Les­ley Dol­phin

Fer­ries and fish­er­men at Felixs­towe

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

Igrew up in Nor­folk (sorry!) but of­ten vis­ited Suf­folk, mainly to go sail­ing on the River Deben with my fam­ily. So it’s odd to think that, all th­ese years later, I ac­tu­ally live in Felixs­towe. I love wan­der­ing around the Felixs­towe Ferry end which, to me, feels re­ally Bo­hemian, with artists and house­boats.

My first ex­pe­ri­ences were from the wa­ter and I re­mem­ber it well be­cause my dad was quite scared of sail­ing out to sea across the dreaded ‘Deben bar’. The shin­gle banks at the mouth of the river move around a lot and the tide rushes out at a rate of knots, so it’s easy to go aground. Dad didn’t want the em­bar­rass­ment of do­ing that. What I didn’t know at the time though was the long and in­ter­est­ing his­tory of area. Two res­i­dents have re­cently got to­gether to com­pile a book called Felixs­towe Ferry - Yes­ter­day, To­day and To­mor­row, and it is fas­ci­nat­ing. Eliz­a­beth Setchin, who did most of the writ­ing, and Gra­ham Hen­der­son, who col­lated the pho­tographs, must be con­grat­u­lated.

I’ve learnt so much brows­ing the book. Al­though the Ferry is a place for hol­i­day mak­ers and artists to­day, it’s also a work­ing ham­let. As the name sug­gests, it is where the ferry has run across to Bawd­sey for cen­turies. It was when Sir Cuth­bert Quil­ter started build­ing Bawd­sey Manor in 1886 that he started a steam ferry ser­vice so he could travel to and from Lon­don more easily. There is a won­der­ful pho­to­graph in the book of a horse and car­riage dis­em­bark­ing the Lady Beatrice. In more re­cent times the Brink­ley fer­ry­men have been very well known, firstly Char­lie Brink­ley se­nior and then Char­lie Brink­ley ju­nior. Nowa­days it’s John Bar­ber at the helm and the book tells how he has had to go to the aid of sev­eral sailors who have got stuck on the Deben bar. My dad was ob­vi­ously right to be wor­ried.

The book also de­scribes how, in ear­lier times, the sal­vage of wrecked ships was an im­por­tant busi­ness. The au­thors have spo­ken to res­i­dents who have mem­o­ries of the time in 1968 when three tons of un­re­fined beef drip­ping was washed up. Ap­par­ently it was worth a lot of money, so they moved it lump by lump. My favourite photo in the book is one of Dun­can Read and Char­lie Brink­ley with the lard in their bike bas­ket.

Al­though my first vis­its to Felixs­towe Ferry were when I was a young­ster, it’s only been in the last 20 or 30 years that I have re­turned, of­ten with vis­i­tors to show them the houses on stilts, the house­boats and to sam­ple the fish and chips at the Ferry café. When we got a dog we would of­ten walk along Felixs­towe prom to the ferry, past the Martello tower and the golf course, and the sail­ing club.

From the book I have learnt that the sail­ing races be­gan be­fore the First World War, when lob­ster fish­er­men would take a day off to race each other. It’s hard to be­lieve that lob­ster fish­ing was at once such big busi­ness that 300 could be caught in a day and sent to Lon­don by train. An­other quirky fact is that Carl Giles, the car­toon­ist, was a great sailor and spent many a happy hour here, so it’s no sur­prise to learn that the club has a won­der­ful se­lec­tion of his car­toons on its walls.

This book is full of mem­o­ries and his­tor­i­cal facts and is a real trea­sure to any­one who knows the area. I hope this has whet­ted your ap­petite to visit. If you do go there, make sure you wan­der through boat yard to where the house­boats are moored. Don’t miss the one with a hip­popota­mus on board and a diver stick­ing out of the mud. Ac­cord­ing to the book the house­boats have been an im­por­tant part of the Ferry since the 1920s. It must be won­der­ful to wake up in the morn­ing to the sounds of birds on the mud­flats.N

Felixs­towe Ferry – Yes­ter­day, To­day and To­mor­row by Eliz­a­beth Setchin and Gra­ham Hen­der­son is pub­lished by Ferry Words and Pic­tures. les­ley­dol­[email protected]

ABOVE:Four fish­er­men at Felixs­towe Ferry in the 1930s, Joss New­son, Char­lie Brink­ley, Set­tler New­son and Jockey Hunt.

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