L/R Christine Bleach, Frank Pyke, Jill Partridge, Annie Bamford, Bob Preedy
Sea Rescues by Thomas John Moore
These ‘Tales from the Archives’ have been selected from the written record called The Story of Sandgate by Fred Moore, son of Thomas Moore.
Fred Moore has written about many subjects relating to Sandgate but the ones which stand out for me are the brave sea rescues and the lives saved by Fred’s father Thomas who was born in 1863, he was one of eight children. Thomas was a fisherman, fishmonger (28 High Street), volunteer lifeboatman and volunteer fireman (attached to the Sandgate Brigade) for thirty years.
Fred starts with the tragedy of the sinking of the three masted sailing ship Benvenue on 11th November 1891. Bound for Sydney, she sank in hurricane conditions off Gloucester Terrace, halfway between Sandgate and Seabrook. Twenty seven of the crew took refuge in the rigging of the mizzen mast. The Captain, his wife and nephew were drowned.
The lifeboat “Mayer de Rothschild” had been taken from her station (which was situated at Battery Point, Seabrook) to Hythe and launched, but it had only proceeded a short distance before the boat was upset. Fred then tells us that his father Tom and uncle Albert had joined the crew but when they were told the lifeboat was to be launched at Hythe, without a draw-off hawser, these two local fishermen refused to crew the boat. They had told the coxswain that it was too much of a risk to launch the boat at that point as the risk of not clearing the breakers was most likely.
Later, by moonlight, the lifeboat was eventually launched from the beach at Battery Point and Tom and Albert were part of the volunteer crew of many local men. After rowing out to the Benvenue a kedge anchor was dropped to the west of the wreck and the lifeboat allowed to drift until it was under the mizzen mast. One by one the frozen members of the crew of 27 men were safely aboard.
The lifeboat rowed into Folkestone harbour and the rescued crew were taken to the Queen’s Hotel which stood on the corner of Guildhall Street and Sandgate Road. At a later date each lifeboatman who took part in this rescue was presented with a silver medal and thirteen pounds presented by an anonymous donor. On the front side was the head and shoulders of Queen Victoria and on the reverse side a wreath of laurels with name of the crew member and the words “He bravely did his duty, 11 November 1891”. However, the donor of the medal did not have permission to use the head and shoulders of Queen Victoria on the medal. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution instructed the medals to be returned. None of the crew were prepared to do this so did not receive the RNLI bronze medal for bravery.
However, saving lives and rescues began for Fred’s father Tom in 1878. Tom’s first rescue was with his father and a Mr Pain. A boat had capsized half a mile off Sandgate and the three rowed out to sea to rescue a Mr Hooker whose boat had sunk.
Seven years later in 1894 (3 years after the Benvenue) Tom took part in another rescue. The following is part of a report taken from a local newspaper, possibly the Sandgate Weekly News.
“Yesterday (Friday) morning, August 17th 1894, a young man named A A Edwards, staying at the Beach Rocks Convalescent Home had a narrow escape from drowning while bathing with two companions named Chilman and Cosedge, from a beach near the castle. Edwards could swim a little but apparently went further out than he intended to, and becoming frightened called for help. Two other patients from the home, Messrs Deverill and Saunders, were in a boat watching him and immediately rowed to the drowning man and threw him an oar, but he failed to get hold of it. They endeavoured to get near him with the other oar, and under the direction of T. Moore, junior boatman, who ran towards to assist them, with considerable difficulty succeeded in rescuing Edwards.”
Edwards was restored to consciousness after half an hour and he recovered at Castle Glen in front of a fire and hot water bottles. Later the patients at Beach Rocks presented Tom with a clock to show their appreciation and thanks. Mr Deverill who presented the clock said Tom’s conduct showed that the great brotherhood still existed among Englishmen and he hoped they would all remember that they were brothers and help one another in time of need.
Fred next recounts that on 15th August 1900 Tom rescued a young woman from drowning. He saw her in difficulties some distance from the shore and swam out to her and managed to reach her before she went under and finally brought her to shore. The father of the young woman, in gratitude for Tom rescuing his daughter gave him five shillings.
On another occasion he saved the life of Miss Violet Annie Ray who was in imminent danger of drowning at Sandgate. Tom, seeing the young woman in great difficulties, immediately rushed into the sea and swimming out to her, with some difficultly brought her to the shore. Later at a meeting of the Urban District Council the Chairman Lieutenant Colonel Fynmore later presented Tom Moore with the vellum certificate of the Royal Humane Society for his bravery in saving Miss Ray from drowning.
