Felixstowe has a long and interesting past, yet during the late 20th century, the once popular seaside resort was left neglected and unappreciated.
In recent years however, the town has received an influx of investment and seen significant regeneration along the beachfront.
In this article we look at some of the most exciting projects that are changing and restoring the face of our much loved coastal town.
Back to its former glory
The Seafront Gardens
The Felixstowe Seafront Gardens are nestled on the cliffs that separate the town centre and the beachfront. These Grade II listed gardens are considered historically important to the nation and are what give the town its name, ‘The Garden Resort of East Anglia’.
The gardens were landscaped and planted over 100 years ago, during a time when Felixstowe was considered a premier ‘spa resort’. The interconnecting gardens stretch almost a mile along the promenade and a large amount of the original planting still remains, while the path is largely unaltered.
In 2011 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted Suffolk Coastal District Council £2.1 million to restore the gardens to their former glory. The project was completed in December 2015.
The Spa Pavilion
Opened in 1909 as ‘The New Floral Hall’, this iconic venue quickly became known as the Spa Pavilion.
Re-vamped and extended in the late 1930s, the Pavilion established itself as a thriving theatre and music hall. With the outbreak of war however, the Pavilion was largely destroyed by a bomb in 1941, only to be re-built again in the early 1950s.
The Spa Pavilion continued to be a popular seaside venue up until the 1990s.
The end of the 20th century brought with it a gradual decline in the popularity of the Spa Pavilion and led to closure of the theatre in 2013.
Acquired by a new owner in the summer of 2015, the theatre has since undergone a large rejuvenation programme and opened again to the public in November 2015.
Plus there is more to come in 2016 with the re-opening of the venues restaurant and bar.
Built in the early 1920s, around the remains of a Martello Tower, the Bartlet Hospital provided the residents of Felixstowe with convalescent care for 80 years, until in 2006 the Hospital was closed to patients and left derelict.
Fortunately in the same year, both the Bartlet and the Martello tower at its centre, were awarded Grade II* listed status acknowledging the complex as a “particularly important building of more than special interest”. Consequently, the buildings were protected from any alterations which might question their historical integrity.
The buildings new status meant that they were safe from active destruction and change, but not from the passage of time. The hospital stood neglected for seven years, until in 2013 Gipping Homes made the bold decision to redevelop the property into luxury homes and in the process, preserve the building for generations to come.
Phase I of the redevelopment of the Bartlet has now sold out and once again the halls of this culturally significant building bustle with life and activity.
Once an illustrious hotel for the wealthy and well-known, Cautley House, previously known as The Bath Hotel, has an exciting past and story to tell.
The Bath Hotel was built in 1839 by architect John Cobbold, during a time when Felixstowe was a flourishing spa resort. Popular due to its seafront position and hot and cold sea water baths, the hotel played host to many a distinguished guest, including Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, the Maharajah Duleep Singh and a Prime Minister.
The Hotel was notoriously burnt down by suffragettes on 28 April 1914 as part of the campaign to get the vote for women. The suffragettes, Evaline Burkitt and Florence Tunks, were convicted of arson for setting fire to the building and jailed until they were granted general amnesty in August 1914.
Today the building, which is in the process of restoration and redevelopment, proudly displays a blue plaque commemorating the two women.
The Bath Hotel, today known as Cautley House, is being returned to its former glory, transformed into luxury apartments to be host to illustrious guests once more.
One to watch
There are grand plans afoot for one of Felixstowe’s most loved landmarks, the pier.
Plans for a new pier have been going back and forth for years, however it has now been confirmed that the old pier will be demolished and new one will be built in its place.
The new pier will hold a large two-storey seaside entertainment complex with cafes, restaurants, a bowling facility, and leisure attractions.