Gordon Steptoe presented a history of the port of Felixstowe and the surrounding Suffolk coastal area to the November 2016 meeting of Cambridge Industrial Archaeology Society (CIAS). Through his merchant naval career and subsequent research and photography of the Suffolk coast, Gordon illustrated the strategic and economic role of the port over the course of two millennia, from the siting of a Roman castle in the 3rd century AD, to the port’s development over the last 130 years, culminating in the Port’s current operations.
The talk described the vision of local entrepreneur George Tomline (1813-1889). Tomline was prolific in purchasing and developing local land unsuitable for agriculture (such as sand dunes and salt marshes), and founded the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company in 1875, from which the town of Felixstowe developed a port facility, which has become the UK’s leading shipping-container port.
The presentation also highlighted the role of Suffolk ports in military history, including the repatriation of Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940.
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Photos courtesy of Gordon Steptoe.