Celebrating 25 Years of the Dover Society
Compiled by Derek Leach
This special edition of our Newsletter celebrates the first 25 years of The Dover Society and is dedicated to all those members who have served the Society in any way since 1988. This has taken many forms including serving on the Executive Committee or a subcommittee, representing the Society on other bodies, editing the newsletter, arranging speakers and social events, recruiting members, managing the finances, engaging in the many physical projects, giving talks, writing reports and articles, proofreading, distributing the newsletter, providing refreshments, washing up and running all those raffles. Without all these folk and their contributions, large or small, there would be no Society.
Perhaps a second dedication may be allowed: to that frustrated member who once said, ‘The Society never does anything!’
Before The Dover Society
The Dover Society was not the town’s first amenity society. Writing in 1988, Jack Woolford related the story of the Society’s predecessor, The New Dover Group. It was formed by David (later Lord) Ennals when he became the MP for Dover in 1964 with the aim of supplying him with information and ideas about his new constituency. Initially, membership of its various committees for education, trade and industry etc. was by invitation. Jack Woolford was invited to become Chairman of its Planning Committee which, with the help of locally born architects and planners, produced a Plan for Dover and, with the help of the then Borstal Institution, a dream model of Dover in the year 2000. This is still in the custody of the Museum.
The party-political link was clearly inappropriate for what was in effect an amenity society and a number of members successfully urged adoption of the Civic Trust model constitution, which made membership open and secured democratic control. The New Dover Group then expanded in membership and achievement. It saved the trees in St. Mary's churchyard from felling and pioneered the concept of a riverside walk from Kearsney Abbey to the seafront. The Borough Council accepted in principle the dedication of a metre-wide strip adjoining the Dour whenever planning consents were granted.
Its record was impressive. On two occasions it helped to preserve Kearsney Abbey from housing proposals and attempted to preserve Whitfield and Guston from the eastern bypass (for which it had campaigned). It helped to defend Alkham Valley from the assaults of a predatory farmer on Sites of Special Scientific Interest in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and took the lead in attempting to safeguard the seafront from the noise and smell of the new hoverport. Equally, it first opposed and then attempted to mitigate the adverse implications of the 1970s threat of the Channel Tunnel. It initiated the incredible archaeological excavations in York Street, preserved part of the revealed Roman fortress from destruction, and its members contributed labour and cash to the preservation of the Painted House. It was involved in the controversy over the design and construction of Burlington House and produced a second plan for the Dover District in 1980. The conservation and renovation of Priory Road Terrace was initiated, but failed to save the ancient The Cause Is Altered! pub from demolition. An action group coordinated representations to the Department of Transport on the route of the proposed new A20 from Folkestone.
So why did it die in 1982? According to Jack, the group failed to provide a social programme or to produce an attractive newsletter. None of its achievements (or failures) pleased everyone and Dovorians on the whole were more concerned with employment than conservation. Recruitment declined and the officers who died or retired were not effectively replaced.
Birth of The Dover Society
With considerable concern over recent events in and around Dover Philomena Kennedy, artist and teacher at Dover Girls’ Grammar School, approached several people and persuaded them to meet to discuss the possibility of forming a civic society. Issues included the futures of Connaught Park, Brook House, Pencester Gardens and River Recreation Ground, which was threatened with housing development. These, coupled with anxieties arising from completion of the Channel Tunnel with its threat of mass unemployment and with a desire to be involved in the proposed remedies of tourism brought the group together in March 1988. The inaugural meeting of The Dover Society quickly followed on 25th April in the Menzies Hall of Dover College with about a hundred people present. Peter Johnson, before proposing ‘That The Dover Society be instituted and the Civic Trust Constitution be adopted’ made these remarks: "Many people in Dover have felt a growing concern about what is going to happen to the town in the future. That concern stems to some extent from events during 1987 and the sometimes bitter conflict between the people and Dover District Council (DDC), mostly about the selling off of public open spaces. But the issues are far wider than that. It is this concern that has brought together a body of people who have felt strongly the need to care for the town, for its people and for its future. Let me at this stage say what we are not. We are not a protest group. We are not party political in any shape or form. We are not demonstrators and, I hope, we are not cranks.
What are we then? I can only say what we aim to be, namely a body of people concerned about the future of Dover, informed, experienced in a wide range of skills and activities, responsible in our actions and constructive in our criticism. We hope also to be influential. This will depend on the breadth of support we can win from the people of Dover and on the input those people can in turn provide from their knowledge, experience and wisdom. We hope to work with DDC and not against it. I think the majority support the council's plans for making Dover a mecca for tourists, but there is some thought that those plans are too narrow and lacking in vision, too heavily influenced by outside commercial advice and lacking in in-depth knowledge of Dover. They ignore little things, relatively insignificant in themselves but an essential part of our history and our environment.
As an example I would remind the meeting that yesterday was St. George's Day and the 70th anniversary of the capture of the Mole at Zeebrugge, one of the most historic and heroic naval engagements of all time. The bell from the mole hangs on the balcony at Dover Town Hall and yesterday at noon the Town Mayor rang eight bells and buglers from the Royal Marines at Deal sounded the Last Post and Reveille. The Charter Trustees, representatives of the Services and youth organisations and of the Royal Society of St. George were present and there followed a moving service in St. James’ Cemetery where many of those who lost their lives at Zeebrugge on St. George's Day 1918 are buried. How many visitors to Dover, and indeed Dovorians themselves, know of the bell and its history engraved on the stone tablet set into the front wall of the Town Hall, dirty with age and neglected? This is just one small example of the little bits of history to be found in the town. The Dover Society as we see it would look at every aspect of the town and, among other things, ferret out the smaller matters and perhaps initiate action to bring them to the fore.
The Society would also wish to make informed and constructive contributions to major development and pursue a quest for quality. Civic quality stems from good design, good taste and attention to detail.
The resolution which I put to this meeting tonight is that, “The Dover Society be instituted, that it be included in the national register of local amenity societies sponsored by the Civic Trust and that the model constitution prepared by the Civic Trust be adopted”.
