by John | Feb 23, 2015 |

Felixstowe Pier: Past & Present


Once one of the longest piers in Britain, complete with electric tramway, Felixstowe has since suffered from the ravages of war and from financial difficulties. We take a look back at its history to date, and the exciting plans for its future.  

Felixstowe Pier was built in 1905, the last of a trio of piers constructed for the Coast Development Company in Suffolk. These three piers, the other two based at Southwold and Lowestoft, served the ‘Belle’ Steamer fleet, which endeavoured to provide profitable excursions at a time when local steamers faced fierce competition from the increasingly popular railways.

Belle’s paddle steamers operated between London Bridge and Great Yarmouth, calling at places like Southend, Clacton and Walton-on-the-Naze. Its three new piers in Suffolk created additional excursion opportunities for passengers travelling along the route.


Unusual for its time, Felixstowe Pier was created from timber, rather than iron. Developments in ship building had led to foreign timbers, like Jarrah and Greenheart, being used as a construction materials, owing to them being more resistant to worm attack and much more cost effective.

The pier was primarily designed to facilitate the berthing of steamers. When it opened in August 1905, it was little more than a single straight, decked promenade with railings either side, 2,640ft (800m) long, and a T-shaped landing stage at the head. A large pavilion was also constructed at the shoreward end.

Running the length of the pier was a fully electrified tramway (3.5ft gauge), transporting passengers and their luggage from end to end. The original cost for a one-way journey was 1 pence.

In 1922, the Coast Development Company was forced into liquidation, and Felixstowe Pier was sold to East Coast Piers Ltd.


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 seaward end, isolated since the tramway had been suspended, was neglected throughout the conflict and subsequently demolished, leaving the pier at a much shorter length of 450ft (136m).


Today, the pier is home to a lively amusement arcade with a gaming centre, children’s rides and food kiosks, as well as the Boardwalk Cafe.
It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that it received new attention. Proposals were put forward to completely rebuild it, with ten-pin bowling and roller-skating facilities, a cafe, shops and bar. These plans were, however, abandoned as the necessary funds could not be raised.

More recently, a new plan by its current owners, Pier Amusements Ltd, was put forward, to demolish the pier sticking out over the sea and replace it with a new two-storey seaside entertainment complex.

They endeavour to complete the project by 2016, despite also facing difficulties securing funding for the £35 million project.

The redevelopment runs alongside numerous other regeneration projects on Felixstowe's sea front, including a new housing development on the South Beach, a revamp of the lovely seafront gardens, and a refurbishment of the recently closed Spa Pavilion.

Read the history of Southwold Pier here.

Stay nearby - Rockhopper in Waldringfield on the River Deben sleeps 6. 


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