Archive Page 2

Memories of the ‘Fish ‘n’ Chip’ Felixstowe

Doreen Savage, the Councillor for Suffolk Coastal District Council & Felixstowe Town Council, has been sharing her lifetime of memories towards the Holding Back the Tide project in an oral history interview with one of the volunteers. Doreen was born in Felixstowe and her love and support of the town is clearly evident in the stories she has of her childhood and current life in Felixstowe:

“In my house where I was born, which was in Manor Terrace, which is at the far end of Felixstowe, it used to be known as the fish and chip end of the town and very much a part of Felixstowe that centred around holiday accommodation and my mother in fact ran a boarding house. Boarding house and guests at Manor Terrace

And so my early memories are of people coming to Felixstowe on holiday as they used to in those days, staying at the house and being involved very much in looking after them. Having to take their tea up to them in the mornings. It was quite a hard life really. Saturday mornings were spent changing beds and cleaning bedrooms and polishing silver and I have a lovely, lovely memory because every bedroom was needed to generate income because people were hard up in those days and so I used to lose my bedroom in the summer and I used to have to sleep on the floor under the kitchen table and one of my memories is of my Dad slicing the bread and the crumbs falling on me as I slept under the kitchen table. I was then promoted to a camp bed in the dining room which meant I couldn’t go to bed until everybody else had gone to bed. Eventually I said to my parents, “This can’t go on, I really need somewhere of my own.” so my Dad, bless him, wall papered the shed for me, put me in a little wash stand and basin down there and a little hanging wardrobe and it became mine. I got turned out at night like the cat, ran down the garden and jumped in and locked the door before anything could get at me. It was mine, it was a defining moment in my development I think. 

Listen to story: Bread Crumbs Falling…

In the ’50s Felixstowe was very much a holiday resort at that time and we used to have a railway station called Beach Station, which is no longer there sadly, and the train used to come to Beach Station road disgorge all its passengers who then used to make their way to the various establishments they were staying in and everybody at that time was involved in providing holiday accommodation of some kind.  Listen to story:  Disgorge its passengers!

Many years ago there were hundreds of beach huts on the South seafront land. Then in the ’80s the use of beach huts started to decline when package holidays started to come in and that’s when the holiday industry also started to decline and so whereas beach huts had been very much part of everybody’s life and lifestyle they weren’t. Postcard-Felixstowe-beach-huts

I know this for a fact because my mother then had a little kiosk shop on the corner of Manor Terrace and she had it for thirty three years actually and provided everything and the reason the shop was established was to service the hundreds of beach huts that were there. Unfortunately, her business just took a huge downward spiral, beach huts started to get vandalised, nobody cared about them and the whole of the area just went downhill.  Doug & Betty Davey, parents of Doreen Savage

When I was a child once September got here Felixstowe died. The holidaymakers went away, everything shut, restaurants shut, amusements shut, it was just dead. Now everything operates all year round. You can go down to the seafront in January on a nice sunny day and find that you’ve got hundreds of people down there doing things. It’s great, the year just continues.

We’re so lucky here because we have an ever-changing seascape out there. It’s never the same, there are boats of all descriptions coming in and going out and it’s all different. Different in its moods, different in the views that it gives you, different in the people that it brings in and the goods that it brings in. I just think it’s so exciting”



Message in a Bamboo ‘Bottle’ – Yarmouth Art Project Launched

A group of Great Yarmouth students have been taking part in an exciting new art project with Time & Tide Museum in conjunction with the Holding Back the Tide project. Bamboo bottle with an art piece inside

The young people involved in the project have created artworks inspired by the coastal environment around the town. These were placed in sealed eco-friendly bamboo ‘bottles’ and launched by students on an outgoing tide on a stormy December the 1st. It is hoped that these “messages in a bottle” will travel along the East Coast and across the sea to Europe. People who find them will be invited to let staff at Time & Tide know where they were found and to send in their own artworks inspired by the coastal environments where they live.

Launching the bamboo bottlesThe project is co-ordinated by Mark Wood from Great Yarmouth College as part of his work with the CCYY art teachers & students network. This group organises collaborative projects with students from Great Yarmouth College, Great Yarmouth High School, Cliff Park High School, Oriel high School & Caister High School. By the Jetty on Yarmouth Beach

Further Reflections from Rowhedge (Part 2)

In late September we posted a story about Hazel Thornton and her memories of her family business in Rowhedge. Hazel has been an avid sailor since her early married days in the 1950s. She has many wonderful sailing memories which she has shared with the Holding Back the Tide team.