On 10th August 1901 Tom saved yet another visitor from drowning. A local newspaper reported “If war has its honour and glory, peace no less has its triumphs and in days when we read of loss of life and carnage, it is at least consolatory to record in our happy island a deed of bravery by which life has been saved. And once again our hero, Thomas Moore, Junior, is a well known Sandgate man useful in many spheres of local usefulness and one who to seven lives already saved from death by drowning, has added yet another to a record indeed hard and rare to beat. On Friday last a stranger was bathing near the groin at the east end of the Riveria, a dangerous place but from many hidden rocks, and was seen by Moore to be in difficulties. Moore, with a speed that was marvellous, launched his dingy The Floss and with one paddle only rushed to the rescue of the fast drowning man, who, when reached, was on the verge of sinking – faced blanched with terror, eyes fixed and arms extended. In his endeavour to get a grip he was convulsively seized by the drowning man on the wrist and Moore had to exert all his strength to grasp him in a way to lift him into the boat. He was fortunately landed and soon resorted to strength, if not to gratitude to his rescuer, as he left him without a word of thanks!”.
Then on 8th September 1901 Tom took part in another rescue with his brother Albert. This time a fishing boat capsized in rough seas. The two brothers went to the man’s rescue and brought him to shore along with his boat.
Many years later on 18th September 1922, Tom was rowing a gentleman to a fishing ground to the east of Sandgate when an aeroplane nose dived into the sea a short distance from his boat. The pilot was picked out of the sea to safety and the aircraft later towed to shore.
During the 1920s and 30s Tom took part in several more rescues and it was recorded that he was instrumental in saving 40 lives during his lifetime. It was in 1938, when he was over 70, that he took part in his last rescue. Three anglers in a rough sea were rowing to try and beach at Sandgate Parade and were getting closer to the rocks. With Leslie Catt, Tom launched his row boat “Grace Darling” and on reaching the exhausted men put a rope aboard and towed them to a safe beaching at Sandgate.
Thomas Moore passed away on 12th December 1947 at the age of 84.
Archive Team – October 2020
Source – The Story of Sandgate by Fred Moore
Front row Left to right, 4th is Tom Moore, 6th is Albert Moore, Tom’s brother
These photographs and many more can be found under Archives on the Sandgate Society website.
ENCOMBE – SHORNCLIFFE-CANADA-LUSITANIA
THIS IS A TRUE STORY TOLD TO ME BY ROB PATERSON WHOM WE DID SOME RESEARCH FOR. HE LIVES IN CANADA.
In the fall of 1914, after war was declared, Sir Montagu Allan and his wife Marguerite, left their home ‘Ravenscrag’ in Montreal on a house hunting trip to England. The plan was that his wife was to do Red Cross work in England during the war. They found Encombe a large house and estate in Sandgate, which was ideal for them. It was within walking distance of Shorncliffe, that was to become a central depot for the Canadians. The plan would be that Montagu would spend the war largely in Canada, where he had vast business interests. He controlled the Allan Line, the main shipping line that served Canada and also the Merchants bank, one of the largest banks in the Country. Marguerite would bring her two youngest daughters to live with her in Sandgate. Her eldest daughter Martha planned to nurse in the U.K. whilst her son Hugh was in his last year at Eton.
The family returned to Canada for Christmas and with much to prepare for, Marguerite waited until spring to return to England. She booked the Regal Suite on the Lusitania, that would leave New York on May 1st 1915. Martha, had failed to get a place in the McGill hospital, she had no training, but she was not to be denied and left a week earlier aboard another ship. Her brother Hugh had just left Eton and was waiting to meet them all.
There was a large party with Marguerite, her daughters Gwen and Anna aged 16 and 15 and included several friends and young people who had been put in her care for the journey.
The Lusitania was sunk on May 7th, Marguerite and her two maids lived, (although she suffered a broken hip and collar bone), but sadly her two daughters didn’t survive. A Mrs Stephens and her party who were with them all died including a young woman aged 24, Dorothy Braithwaite who was also lost.
Hugh and Martha got to Queenstown on May 8th and on May 11th took the ferry to England and we think went straight to Encombe. A few days later the Number 3 hospital, The Mcgill, arrived from Montreal at Moore Barracks. (This was the hospital that John McCrae who wrote “In Flanders Fields” worked)
The 2nd in Command is Montagu’s best friend Henry Yates. My bet is that Marguerite was looked after for a while by his staff. Martha begs the command of the McGill to let her join them. This time they agree and she leaves Encombe in June to go to France with the McGill.
Meanwhile Gwen’s body is found on May 18th; Montagu is crossing from Canada; he and Hugh go to Queenstown to see her for the last time and then make their way to Encombe. It’s all a shambles, the Allans’ have lost all their clothes and are distraught. Marguerite is in shock imagine her experience! Hugh is faced with a terrible dilemma, all his friends are on their way to the front, his two sisters are dead and with Martha gone, he chooses to look after his parents. His mother slowly recovers and in 1915 he joins up but stays close to home and becomes an instructor, in Hythe.