He concluded: “I believe that Dover has a great future. I am one of those who do not believe that the Channel Tunnel will have as disastrous an effect on Dover as some have forecast. On the contrary, I believe the port will continue to flourish in handling both freight and passengers. It is right, however, that we should be looking to the future by making the town itself a tourist centre. Dover is unique in the breadth of its history extending from Roman times to the present day and there is no reason why it should not become a 'must’ for tourists comparable with Canterbury, York and Bath. I am not a Dovorian by birth, only by 35 years of adoption, but I regard myself as a citizen of no mean city. If I may borrow a phrase of today from the Dover Express ‘I'm backing Dover' and I invite you to join me by launching The Dover Society.”
Members of the temporary committee were then confirmed in office and others elected from the floor: Chairman Jack Woolford, Vice Chairman John Gerrard, Secretary Barry Smith, Treasurer Norman Willis, Press Officer Sybil Standing, Social Secretary Linda Clackett, Newsletter Editor Philomena Kennedy and Ken Berry, Phyllis Dobbins, Jeremy Cope, David Elms, Michael Foad, Peter Johnson, Terry Khambatta, Viv Liggett, Mike McFarnell, Jim Truelove and Ken Wraight as committee members. The Countess of Guilford agreed to be President and a number of Vice Presidents were appointed: Budge Adams, Lord Ennals, Jack Ind, Ivan Green, Peter Johnson, Lillian Kay, Jonathan Sloggett and Ray Warner. To round off the evening Jack Woolford gave a commentary entitled ‘Dover: Assets and Liabilities’ with a selection of slides taken by Ray Warner and Philomena Kennedy. The new society was registered with the Civic Trust as a civic society on 16th May and affiliated to the Kent Federation of Amenity Societies. A copy of the constitution of the Society was made available in the public library.
The first year
The Society soon got down to work. Some DDC Officers and District Councillors met members of the committee in June. The objects of the Society were outlined and the hope expressed that useful contacts with the District Council would help to avoid misunderstandings and enable the Society to offer informed comment in the future about planning applications and other issues. The futures of Connaught Park and Pencester Gardens were raised and the council’s encouragement of upgrading properties in conservation areas by the use of small grants was welcomed. A tour of Brook House followed. The sad state of the interior of this attractive Victorian house formerly housing the Borough Council was all too obvious. Despite continuous pumping the high water table and unsatisfactory foundations had resulted in severe damp everywhere. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that several potential purchasers had lost interest.
The first Newsletter was published in June edited by Philomena Kennedy - not the refined and professional version of later editions (number 8 onwards) but duplicated with her own pen and ink illustrations. The now well known logo, designed by Philomena, was used on the front page of the Newsletter from the outset. Later, it was produced as a car or window sticker and as a lapel badge.
Newsletter Number 8 produced in September 1990 was the first printed by A. R. Adams and formatted by member Budge Adams. Advertisements appeared for the first time. It was received favourably with Sybil Standing commenting, ‘The tea is just as good but we have exchanged our Oxfam mug for Crown Derby!’ This professional standard journal, edited first by Philomena, then by Merril Lilley and latterly by Alan Lee, has stood the test of time extremely well.
Newsletter 30 in December 1997 was the last that Budge Adams, at age 88, page set. Having to pay for this in future meant that the Newsletter would be reduced from 56 to 44 pages.
Newsletter 52 in April 2005 was Editor Merril Lilley’s last after 14 years. She had only taken over the job temporarily whilst Philomena Kennedy toured the United States! Alan Lee has proved a worthy successor.
The name ‘Newsletter’ does not really do it justice. The varied reports and articles provide a fantastic archive over the last 25 years not only of the Society’s past, but of local issues as well as the many fascinating articles on aspects of Dover’s history.
A brainstorming meeting was held with DDC consultants, Kent County Council (KCC), Eurotunnel and others to discuss alternative employment for Dover when the Channel Tunnel became operational. Tourism was a possibility but Dover had an image problem - a transit town with run down properties, poor shopping, catering and accommodation with little entertainment. Suggestions included a heritage centre, a maritime quarter, golf course, White Cliffs country park, a caravan park, reinstatement of the military tattoo and Dover’s cricket week, sea festivals, firework displays, harbour boat trips, water sports centre, regattas, cable car to the cliffs and a bus service to connect the Maison Dieu, Painted House, castle and harbour.
By June the Planning Subcommittee, chaired by Ken Wraight, was in action but its attempt to save Brook House by seeking listed building status was pre-empted by a demolition without warning at 5am. During the first year the Market Square improvement scheme was welcomed as was the opening of the Old Town Gaol tourist attraction at the Town Hall. Proper preservation of Dover’s incredible Roman ruins were urged (in addition to the Painted House opened 11 years previously). The Society was consulted from the outset by DDC and Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit about their conflicting plans for a heritage centre. A study was carried out to identify which Dover buildings should, if possible, be protected and which to allow redevelopment.
The Society made its first awards for amenity improvement with framed certificates for Buckland Paper Mill’s refurbishment and to the KCC architect for the design of Dover’s new magistrates’ court in Pencester Road. DDC was invited to comment on the Society’s new Dover Plan.
The Social Subcommittee organised its first outing in September when John Gerrard gave a guided tour of the Eastern Docks. This was followed by the first Christmas Feast attended by 70 people, which was held in the historic Norman refectory of Dover College. This became a tradition that continued until 2012 saw a dramatic change to a lunchtime event at the Marina Hotel.
At the first AGM in 1989 more Vice Presidents were appointed: Lord Rees, Brigadier Maurice Atherton, Sylvia Corral (Dover Librarian), Marion Horsfield (retired Head Teacher of the Girls’ Grammar School and Terry Sutton. Leo Wright began his long tenure as secretary.
Consulted about proposed development of the Western Heights, the Society took the view that it could be a major tourist asset if essential environmental safeguards were observed - 25 years on that is still the Society’s policy. Relief was felt when Pencester Gardens received a reprieve from redevelopment for shopping, but a cutting blow came in August 1989 when Clement Freud declared in The Times that ‘Dover was a nasty, surly town’!
A group was formed to remedy the neglect of the River Dour and the first clean-up took place in October 1989. It was a mammoth effort covering the whole length of the river from Temple Ewell to New Bridge, but there was no shortage of volunteers - 115 customers of 13 pubs along the route took part, assisted by brewers Whitbread and Shepherd Neame providing essential refreshment in the form of 600 cans of beer. This physical effort was complemented by the Society urging DDC to care for and maintain the river and its environs (note this was long before the Dour gained ‘main river’ status and the Environment Agency became responsible for its biodiversity and flood risk but not for litter clearance). With the Dover Engineering Works site being redeveloped for retail stores, the Society urged the inclusion of a riverside access as part of its aim for a riverside walk. Much later the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership (WCCP) erected riverside signs directing walkers along a very tortuous route, often having to move away from the river. In a Newsletter article Jeremy Cope asserted that ‘the Dour should be an asset to Dover’. Over 20 years later Jeremy and the Society are still repeating those words!
