Dover in old picture postcards volume 1

Dover in old picture postcards volume 1

:   R.E. Hollingsbee
:   Kent
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4757-6
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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One of the senior, if not the leading mernber of the ancient union of Cinque Ports which once provided the nucleus of the Royal Navy, Dover is the natural crossroads for traffic to and from the Continent and has for this reason been an important place for centuries. It is not a ship building port today but it once built sturdy vessels the King was glad to add to his Navy of fighting ships,

Nestling under a beautifully preserved Norman Castle which, together with the adjoining Roman Pharos and Saxon Church, dominates the famous White Cliffs of Dover, the town is rightly acknowledged as the Gateway of England. It has good reason toa, to daim to be the busiest passenger sea port in the world.

Even befare the Normans came Castle Hili was the site of a strategically placed fortress and it was at Dover that the ancient Britons repelled the Roman invaders, forcing them to make a landing to the north at Deal. William the Conqueror shrewdly chose to avoid making Dover his invasion point. Having disposed of Harold and then taken Dover, however, the Normans lost na time in setting about strengthening the strongpoint, but the building of the great Keep had to wait another century. The Castle has since been progressively extended and modified and in recent times furnished with a vast underground network of tunnels, barracks, gun positions and operations rooms and played an important role as a command centre and observation post in the Second World War. The underground works were later secretly expanded to farm a regional se at of government for use in the event of a nuclear conflict. Now out of date, no langer secret and considered toa vulnerable , its use for this purpose has been abandoned. But the Castle continues as a priceless tourist asset. Because of Dover's geographical position, at the dosest point to the Continent, the town has for centuries been witness to a seemingly endless stream of important events,

both in peace and war. A succession of top military and naval leaders, merchants, monarchs, statesmen and religious leaders have had reason to visit Dover or to use it as a springboard for expeditions, such as the Crusades, invasions, visits by Kings to European palaces to claim a bride, or simply to trade. Indeed, long before the Romans came to add Britain to their huge empire, there was an interchange of visits to and from Europe by merchants, and Dover and other East Kent towns were hit by marauders out to plunder our crops, carry off our wornen and livestock and steal our raw rnaterials, leaving behind death and destruction.

Fortunately the more cultured invaders and later refugees from religious persecution on the Continent, who eame to stay, brought with them new skills and ideas which they passed on and their influenee ean be seen in many of our ancient buildings and in other ways. In recent times Dover has had close involvement with modern developments and inventions sueh as in the field of transport, induding aviation and sea-going craft, and in eommunications, from the development of an international postal system to the marvels of radio, radar and other innovations.

The first hot air balloon crossing of the Channel, from Dover Castle, in 1785, was an important landmark; then came the French aviator Bleriot , who became the first man to fly an aireraft far enough over the sea to cross the Channel from France to Dover, in 1909. Just under a year later the Hon. C.S. Rails made a there-and-back flight. Bath men were testing unproven aircraft and only a few weeks later Rails was killed making another flight. Matthew Webb, an Atlantic sea rescue hero, captured the imagination of the people when he became the first man to swim from England to France, setting off from Dover's Admiralty Pier, in August 1875. Later he died in a foolhardy attempt to swim across the dangerous Niagara Falls Rapids.

It was in 1875 that trials began at Dover ofthe first of a remarkable series of vessels designed to give a smoother ride in heavy se as and, hopeful!y to enable passengers to cross the Channel without fear of the dreaded mal de mer. The first vessel was the elegant, but too slow catamaran paddie steamer Castalia, which was followed by a similar , more powerful and more successful ship, the Calais-Douvres, A third vessel, with two sets of huge paddle wheels and a 'floating' passenger saloon, the mechanism of which was never publicly tested, had such a disastrous trial trip across the Channel she was almast irnmediately withdrawn. To return to more recent times another revolutionary form of transport, the hovercraft, arrived twenty years ago as serious passenger-carrying craft in the Channel and it was largely in providing a fast regular service between Dover and France that they proved thernselves as areliabIe, if somewhat noisy means of transport. Now Dover faces the challenge of the competition posed by the building of a fixed link with the Continent, the long dreamed of Channel Tunnel, but the town and port is used to change.

