Archive Team

L/R Christine Bleach, Frank Pyke, Jill Partridge, Annie Bamford, Bob Preedy

TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES

#2 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.

Tom Jago

#1 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

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