The Christmas of 1915 at Encombe is a dramatic one, Henry Yates falls very ill in France and is sent back to England. He stays with the Allans, Martha who had never fitted in at the hospital was put in charge of the cafeteria, where she smoked, drank and played cards with the men. She was reassigned to Moore. I think that they got rid of her and also ensured that Henry had care of her. My grandfather, Alec Paterson, their first cousin joined them all on his first leave, for that Christmas. He had just survived the 2nd Battle of Ypres. On Boxing day Henry collapsed and was taken to a hospital nearby, he died soon after. Martha was stricken with pneumonia and was bedridden for 5 months. When she recovered, she had a decision to make, going back to McGill was a death sentence, the hospital was housed in tents! Instead she went to France on her own and bought an ambulance and reconnected with an old lover from before the war. Hugh struggled on at Encombe but becomes more frustrated by his role.
In 1916 Marguerite recovers and starts to get busy with her war work. Montagu does the same. He launches the Canadian War Pensions; at some time in 1916 they leave Encombe and go back to London. In the summer of 1917 Hugh joins the RNAS as a fighter pilot, he had once played Racquets for Eton. In July he is killed on his first mission. The Allans had lost 3 children, they bury themselves in work. Marguerite finances, and sets up, a 140 bed hospital in Devon. They do not fully return to Canada until 1921. In 1942 Martha dies too, they give up ‘Ravenscrag’ as a gift to McGill and live on quietly in an apartment in Montreal having lost all their children and their wealth.
A copy of Rob Paterson’s book ‘Noblesse Oblige’ is kept in our collection at The Fire Station Sandgate.
Jill Partridge, Archivist
Lady Marguerite Allan
Sir Montagu Allan
Sandgate Reminiscences by Elizabeth Katy Evans (nee Jago)
This is an extract of a talk given to the Sandgate Society in 1981
I was born in Sandgate on 26th July 1900 in Wilberforce Road, the second child and only daughter of George Jago (1870-1919) and his wife Kate (1873-1961) nee Gawler My three brothers – George, Jim and Tom were also born in Wilberforce Road and we lived there till 1906 when we moved to Number 1 Martello Cottages.
My grandparents had come to Sandgate in 1875. My Grandfather James Jago (1841-1900) had been in the Royal Navy from 13 years old, and after about 15 years had been transferred to the Coastguard Service. While on duty in Queenstown (now Cobh) County Cork, he met and married a girl of 17 Elizabeth Ann Salter (1853-1917) on boxing day 1869.
My father was born about a year later in 1870 and they were then sent to England to a very isolated Coastguard station at Jury’s Gap, then onto Dungeness, also isolated and finally to Sandgate. They found Sandgate Station very much to their liking, after the other two postings which had no other people around except the coastguards. Dungerness had the Pilot Public House and a few fishing families although quite a way from them. Sandgate Station is now much bigger than it was then, having been extended in 1896.
When my grandfather finished his service. they set up home a couple of hundred yards away in Wilberforce Road. He died in 1900 but the family lived there until just before the First World War when they moved to 1 Martello Terrace.
I started at Sandgate School at aged 4 and stayed there until I was 14, the school is still there although now an antique centre. It was a well- run school, strict discipline no homework but very good exam results. There were always celebrations in the Village for both Empire Day and May Day each year, with a May pole on the front lawn and flags and buntings everywhere with Britannia enthroned and all the kids dressed up to represent peoples of the Empire. This resulted in a great procession from the school, up to Radnor Cliff and Crescent down the hill into Sandgate and onto Brewers Hill, no prizes no rewards but goodness me did everyone enjoy it.
At that time Sandgate was a self-contained small seaside resort with a railway station, lifeboat station, also a tramline, which was pulled by horses, which run for four miles by the sea. There were three Churches, each with a hall for entertainment, the Masonic hall, the Drill hall, Devonshire Rooms and Glennie Hall. We had every sort of shop you can imagine in the Village, including a drapers, several grocers, an ironmongers, a music shop several butchers three dairies and a barbers to name just a few! of course there were many public houses, and even a brewery.
The Alhambra Music hall, (which later became the Rex Cinema) was going great guns, it had big audiences of soldiers and people from Folkestone, the shows were good and there were two bars there and big names of music hall artists often came arriving from Sandgate Railway Station in a coach and four with horns blowing and actors riding horses it was a great time for the Village kids. With Shorncliffe Camp a full garrison and as Sandgate was nearer to the camp than was Folkestone and there were no buses, it was well patronised by the troops seeking entertainment!
