At the sign of the Barking lion...

The churches of Felixstowe

At the sign of the Barking lion... - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


The churches of Suffolk

The churches of Ipswich

The churches of Lowestoft

The churches of Bury St Edmunds

The churches of the Saints

St Peter and St Paul

St Felix

St Andrew

St John the Baptist

Chapel of Jesus and Mary

St Edmund

Walton St Mary

Cavendish Community Church

St Felix and St Edmund Orthodox

Trimley St Mary

Trimley St Martin

Trimley St Cecilia

St Nicholas, Felixstowe Ferry

Felixstowe St John the Baptist - the last of her order.

In the beginning, there was Walton. It was a major settlement on the River Orwell, and in 1844, White's Trade Directory of Suffolk gave it a population of 907. By contrast, Felixstowe parish numbered just 552, and stood several miles away, towards the mouth of the River Deben.

Certainly, the hamlet of Felixstowe was originally in Walton parish, standing on the seaward side of the peninsula. There is a tradition in Suffolk that Felixstowe takes its name from St Felix, but the name Felixstowe does not appear in any documents until the 12th century. It probably comes from the name Fylthestow, meaning a place where trees or meadowgrass were harvested. However, there is a local connection with St Felix, because the Dumnoc where he established his first cathedral was probably Walton Castle, now lost beneath the waves off of old Felixstowe.

Be that as it may, by the late 19th century, Felixstowe was being developed as a holiday resort, a sort of Ipswich-on-Sea, if you like. It is the only coastal town in East Anglia that faces south. Rapidly, it developed, by filling in the coastal strip between its ancient parish church and the larger village of Walton. Today, the town centre lies closer to Walton parish church than it does to Felixstowe parish church.

The modern town can be divided into five distinct areas.

Firstly, there is historic Felixstowe. This is now lost in the northern suburbs, a gentle suburbia of middle-class estates and large houses overlooking the sea. Eventually, you find the Parish church of St Peter and St Paul down a side road.

Secondly, there is the modern town centre, all busy shops, hotels and offices. Here we find the Catholic parish church of St Felix, and the remarkable Anglican parish church of St Andrew, England's first concrete church, albeit totally traditional in design. St Andrew and St Peter and St Paul now form a joint parish.

Thirdly, there is genteel Felixstowe West End, eulogised in the poetry of Sir John Betjeman, with its vast red-brick houses, many now converted into flats. Here, the red-brick twilight of St John stands out as Suffolk's finest 19th century church, and the crowning work of its architect, Sir Arthur Bloomfield. Beside it sits the Convent of Jesus and Mary - but it is a thriving Catholic one, not the moribund Anglican one in the imagination of Betjeman. Much less well-known, St Edmund sits in the curious terraces that front the beach.

Lastly, there are two large suburbs, Walton and Trimley. As well as its historic medieval parish church of St Mary, Walton is host to the Anglican Cavendish Community Church on the Cavendish Park Estate, a dedicationless church which makes an unconvincing stab at being non-denominational. It replaced an older building, which is now the Orthodox church of St Felix and St Edmund, notable as Suffolk's only Orthodox church. Trimley is home to two medieval parish churches (a third has long since disappeared) - St Mary is now redundant, and in use as a church office, and tiny St Martin serves as the parish church. Catholic St Cecilia is also here, a safely simple 1990s building replacing a rather remarkable 1960s structure that was East Anglia's first post-Vatican II Catholic church.

A sixth distinct place is the outlying hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry on the Deben; St Nicholas is here.

Felixstowe today is Suffolk's fourth largest town, with a population of about 40,000. It is also home to one of Europe's biggest container ports, which will continue to ensure its prosperity, and in turn the survival of its churches.

The churches: Felixstowe Cavendish Community Church, Felixstowe St Andrew, Felixstowe St Edmund, Felixstowe St Felix, Felixstowe St Felix and St Edmund Orthodox, Felixstowe St John the Baptist, Felixstowe chapel of Jesus and Mary, Felixstowe St Peter and St Paul, Felixstowe Ferry, Walton St Mary, Trimley St Cecilia, Trimley St Martin, Trimley St Mary



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