At the 1999 AGM we said goodbye and paid tribute to two Society stalwarts, Jennifer and John Gerrard who were moving out of the area following John’s retirement. To remind them of Dover they were presented with two Victorian prints of Dover and a photograph of Connaught Park. We heard that the thrice yearly Newsletter was costing £2400 a year, although offset by £500 worth of advertisements and a donation of £400 from Pfizer. During the past year donations had been made to St. Mary’s Bells restoration fund, Crabble Corn Mill, Christmas tree lights, the carnival programme, the 1999 Dover Pageant (at which the Society was well represented as usual), Countdown to Millennium Fund, Buckland League of Friends and Dover College Music Dept, (in lieu of a fee for our Christmas Feast entertainment). The AGM was followed by Jonathan Sloggett talking about the future of the port.
‘Operation looking fine’ was the grand title for yet another litter clearance by cadets - this time on Castle Hill.
Yet another proposed reorganisation of local government - the third in 30 years - had to be considered, including Regional Development Agencies not directly elected with the South East Region stretching from Dover to Oxford, which the Society thought made no geographical, economic or historic sense. Also proposed were annual elections, polling stations at supermarkets, elected mayors and single tier unitary authorities. The Society preferred the return of power and resources from central government to county and district councils. Not included in our official submission were committee members’ comments like ‘the road to hell’, ‘big on promises’ and ‘short on action’.
Locally we welcomed the Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme in the London Road Conservation Area (left hand side), but objected to Lidl moving into the MFI site as being out of character in the Castle Street conservation area. With Buckland Paper Mill closing down, the Society applied for the listing of the mill’s Crabble Hill facade and the clock tower, but it was refused. Residents of Victoria Crescent received a Society award for the exterior refurbishment of their properties.
Budge Adams paid a Newsletter tribute to Philomena following her death in October 1999. The Society later celebrated her life and contribution to the Society by donating an annual art prize to Dover Girls’ Grammar School where Philomena had taught. It was first awarded in July 2002 when the winner, chosen by her peers, was presented with £25 art materials. The school was presented with a memorial plaque and two of Philomena’s paintings donated by members.
As part of the Millennium celebrations sixth formers were invited to enter an essay competition. The topic was ‘Discuss ways in which Dover town could build upon its historic past to benefit the town in the next century’. In December 1999 the winner, Amy Packman of Dover Girls’ Grammar School, was presented with a £50 book token and £100 of books for the school.
2000 Accounts of Dover’s elaborate Millennium celebrations on 31 December and 1 January appeared in the Millennium issue of the Newsletter in April. Surprisingly, Jack Woolford’s talk in January, entitled The First Millennium, was his first to the Society.
Millennium Plaques Two years previously, Terry Sutton’s suggestion to commemorate the Millennium by providing and erecting a number of commemorative Society plaques was agreed, but soon hit insurance problems. Undaunted, Sheila and Jeremy Cope set about producing 10 plaques costing £225 each. Their efforts were rewarded when the first two were erected in February 2000: in Taswell Street, commemorating the first bomb to be dropped in Britain on Christmas Eve 1914 and on the TSB/Lloyds Bank (now Dover Gateway) building in Castle Street, celebrating the last shell to fall on Dover during the Second World War. The Town Mayor did the honours in Taswell Street and the Chairman of DDC in Castle Street. Others followed commemorating: the town’s instruments of punishment, use of the old Market Hall as a temporary mortuary for those killed in the 1918 Zeebrugge Raid, William Burgess (painter and author), Philip Yorke (Lord Chancellor), Lord Warden Hotel (used by Napoleon III), the Bronze Age Boat discovery site and Charles Dickens who lodged in Camden Crescent.. The tenth plaque commemorating the site of Dover’s public gallows was finally erected in 2002 on the Eagle pub after resolving a number of difficulties. When all the plaques were in place an accompanying plaque trail leaflet was produced. Financial assistance and practical help came from DDC, DTC, DHB, Lloyds/TSB and an anonymous donor.
November saw the launch of Collected Memories of a Century as part of the Society’s Millennium celebrations. Merril Lilley, Budge Adams and Derek Leach created Triangle Publications in order to publish this book of memories of Dover previously published as articles in the Newsletter. Whilst the Society provided no funding, any profit was for Society funds. It was a sell out.
Society members also bought three flagstones at £145 each for the Millennium path around the new Pencester bandstand, which was finally completed with 100 flagstones in 2001. Each stone was inscribed with an historic Dover event.
