Whitstable in old picture postcards

Whitstable in old picture postcards

:   Michael Trowell
:   Kent
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-3420-0
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Whitstable in old picture postcards'

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In any book on the economie and social history of England you would expect to find that Whitstable is not mentioned. This would not be negligence by the author because in a study of the whole country it is not possible to write about all its towns and villages, no matter how interesting their development might be. Whitstable's growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries into a busy fishing town and port is, indeed, worthy of any historian's attention but, situated in the south-east corner of England, it was as far away from the main areas of economie and social change as it could have been. The Industrial Revolution was at its most dynamic in the north and west of England. The ports, then, to be written about are usuaIly the likes of Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle - those that were expanding at a fast rate through being on the doorsteps of the country's cotton towns and coalfields. The historian's attention might be drawn south to London, the most populous city and large st port, but Whitstable, just e few miles along the Thames Estuary, would be ignored, as would many other less significant towns around the country. Ironically, even in George Goldsmith Carter's The Forgotten Ports of England (1951) Whitstable is more or less forgotten. It is mentioned once, in passing.

Yet anyone who cared to dip into the history of Whitstable would find the town remarkable for a string of reasons. As Daniel Defoe tells us in his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724) Whitstable was Canterbury's out-

port for 'goods as come from London; as oyl, wine, grocery' and by the next century coal had become the main import, which Whitstable mariners brought from the coalfields of north-east England and which was distributed around much of Kent via the county's railway network. The first line in this network was the Canterbury to Whitstabie Railway, built in 1830, which, as weIl as transporting goods, ran the first regular steam passenger service in the world. Whitstable was, of course, for centuries the foremost oyster producing town in the country. It was also, by the mid-eighteenth century, a world centre for the new discipline of diving, with its salvage men sailing to many parts of the world to retrieve valuable components and cargoes of sunken ships. The first steamboat to sail from England to Australia left from Whitstable in 1837. And so on. Whitstable has much to reward those who study its past. These aspects of Whitstable's history , however, largely belong to the days before picture postcards. The postcards in this collection date from 1900 to the 1920s. It was during this period that Whitstable was undergoing a transformation as the older basis of its economy declined. Bad winters, particularly one of 1919, and pollution were steadily killing off the oyster industry, and the coastal and overseas trade were irreparably harmed when most of Whitstable's vessels were commandeered by the Govemment in the First World War and did not survive to be returned. As a holiday resort, however, Whitstable was growing steadily.

From 1890 Tankerton was developed as a 'health resort' by two estate companies which were weIl aware that populous London was only a one-and-a-half hours' train journey away. People from London, and other places, who duly visited Whitstable, wanted postcards of street scenes, beach views and the harbour to send to family and friends. This demand was met by national postcard companies like Photochrom and Raphael Tuck and by local publishers like W.J. Cox and Ridouts whose postcards, portraying people at work and play, fashions, shop frantages and so on, have left us a fascinating insight into life in Whitstable during the opening of this century.

Whitstable, as it developed through the nineteenth century, always had a strang community spirit. In a sm all town where most people were known to each other, and a relatively poar town, where hardship was a constant threat to many, people were always willing to support one another. During bad winters, when work was of ten scarce, soup kitchens were set up to feed those short of food and in the town's major disasters, the fire of 1869 and the flood of 1897, the townspeople pulled together to aid the victims by giving food and shelter and raising money.

Between 1891 and 1911 Whitstable's population, after it had remained more or less stabie during the previous twenty years, increased by almost two thousand. But with much of the new intake settling away to its east in Tanker-

ton, Whitstable old town remained a closely knit community. For the members of such a community there was a strang urge to conform through participation in communal events and membership of local bodies. These aspects of town life were often recorded by local postcard firms which as weIl as producing general views of the town, also photographed processions, ceremonies and social groups. Postcards of this kind that have survived further enhance our understanding of life in Whitstable in the early years of this century.


I thank DI. John Whyman ofthe University of Kent for the loan of many postcards and for reading the text in typescript and suggesting some amendments. I also thank Philip Johnson for allowing me to use many postcards from his extensive collection and Wallace Harvey whose wide knowledge of Whitstable history has been invaluable in my research. I particularly thank the many Whitstable people, too numerous to mention individually, who have lent me postcards, allowed me into their homes to talk to them about the old days and replied - always with very useful information - to my letters asking them about their town's past.

