walton to the monastery of St. Andrew, Rochester. Some monks from that priory soon established a cell at Walton, (fn. 1) to which the founder gave the manor of Felixstowe, and the churches of Walton and Felixstowe.
Whatever the truthful origins of the town, the timeline of the growth of Felixstowe starts in the 16th Century, with the construction of Landgaurd Fort.
The construction of Landguard Fort was begun on Landguard Point. Its purpose was to guard Harwich Harbour. Originally the fortifications were a few earthworks and blockhouse. It was later improved during the reign of James I.
The garrison at Landguard Fort, under Nathaniel Darrell, successfully rebuffed an attempt to capture it by Dutch forces numbering 1500.
A new battery was built at Landguard Fort.
A new fort adjoining Landguard Fort was begun.
Martello Towers ‘L’ to ‘U’ were built at Felixstowe as defence against French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.
(Click for a full list and details of martello towers built on the East coast of England)
The Bath hotel was built.
The population of the parish of Felixstowe according to the census was 673.
Felixstowe Beach railway station, on the Felixstowe Branch Line, was built. The building was demolished in 2004. (read more)
Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club was established.
The population of the parish of Felixstowe according to the census was 864.
Work commenced on the Dock Basin. (read more at the Port of Felixstowe History Page)
The railway line between Ipswich and Felixstowe was opened.
The railway line between Ipswich and Felixstowe was sold to GER
Work commenced on the Dock Basin.
Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club formed in the grounds of the ‘R’ Martello tower
The Dock was opened for trade, and the first commercial vessel entered on 7th April.
Felixstowe Town Football Club was formed.
The Empress of Germany and her family visited Felixstowe for three weeks, increasing its prominence as a resort.
Felixstowe Urban District, local government district, was created. It was abolished in 1974.
Felixstowe railway station was built by the Great Eastern Railway.
By a strange coincidence the Orwell Hotel opened in on the same day as the new railway station, and the directors and guests from the station opening had their luncheon there. *
The Herman de Stern building is built by the London Hospital Board, which had been left money by wealthy doctor Herman de Stern to set up a convalescent home for people from the Capital, although it later took in local residents.
Felix Hotel Built in Cobbold Road by T W Cotman (Now Harvest House) Grade: II Listed Building Date Listed: 24 August 1973 English Heritage Building ID: 286247
Building began on a flour mill and grain storage silo on the north side of Felixstowe dock basin. (read more at the Port of Felixstowe History Page)
The pier was built.
A bandstand was erected with seating for over 400 people. It could also accommodate up to 30 musicians.
(see more about this site below – or click here for a detailed history)
The flour fill on the dock basin opened September 1, 1907, accompanied by a silo house, built by the port at a cost of £11,000 and leased to Marriage’s for £485 a year
The Floral Hall was built. The building, which had seating for 700 people and which incorporated the bandstand of 1907, was opened by Lord Claude Hamilton in June.
(Later to become the Spa Gardens – see ‘1950’ entry below)
The population of Felixstowe according to the census was 8,666.
Suffragettes Evaline Burkitt and Florence Tunks were convicted of arson after setting fire to the Bath Hotel in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on 28 April 1914. The fire destroyed the hotel although an annexe survived to become part of the Bartlet Hospital. The Bartlet Hospital was built on the Undercliff Road site between 1923 and 1926. It was closed in 2006 and is being converted into flats
The Port was requisitioned as a Royal Navy Destroyer and Mine-sweeper Base.
Air Raid On Felixstowe
Between 15 and 21 aircraft approached Felixstowe & Harwich and dropped some bombs. (read more)
Felixstowe War Memorial Unveiled By Sir Courtenay Warner on 15th August.
Felixstowe’s Spa gardens were officially opened by the Lord Mayor of London.
Felixstowe Rugby Football Club was founded.
St Andrews’s Church in St Andrew’s Road was opened.
The Floral Hall was demolished and the Spa Pavilion was built on the site.
During World War II, much of the pier was demolished by Royal Engineers to prevent its use, as a landing point, by enemy troops in the event of an invasion.
The Port was requisitioned as a Royal Navy MTB and Air Sea Rescue Base.
The Spa Pavilion theatre was rebuilt following bomb damage suffered during WW2.
click here for more about the origins of the Spa Pavilion and nearby spa gardens
Felixstowe Pier railway station was closed. (Read more about Felixstowe railways)
Forty people died in Felixstowe as the town’s sea defences were breached during the great storm which swept down the east coast of England on January 31st and February 1st. Most of the victims lived in prefab houses on Langer Road. Throughout the country a total of 535 people lost their lives in the disaster.
Felixstowe Beach railway station was closed.
A container terminal was opened at the port of Felixstowe. (read more at the Port of Felixstowe History Page)
The population of Felixstowe according to the census was 18,918.
Another container terminal was opened at the port of Felixstowe to handle car exports. (read more at the Port of Felixstowe History Page)
Ferry services between Felixstowe and Zeebrugge began.
The MS European Gateway capsized following a collision with the Speedlink Vanguard off Feixstowe/Harwich (Read More/Pictures)
Felixstowe & Walton United Football Club was formed by the merger of Felixstowe Port & Town F.C and Walton United F.C.
The population of Felixstowe according to the census was 24,052.
Felixstowe beach railway station was demolished. (Read more about local railways here.)
The bandstand on The Triangle in Felixstowe town centre was opened.
Herman de Stern building on Orford Road, Felixstowe, destroyed by fire.
The port celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first commercial vessel working at the port. (read more at the Port of Felixstowe History Page)
The Ordnance hotel, built in 1864 (approx), is demolished to make way for a new Premier Inn.
The Martello Park development of new 2 and 3 bedroom homes is officially opened.