The officers were usually wealthy and although the most senior of them had army accommodation in the camp, the lesser ones had their wives and children in board residence places here in Sandgate, and they were very exclusive. Devonshire terrace for example had a private entry road and private beach and was strictly out of bounds to lesser mortals!
There were two large private estates which employed many Sandgate people. Enbrook was the home of the Dowager Countess of Chichester for all my childhood. She was especially interested in the church and the school and was very generous in opening her grounds for all kinds of functions connected with both of these.
Encombe had several noble occupants who seemed to come and go and were not so much involved with Sandgate as was the Countess. Of course, Lord Radnor had his large residence on Radnor Cliff. Although not often there himself, his family of about seven young children lived there and took their daily walks into Sandgate. Each child up to about six years old was pushed in a pram or pushchair, thus a procession of 5 Vehicles, each with a nurse or nursemaid in charge, was usually to be seen. My brothers and I were always highly amused to see such big children treated like babies, but never dared show it!
There were many children living in Sandgate with many families having 10 or more children, especially in the Coastguard Cottages and in Wilberforce Road. I spent a lot of time there as my Gran lived there. Every Good Friday there was a skipping race held with both mothers and children skipping up and down the road and other races taking place whilst the fathers all went to plant their new potatoes, my Dad always planted his seed potatoes on that day
While I am talking about the Coastguards, I should mention the wreck of the Benvenue. This happened in 1891 and was the talk of Sandgate for many years. I should say that my grandparents had many children 9 of whom grew to maturity. One of the youngest was my Aunt Janetta, later Mrs Hardy who was born in the Coastguard station on 24th June 1870. She was 12 at the time of the wreck and I was brought up on tales told by her and my Gran, because my Grandad was a member of the Hythe Lifeboat crew who with other crews rescued those who survived from the ship, and were presented with a ‘Benvenue’ medal for their efforts.
Sandgate has seen a lot of changes, the old Chapel in Wilberforce Road is still there, with Garden Cottages and Blenheim House and with Balcot on the corner. On up the Crescent there was nothing on the right just a field that went right from the road onto the back of the houses on the High Street, from there you could look down on the Village below.
The Fire Station in the early days housed the engine in the lower part of the building, while the horses were kept in stables up in Wilberforce Road. The bell of course was over the Library and when that rang there was a great rushing about because the firemen were all local workman and they would all gather round; what with the bell clanging and the horses and engine on the go it caused great excitement especially as we didn’t have many fires then.
I look back on my childhood growing up in Sandgate as a very happy time, in spite of the fact that my father was often ill and unable to work, my mother did all sorts of work to keep the family and took care of us four children, who all took it in turn to do jobs around the house, we were indeed a happy family.
This extract was submitted by Jill Partridge as Mrs Evans was my Auntie Dolly
SANDGATE – SHIPBUILDING – SHIPWRECKS
Sandgate was first noted as Sandy Gate in the 13th Century as a Guard post, but it’s history really began in 1539 when Henry the eighth built the Castle as one of a chain of defences along with Walmer-Deal-Sandown and Camber to defend the coast from the Spanish.
The accounts for the building of the Castle are held in the British Museum and show that it was built mainly using the stone from demolished Priories, particularly from St. Radigunds in Dover. In addition, they used 147,000 bricks, the total cost was £5544. It was never attacked except by the sea which has done a great deal of damage to it over the centuries. Elizabeth 1 visited on 25th August 1573.
An estate map of 1697, shows an empty stretch of coast, and inland part of the estate of Lord Radnor. In 1773, Fabian Clayton Wilson, a shipbuilder, acquired the lease of the beach and land behind it from the Radnor estate. He built 30 weather boarded cottages at the bottom of Sandgate Hill for his workers. Some of these still exist as private dwellings. He was soon followed by 3 other shipbuilders along the beach.
Wilson built 2×28 gun frigates and 1×16 gun frigate.
Steward and Hall built 2×28 gun frigates. One of these, The Dido, is depicted in a painting in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich showing it in battle off Minorca in 1795.
Phineus Jacobs built 1×28 gun and 1×16 gun frigate.
Colledge built 3×16 gun frigates.
All were built on the beach and fully manned before launch. They also built fishing boats and trade lasted about 100 years.
The boat building history of Sandgate ended in the 1930s when Dick Graves was building rowing boats in a shed at the eastern end of the Riviera.
Not only were ships built in Sandgate, but a number of notable shipwrecks occurred along its coast.