Lawrence Thornton, Hazel's husbandHazel remembers with fondness her first ever sailing holiday as a newlywed when her husband decided to introduce her to the water. So he said “Well you’ll need some proper gear.” So I got a sou’wester of course, have you ever seen anybody in a sou’wester today? I mean it’s sort of laughable isn’t it but that’s what we bought, we had sou’westers. Jolly good they are too, they make the rain go down your back and not down the back of your neck. So I had a bright yellow sou’wester. I bought some boots, but the article that I remember was an ex Navy, very dark navy blue reefer coat. It might have been a jacket on a sailor but for me it was a top coat. So the proportions were adequate for an overcoat down to my knees on me – and probably the arms to match as well – with my hands barely sticking out of the bottom. But this coat was so heavy and so stiff you could literally stand it up and it wouldn’t fall over.

In those days when we used to go sailing we had to plan for those holidays. When you think, no car, how things were then. We’d finish the office on Friday, or Thursday if it was Easter, and make our way by train. We would have already sent an order to Jack Mills at Blackwater Yacht Charters to put on board a set of stores: cardboard box full of tins of stew, milk and eggs and bacon and things. We would have sent on ahead probably a kit bag full of things – like your boots and your heavy stuff – because the logistics of going to the office in London and then going immediately down to sailing wouldn’t permit you to be able to carry all this stuff, so you’d only have your personal things with you. And on one occasion it got put off at Shenfield. So we arrived at the boat and we hadn’t got our stuff. But Jack Mills was wonderful he motored up to Shenfield and argued it and he got it for us and came back. He was a quite wonderful and kind man and lovely chap to deal with at Blackwater Yacht Charters.

pin-mill-circa-1980Hazel has memories of Pin Mill in the 1950s and an incident on her first sail up the river Orwell to Pin Mill. “It was the end of the afternoon and it was a lovely summer’s day, probably June again, I would guess. And we were very anxious to get to Pin Mill because we’d run short of various stores and wanted to go ashore and quickly top them up, you know vital things like milk and so on. And we knew we could do it there, because in all of Jack Mills boats there was always a copy of East Coast Rivers, which was just a wonderful book a bit like Wainwright for the Fells. So we read up what it was like to go to Pin Mill and we were coming up on the very last of the tide, not that it matters there because the moorings are quite nicely deep, but it did matter for getting ashore of course. But we were very reassured because the East Coast Rivers guide said, “Landing may be effected at all states of the tide.”

So I was detailed to go ashore in the dinghy from the mooring and do the shopping. So I quickly rowed to the end of the hard, was in a hurry, went to step out of the dinghy and to my horror the hard had run out, there was no more hard. And I couldn’t get any closer – it must have been the lowest of the lowest Spring tides – and quite remarkably no hard was there. And it’s a very ungainly manoeuvre getting back into a dinghy that you’ve tried to step out of, it’s not very elegant and you feel very foolish. So, step back in I did without tipping everything over and of course I had to go back to the boat, no shopping and explain what had happened. But of course we went ashore in the evening to go to the wonderful Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill, and of course inevitably my little incident had been seen as I knew it would be by, oh I can’t remember who now, but they felt it was very funny.

Hazel’s children adored the river and took to sailing like naturals. Helen, her first born, experienced her maiden voyage at the tender age of fourteen months. It was the first of many years of memorable family holidays together on the water. Hazel with her children

Today, Hazel owns a rowing boat and enjoys her journeys along the river Colne and the Roman River observing the wildlife along the banks and reflecting on the history steeped in the river. “I wonder how many people realise that it was the Tyndale Bible, when the bible was only in Latin, and it was translated on the continent into English, and it was smuggled on a dark night up the river Colne with muffled oars. Think of the excitement, think of the daring of bringing THAT up the river. That is a strange cargo to have brought up, isn’t it, and yet it was right down there not far from where we’re sitting that this event happened.” [Rowhedge]

Aldeburgh Pupils Prepare to Become Cod Bangers!

The pupils at Aldeburgh Primary School have been participating in Holding Back the Tide with the full on enthusiasm of a gale force ten. This is an appropriate simile, for the topic chosen by their songstress headmistress, Linda Berry, is a musical production about the flooded village of Slaughden, which was eventually taken over by the storms and sea floods of the East Anglian coast. Mrs Berry leads the children in a chorus of 'Candle Lit Fisherman'

Mrs Berry has written a production entitled, ‘The Cod Bangers of Slaughden’. In former centuries Slaughden was a big ship building port. The fishermen of Slaughden used to trawl for cod up in Iceland. And the boats had a lead-lined well underneath with holes in so they could sail home with their catch still alive to keep it fresh. The fisherman would dock at Harwich with their catch and sell the cod customers. Once the customer had bought their cod the fisherman would bang the cod on the head and hand it over. So they were called the cod bangers. The production will dramatise lots of stories of smuggling, piracy and fun sea shanties. The sea shanties are authentic to East Anglia history and the production promises to be entertaining as well as educational.