A Shop Front Award was instituted to help improve the image of the town and the first Awards Evening, held in October 1989, was attended by the Mayor and Dover MP, David Shaw. The landlords of the pubs who supplied the river clean-up volunteers received framed certificates and the Shop Front Award went to Brodys of Worthington Street for its retention of original shop front features in its refurbishment. In addition the Dover Society quiz winners with entrants from 7 years upwards received their prizes.
The first members meeting, designed to raise and discuss matters of concern, was held in November and was attended by 60 people. Concerns included threatened development of the Western Heights and the B&Q development at Charlton Green. There was also anxiety over record low water levels in the chalk aquifers supplying the springs for the River Dour as well as the local drinking water.
Attendees of the second Christmas Feast were entertained to old music hall songs by a group from Dover Choral Society in Victorian dress, but Christmas cheer was negated by news of the death of well known local photographer and producer of the annual Dover film, Ray Warner.
Primavera, ‘SE England’s resident professional orchestra’, provided a successful concert for 400 people in the Stone Hall of the Town Hall. This was largely due to the efforts on behalf of the Society of Leo Wright who secured free use of the hall and local business sponsorship. As it was so successful it was repeated the following year. So began the Society’s tradition of supporting music in Dover.
The first Wine and Wisdom evening was held in February with Clive Taylor as quizmaster. This popular event became a Society tradition every year and Clive is still asking the questions! It is also customary for half the net proceeds to be donated to Crabble Corn Mill. Later in the year 100 members visited Crabble Corn Mill to see the restoration work by the Corn Mill Trust. A framed Society certificate in recognition of the work was presented and members present donated another £100. The Chairman’s guided walk around historic Dover attracted 85 members and summer outings further afield became an established feature of the annual programme.
A Projects Group led by John Owen was formed. This small enthusiastic group, prepared to get their hands dirty and their muscles aching, tackled an incredible range of projects over the next ten years. Almost always the group involved some young people, helping to give them a sense of community. Its first challenge came in March 1990 when, to celebrate Tidy Britain Year, litter clearing was organised involving Dover sea and air cadets competing to see who could collect most rubbish. In 70 minutes 70 sacks of litter were collected plus assorted trolleys etc. including part of an artificial leg! This challenge to local cadets became an annual event organised by the Society and sponsored by various businesses including McDonald’s that supplied welcome refreshments. The winning team was usually presented with a silver trophy. National Environment Week in April saw some members helping to survey a section of the Western Heights for orchids.
On the planning front the Society joined opposition to Eurotunnel’s plans for a huge cooling plant at the foot of Shakespeare Cliff; the battle was lost but a reduction in height was achieved. A warm welcome was given to the opening of the Hellfire Corner tunnels at the castle and the formation of the White Cliffs Countryside Project (later Partnership) to protect and manage the chalk grasslands around the town including the Western Heights, assisted by grazing Dexter cattle. A planned multi-storey car park on the empty Russell Street site to serve the new White Cliffs Experience was considered an unavoidable necessity by the Society, but suggestions were made to soften its impact; somewhat typical of Dover, it was never built.
Despite the Home Office being rebuked by the Ombudsman in 1980 when the New Dover Group complained that it had demolished without consultation a powder magazine on the Western Heights to build a new boiler house and chimney, disfiguring the skyline, the Home Office again did something similar. Jack Woolford prepared the Society’s case to the Ombudsman against the Home Office for building a new accommodation block for the Young Offenders’ Institution at the Citadel, part of the scheduled ancient monument, without consulting English Heritage or the Department of the Environment (informing DDC was thought sufficient). Once again the Home Office was criticised by the Ombudsman.
A milestone was hosting the Kent Federation of Amenity Society’s 1990 spring conference with its theme of ‘From Roman occupation to Channel Tunnel’.
In July 1990 a group of members was invited to see the renovation work being carried out at the Town Hall to arrest decay. When this work was completed our editor welcomed the unveiling of the Town Hall in its ‘newly cleaned and restored glory’. The roof had been replaced, the Stone Hall repainted, the High Street frontage stonework repaired, new toilets installed, a lift for the disabled and a furniture lift from the basement. Complete renovation would apparently take 10 years and cost up to £10 million. It never happened.
By now the annual pattern of the Society’s activities emerged with monthly meetings of some sort from October to April, including the ever popular February Wine and Wisdom evening, presentation of annual awards in October and the Christmas Feast in December. Current local issues were discussed at members only meetings. Several summer outings became the norm, including a trip to France in September.
Following the disastrous hurricane of 1987, the Society decided to replace the many trees lost from Lousyberry Wood close to the top of Whitfield Hill. The Project Group with the assistance of some Temple Ewell residents and pupils from the primary school carried out site clearance and preparation, which was followed by the planting of 200 mainly beech trees. A start was made during National Tree Week and continued at weekends during the rest of November and December. The work was fully funded by a KCC grant, sponsors and a ‘whip round’ of Society members. Subsequently, the Society was presented with the Civic Trust 1990 Community Pride Award. Following the planting, every year thereafter a Sunday in November was devoted to ‘aftercare’, ensuring that brambles did not smother the saplings.
At the Society’s 1990 Awards Evening the renovation of new premises in Dour Street for A R Adams (Printers) Ltd was recognised. The framed certificate still hangs in their reception area. DDC was also rewarded for their Dover Town Trail interpretation panels sited throughout the town. The Society, Ivan Green and Joe Harman were consulted about the content. Sadly, many of the panels now need replacing. Kingsley Shipping Ltd also received an award for the renovation of their ‘Old Brewery’ building in Dolphin Passage. At the other extreme the MFI building on the corner of Castle Street and Woolcomber Street was highlighted as an example of what the Society did not want!
