Felixstowe Pier, Suffolk

At one time the longest in East Anglia, Felixstowe Pier was one of a trio built by the Coast Development Company, who operated the 'Belle' Steamer fleet based at London Bridge. At the turn of the century local steamer services had lost much of their business to local railways, so fleet operators looked to the lucrative excursion trade to maintain profits. Many of the Directors of pier companies also had interests in steamer fleets, and it was a natural progression for a steamer company to eventually build its own piers. The 'Belle' steamers operated originally from London calling at places like Margate, Southend, Clacton and Walton-on-the Naze. By building the three new piers at Felixstowe, Southwold and Lowestoft, the company would have plenty of excursion options en route to Great Yarmouth.

Felixstowe Pier was the last of the trio to be built, opening in the August of 1905. Interestingly, the new pier would be built from timber as opposed to iron. Developments in ship building using foreign timbers like Jarrah and Greenheart, that were much more resistant to worm attack, had made the timber option a much more cost effective one. Designed primarily to facilitate the berthing of steamers, Felixstowe Pier was of relatively simple design. Constructed by Rogers Brothers the pier extended to a length of 2,640ft (800m) and was little more than a promenade deck, with railings along the entire length, and a T-shaped landing stage at the head. A large pavilion was also constructed at the shoreward end. A 3.5ft (1.06m) gauge electric tramway ran the entire length of Felixstowe Pier carrying passengers and baggage for the princely sum of one penny. Eventually forced into liquidation, the Coast Development Company sold Felixstowe Pier to East Coast Piers Ltd in 1922.

Like most piers on the East Coast of Britain, Felixstowe Pier was sectioned during the Second World War for fear of German invasion and, in common with several, it was a situation that the pier would never really recover from. The tramway had obviously been suspended and the now isolated seaward end, that had remained neglected throughout the conflict, was considered obsolete. This was subsequently demolished, reducing the pier's length to a much shorter 450ft (136m).

Little else was to change during the latter half of the 20th century until the mid 1990s, when plans were drawn up to completely rebuild Felixstowe Pier and to develop the shoreward end. This included ten-pin bowling, roller-skating, cafe, shops and bar. The remaining deck area would have kiosks constructed along the pier length and a new landing stage would be built at the head. This project was adandoned as the necessary funds could not be raised, and the venture was deemed non viable. Unfortunately, the charitable trust formed in 1999 to save the future of Felixstowe Pier has since wound up its operations. The structure was subsequently returned to its owners, Pier Amusements Ltd., who applied for a demolition order in the first quarter of 2004. The fate of this pier now sadly looks inevitable.


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