Jimi Lawrence sings 'Rosalita' with the childrenPreparations for the musical were launched with a visit from popular sea shanty singer, Jimi Lawrence, who taught the pupils an array of shanties for the production. They had great fun learning about the songs and their history. The production will be performed in the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh on 3rd and 4th December.  Further information can be obtained from the school office of Aldebugh Primary School.

Great Yarmouth High School Designs Artwork for Holding Back the Tide

p1000635An interpretive piece of artwork about the historical fishing port of Great Yarmouth was produced by ‘Gifted and Talented’ Art and Design class, Year 11 students, Hannah Lawrence & Sophie Porter.  It involved research visits to the local museum and the docks. Photos and sketches were taken to use as inspiration for the final piece of artwork.  Here, they write about their project and what it means on a personal level to live in a seaside community:

Growing up and living in a seaside town packed full of interesting history and stories of the sea has been a huge inspiration. What with generations of families, possibly our families, holidaying and working in Great Yarmouth, there is so much to be told and so much to be seen. Because of this, we found that this project would be something that would commemorate our own personal memories of our lives on the seafront and the nautical history of Great Yarmouth.

Our piece is made up of different size, circular pieces that intend to portray the importance of boats in Great Yarmouth (the portholes), with a collection of images inside we have created by responding to images we had taken which can also be seen within the piece. p1000638

Firstly, one of my own personal favourites was the piece that shows footprints in the sand. This to me is something of a personal memory which I hope many people can relate to…those carefree days as a child spent walking along the beach with your mother, father and siblings, a picnic and an ice-cream to finish the day off, melting before getting the chance to eat it all up! It’s never a trip to the seaside without an ice-cream!

Other pieces that could, perhaps, cause some confusion are our response images. One of which is a print intended to show the stages of the new Wellington Pier being built, and the other taken from a picture where you are able to see the scaffolding through a concrete wall. Smaller circles have also been created by using a range of paints, drawing and print inks; watercolours, poster paint, acrylics etc. all showing the more nautical side of Great Yarmouth. The big idea of our piece was to create something that you are able to walk around because Great Yarmouth is bursting full of history, facts, museums, works of art, sculptures etc. it would portray how much there is to look at brilliantly.

To finish off the piece and to carry on the theme of our project, we used wire to hang the pieces off of and hooked the ends to create the sense of fishing hooks and old pieces of fishing wire. Lastly, we decided to mount the wire onto a piece of wood which we didn’t sand down or spend any time making, how some would say, ‘beautiful’, as this to us was an amazing example of driftwood, and as many of you know, there is a lot of gnarled but beautiful driftwood on Great Yarmouth beach.

It was a great honour to celebrate the beauty of our small, but interesting, town by creating this piece and so we hope that you enjoy looking at our piece as much as we enjoyed making it.

The Holding Back the Tide exhibition will be on display, along with Sophie and Hannah’s artwork from 2nd to 16th March 2009. 

Local Press Interest in ‘Holding Back the Tide’

During the past fortnight we have had our ‘letter of appeal’ for local photographs and film footage published in several regional newspapers including the East Anglian Daily Times and the Essex County Standard.  

So far we’ve had a good response from the public.  Film footage of Aldeburgh during the wartime has been offered by the family of the policeman stationed there during the war who was on duty at the time of the bombing of the High

Street and witnessed the event.   Another gem that’s been dusted off and offered to us is Super 8 film of Felixstowe docks and the first RoRo (Roll on Roll off) ferry.  We look forward to using this material in our exhibition in 2009.

Project Update

Holding Back the Tide project is due an update from the team and the last two months has seen the oral history phase progressing assuredly and steadfastly.  The result is an impressive archive of stories which have been recorded for use in our touring exhibition next year, alongside the school projects which were completed earlier in the year. 


The many hours of recordings and numerous people interviewed amounts to so much preparation, both before and after interviews, in order to glean each hour of recording.  Thank you to our volunteers, especially in Scratby, Norfolk, for their painstaking efforts to ensure we have good quality interviews for our own use and for future use by researchers and the people who live on our East Anglian coast. 


Our favourite interviews are many, but examples that come to mind are the memories of John White, the Felixstowe Ferry Harbour Master and Colchester resident Ralph Merry. If continue browsing our web ‘blog’ you will see some of the interesting memories that have come to light in the last two months from our oral history work.  More memories to follow in the next couple of weeks.