In February 1991 the Society held a public meeting entitled ‘Save our sewage; rescue our river’, to discuss the threat to health from unsatisfactory sewage disposal, polluted beaches as well as the neglected appearance and low level of the river. Representatives from Southern Water, the National River Authority, Friends of the Earth and DDC spoke and a lively discussion followed! A survey of the river from Castle Street to Ladywell was carried out and Leo Wright took it upon himself to keep a close eye on the water situation for several years.
The home for the new museum in Market Square opened on 11th March 1991 charging 95p for adults and 50p for children. The imposition of entry charges to the Museum to increase DDC income was opposed by The Society but at least it gained the concession of free entry for local residents (lost in 2012 as it apparently contravened EU rules!).
The transport of nuclear waste through the port, which DDC was powerless to stop, was a cause for concern.
March saw another river clean up at Charlton Green with 25 members of 354 Squadron ATC, Dover Boys’ Grammar CCF and TS Lynx Sea Cadets taking part who were presented with specially commissioned Dover Society shields.
Yet another project commenced in March 1991. In partnership with KCC and Lydden Parish Council work began to reinstate Lydden village pond. The Society planted a willow tree to mark the event. During the next 12 months 25 work sessions totalling 240 man hours were put in. A contractor lined the pond with clay and then the pond bed was manually puddled with straw and clay by volunteers. The project received a Civic Trust Award of £500 and a £450 grant from Shell. Later the Society and Lydden School were awarded the BBC Radio 1 Country File Award. November 1993 saw the completion of the project when we presented a bench seat to the parish council and the final batch of daffodils was planted. The pond has held water continuously since August 1993. Another job well done.
The disastrous decision to route the A20 extension from the M20 over the cliffs and through the town to the Eastern Docks was a bitter disappointment for the Society, which favoured a route round the back of the town via Swingfield to join the A2 rather than cut off the town from its seafront. Dover has paid a heavy price ever since. More amusement arcades were opposed, listing was sought for the Charlton cemetery chapels and successfully urged restoration of the Elms Vale Road tram shelter. We were also anxious to retain the magnificent railwaymen’s war memorial at Marine Station.
About 40 members had a preview of the White Cliffs Experience which the Editor described as ‘an exciting architectural addition to the landscape’.
At the 1991 AGM with membership over 300 Sheila Cope became Membership Secretary when Merril Lilley became Newsletter Editor. Sheila is still doing it after 20 years! In Newsletter 11 Merril welcomed memories of old Dover. Children’s views on Dover, local history book reviews, a series on Dover’s characters and articles by ‘ordinary’ people involved in ‘Working for Dover’ appeared in later editions.
The Society was quick to take up DDC’s scheme to brighten up empty shop windows by arranging for local charitable bodies to mount window displays. The vacant Dickens corner shop in the Market Square was used for five months.
The condition of some listed buildings, especially the former Royal Victoria Hospital and Castle Hill House, exercised the Planning Committee which lobbied DDC who then agreed to inspect the buildings. The proposed Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel and its associated facilities was supported, but with a plea to make it sympathetic to its location and purpose. Most, if not everybody, would agree that the memorial actually built both honours the airmen who defended Britain and fits well into the landscape.
A May Day Dover Pageant was organised by member Mike McFarnell and eight members took part as Druids. Thereafter, members were ‘recruited’ for subsequent pageants, culminating in the event to celebrate the centenary of the first Dover Pageant in 1908.
An unusual extra Society event in May was Conviviality and Conundrums held at the Bay Museum at St. Margaret’s. Forty-two members were divided into two groups - in one group each person had a list of questions and individuals in the other group had one or two answers each. Then they had to socialise to get all the answers, thereby getting to know other members better. After refreshments, roles were reversed. For the next three consecutive years Philomena organised a quiz evening at Dover Museum based on its exhibits with members having to scour the building to find the answers. Needless to say, Philomena managed to stretch not only minds and legs, but also stamina and patience.
Astor School joined the Society as a schools member and three pieces appeared in the Newsletter about their outings to Whinless Down, Western Heights and Cowgate Cemetery.
The Society’s contribution to the arts in 1991 was a concert by the Kent Concert Orchestra at the Town Hall in September.
At the November meeting Paul Watkins, Leader of the District Council, was urged to embark upon a major marketing initiative to attract retail shops concentrating on Cannon Street. In his talk Paul ‘presented an encouraging and positive view of Dover’s future’ stating, ‘It’s not all doom and gloom, things are moving forward’. Oh dear!
DHB’s Western Docks development proposals that promised 4500 jobs were welcomed. Included were a superstore, hotel and shops in a 10 year plan. To safeguard historic buildings from redevelopment, however, the Society applied for Grade 2 listing of three more buildings: the former Harbour Station, which was successful, the Customs watchhouse and the Clock Tower, which were not.
At the 1992 AGM Planning Committee Chairman Adrian Galley retired after four years and was replaced by Ken Wraight. Lin Clackett retired as social secretary and was replaced by Joan Liggett who began her long and much appreciated tenure.
The vexed problem of absentee shop landlords and empty floors above (despite 75% grants available to renovate upper floors) caused frustration, whilst we were saddened by the loss of the distinguished Co-op facade in Biggin Street amid concern about the architecture of its replacement shops.
The first Festival of Dover in May gave the town a boost with a varied programme of heritage, music (from jazz to the Snowdown male voice choir), poetry, films, exhibitions, talks, concerts, children’s workshops and a Teddy Bears’ picnic at Kearsney Abbey. The Society contributed guided walks. This successful venture became an annual event.
Strong links were formed with the KCC/DDC Impact Scheme following its presentation to the October 1992 meeting. Each body would contribute £400,000 a year for 3 years to make high quality improvements to streets and public spaces and to encourage investment in buildings, especially historic buildings. Needless to say, members came up with many suggestions, but priorities were Snargate Street, York St./Townwall St corner and Bench St/New Bridge. The actual projects chosen were the Grand Shaft entrance, the Leisure Centre car park, Army Careers Office (below Mote’s Bulwark), repaving of Bench Street, Snargate Street paving, lighting and buildings facelift, New Bridge, the seafront, the Dour and Priory Station. Reproductions of the leopard bollards were installed in the Stembrook area upgrading and in the Oswald Street passage. Notice was taken of The Society’s reservations regarding planned seafront improvements and support was given to a revised application for new lighting, lawns, hedging, paving and shelters. The Society was represented by Lawrence Gage on the group considering a seafront artwork and he later helped judge the 80 entries for the sculpture. The winner was Ray Smith with his ‘Channel Swimmers on the Crest of a Wave’, which was put in place in December 1995. Impact finished in Dover in March 1996 after 3 years of improvements. The 1996 AGM heard from the Impact speaker that the seafront scheme in partnership with DHB had been completed and DHB’s plan to continue with the rest of the promenade was welcomed (although it never happened). New Bridge and York Street corner were also completed. Victoria Crescent was still in progress and the highway safety scheme for Castle Hill was also awaited. The Town Centre Management scheme was to carry on as a thriving town centre was seen as essential to attract investment; Jeremy Cope represented the Society on the TCM Board until it folded in 2008.