Few towns in Britain can have undergone more changes this century than Dover. War damage, slum clearance, military and naval changes, port expansion, changes in local industry, technological advances, al! have played their part in changing its appearance; in some places out of all recognition. Much old property has been swept away and even now is under threat. The shopping centre has moved inland away from the waterfront and still seems to be on the move. Todaya new superstore, just opened on the town boundary, is seen by some as a fresh threat to traders in the town centre, particularly the smaller business. Many smal! shops of character have closed, to be replaced by offices and building societies or estate agents, or remain empty awaiting redevelopment of the sites. Quite a number of the changes have resulted from the

closing or running down of old industries. Gone are the breweries, flour mills, oil mills, malthouses. tannery, coachbuilding works, brickfields, the gas works which once supplied a large area of Kent, and now, the latest to go, the engineering works foundry in Bridge Street.

Disbursement of military units which once dominated the life of the town and contributed greatly to its prosperity, changes in the role of the local garrison and severance of links with the Royal Navy for which the greatly enlarged Admiralty Harbour of Dover was built as a refuge at the turn of the century, have all contributed towards a drop in population of the town itself, which once topped 42,000. This is one of the factors which led to a number of churches becoming redundant after the last war and being demolished, along with other substanti al buildings - barracks, gymnasiums, dril! halls and even military hospitals.

More affluence, which has brought unlirnited freedom of movement for most people, as nearly every home boasts at least one car or other mechanised transport, and distractions, such as television, has led to a change of lifestyle, attitudes and aspirations of many people. This seems to have gone hand in hand with a decline in church attendance and influence with the result that the townscape has changed drarnatically as a great variety of churches and chapel buildings have closed and been swept away or altered and converted to other uses. In hindsight some of these might have been saved or adapted inside for other uses and the attractive buildings retained, as for example Christ Church, a magnificent building. It could have been a much needed concert hall, or museum perhaps,

Another once familiar feature of all medium sized and even sm all towns, the cinema has been gradually disappearing in the South East. Dover has seen its cinemas dwindle from Iour , after the last war, to three , then two ... and now the

nearest town where one can go to see a film show is seven miles away, at Deal. Theatrewise toa, the town has suffered since the war which destroyed the last of what was once a series of concert haUs in the Snargate Street to Market Square area, the old Hippodrome, the history of which went back to 1790. Rebuilt and enlarged towards the end of the last century, it had kept going throughout the greater part of the war only to be devastated by the last shell fired from German long-range guns on the French coast during a morning rehearsalon 18th September 1944. Touring shows and rock musie coneerts made spasmodic appearances into the 1960s, using the stage of one or more of the cinemas, one of which survives as a night club and another as a bingo hall, while one of the biggest, the Odeon, has been replaced by a Territorial Army centre. Fortunately amateur theatre survives, thanks to enthusiastic local groups and improvised facilities in the Town Hall, the old Maison Dieu, where a fold-away proscenium was made using some of the timbers out of the old Hippodrome. One drama group has pressed into use an old miJl building as its headquarters and rehearsal rooms.

Since the last war Dover has witnessed the demolition or change of use to guest houses of many large properties where once well-to-do families with servants used to live and whieh, perhaps, were too large or in the wrong place for bigger families of today. Some of these were damaged by enemy action in the last war and afterwards were cither considered beyond repair or there wasn 't the investment money ab out to rehabilitate .them. Wartime shelling and bombing also resulted in the loss of much residential property and familiar pre-war landmarks near the sea such as the Iofty Burlington mansions, once a luxury hotel, and the old Grand Hotel looking down on the attractive Granville Gardens, bandstand and restaurant, which were also devastated. Sadly, the hostilities also resulted in the destructien of the fine old

St. James' Church where once sat the Cinque Ports Adrniralty Court. Today the remains of the ancient church are considered important enough to be preserved as a tidy ruin.

The threat to employment which is expected from the construction of the Channel Tunnel has brought home to people the value of what historicalor architectural assets are left in Dover. The authorities are beginning to appreciate the value of more than just our ancient properties. So much has been destroyed which would undoubtedly now be considered assets. Many regretted the demolition of interesting old properties like the Cause is Altered public house and the farmer Zion Chapel, bath in Queen Street, the lass of the crypt of the fire-ravaged Crypt Restaurant and the arcade interior of the old covered market of which only the façade has been spared by the demolition men, and now Brook House has also gone. Perhaps those of us who care about our environment are a littie sensitive after sa much interesting old property has been lost through war damage, and the lack of proteetion which might have been provided by Listed Building orders. Thankfully, the ancient Maison Dieu House, next to the Maison Dieu, was saved from dernolition although it, too, was once in very poor repair, and the Victoria Hospital, although made redundant, is to be converted to residential use.

