Search for port memories

WITH the historic heart of Felixstowe port being removed bit by bit, historian Ian Heeley is keen to collect memories of people who worked in the Dock Basin.

WITH the historic heart of Felixstowe port being removed bit by bit, historian Ian Heeley is keen to collect memories of people who worked in the Dock Basin.

The basin was the core of the dock for more than a century - where general cargo was loaded and unloaded long before massive boxships were invented and containers became the staple part of the port's work.

But the £250 million-plus redevelopment of the southern part of the dock to create a new deepwater terminal will mean the basin vanishes forever.

Marriage's Mill has already been demolished and in the next few months warehouses, the oil pipeline and offices will disappear, too, and the basin will be filled in, its site left inland as land is reclaimed and the quays extended into the harbour.

Former portworker Mr Heeley, who is helping with the port's archive, has already put together a film and words project on the history and demolition of the old flour mill.

Now he wants to record the history of the warehouses and those who worked in them.

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“I would love to hear from any of the ex-warehousemen - shed foremen, workers of all kinds - to collect their memories of what life was like over the years and the various cargoes, anecdotes about people and incidents,” said Mr Heeley.

“If anyone has got any memorabilia that would be brilliant.

“We want to make as complete record as possible because this part of the port is changing - and disappearing - forever.

“It really is the end of an era. The Dock Basin and its warehouses were the hub of the port and it was a major change when Landguard Terminal opened in 1967. Now it will virtually be all container operations in future.

“We need to collect these memories now before they are lost and I hope people will get in touch.”

He recently managed to acquire many new records from the old mill, including union and accounts books which reveal fascinating details about life for the mill workers.

“There must be so much more out there which people have been hanging onto and perhaps would let me copy or even have if they no longer want it,” he added.

The Dock Basin was the first part of the port to be built in the late 1800s when Colonel Tomline built his rail line from Ipswich to Felixstowe and a hotel and boat landing pier in the port area. The first ship called in 1886.

Anyone who has memories and can help with the project should contact Ian Heeley at 21 King Street, Walton, Felixstowe, or on 01394 275797.