The Society acted as a catalyst to bring together interested parties in an attempt to improve the London Road area and offered congratulations to the owner of the former Buckland Wesleyan Church which he had restored and opened as the King’s Hall.
Some members were invited to the opening of the purpose-built Bronze Age Boat gallery containing the excavated and preserved portion of the 3600 year old boat. The Society had donated £1250 to the trust fund set up to save, restore and maintain the craft.
A flood of consultation documents from KCC and DDC deluged the Planning Committee and Executive. One gave three options to be considered for the St. James’ area redevelopment: either inclusion of a factory outlet or a superstore or a mixed development of high quality housing, restaurant and pubs - the last being favoured by the Society. The eventual DDC planning brief did not stipulate a superstore but that’s what emerged as an essential anchor tenant! There was also a strange proposal for a funicular railway from Maison Dieu car park via an underpass to cross Maison Dieu Road, up Godwyne Road to a tunnel under the castle moat, but the Society preferred a glazed lift from the sports centre up the castle cliff. As always, many grand ideas, but came to nothing.
Cowgate Cemetery John Owen retired as projects leader after many years and many successful projects. With nobody prepared to take on the role, Barry Late agreed to coordinate projects with different leaders for each. A brainstorming session produced ideas for new projects - sponsorship of roundabouts and flower beds, restoration of the Gateway gardens fountain and even renovation of rundown properties. These ideas were soon overtaken by the Cowgate Cemetery project. This was prompted by two articles on Cowgate in the Newsletter - one by Paul Hadaway of the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership and the other by Derek Leach, following a guided walk round Cowgate led by member Martyn Webster. The Society was challenged to help with maintaining the closed Victorian cemetery as a haven for wild life, but also respecting it as a burial ground. Following a site meeting with WCCP we agreed to take on the maintenance of one of the eight sections, although once a power strimmer was employed progress was much quicker and by 2002 the Society was maintaining four sections. Two teams of volunteers each working once a month were formed with a third team to record all the (legible) headstones except the 400 previously recorded by Mrs De Bourbel. Whilst DDC held a full list of burials there was no plan. 7624 bodies were interred from 1837 with up to 12 bodies per grave. Even fallen headstones were lifted temporarily to expose well-preserved inscriptions. In 2003 the Society provided the historical text for an interpretation panel at the cemetery and contributed £100 toward the cost. By 2004 the whole two acre cemetery was being maintained and the recording of inscriptions was completed after 3 years. In addition maps of the eight plots were made with the location and grave number of each recorded headstone. In addition the information was donated to the museum and a second book of maps was presented to DDC. The Kent Family History Society also made the information available on microfiche. The incredible maintenance project, coordinated by Jeremy Cope, continues.
Although a closed cemetery, the final burial occurred in 2006 when William Ebenezer Petchey, the last surviving member of the family of sextons who had maintained the cemetery for three generations was interred in the family plot.
2001 Budge Adams project 2001 started sadly with the death of Budge Adams in January at the age of 91. At his 90th birthday celebrations he said that his best present was having his driving licence renewed for another three years, but sadly he did not make full use of it! The Newsletter contained tributes by the Chairman and both Vice Chairmen - a good man with a deep and lasting love of Dover who loved to look back but was also forward thinking; a man of strong views who expressed them. Budge maintained that he needed to live until he was 120 to do all that he wanted to do; it was not to be, but he had a jolly good try!
Budge’s collection of over 100 books, maps and memorabilia plus more than 2000 slides were donated by the Adams family to the Society. This became quite a project. First, everything was catalogued over one winter. Then, in order to make them available to the public, the books and maps went on permanent loan to the library and the slides to the museum. Many of the slides were taken by Budge whilst others were borrowed and copied. Society volunteers, Bob Hollingsbee and Derek Leach, then scanned the slides onto the museum’s database. The final stage was to publish a selection in book form as a tribute to Budge. Dover Tribute appeared in 2003. It proved immensely popular; members received a free copy and the public bought the rest within three weeks, making a reprint necessary, which also sold out.
DHB produced a highly controversial Westport project plan to cope with the expected increase in traffic by 2015. This was to be to the west of the Admiralty Pier with the loss of Shakespeare Beach.
At the 2001 AGM Jeremy relinquished the Chair after three years and Terry Sutton took over. Bill Naylor replaced Leo Wright as secretary who retired after 10 years at the age of 85. Hugh Gordon took over projects and Jack was made a Vice President.