On the 31st May 1878, the German warship GROSSER KURFURST was sunk following collision with her sister ship the KONIG WILHELM. Members of the Folkestone fishing fleet went to their aid; 85 crew were saved, 3 dying later of exhaustion, 276 perished, including 7 officers. The massed grave of the victims is marked by a grey stone obelisk, set aside from other memorials in Folkestone Cemetery. The names on it were desecrated due to anti German sentiments in WW1, now it only records the incident.
In 1825 The Lady of Calcutta, and East Indiaman sank with the loss of all 790 on board.
In 1891, the 2000ton, fully rigged Benvenue was caught in mountainous seas and an 80mph gale. She broke away from the tug and sank 450 yards off Wellington Terrace. Twenty- seven crew climbed into the rigging and attempts to launch the Lifeboat were unsuccessful. It was taken to Hythe to use the tidal current, but it capsized and a young crew member Charles Fagg was washed overboard and drowned. Due to the 80 mph winds, attempts to launch were abandoned; 17 rockets were fired in an attempt to get a rope over to her. About 8.00pm the storm abated and the lifeboat was launched. The 27 crew had spent 15 hours in the rigging through one of the worst storms of the 19th century. The rest of the crew perished. The master, Captain Modrel is buried in St Martin’s churchyard in Cheriton.
An interesting history for such a small place!
All information taken from our Archive Collection
SGT. ALBERT JOHN MOORE R.G.A
Sgt A J Moore, his picture below, and this small but intriguing newspaper article about him was discovered just recently in the Ist Kent Artillery Volunteer Corps record book which can be found in the Archives on this website.
This newspaper article tells us that Sgt Moore of the Royal Garrison Artillery has been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery on the field. He is the husband of Mrs R A Moore and son of Mr and Mrs Alfred Moore of 6 Granville Road, Sandgate and before the outbreak of war was in the Territorial Artillery.
Naturally the archive team wanted to know more about this gentleman, his family, his life and, of course, his bravery award.
The 1911 Census tells us that Albert John Moore is single, aged 20 and a labourer. He is living with his mother Agnes Moore (42) and his father Albert Moore (43), his brother Thomas James (15) and his uncle Stephen Moore (45) in the same dwelling (but no address listed) in Sandgate.
His mother Agnes had five children but sadly only two survived ie Albert John and Thomas James. His father is a Mariner and his brother Thomas James is a Baker. Uncle Stephen Moore, brother of Albert Moore senior, is a widower and also a Mariner. All five of the family were born in Sandgate.
Going back another ten years, the 1901 Census states that his father Albert Moore and family are living at 6 Kirby Cottages, Sandgate. Albert is 33 and his occupation is a lamp lighter. Born in Sandgate.
His wife Agnes is 32 years of age and according to this census was born in Malta not Sandgate as per 1911 census. As well as Albert John who is 10 years old and his brother Thomas (5) there is also a sister listed on this census called Amelia aged 8.
Further back in time we find in 1871 the Moore family are living in Sandgate where find Albert John’s grandparents. The 1871 Census tells us that his grandparents are Thomas Moore (32) occupation a Fruiterer born in Faversham and his wife is Harriette who was born in Tonbridge.
The family are living in Sandgate but no address is listed. They appear to be between the Fleur-de-Lis public house and Sydney House. However, in 1881 their address is listed as 25 Broadway and in 1891 as 25 High Street.
Baptism Register – St Paul’s Church – Sandgate 1867
The baptism register is dated December 1867. This document tells us again that Albert John’s grandparents are Thomas and Harriette Moore. Two of their sons are baptised on 11 December 1867 and they are Albert and Stephen ie the father and uncle of Albert John and his grandfather Thomas Moore is listed as a Greengrocer.
Further research into Albert John’s ancestors will probably take us out of Sandgate as Thomas and Harriette come from other parts of Kent.
So having discovered a little about his family background we continue with his military service during WW1 and the Military Medal awarded to Albert John. The following newspaper feature has been discovered.
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
16 November 1918
We find Albert John Moore mentioned in more detail in the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald newspaper, with the title Military Medal Winner.
‘The Military Medal awarded to Sergt. Albert Moore for bravery in the field was presented to him at the Sandgate School by Lt. Col. R. J. Fynmore J.P. The Reverend G. S. Long presided, and was supported by the Headmaster of the school Mr A. H. Ullyett, whose pupil Sergt. Moore had been for ten years.
The particular service for which the Medal was given was performed at Ypres on the 30th October, 1917.
“Whilst the battery was under heavy fire a shell blew the dug out in and buried three men. He got these out, tended their wounds, and with help got them to the dressing station, and then carried on the working of his gun.”
Sergt Moore joined the Sandgate Artillery Volunteers in April, 1907 and is now serving in the R.G.A.