Wnifsta[j[e, from ~7or$fal JeU,.

1. The first view of Whitstable which a travelIer by road from Canterbury noticed in the early years of this century. The hedges to the right and left no longer exist, nor does the partly obscured white sign to the right of the picture which informed the man in the trap that he was driving his horse up a one-foot-in-eight incline. The second of the buildings that came right up to the edge or the road was the Four Horseshoes public house. The cottage in front of it has since been demoJished.

Windrnill and Borstal HilI. Whitstable.

2. WindrnilI and Borstal Hili. This card, postmarked 1926, shows a view looking south from Whitstable. The lamp-post indicates the point on Borstal Hili where wagons carrying goods to Canterbury were attached to trace horses which could more easily manage the steep one-in-eight incline than conventionally bridled horses. This reminds us that not all goods to Canterbury went on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. When not working, the trace horses were kept in the field to the left of the picture, which no longer looks so rurally idyllic. Houses of various dates and designs have been built, replacing the trees and hedges. Borstal Hili Windmill was a landrnark for ships off the Whitstable coast. In the early years of this century it was the country residence of the actor Henry Irving,

3. A view from the bottom of Borstal HiI1looking towards Canterbury Road, from an undated postcard. The building behind the hedge on the left was the tollgate cottage for the Whitstable end of the Canterbury to Whitstable turnpike road. The tollgate was previously on a site in Oxford Street, near the junction with Belmont Road (see card 6). The large house on the right was called Graystone. ft was demolished in 1921.

hltstable. Canterbur Road looking East.

4. Canterbury Road from a card posted in 1908. A few years after this picture was taken the Two Brewers public house, on the left, began to armounce its opening time in a novel way. The landlord, having acquired a set of bells from the Borstal Hili Mill, set them up in the garden behind the pub and rang them every morning to inform the townspeople that he was ready for business. The »ld forge is on the right of the picture. The building survives today but has lost some of its character by having hsd other buildings added to it.

5. The Golden Lion public house, Church Raad (now Belmant Raad), circa 1906. In proportion to its population Whitstable had a high number of public houses at this time. The fishermen and doekworkers were aften heavy drinkers but it seems that for every hard-drinking dredgerman there was a teetotalIer who stayed away from ale houses. Whitstabie people were, by and large, not wealthy. Ta keep a family together on an aften unsteady income money could not be afforded for luxuries like beer, even if it did cast only a penny a pint. Public houses were not aften frequented by wamen sa, as well as assuming that the man in the white jacket is the landlord, we can say that the two ladies are his wife and daughter. Flint and Company were brewers at Canterbury based in Saint Dunstan's Street.

6. Oxford Street, looking southwards, circa 1900. The iron bridge running across the road was built in 1860 to carry the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. It marks the previous site of the tollgate keeper's cottage which, when the bridge was built, was moved to the bottom of Borstal Hili where it stands today (see card 3).

7. All Saints' Church, the parish church of Whitstable, circa 1905. The tower dates from the thirteenth century and unti! the middle of the nineteenth century was whitewashed for visibility because of its importance as a landmark to ships plying the Thames Estuary. The rest of the church has been periodically rebuilt and repaired over the centuries. The last extensive rebuilding was carried out in 1876. The Vicar of Whitstable at this time was Henry M. Maugham, well-known because bis nephew, the novelist William Somerset Maugham, had spent part of his chi!dhood in Whitstable. Somerset Maugham wrote about Whitstable in his novels Mrs. Craddock, Of Human Bondage, and Cakes and Ale calling the town 'Blackstable'. In the Moon and Sixpence, however, he was less cryptic, referring directly to his 'Uncle Henry, for twenty-seven years Vicar of Whitstable'.

The Old Parsonagé, Whitslable'

8. In 1914 Arthur Hussey wrote a series of articles for The Whitstable Times called 'Whitstable in Olden Times'. The üld Parsonage, reproduced on this postcard, sent in 1909, was the subject of his artiele for 21 March 1914 in which he wrote: Th is picturesque and old house to the east of the parish church is the rectory or parsonage farmhouse, which together with its land belonged to the rector of the parish for the time being, who either cultivated the land, or more probably would let the same for a yearly rent to a tenant. He went on to inform his readers that the house was built before 1500 and was probably the oldest house in the parish. This postcard was produced by Daniels and Collar of 100 and 102 High Street, Whitstable.

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