Triangle Publications, now without Budge, decided to publish another book, entitled Dover and the Monarchy 1066-1688, based upon Ivan Green’s Newsletter articles which was launched in October. This was soon followed by a third book researched and written by members Julia and Peter Burville called White Cliffs of Dover, which told the story of the community that lived in cave dwellings in the famous cliffs, including some of Peter Burville’s ancestors.
The Society did not take kindly to the hotel eventually built on the site of the imposing Marine Court, describing it as of industrial design, concrete blocks, factory-type roofing with a cylindrical attachment resembling an industrial water tower! Plans for the conversion of the closed White Cliffs Experience into the Discovery Centre housing the library and adult education centre with a cafe and theatre were welcomed.
2002 On the planning front plans to dual the A2 from Lydden Hill to Dover, already 25 years behind schedule, were resurrected, but it was not to happen before 2008 - and never has happened despite the desperate need to relieve Townwall Street of lorry congestion and pollution. Welcome news was DDC’s Dover Town Centre Conservation Area Character Appraisal - analysing the wealth of listed buildings and the potential for enhancement. Plans for development on the Western Heights were opposed by the Society and rejected by DDC. John Peverley had previously saved the moats in the 1950s from the Borough Council’s plan to infill with domestic rubbish! An invitation from DHB to join the Port Consultative Committee was accepted.
The Society joined the campaign ‘to save our public loos’ which were under threat of closure due to DDC cuts. We also objected to the 45% cut in the museum’s budget with curators reduced from three to one, fewer custodians and the loss of temporary exhibitions. Tourism staff were reduced from five to one. Even the Town Hall was under threat. A good piece of news was that the idea of a riverside walk, first mooted by the New Dover Group 40 years before, had been taken up by KCC and DTC. In despair about some of Dover’s eyesores, the Society decided to shame them in a letter to the local newspapers, naming Burlington House, Woolworth, Premier Inn, B&Q, the Townwall St/Bench Street corner, some King Street shops , the derelict Crypt site and rubbish behind shops in Biggin Street. On the other hand De Bradelei Wharf was praised.
2003 A plan to convert Buckland Flour Mill into flats could open up its millpond as part of the riverside walk; however, the application was rejected and when revised and represented there was no public access. The planning brief for Buckland Paper Mill was also released with a mixture of housing and employment plus access to the river hidden for so many years underneath the mill buildings. We waited eagerly to see the site redeveloped, but had to wait until 2011 for a start!
With a new managing director DHB did an about turn on its idea for a Westport outside the present harbour. Instead it proposed a new 30 year masterplan to cope with a doubling of traffic - first maximising use of the Eastern Docks and then redeveloping the Western Docks when necessary.
River Dour Steering Group The Society asked DTC to finance a survey of the river to identify opportunities for improvement and how best to achieve them. The report raised concerns not only about rubbish but also pollution from upstream. The river could become a real asset to the town and for tourists. Suggestions for improvement included a riverside walk. Consequently the Society lobbied DDC to form a steering committee (to include DDC, DTC, Town Centre Management, River Parish Council, Temple Ewell Parish Council, the Society, the Environment Agency and Folkestone and Dover Water Company) charged with preparing an improvement action plan for the whole river. As a result, the River Dour Steering Group (RDSG) was formed to coordinate, lobby and fundraise. Progress was bogged down for some time over a constitution that would involve local authorities, a government agency and private companies. This was resolved by not having a constitution at all, but by being a coordinating, lobbying and monitoring group with any work or expenditure being in the hands of the appropriate member organisations. With the Dour gaining ‘main river’ status from April 2005, the Environment Agency became much more involved, being responsible for the river’s biodiversity and for flood risk management, but not for litter clearance. It soon proposed six priority projects and 16 others including a scheme to control litter, need for a river warden, a feasibility study for the removal of obstructions to allow fish to travel the whole length of the Dour, narrowing of some sections to increase the speed of flow and to increase the diversity of flora and fauna. Volunteers were allowed back into the river to clear litter provided they were supervised by WCCP employees after having been stopped by the Environment Agency on health and safety grounds. A substantial grant of £8,500 from People’s Place covered the cost of tools and waders for the volunteers, tools, signposts for a somewhat tortuous riverside walk route, information leaflets and interpretation boards. The Society also lobbied DDC as the planning authority for sympathetic development of the river’s banks as and when opportunities arose. Later, in 2008, despite withdrawing from the RDSG, DTC ‘adopted’ the Charlton Green riverside area with the permission of the owner and proceeded to landscape the area, install seats and to sponsor an interpretation panel for which the Society provided the historical text.