He returned to the front last week.’
Army Service of Sergeant Albert John Moore
Service number 138857
Albert’s army service commenced in 1914 and ended in 1920 when he was 30 years of age. His regiment was the Royal Garrison Artillery and his rank was Sergeant. He was awarded the Britain, Campaign, Gallantry and Long Service Medals and Awards.
The Military Medal for bravery was awarded for the 200th Siege by the R.G.A.
The Military Medal (MM) was awarded to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks for gallantry in action against the enemy. It ranked below the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Later in life the 1939 Register tells us that Albert was born on 17 November 1890 and was a General Labourer. He would have been 49 in 1939. His wife was called Rosa and she was born on 2 February 1880 and her occupation is listed as Unpaid Domestic Duties. They were living at 28 Park Road, Folkestone, Kent. Three persons were in the household but third person’s name is not disclosed.
Rosa (Rosa Agnes nee Empson) was ten years older than Albert and they had married in 1915 but sadly Albert died towards the end of 1940, aged just 49 years.
Sergeant Albert John Moore is to be remembered for his bravery during WW1.
Archive Team 2020
EARLY MEMORIES OF TOM JAGO OF SANDGATE
I was born on 15th January 1937 at No. 1 Martello Cottages the home of my grandmother, Kate Jago, I was the second son of Thomas and Florence Jago, grandson of George Jago and great grandson of James Jago a Coastguard who settled in Sandgate on his retirement. My elder brother James was born in 1935.
In 1939, we were living at No 1 Halls Cottages in Wilberforce Road. It was here that I had my first memory. Our house was tucked away behind the houses lining Wilberforce Road the access being through a tunnel under the houses facing Gouge’s shop. Through the tunnel up three steps, past no 2 Halls Cottages, then to our house; snuggled up against a six feet highwall, with the trees of the Encombe Estate overlooking us. We had two bedrooms upstairs and two rooms down, the ‘front room’ and the living room. Each of the downstairs rooms had a fireplace and a single gas lamp. Off the living room, was an extension, ‘the Kitchen’. It had a gas stove and a copper boiler concealed in a brick construction with a built-in fireplace. Along the back wall was an old bath with a board top over it to make a work surface. A door led out into the garden, and a sink next to it had a window over it. Over the sink was a cold water tap outside, round the corner was a toilet and coal shed, (toilet paper was courtesy of the Daily Express!)
The garden was large enough to have a vegetable patch and a few flowers and was separated from the garden next door, (the Spooner’s house) by a low brick wall. My first clear memory is of when my brother Michael was born on 5th March 1939. I was just two years and two months old. A bed had been set up for my mother in the ‘downstairs front room’. We had visitors to view the new baby, and I distinctly remember a cousin telling me that my mother was breast feeding the baby with milk, but from the other breast he could drink chocolate!
War was declared on 3rd September 1939. We were gathered in the living room listening to the announcement on the wireless set, and I was sitting on my father’s knee. Even I could tell that this was very serious, and we were not allowed to talk. Our wireless set was connected to a long aerial wire which ran out in the garden. It was powered by a large lead acid battery which had to be regularly taken to a shop in the high street to be re-charged for a fee
When war broke out, my father was working for the Corporation as a driver, I can remember him driving a dust cart, and later a gully sucker, which was used to clear out drains. He also had a license to drive buses and coaches.
The house was prepared for war, and black-out screens were made up. My parents had decided that rather than be separated, we would all stay together as a family. All non-essential residents and most other children were evacuated. We were allocated an Anderson air raid shelter, which was assembled in the garden and partially buried, the excavated earth being piled on top. My father built a chicken run, and we had six Rhode Island Reds, which supplied us with additional food throughout the war. Even that was controlled and a form had to be filled in each day with the number of eggs produced. My father worked during the day, and became an Air Raid Warden by night, spending many hours on standby in their headquarters in the yard behind the Post Office. I believe this was Corporation property. I remember visiting once and remember a room full of camp beds, probably in the Crescent? There was another further up the village.
In 1940, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk took place and thousands passed through Folkestone harbour onto trains and lorries. My uncle (Bill Evans) was missing and we, as a family, searched among the troops for new of him. The troops were clearly delighted to be back in England and we children were plied with French coins and notes as souvenirs. Bill eventually arrived back safely.
The Battle of Britain, as it became known, followed soon after and we spent much time in our shelter. A large concrete shelter was built on the corner opposite Gouge’s shop but I never saw anyone use it, except for us kids, who tried to steal the light bulbs!
One day we were in our shelter as a fierce air battle took place low overhead. My father lifted Jim and I up to the entrance to see what was happening. I remember vividly the blue sky, with aircraft buzzing around with engines screaming and guns chattering. Directly overhead an aircraft was flying along in a huge fireball, with sparks, flames and black smoke spurting from it. Not far from us a pilot was descending under a white parachute.
