Lost Youth | My Hometown Felixstowe....Has it Changed for the Better

I  moved to Felixstowe from Stowmarket as a baby, then grew up on the Coronation Drive Estate. Like most of the children then, I would play out along the road from the age of around 5, as it was safe to do so. The road back then was lined with neat and tidy grass verges, covered during the summer with buttercups and daisies, where us girls used to sit making daisy chains, or just doing handstands or cartwheels along the verge. The girls would dress up in their mother’s old dresses and high heeled shoes and walk up and down the road pushing their dolls prams with the latest Tiny Tears Doll (or in my case it was my neighbours guinea pigs, that I'd take for a walk!). Boys would race up and down on their bikes or homemade Go Karts playing Cowboys and Indians, or Thunderbirds are go, whilst firing cap guns at us girls.

There were just a few cars about then, so our evenings were taken up with playing Block or Hide and Seek, running between the gardens or just a game of footie in the road. The children's playground along the seafront with its paddling pool and giant slide was popular, not only with all of us, but with many day trippers. Sadly, along with the little ride on steam train, and the yacht pond where I used to take my boats (which I bought from the Post Office and Toy shop down Manning Road) all have now gone.

As we became older, a lot of us used to cycle or walk down Ferry Lane, past the allotments and fields to the Dooley Fort (a great place to run about in the tunnels or make dens). The Dooley Fort has also gone and that area is now part of the expanding dock and the surrounding allotments and fields are now Cavendish Park Estate.

Peewit Hill is another place we played, either tobogganing down the hill in the winter snow or playing in, or around the stream at the bottom, collecting tadpoles and newts in the spring. This has now been engulfed by the dock road.

Fagbury as we called it, or 'Fagborough' was another great place to play, building dens and swinging from rope swings-a great place if you weren't scared to go home covered in a thick,smelly clay mud from the oyster beds.

I remember as a child going to St Mary’s baby home fetes. This was situated at the top of South Hill (now demolished and flats built in its place). The fete was a big event and was always opened by whichever celebrity was appearing in the summer show held at The Spa Pavilion. I also remember going to the Saturday Cinema Club at the Old Playhouse (which is now where Boots is).

Growing older still, a lot of kids from the estate spent many a time at the new skating rink (built behind the bus station and the entrance to Langer Park). It was a very popular place as it attracted kids not only from all around town but from surrounding villages. This, along with the bus station, the busy newsagents and the popular chippy were all pulled down to make way for Lidl Supermarket.

A great place for us all to meet up was the Pier Pavilion, (which was demolished and rebuilt asThe Leisure Centre). The Pavilion was a great attraction for Felixstowe, holding events for all ages, from Beer Festivals with 'The Bavarian Stompers' (who were great!), to Tea Dances held on the front lawns of The Pavilion, which used to attract coach loads of O.A.P's in the summer months, where they used to listen to great old tunes played by 'Handel'on the organ. They also held a folk festival there, one weekend a year with Folk and Morris Men dancing (they danced at different venues around the town too). Such a colourful event! I recall most events held at The Pavilion were busy, the Country and Western nights was another for one. My favourite were the nights where we could go and see popular groups and bands of the time- I myself saw Cozy Powell, Showadywaddy, The Glitter Band along with many others, the best for me being The Bay City rollers.

Other good nights were the Saturday night discos held there, or if you fancied watching big names in wrestling, that was also another 'big' event held there. Felixstowe Pier was anothergreat place for us to meet, to play pool, Pinball or just hang around The Jukebox, The 'old' Pieris one thing that has been replaced, thankfully bigger and better, than it was.

Not only did we have The Pavilion discos to go to but also The Cavendish Hotel every Sunday night (this was just past Mannings Amusements). It wasa lovely looking 1920's style building, but demolished to become nothing but empty space. This space was used for a large Sunday Market which was always packed with holiday makers, day trippers, along with the locals looking for a bargain.

Discos were held at The Ordnance Hotel in the back bar at weekends. This place was another, in my opinion to be a 'grand' looking building! It had been a lovely hotel in its day with tennis courts and gardens, later replaced by a car park. The hotel was pulled down and now a Premier Inn built in its place. I remember the beautiful willow tree in the pub garden.

Most kids from the estate attended all three schools along Maidstone Road: The infants being Maidstone, then Causton C.P (my favourite school), then on to middleschool, (which later became Orwell High School). This has now gone as well and replaced by Felixstowe Academy, (which has been built along the back of Orwell’s old playing field and tennis courts). Deben School, which was the firstly the High School, has now closed too.

Back in the days of my growing up, I remember the yearly carnival consisting of large, bright, decorated floats, (and lots of them), along with horses and lots of marching bands, (from pipers to big brass bands brought in from other towns). It's not the same now as it was then, due to extreme health and safety concerns. The event ended at the fairground (held on Langer Park), with fireworks, which often set fire to the railway embankment, which ran to Beach Station Road Railway Station, then on to the docks. (The old Beach Station again, no longer stands).

As a young teenager, most of us had weekend jobs. Mine was at the Golden Shell Restaurantand the trinket shop next door, just past The Wolsey Gardens-both now converted to homes.

The town centre was great. For us teenagers we could pick up the latest Top Ten hits at two record shops, Record Rendezvous and Broadway Records. The latest fashions could be acquired at many shops, including Trendy Two or Jintys, which I remember well, alongside Sophia Collins which was situated along the seafront, (where The Waffle Shack is). Fellas Cafe was a good place to meet up with friends... and as a young child, who doesn't remember going to visit Father Christmas at the great toy shop Wakelins?? Westbrooks Cake and Coffee shop was a must to visit, which was opposite Fine Fare Supermarket (which is now Iceland).

I loved growing up in Felixstowe and still love the place. I have very fond memories, but sadly so many places I knew as a child now, no longer exist. Maybe it's me getting older or is it "so called progress" changing our little town beyond recognition and into the unknown? It's still a great town and has so much to offer, but it's not the town it was! The main Shopping Centre has lost so many of its great shops and an awful lot of individual shops which helped keep the town busy and alive.

That said, Felixstowe still has a diverse lot to offer from great views of the docks and ships from all over the world being unloaded at the Viewpoint, The Landguard Nature Reserve and The Landguard Fort Museum. Further along the seafront you have The Pier Amusements, then even further along, The Spa Pavilion Theatre, with its beautiful gardens-where as a child would love going to see The 'Dennis Lowe' Pantomime ( a tradition now carried on by his daughter.) Then a walk along from there, round Cobbolds Point down to Felixstowe Ferry area, where you can see across the Bawdey.

Despite so much change over the year, Felixstowe still has a lot to offer and will always be a lovely little town to live in.

Written by Heather Ford