Following the Museum’s Words and Pictures children’s competition, three children’s poems about Dover were printed in the Newsletter, including ‘Dover in the Night’: Roads and traffic Swirling around like a whirlwind in the dark. Car shadows on the pavement. The sea and the beach have purple sunset upon them. Visitors staying in seafront hotels. Cliffs gloating over the sunset. Shop windows reflecting from the car light. Streets are bare, gradually it comes silent except for the sea Sucking on the pebbles and the humming of the rocks. By Alison Hawkins, Age 10, Langdon County Primary School
Following objections to DHB’s plans for a petrol station next to Marine Court, it was withdrawn. DHB was, however, back in the good books with assistance given in the recovery of the Bronze Age Boat when it provided a large mobile crane to lift the pieces, storage facilities in Cambridge Terrace and a 7000 gallon water tank.
The Society submitted a scheme for improved access to the River Dour and an extension of the riverside walk.
Another litter clearance was organised during Environment Week when cadets invited by the Society cleared rubbish from behind Pencester Road shops.
At the 1993 AGM Brigadier Atherton was elected President following the death of the Countess of Guilford. Lawrence Gage became Planning Committee Chairman; after 5 years as Treasurer Ken Berry stepped down and was replaced by Jennifer Gerrard whilst Jenny Olpin became Press and Publicity Officer and Bruce Lilley Advertising Manager. Having resigned from the Executive, Philomena Kennedy was made a Vice President. Issues considered during the year were submissions to the new Local Plan, the future of Marine Station and Dover Patrol Memorial, Royal Victoria Hospital Housing Scheme, architecture of the new Co-op in Biggin St., quality of shop fronts and problems with the proposed Whitfield village by-pass to Sandwich (A256).
The proposed sewage treatment facility at Broomfield Bank - Eurotunnel’s vacated car park site off Folkestone Road - proved controversial. The Society preferred the Shakespeare Cliff platform site which, however, proved impractical. The new facility would be a massive underground box which would be landscaped and unseen apart from an access road. It would discharge into the sea via a 2.5 km long outfall from Shakespeare Beach, meeting EC regulations but with primary treatment only. The project would take three 3 years and cost £24m.
During 1993 Environment Week restoration of Dover’s ‘leopard bollards’ by the Society began in various parts of the town. St. Mary’s School pupils assisted a team of four in removing old paint down to the bare metal, priming and painting the bollards black and finally gilding the leopards’ heads and bollard tops. After sessions every Saturday from March to May the job was finished and Joe Harman’s dream realised. The annual clean-up assisted by cadets concentrated on litter in the South Kent College area.
The Society reached a new milestone by August 1993 when membership topped 400.
Members Budge Adams and David Atwood initiated a campaign to move the Charles Rolls statue away from the seafront toilets to a more dignified location in The Gateway gardens close to its pre-war site. It was eventually moved and rededicated in June 1995.
The topic for the January 1994 meeting was the future of local government with the options of the status quo or replacement of KCC by district councils combining into larger unitary authorities. After presentations by KCC, DDC, University of Kent at Canterbury, Kent Association of Local Councils and the MP, the opinions of the five discussion groups informed the Society’s submission to the Local Government Commissioner. This was in favour of the status quo albeit with some improvements. The eventual outcome was not welcomed - retention of KCC but with the Medway Towns becoming a separate unitary authority.
At the 1994 AGM Terry Sutton, already a Vice President and having been co-opted onto the Executive during the year, was formally elected and became Press Secretary. Jeremy Cope became a co-Vice Chairman with John Gerrard.
Members were asked via a questionnaire in the Newsletter about their vision for the future of Dover. The conclusions made interesting reading at the time and perhaps even more so now in the light of what has happened since! Whilst the Impact improvements, White Cliffs Business Park and Western Dock development were welcomed, a town master plan was said to be needed, rather than ad hoc planning approvals site by site - in other words a proactive approach by DDC. The Russell Street area in particular needed to be redeveloped as a whole, including the removal of the bus garage. Public car parks should be used to attract customers rather than raise revenue (in order to compete with free out of town parking), lorries banned from the town centre unless delivering, a new use for the redundant telephone exchange, the buildings demolished in front of the St. Martin le Grand ruins to create a park and a plea for the demolition of Burlington House! Also on the wish list were better shopping facilities, more people living in the town centre, streets to be cleaner and more attractive, new attractions such as a bowling alley, skating rink, a decent theatre, a facelift for Connaught Park as well as a maritime museum and cruise liner terminal. Finally, Dover with its many heritage assets should be promoted as a tourist town and not only as a port. Urged also was a review of the town centre one way system designed originally to help accommodate the freight vehicles to and from the docks (overtaken later by the A2/Jubilee Way bypass and the A20/Townwall Street). The Society included the need for a Russell Street masterplan in its submission regarding the new Local Plan.
At the same time editor Merril Lilley presented her vision of Dover in 2020. Langdon Cliffs Visitor Centre would be busy with tourists; most of the 2,000 passengers from a gigantic cruise liner in the harbour would be in the town on guided tours after taking the monorail into the town centre, viewing the Bronze Age Boat in the Museum, appreciating Dover’s history in the Heritage Centre, visiting the Old Town Gaol, enjoying the attractive small shops as well as the vast shopping centre at the Western Docks; others would be resting in the open air cafés. Hotels were fully booked, including the new 5 star hotel on the castle cliff and the smaller hotel above the Grand Shaft. The Drop Redoubt with its new entrance was open to the public after extensive renovation. The attractive promenade and the clean beach were crowded whilst sailing and windsurfing were on offer at the water sports centre. At the Whitfield activity centre tenpin bowling, ice skating, indoor tennis and squash could be enjoyed whilst the commemorative Millennium Monument in the Western Docks towered over the town. Time is running out for Merril’s vision to become a reality!
