Until late on in the 18th century, Felixstowe was a cliff-top fishing village at the end of a dusty track from Walton to be reached by carrier cart. The seaside as a desirable destination had grown in popularity throughout the 1800s. The railway had made resorts accessible but Felixstowe’s growth was relatively late even though it had all that was needed for success. In the end, it was the visit of the Empress Beatrice of Germany in 1891 which turned the town into a fashionable resort. It had everything to be desired of a Victorian holiday destination – spa waters, salt sea air, sunny beaches facing south-east and Colonel Tomline’s railway line from Ipswich (which had opened in 1877).
In 1884 the Society began to take a hand in Felixstowe’s growth. Not only would the rich be able to buy a seaside house, but people of more modest means, too. The Society bought land next to grounds of the Bath Hotel, a site enjoying “on the land side, scenes of considerable beauty, and marine views unsurpassed”. This is where fourteen houses on Ocean Terrace were built, and others were put up on Beach Road, Berners Road, and Walton Road. The houses were designed to be suitable both as homes and lodging houses. The timing was well judged and there was clearly a demand for them.
In the following years more land in Felixstowe was bought, this time at the corner of Montague Road and Cobbold Road. Nine villas were put up and given names to do with the writer Sir Walter Scott – Abbotsford, Waverley, Marmion, Douglas and Kenilworth. Then there were more at what was soon to be Felix and Gainsborough Roads, on land adjoining the grounds owned by Mrs Catherine Allenby, the mother of the distinguished First World War General Sir Edmund Allenby (later Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe).
Gainsborough and Clarkson Terraces were built and then eight more houses in Beach Road. A few years later the Society bought a ten-acre site, some of it from Mrs Allenby to form a property which eventually was laid out as 123 plots. The building of these seaside terraces would help stimulate the resort at the time it was gaining a national reputation.
This growth in Felixstowe sat well with the promise by the Great Eastern Railway-who had bought Colonel Tomline’s railway line – to build the town a new station, which was opened in 1898. By the turn of the century Felixstowe had taken its place beside the country’s other select resorts, with the help of the Society. In the early 1900s the picture was completed with the building of the promenade and the half-mile long pier.
An extract from "150 Years On: A Century an a Half of Ipswich Building Society" by Ivan Howlett, published 1999.