We are fortunate that a series of talented photographers, Shepherd, the Amos family, Jacolette, Harris and Grossman, to name but a few, recorded on film the people, the town, port, ships and events, from the early days of photography, and that much of their work survives as original glass plate, cine film, photographs and as posteards, so th at we can form agood ideaofwhat the town used to be like.

1. Regimental musicians of the local garrison pose for the photographer, Martin Jacolette, who had studios in Biggin Street, in this fine view of Dover Castle from the Guston road, over 100 years ago. Leading off to the left is the raad to Deal, th en little more than a country lane by modern standards. The man-made earthen rampart on the left, up which is a flight of steps, conceals what used to be the main entrance to the castle. The wooden fences and lack of trees planted later on the castIe slopes add to the rustic appearance of the surrounding area. Most prominent of the towers on the castie walls is the Constable's Tower, on the right where there used 10 be a drawbridge over the maat. This was the main entrance to the castle when the picture was taken.

2. The ancient Maison Dieu which has seen a variety of uses over the centuries since it was established in 1203. It saw service as a hospital for over 330 years and then as a victualling office for the Navy over 300 years before becoming the town hall. With its colourful stained glass windows recording important historical events involving Dover, its collection of oil paintings of important citizens, and other features, it is one of the town's most valuable assets to tourism. The view dates from before the introduetion of the Dover Corporation Tramways, in 1897, and the widening of the raad outside the building. Just beyond the Town Hall, on the right, is a turning into LadyweIl, astreet then so narrow it is barely perceptible.

3. A leisurely scene in the main street of Dover over eighty years ago, with not a car or lorry in sight. At the side of the Maison Dieu are the attractive wrought iron gates which have only recently been restored to ne ar their original position, after standing idle in a Council yard for years. Of purely ornamental value now the gates bridge the space between the Maison Dieu and the adjoining Biggin Hall. Following their removal from their original position, about 1930, they were pressed into use for sorne time at the old Isolation Hospital, latterly an eye hospital, which has now been demolished, at Tower Hamlets, Dover. A hazard for the horse-drawn traffic at the time this picture was taken were the tram lines which had not long been laid.

10W" fia . Dover.

4. Another view of the Maison Dieu and the main streel after the road was widened outside St. Martin's Terrace, the block of buildings on the left. The widening enabled tram lines to be laid and the overhead power lines for the tramcars to be erected, The entrance into LadyweIl, which used to be a narrow lane, has been widened. That widening look place in 1903, the road from 1867 having been only 20 ft. wide and, before that, even less.

5. They were the days - or were they? This view of Biggin Street dates from sixty years ago when Dover's main street took two-way traffic. Horses still clomped along hauling carts and there were public houses galore. The photograph was taken looking towards the junction with Priory Road and Effingham Crescent, with MacLeod's outfitting shop (now Whites) on the corner facing the camera. It is hard to believe that these vehicles had to share the road with tramcars. Traders in the street at the time included Giddens, the jeweller and watch repairer; W. Austin, the fishmonger and poultry dealer; Stevens, outfitter; A.H. Bowkett, baker; Thomas Parks, fruiterer; and there were the Prince Albert, Salutation Inn and British Queen to name but a few of the public houses.

ßiggin 5!ree~ Dover.

6. The junction of Pencester Raad, Biggin Street and Worthington Street, with a tram outside the once flourishing drapery business of Hattons, about the turn of the century. Note the newspaper boy and others on the left taking a leisurely walk in the raad. Today lights control traffic and pedestrians at this busy spot. On the corner of Worthington Street, once a narrow lane. is the greengrocery business of KnowIes & Son. This corner was later the site of Boots the Chemists who have since moved to larger premises. on the sites of the old Salern Baptist Church and the Queen's Head public house, on the opposite side of the street.

7. Before the widening of the 1890s this was the view of Biggin Street from its junction with Cannon Street, looking towards and beyond the turnings into Worthington Street on the left, and Pencester Road on the right. The wad used to be very narrow, forming a bottleneck like the section between the General Post Office and the Town Hall (picture 5). On the left is the old Dover drapers shop of George Hatton, at 45-47 Biggin Street, a family business which only ceased trading a few years ago.

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