The Group suffered a setback when cuts in WCCP funding threatened the monthly litter clearances by volunteers; however, whilst we tried to find alternative funding for the future, we, together with DTC and River Parish Council, found the money for the 2012/2013 year.
The Society organised a series of three free concerts at Astor College sponsored by DTC and featuring several pianists, including world classYuri Tykhonenko. These recitals led to the formation of the Dover Music Society to give local young musicians opportunities to perform in public and to attract international artists to Dover. The inaugural concert was held at the Town Hall in 2004 with local pianist Oliver Poole, aged 13, and a Russian violinist performing to great acclaim.
Continuing its campaign to improve the look of London Road, the Society issued certificates of congratulation to 11 businesses between Bridge Street and Buckland Bridge for improvements to their facades. A London Road residents’ association was also formed.
2004 The April Newsletter paid tribute to two members following their deaths, Ivan Green, aged 91, and Leo Wright, 88. Leo came to Dover to teach German and French at Dover College. He was a founder member of the Society and its secretary for ten years, taking the lead in our links with Calais, the Dover Festival and concerns about the river and water supply. Ivan came to Dover in the 1960s to teach technology at Archers Court and was well known for pupils building go-karts, telescopes and hovercraft. Many of us knew him for his many illustrated lectures on local history. As a cofounder of the Film Festival, he presented his ‘Then and Now’ photographs of Dover every year. Ivan produced 23 books between 1935 and 2001, including teaching aids for technical students. His Book of Dover was the first about Dover for 50 years and Dover and the Monarchy was his last in 2001.
At the 2004 AGM Derek Leach was elected Chairman with Jeremy Cope Vice Chairman.
A new initiative was an attempt to soften the look of the pedestrian precinct with a number of trees. Society members contributed £1,000 and DTC £1,500. Only one trader contributed to the appeal to businesses. Progress was slow because of siting problems. Eventually, sites were agreed that did not obstruct the view of CCTV cameras, but it proved impossible to overcome the problem of interfering with underground utility services and the only solution was to put the trees in planters. By 2006 after three years of frustration all ten trees were planted, but sadly most were soon vandalised although eventually replaced by DDC.
The closure by the National Trust of Langdon Cliffs at night due to antisocial behaviour was vehemently opposed to no avail. Having opposed the original site for a new watersports centre, the new site was welcomed. The Society participated in the consultations over the wish list compiled by the Dover Pride consortium, (comprising KCC, DDC, SE England Development Agency, DHB, Government of the SE and the East Kent Partnership), but was highly sceptical about whether it would all happen - port expansion, new businesses, more and better housing, shops, restaurants, hotels, more tourism improvement, A2 dualling, high speed rail link to Dover and a rail link to the docks. Whilst the Dover Chamber of Commerce was talking about a five star hotel and conference centre on the Western Heights, the Planning Committee discussed the Aylesham expansion plan, Phase 2 of the White Cliffs Business Park and the St. James’ area redevelopment scheme, which was to be dominated by an ASDA supermarket - what an enticing view of Dover for the millions of travellers passing through Townwall Street!
2005 2005 was celebrated as Britain’s Year of the Sea to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The Queen and the Duke visited the port and a new Lord Warden, Admiral the Lord Boyce, was installed. It was not all good news - the former cinema in Castle Street was empty once again following the closure of Snoops nightclub. More shops had closed down and B&Q were relocating to Whitfield, but at least Netto had taken over the Co-op supermarket at Charlton Green.
At the 2005 AGM the Planning Committee report was rather like the curate’s egg, welcoming the move of DTC into Maison Dieu House, the town centre trees in place, Dover in Bloom, extra marina berths and a second cruise terminal, but regretting no progress on the watersports centre, Buckland Paper Mill site, St. James’ area redevelopment, the derelict Army Recruiting Centre, the loss of shops, postponement again of A2 dualling, Townwall Street traffic problems and the enormous cost of demolishing Burlington House! There was also concern over the many applications to convert buildings into flats particularly one bedroom flats in Folkestone Road.