A we grew older we were out and about more. Sandgate was our playground! We could not get access to the Parade or sea front because of barbed wire.
Anti-Aircraft guns were located on the Parade, and when firing, pieces of shrapnel would rain down onto houses and streets. One Sunday morning Jim and I set off as usual to attend Sunday School at the church. As we passed the Congregational church, a German aircraft flew over very low overhead and there was a terrific explosion. We dived into the nearest shop doorway, (either the newsagents or the dairy). Guns were blazing away and shrapnel rained down. We stayed put and in a very short time our father came sprinting along the road to look for us. The bomb had landed behind the church blowing all the windows out. Five minutes later and we would have been in the church! A piece of shrapnel had landed on the road near to us and I picked it up, it was still so hot it burnt my fingers! It later joined our collection which was kept in a box in our garden.
On another occasion, us boys sat on a wall near the coastguard cottages where we had a view across the barbed wire to the sea. A convey of ships was being shelled by the big guns located near Calais. These guns also fired shells at Folkestone, causing extensive damage, but none ever landed in Sandgate and amazingly, I cannot remember any serious damage from shelling or bombing in the village, apart from the bomb behind the church. One shell hit the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone and I remember a photography showing a gaping hole in the front façade. One could still see the different coloured bricks used to repair it when I joined the school in 1948.
I should have started primary school in 1942, but it was still closed. It opened again in 1944 as the evacuated children started to return. There were two playgrounds and entrances at the rear, for boys and girls, also separate toilets. Concrete air raid shelters were built up against the rear wall of the school and were often used. In our classroom, there was an iron stove in the centre of the room, and small bottles of milk would be placed around it, to warm or perhaps to defreeze in winter! They would sometimes boil over if not watched closely. Many children were supplied with cod live oil in tins to supplement their diet at home. Behind the school, in a house in the Lower road (Castle Glen?) Polish refugees lived and worked, they often gave us Polish stamps for our collection, any of which were used to boost my collection.
American troops were stationed nearby before the invasion, and their bit trucks often rumbled through the village. Much of their laundry was delivered to the laundry in Wilberforce Road, and we often chatted with the soldiers, who would supply sweets and gum. There was also Canadians at one stage, and my Mother and Father sometimes welcomed them into the house for drinks and a bit of home comfort.
After the invasion of France, much of the barbed wire was removed and on occasion, parties of soldiers were allowed onto the beach for swimming. We were allowed to join them. There were guards armed with BREN guns, keeping watch on the skies for trouble. Each summer we as a family would spend two weeks at a hop farm in Chilham. Hops were picked and moved into the oast houses for drying before going to the brewers to make beer. Hop picking attracted many families down from London, allowing them weeks away from the city, whilst providing paid work. We would be transported to the farm in Bert Foord’s lorry, driven by my father. Accommodation was one room in a long row of wooden huts, each one to a family. It was basic, with half the area given over to a wooden platform for a central brick built kitchen, which was shared by all the families. The fires were fuelled by faggots of dry wood, supplied by the farm. Water was distributed daily from a water tank drawn by a tractor. Working in the fields one would pull down the vines and strip them of hops, which went into collecting baskets. These were collected by the farmer and the family would be credited with the going rate. We kids helped out at times but also spent many happy hours playing in the woods and the river running through the site. We chased crayfish and minnows, using an old sack as a net. One day we scared ourselves silly when we netted a very wriggly eel which we were convinced was a poisonous snake! Whilst hop picking in 1944 we were amazed to witness an armada of aircraft flying over, towing gliders. We had no idea what was happening, but it turned out to be the troops on their way to Arnhem in Holland, for the disastrous attack on the famous bridge there.
Sometime toward the end of the war, a group of us boys were down the side of the Rex cinema, it was high tide and the sea was beating up against the rear wall of the cinema, which was port of the sea wall. We were watching a floating sea mine, actually bashing against the wall of the cinema! We knew these things were dangerous but thought we were safe hiding behind the wall and peeping round the corner! Certainly it was our lucky day, as if it had exploded it would have flattened the cinema and half of Sandgate including us! Later it was towed out to sea and safely detonated.
1944 was also the year of the Doodlebugs or flying bombs. We were directly in their path as they headed for London. On one occasion we watched a bomber that had obviously been hit and was off course heading for Folkestone. A fighter was close behind firing its guns but It suddenly exploded and the fighter disappeared into the smoke and flame. I never found out if the plot survived. We often found debris from shot down Doodlebugs. In fact, a very large piece of one was stuck up in the branches of a tree near Encombe House. After the war, a map of Dungeness bay was published by a national newspaper showing the location of all of the flying bombs known to have been shot down. The seabed off Sandgate and Hythe must have been a proper scrap yard.