A Town Trail Quiz devised by Philomena Kennedy was amongst the wide range of events during Festival of Dover week in 1994, whilst the Project Group helped Crabble Corn Mill with its annual tidy.
The reopening of the White Cliffs Hotel as a luxury hotel, renamed The Churchill, was warmly welcomed, but there were concerns about the Harbour Board’s plan for a 60 bed hotel in the Camden Crescent car park. It did not happen. Considerable interest was shown in the future of Old Park Barracks, which was surplus to Ministry of Defence requirements.
Society and National Trust representatives met to discuss the proposed visitor centre for Langdon Cliffs. The Society’s view was that any scheme should not adversely affect the unique atmosphere of the cliff top and, therefore, felt unable to support the scheme which was, however, approved. Planning Committee Chairman, Lawrence Gage, assisted the judging of the architectural competition. The winning design was mainly of wood with a turf covered roof, making it hardly visible from the sea.
Thinking ahead to the Millennium celebrations, the Society organised an open meeting at the Town Hall to gauge the interest in applying for money from the national Millennium Fund of £66 million to finance a local project and, if so, what? There was no shortage of suggestions, including the radical idea of a modern pharos on the Western Height’s possibly incorporating a revolving restaurant, conference centre and concert hall. As a result a working party was formed to prepare a bid. A Millennium Fund grant application was submitted in 1995. The major components were a national maritime museum, an institute for maritime development, a Millennium Pharos and a cruise liner terminal, welcome to Britain tourist centre, sea training activity centre, transport links to the attractions and a big event to welcome the new millennium. It was unsuccessful, but undaunted, it was suggested that other lottery grants should be sought to achieve the Millennium objectives as separate projects. The Society would apply to regenerate the Western Heights as a managed nature reserve with a Millennium Pharos beaming light across the Channel. Unfortunately, the proposal received no support from DDC despite support from English Heritage and English Nature and so the scheme was dropped.
Travelling by hovercraft, 45 members spent an enjoyable hour on the Goodwin Sands watching Morris dancers, looking round the souvenir stalls, drinking canned beer or participating in elaborate picnics complete with tables and chairs! This successful event was repeated the following year.
The fifth annual Society clean-up was in the shopping precinct where 38 cadets removed stickers from street furniture and then touched up the paintwork. This was followed during Environment Week by the Society organising a clean up of Shakespeare Beach assisted enthusiastically by 60 pupils from Aycliffe School who received the Society’s grateful thanks in the form of a framed certificate.
A Society member, Mrs Gillian Janaway, was congratulated on winning the Dover Express competition to name the Shakespeare Cliff platform created from the chalk spoil of the Channel Tunnel - Samphire Hoe.
The October 1994 meeting considered Dover’s economic past and future. Budge Adams reminded the audience of a busy, prosperous town with a garrison, industries, many shops, liners calling, etc. Attracting tourists and industry was the hope for the future.
Various planning matters kept the Society on its toes: the planning brief for Old Park (the Society suggested a regional sports centre) and the water sports centre study, a DDC workshop on a sport and recreation strategy, the new Snargate Street clubhouse for the Sea Angling Association (Bluebirds), DHB’s plans for its Cruise Liner Terminal and opposing DDC’s wish to demolish the Kearsney Abbey tea room, a listed building (the billiards room of the demolished mansion). White Cliffs Business Park Phase 2 was welcomed provided it was for business and not for more retail outlets. Good news was planning permission for a transport/travellers’ centre at Whitfield catering for freight, coach crews and passengers which would create 200 jobs (part of phase 1 of White Cliffs Business Park) - but it never happened. The Society pressed successfully for the repair of the historic gutter in Laureston Place on the former turnpike road to Deal. A proposal to convert Burlington House into flats was strongly opposed - demolition should be its future! Use of Archcliffe Fort by the Emmaus organisation for the homeless was supported. At long last a route for the dualling of the A2 from Lydden Hill to the Eastern Docks was announced, but the Society had to oppose the proposed route. It never happened anyway!
The enthusiastic Project Group spent a day helping the East Kent Railway volunteers clear brushwood and erecting new fencing.
Another year and another clean up - along the river from Cherry Tree to Stembrook. The winning cadet team received a dartboard! During Environment Week the Project Group with cadets cleaned up the welcoming signs to Dover on the key approaches to town.
Leo Wright was, as ever, keeping a close eye on seawater and beach quality as well as levels of water in the river and lakes. Described as a turning point was the inclusion of the Dour by the National Rivers Authority (later absorbed into the Environment Agency) in ‘rivers in need of urgent medical attention’. Almost all of the Society’s demands were being examined or were underway i.e. river flow affected by water extraction, water demand in danger of exceeding supply, closing down some boreholes upstream and opening others downstream, flow being monitored and no new extraction licences. The NRA was also examining all housing developments and commenting on water availability.
A contribution was made to the £40,000 appeal for the Dover History Project to catalogue all the old Borough records going back to the 13th century held at the KCC Centre for Kent Studies.
The Society was well represented at the DDC public consultation on long term plans for the St. James’ area. The master plan included two four storey blocks of flats, demolition of the MFI building on the Castle Street/Woolcomber Street corner for housing, demolition of the bus garage to provide a public square focal point with cafes and restaurants, enlargement of the existing multi-storey car park, a new pedestrianised area by the river, a boulevard effect in Townwall Street and a hotel on the south side. All this was welcomed by the Society but it urged inclusion of Burlington House demolition! In the meantime relief was expressed when the application to convert Burlington House into flats was refused.
The new Duke of York pub at the Guston roundabout was opposed as ‘phoney nostalgia.’ Evening and night closure of Langdon Cliffs was also opposed but unsuccessfully. Members were asked to complete a questionnaire on the future of Connaught Park - access, parking, sport and other recreational uses. A good response produced a long wish list! Disappointment came when DDC turned down a suggestion for a sports centre at Old Park.
During Tree Week 50 trees were planted at Broadlees Farm assisted by pupils from the Duke of York’s School.
