Felixstowe Port is the United Kingdom's busiest container port. Located in the Suffolk Coastal district on England's eastern shores, Felixstowe Port lies on the northeastern side of the River Orwell estuary across from Harwich Harbor. Less than 100 kilometers northeast of London, Felixstowe Port is England's closest port to Rotterdam and the Netherlands' Europort. It is also a yachting harbor and seaside resort. In 2001, over 29 thousand people called Felixstowe Port home.
Before the Normans arrived, a village called Walton stood on the site of today's Felixstowe Port. Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Medieval fortifications had been constructed here to defend the country from its competitors to the east. By the time it was named Felixstowe, the town had been important for more than one thousand years.
Felixstowe Port has been the site of many fortifications. In 1543, Henry VIII had two blockhouses constructed at Landguard Point; however, they deteriorated very quickly, and their guns were taken back to the Tower of London.
A new fort was build there in 1628 made of earth supported by wood. In 1666, Charles II ordered repairs to the fort, having a brick wall built around the older fort. In 1667, over a thousand Dutch marines tried to capture Felixstowe Port's Landguard Fort. The Duke of York and his Maritime Regiment of Foot were able to drive the Dutch back and win the day.
In 1717, a new brick fort was built on the site in Felixstowe Port. By 1744, it had been replaced with a pentagon-shaped brick fort whose walls still stand. In 1871, the fort was completely remodeled. The river battery and all internal buildings were demolished, and a seven-gun battery was built facing the river. By 1901, the fort was once again obsolete. New batteries were added in front of the fort facing the river and the sea. For most of the 20th Century, the fort was used as a barracks. In 1951 during the "Cold War," the fort held a control room.
Felixstowe Port was not a major port until the late 19th Century. In 1874, Colonel George Tomline, a prominent Felixstowe Port landowner, founded the Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company. Both maritime commerce and tourism increased during that period. Late Victorians came to Felixstowe Port to impress their friends after the Felixstowe Railway station opened and the pier was built in 1905. A visit from the German royal family assured its position until the late 1930s.
In late 1909, four members of Felixstowe Port's Rouse family died within a month of each other. At first, it was believed to have been food poisoning, but some people argued that the tragedy was brought about by the last bubonic plague outbreak in England.
By the beginning of World War II, the pier at Felixstowe Port was one of the country's longest. It even had its own train. However, in wartime, it was demolished to prevent the enemy from landing there. The Italian air force bombed Felixstowe Port during the war; however, they were quickly overwhelmed by the RAF. After the war, the old pier was never repaired.
The old Landguard Fort had been abandoned by the 1950s, and it had deteriorated considerably. In the 1980s, local citizens took a new cultural interest in the fort. In the late 1990s, it was repaired by English Heritage, and the Landguard Fort Trust has maintained it since then. Today, in addition to being open to the public, Landguard Fort is the site of military re-enactments, art exhibits, and some theater performances.
The old Felixstowe Port pier had been neglected so long that, by the 1990s, it was closed to the public as a safety hazard. While proposals to rebuilt the pier and develop the waterfront near it have come up periodically over the years, no action has been taken to date.