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Felixstowe: Town honours its most notorious resident, Wallis Simpson

PUBLISHED: 17:46 11 December 2012

Pat Todd, the designer and creator of the unveiled plaque honouring where Wallis Simpson stayed in Felixstowe, speaks at the unveiling on Thursday, 6 December.

Pat Todd, the designer and creator of the unveiled plaque honouring where Wallis Simpson stayed in Felixstowe, speaks at the unveiling on Thursday, 6 December.

Archant

THERE is little left today of the Felixstowe that Wallis Simpson knew – and hated – but now the seaside town has something by which to remember its most notorious resident.

Mrs Simpson’s Felixstowe

WALLIS Simpson didn’t like out-of-season 1930s Felixstowe, cut off from the international social scene in a house she felt was far too small for her needs.

She wrote in her autobiography: “My first impression of the little house in Felixstowe was dismaying.

“It was tiny, there was barely room for the three of us (two friends and herself), plus a cook and a maid, to squeeze into it.

“The only sounds were the melancholy boom of the sea breaking on the deserted beach and the rustling of the wind around the shuttered cottages.

“No hint of distant concern penetrated Felixstowe.

“When I walked down to town for the mail and the newspapers not a head turned . . . on fair days, we used to walk alone on the beach and for all the attention ever paid to us, we could have been in Tasmania.”

Beach House – which stood in Undercliff Road East – was demolished after an arson attack in 1989 and replaced by flats.

The five-bedroom seafront house where she stayed for just six weeks in 1936 is long gone, and she would recognise little of the seafront and town centre where she walked with her friends.

Now though the spot where Beach House stood in Undercliff Road East has been marked with a plaque, put up by the Felixstowe Society as part of a trail around the town recognising places connected with famous people.

Artist Pat Todd, who with her late husband Mike sponsored the plaque and also makes the plaques, said Mrs Simpson was always the first name people mentioned when talking about people linked with Felixstowe.

“It’s a real honour to make these plaques and this has been quite an exciting one to do because of all the history associated with it,” she said.

“It is lovely that we now have Beach Place where Beach House once stood so that people can enjoy the views of the sea that Mrs Simpson once enjoyed or apparently didn’t enjoy.”

Phil Hadwen, vice chairman of the Felixstowe Society, said there was still huge interest in Mrs Simpson’s connections with Felixstowe, although she only stayed as a residence requirement while her divorce went through at Ipswich at the height of the abdication crisis to allow her to marry Edward VIII when he gave up the throne.

“Edward used to visit her while she was at Beach House – his plane would land at Brackenbury Cliffs and he would go to the Fludyers Hotel near the house to have a few pints with the locals,” said Mr Hadwen.

“She, of course, famously hated Beach House, which she thought was a hovel and Felixstowe was too isolated, too far from city life.”

The plaque is one of 12 the society has now put up to mark the resort’s associations with the famous including Lawrence of Arabia, the Empress of Germany, codebreaker Harry Fensom, Thomas Cavendish and Sir John Mills.

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