There was no let up in projects. At Melbourne School a play area was redesigned and some trees were planted, helped by pupils. Cadets conducted a photographic survey of town centre trees for DDC using disposable cameras, which made a pleasant change from litter clearing. Unfortunately, John Owen’s traditional camera had no film in it! During Environmental Week Walter’s former shoe shop in King Street was cleaned up and its window used to advertise the Dover Festival and its Spirit of the Sea theme - it only lasted eight weeks due to vandals smashing the window.
The April 1996 edition of the Newsletter carried this very special offer: ‘In recognition of the great interest which members of The Dover Society have shown in the discovery of the Bronze Age Boat the opportunity of a short trip is being offered in the newly-restored vessel. The Committee (whose members have been busy practising paddling skills in order to gain a Certificate of Proficiency) will take turns in crewing the boat with Lt-Cdr John Owen, Chairman of the Projects Sub-Committee, as captain. To take advantage of this totally unrepeatable offer you should assemble on the Snargate Street side of Wellington Dock between 9.30 and 11.30am. Be prepared to wait as only ten passengers can be taken on each trip. Please wear waterproof clothing and a life-jacket (just in case!). Obviously all trips must be completed by midday on Monday 1st April.’
During the year some members joined in a White Cliffs Countryside Partnership (WCCP) tidying up session of Cowgate Cemetery. Owned by DDC, it was in the care of WCCP with a policy of containment, preserving its status as a wildlife habitat. Little did we know what this would lead to!
At the AGM Jeremy Cope became Chairman of Planning following Lawrence Gage’s resignation over a difference of opinion on the strategy for improving Dover’s prospects. Awards were made to Sanctuary Housing for its renovation of the former Royal Victoria Hospital, to Impact for Snargate Street improvements and DHB/Impact for the upgrade of part of the seafront. 1996 saw a rare increase in members’ subscriptions to £6 a year or £10 for joint membership; 17 years later they are still the same - what fantastic value! Arjo Wiggins received a special Society award for its new gas driven power plant at Buckland Paper Mill. A free organ recital was held at Dover College Chapel in May.
The Spring Conference of the Kent Federation of Amenity Societies was hosted once again by the Society.
1996 saw a record number of summer outings, which included a trial of outings for small groups - Chatham Dockyard, Kew Gardens, a French trip plus small groups to the Coastguard Station, Port Control, Buckland Paper Mill and a Swale barge trip. Over the 25 year life of the Society a fantastic variety of trips have been organised - annually to France, often to London (including Buckingham Palace, the Bank of England, the Houses of Parliament and the last Royal Tournament at Earls Court), several houses and gardens, not to mention more unusual visits such as hovercraft trips to the Goodwin Sands and visiting Dungeness Power Station.
On the planning front 45 factory outlets at Whitfield were opposed whilst supporting a similar scheme for the Western Docks. More amusement arcades were also resisted. Business park development of the former Channel Tunnel Farthingloe village site was resisted because it was in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, not in the draft Local Plan, poor road access and two other business parks were not fully used. Despite this, DDC approved the application provided it was completed by 1999. It wasn’t and has never happened! Following the closure of Richborough Power Station there was a move to resite the impressive miner’s statue in the Market Square but this was opposed by the Society which preferred the mining village of Aylesham. A system of cycle routes was supported despite many obvious difficulties and a spine cycle route from River to the sea with offshoots to the rest of the town was plotted and discussed with DDC.
Dover’s Hidden Fortress
October 1996 saw the launch at Dover Museum of Dover’s Hidden Fortress by John Peverley, published by the Society. Civic leaders were out in force plus David Shaw MP who had first suggested the book after hearing John Peverley’s presentation to the Society in April 1991 about the Western Heights fortifications, his involvement in attempts to secure their preservation and the responsibilities of various bodies to tackle the very difficult task of restoring the fortifications and opening them to the public. Inspired by this, the Society decided to publish a history of the Western Heights and their present neglect. The project attracted £1000 from Eurotunnel, £77 from DHB and £100 from Hammonds. Included in this modest booklet was a section by Kirk Alexander on the formation of the White Cliffs Countryside Project in 1989 and its work to date. In only six months 800 copies were sold. Many reprints later it is still going strong having sold over 3000 copies.
In the same month, following the exciting discovery of the Bronze Age Boat in 1992, Christine Waterman, Museum Curator, gave a talk on the history of lotteries and the harrowing experience of the Museum’s successful bid for preservation of the boat, which was due back in Dover in 1997 to be ‘moored’ in its purpose-built gallery.
A shops survey from Bench Street to the Town Hall was undertaken to which 100 businesses responded. 45% declared a significant increase in trade when cruise ships were in port, but far more crew than passengers! Members then came up with ideas to attract cruise passengers - welcomers to be more knowledgeable about Dover’s attractions, better publicity at the Cruise Terminal, a circular bus tour (open top summer bus tours actually started in May 97), acceptance of foreign currency and opening shops on Sundays when liners were in.
Unknown Warrior plaque
Urged by member David Atwood, the Society, with the agreement of DHB, provided a plaque to the Unknown Warrior whose body was returned from France via Dover on its way to Westminster Abbey in November 1920. Costing £329 the plaque was placed in the Cruise Terminal reception area where cruise passengers would see it. It was unveiled in 1997 by the Chief of the Defence Staff and contains the following words: ‘Near this spot on 20 November 1920 the body of the Unknown Warrior was brought ashore from HMS Verdun on the way to its final resting place at Westminster Abbey. The Dover Society 1997’. Now, following the annual Remembrance Service at the impressive Railwaymen’s War Memorial in the Cruise Terminal, those attending move to the Unknown Warrior plaque where the Society’s Chairman, flanked by very smart, uniformed pupils from the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, tells the story and places a wreath watched by the many standard bearers of the Royal British Legion and more than a hundred attendees.
During this period the Newsletter carried a fascinating series of interviews with Budge Adams about his life and memories of Dover.
Worried by drought and with only 27% of average rainfall in 1996, river water levels were at their lowest ever. A meeting at Kearsney Manor was convened, chaired by the MP. Following presentations by the water company and DDC, it was clear that water pricing did not include anything for conservation of the Dour.