After the war finished, we had a street party in Wilberforce Road with everyone taking part. Tables were set up along the street. Bunting was hung from house to house children were plied with food, and adults rolled out the barrel(s).
Soon after, we were taken on a paddle steamer (possibly the ‘Maid of Kent’ or Maid of Thanet) from Folkestone or Dover on a trip across the Channel to Calais and Dunkirk to view the wreckage of war. We also passed close to a number of anchored German ships or submarines that had surrendered. The German crews were still on board, standing around on deck, watching us. Our ship was packed with sightseers, many of whom suffered from seasickness as it was quite choppy out in the channel.
Our air raid shelter, long unused was finally dismantled and went for scrap. Memories remained of cold dark nights and puddles of water which always lay on the earth floor, and even of the cat that had crawled into the shelter to die, and was not found for weeks! The remaining hole was partially filled with junk, including an old bicycle, and covered with earth. Our shrapnel collection, no longer of interest was despatched into the woods behind the house using or catapults. (That may be of interest to future metal detectorists).
Soon, we survivors will also be gone, but perhaps these notes will be of interest to future Sandgate residents. It is fervently hoped however that they never have to experience what took place here in the early 1940’s.
THE AMAZING LIFE OF JAMES FIELD
This is an interesting tale, about a gentleman named James Field, who ended up, owning a considerable chunk of Sandgate. He acquired the land from Lord Radnor in 1839. Along with Henry Dawkins of Encombe and Lord Darnley of the Enbrook Estate. Field could be said to be the third largest landowner, until his death in 1888. Field became entangled with the Royal Board of Ordnance whose presence was everywhere in Sandgate.
His name features high in most of the local charity lists of the time and here is the extent of his domain which we know today as Castle Road and the Riviera.
Field was born in 1800, he was a competent London architect, in 1833 the Governors of the ancient grammar school of St Olaves had elected him surveyor, and he planned the layout and modernisation of the school in the Tudor style similar to Cardinal Wolsey’s at Hampton Court. He was obviously an early proponent of central heating recommending that the school be heated by hot water instead of stoves.
Two new wings for St Thomas’ Hospital were among other notable commissions that came his way. However, in 1850, his design for some city corporation failed in competition. In disgust he decided to emigrate with his wife Elizabeth and two sons aboard the ‘Canterbury’ in 1851 to New Zealand
On the strength that he was a farmer of Sandgate, Kent whose farm overlooked the chalk cliffs of Dover, he was awarded a Government land grant, of eight cattle runs, of 50 acres each, also other building land in Christchurch, in the Provence of Canterbury New Zealand – (hence Canterbury Cottage).
His first will was made in 1858, before embarking on the long and hazardous return journey to England. His last Will of 1887 describes him as of Christchurch New Zealand, but late of Audley Cottage, Castle Road, Sandgate.
The Hermitage, deceptively Tudor in style, has always been the subject of speculation. I can now establish that it stands on the site of an earlier house built by Fabian Clayton Wilson, the shipbuilder, who left Sandgate around 1813 when shipbuilding was on the decline. One can guess that there was a good supply of surplus or abandoned ragstone nearby and Field, who rather favoured Tudor, decided to blend with the Castle.
In 1846, it was clear that the sea was making inroads, and the Board of Ordnance were concerned wanting to protect the foundations of Sandgate Castle by the only possible means of laying down groynes in front. It was also one of Field’s main concerns to keep the sea from his property. But as is usual in Sandgate with all its rights of way, encroachments and boundary disputes, there had been a bit of a mix up as to who owned what!
In 1845, we find his brother Benjamin, a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, writing to the Board of Ordnance….’Mr James Field in the assured belief that property was his up to the Castle has built a substantial brick wall along the whole line fronting the sea; he would be greatly disappointed to find that he had not title to the piece of ground mentioned’
It was NO GO. The Ordnance Store keeper at Dover finally unearthed the original lease of 1798 from Lord Radnor to Fabian Clayton Wilson who subsequently assigned the remainder of his 45year lease to the Board of Ordnance. From this it was clear that land to the westward of the Hermitage was waste or beachy ground belonging to Lord Radnor!
No wonder Field was concerned to mark his territory! Here we have evidence of a ragstone wall between Castle Glen and 20 Castle Road (later known as Arnold House) asserting his ownership. A photo of which we have on our website. A more eroded sign is sealed in the wall between No 20 and No 18, and who knows there may be more to discover?
Taken from documents in our Archive