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Home > Things to Do > The Seafront Gardens > History of the Gardens

History of the Gardens

The Seafront Gardens - Ranelagh StepsThe history of Felixstowe Seafront Gardens is well documented and extends from when the present day gardens were scrub covered slopes running down to a sandy shoreline. Much of the gardens are believed to have developed in a piecemeal manner during the 18th C. as houses along the seafront were built and embellished by gentlemen landowners, such as Lord and Lady Harland, Philip Thickness, Sir Samuel Fludyer and later FT Cobbold.

The Seafront Gardens - South Beach MansionThe town of Felixstowe was rapidly establishing itself as a fashionable destination in the late Victorian era, based around the perceived health-giving properties of the 'spa waters' flowing from the natural springs in the cliffs.

A visit to the town by Augusta Victoria, Empress of Germany and her family in 1891 increased tourism to the area further. It was during this time that Hamilton Gardens, the Town Hall Garden and the steep ivy-clad terraces edging South Beach Mansion were established.

The Seafront Gardens - Spa Pavilion ApproachTo build on this success the Urban District Council passed the Felixstowe and Walton Improvement Act in 1902 to develop the seafront further. A promenade and granite sea wall were completed in 1904 whilst, in parallel, gardens belonging to the Felix Hotel (now Harvest House) were extended and improved in 1903 by the owner of the hotel, the Hon D Tollemache.

The gardens at this time were of an exotic and distinctive nature, highlighting the fashion at the time for showcasing unique planting (much of which was acquired from overseas and nutured in hot houses), and highly decorative landscape works.

The Seafront Gardens - former South Cliff ShelterIn 1919, further extensive landscape works were undertaken by George Burrows, an architect for the Urban District Council. Steps and paths were created to provide public access from the top of the cliff at Hamilton Gardens to the gardens on the seafront. This period coincided with an increase in visitor numbers to Felixstowe as its popularity as a holiday destination grew.

In 2003, Felixstowe Seafront Gardens were included by English Heritage on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. Over a decade later, restoration and rejuvenation work began, which was completed in 2015. The original remaining features present in 2003 have been carefully retained and restored while new elements including a shelter, fountain, replanted Rose Garden, balustrading, a bronze sundial, replica 'Globe Lights' and rustic log seats have been installed in the spirit of the original gardens. Look out for plaques designed by local school children made in celebration of Felixstowe's heritage.


The Seafront Gardens - Arch Cascade

Click here to download The Seafront Gardens - Map

Click here to download The Seafront Gardens - Heritage Trail (Interpretation Boards found in the gardens).

Please note: these documents are in pdf format, and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view or print.