The Society has proved the Entente Cordiale alive and well over the years. In March 96 the Society welcomed L’Association France Grande Bretagne group at the Churchill Hotel and some joined the Society’s trip to Cote d’Opale. Back in 1991 the Accueil Organisation and the Welcome to French Cities Association had welcomed a group from The Society and then in May 1996 we welcomed a group from them at the Town Hall. Later the same year five members were invited to Calais for a very interesting day. Members have since attended three of their functions. Subsequently all three societies were welcome to attend each others meetings and excursions. One French family attended the 96 Feast and seven Society members with 28 from Dover Choral Society attended the 1998 New Year dinner of the Association France-Grande Bretagne in Calais with the Choral Society performing. The French link was renewed in 2006 when it was agreed to ‘twin’ with Les Amis du Chateau in Condette near Boulogne. This group was created in 1993 to further cultural, artistic and historic interests in Condette and around Boulogne. A Society delegation visited in November 2006 and in June 2007 13 members of the Society entertained 47 members of Les Amis to lunch in the Town Hall. Disappointingly, only five members visited Condette in August.
There was concern over the neglected state of Bench Street and the Society attended a meeting with DDC, TCM and shopkeepers. This led to a Society meeting suggesting that empty shops should be tidied up, shopkeepers encouraged to take pride, convert some to housing, cheaper parking, discourage more charity shops, unused upper floors of shops should be flats, put murals in empty shops and make use of them as a teenage centre, art gallery etc. Quality housing on the former Castlemount School site was, however, welcomed; the later amendment, however, to include three blocks of flats was opposed, but further revision and tree screening made it acceptable. The possibility of an art trail on the cliffs was resisted. There was no objection to the proposed removal of the 1916 iron walkway on to Admiralty Pier despite its listing, but the application was withdrawn.
Cadets were busy in March at St Martin’s Emmaus at Archcliffe Fort restoring living and storage accommodation as well as clearing litter and planting a beech hedge. A silver trophy was presented. Beachwatch 97 involved 13 Society volunteers collecting, (60 sacks full plus large items), identifying and listing all the pollutants on Shakespeare Beach. The neglected state of shrub beds on the A20 at East Cliff contrasted badly with the well maintained DHB seafront. The Department of Transport lacked resources to do anything about it apparently, but agreed to DHB, KCC and the Society doing something. As a result volunteers cleared loads of weeds in two half day sessions.
Sheila Cope, the long serving Membership Secretary, was able to report a record membership of 440 at the AGM where there was talk of the Society ‘going on the worldwide web’ - whatever that was, some people thought at the time!
Three presentations to the Society were of particular interest. Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust told us of the biggest dig in Dover for 20 years on the site of a new petrol station in Townwall Street. Remains of hovels possibly occupied by 13th century castle builders had been found with 40,000 pieces of pottery and two skeletons. The second was on future expensive plans for the castle including a hotel and conference centre in the former New Officers’ Mess and improved town/castle links. They did not happen! The third presentation was by the new town clerk and Mayor on the first year of Dover Town Council (DTC) since gaining parish council status which the Society had campaigned for (replacing the 1974 Charter Trustees). Friendly relations had been established and Jack Woolford was attending council and committee meetings.
The 1998 AGM saw the end of an era when Jack Woolford, Chairman since the founding of the Society ten years earlier, retired and was replaced by Jeremy Cope. President Brigadier Maurice Atherton presented Jack with a Philomena Kennedy painting and the Newsletter Editor wrote, ‘The contribution of Jack during his 10 years as Chairman is incalculable. He has fulfilled his role as Chairman with admirable tenacity, strength and aplomb; his controlling presence will be sorely missed.’ Jack continued to make a valuable contribution as Chairman of the Planning Committee. Mike Weston took over as Treasurer from Jennifer Gerrard and some chap called Derek Leach joined the Executive.
On the planning front views on the government’s Integrated Transport Strategy were submitted - car sharing, better public transport and cycle routes. Objections were made to various plans for mobile phone masts in sensitive locations. ‘Why can’t companies share and not make them so ugly’ was the cry. The return of Woolworth to the town was welcomed provided the GPO facade was retained, but both the Society and DDC lost this one eventually - the old facade did not fit Woolworth’s store style. DDC was lobbied about the poor state of London Road beyond Ladywell. Unfortunately, a wish to see Camden Crescent fully restored following war damage came to nothing.
DHB was very active on the development front with plans for a second Cruise Liner Terminal, expansion of the marina, the third phase of De Bradelei Wharf and the purchase of Southern House. Whilst we objected to its proposed demolition of Marine Court on the seafront (which was subsequently withdrawn), its acquisition of Old Park was welcomed, but there were reservations about its planning application. ‘Why not dedicate the tree-lined slopes of Old Park for the use of townspeople?’ queried Jeremy. Everything comes to those that wait for in 2011 the slopes became a nature reserve!
In commenting upon the latest draft of DDC’s local plan the Society urged that AONB status should take precedence over development proposals and archaeological investigation of development sites should be mandatory. The adequacy of the water supply should be considered and the need for any more high quality offices (in the Western Docks) was questioned.
When 15 street signs were repainted by five Society volunteers on Saturdays and Sundays throughout March, Town Mayor Gordon Cowan commented that ‘the town of Dover is fortunate to have such a group of local citizens who are dedicated to the improvement and to the heritage of the area... a shining example of civic pride.’ DDC paid for materials and gave the Society £100. Another clean up by cadets of Shakespeare Beach produced 80 sacks of litter plus larger items and members of Archers Court Youth Centre helped with another beach clean up. A different challenge for the Projects Group came when help was requested from the Abingdon Memorial Trust responsible for the restored St. Edmund’s Chapel. A day was spent clearing gutters and soakaways from years of vegetation growth and litter. Gutters and downpipes were then prepared for painting the following spring.
After an outstanding career in the Civil Service Sir Clifford Jarrett had been appointed Chairman of DHB which he said was his most enjoyable job. Following his death, Lady Jarrett, his family and friends asked the Society to organise a suitable memorial to one of Dover’s most talented sons. A bronze geographer plaque on a concrete base sited on the Prince of Wales Pier was agreed and Lady Jarrett unveiled it in April 1998.
We can let our hair down sometimes! Four members volunteered to be the Society’s relay team in the Christmas Lights beer run. Each team member, dressed as wine waiters, had to run from Market Square to St. Mary’s, carrying a tray with a glass of beer then drinking the beer and handing over to the next waiter who ran back in similar fashion. Our team did not win, but it was fun!
The Society was divided over a member’s suggestion to resite the Zeebrugge Bell from the Town Hall to the lighthouse on the Prince of Wa