Heritage Open Days Every year Heritage Open Days are organised when places of historic interest not normally open to the public are opened free of charge for up to four days in September. The Unitarian Church in Adrian Street had participated since 2000 - the only Dover property to do so and in 2003 the Society was asked to help staff it, which it did, but also included a guided walk round nearby Cowgate Cemetery. This taster led to a new project for the Society with Derek Leach encouraging other properties to participate in future years by taking on the administration involved and the local and national publicity. This resulted in five properties opening their doors in 2005: St. Edmund’s Chapel, Maison Dieu House complete with town regalia, Archcliffe Fort, the Grand Shaft and the Unitarian Church. This has continued every year since with one or two new venues added each year (St. Mary’s Church, St. Mary’s Bell Tower, Town Hall, Roman Painted House and St. Radigund’s Abbey) now totalling 10. This acts as a shop window for Dover with visitors from near and far.
Once again the Society was inundated with consultation documents - the South East Plan, Kent and Medway Structure Plan, Local Development Framework, DTC’s Five Year Plan, St. James’ area scheme (now known as Dover Town Investment Zone or DTIZ), White Cliffs Business Park Phase 2 etc. The Dover Pride partners were employing consultants to produce a Dover master plan to feed into the Local Development Framework. The Society was quite clear on its priorities - extending the high speed rail link to Dover, a rail link to the docks, dualling of the A2, improvement of Townwall Street and upgrading of Dover Priory station, not to mention the need for jobs by the thousand to stimulate everything else! DDC sought views on the number of houses to be built in the District between 2006 and 2026 - 5900, 7900 or 9900.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Dover Harbour Board in 2006 we suggested that they should erect (once again) a bandstand in Granville Gardens.
A brainstorming meeting wanted better access to the Bleriot Memorial in time for the centenary of the first flight across the Channel in 1909, a new exit road from the Eastern Docks to ease congestion and a lorry holding area on the M20/A20 to keep traffic moving in Townwall Street at peak times, port expansion, docks rail link, new water supplies, a hospital and a higher education centre. No grand schemes were felt to be needed merely to make the most of what Dover already had.
2006 At the 2006 AGM Sheila Cope took a well earned rest after many years as ‘Queen of the Raffle’ held at every Society meeting, but retained her Membership Secretary role, reporting a record membership of 444. Another record was very worrying - Dover had 500 houses and 50 shops empty. The closure of Connaught Barracks meant the end of a military presence in Dover except for the Deputy Constable still living in Constable’s Tower and the Society was concerned about the future of Fort Burgoyne within the site. The AGM heard how the Chairman’s role extended beyond chairing meetings of the Society and its Executive since he (we have still not had a female Chairperson) also represented the Society at functions such as the installation of the Lord Warden, the annual Zeebrugge Raid ceremonies, the mayor making and the Remembrance Services. Something completely new was Society Christmas cards using images from Budge Adams’ Collection.
The Society continued to make modest grants to local projects such as £250 toward publication of the Townwall Street dig report, £300 to the Painted House appeal and £200 toward the cost of the Bronze Age Boat Conference.
To cope with an expected doubling of traffic in the next 25 years, DHB produced an ambitious masterplan which would eventually provide four new ferry berths at the Western Docks and would require the filling-in of the Granville Dock and the Tidal Basin. Wellington Dock would be landlocked and surrounded by a hotel, restaurants, shops and apartments. To compensate for the loss of the yachting marina a new marina would be sited to the east of the Prince of Wales Pier. The Society wanted to retain the Customs Watchhouse and remnants of the historic North and South Piers and we were pleased that our submission for a water link between the Wellington Dock and any new marina in the harbour was accepted.
A spate of welcome news came before the end of 2006: Priory Station was to be upgraded at long last and the high speed rail link would be extended to Dover despite the cost of enabling trains to go through the Shakespeare tunnels; Wetherspoons would be moving into the derelict cinema site (we are still waiting), the Netto superstore opened and the Seasports Centre was to be built. However, the Society joined in the many protests against Connaught Barracks becoming an open prison. The proposal was eventually dropped for a number of reasons, but the proximity of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School being the most compelling. Instead, 500 carbon neutral houses were planned - not the hospital or university campus as some hoped. We did not object but repeated our concerns about the future of Fort Burgoyne.
2007 At the 2007 AGM a record membership of 450 was reported. Joan Liggett retired as Social Secretary and refused any presentation, but agreed to become a Vice President. Pat Hooper stepped into her shoes. Tribute was paid to member Joe Harman, Freeman of Dover, who had died, aged 92, in January.
The website, managed by Mike McFarnell, became much more popular when Lorraine Sencicle’s articles on the many Dovers around the world, first published in the Dover Mercury, were included. A Dover history scrapbook was added soon afterwards making use of Kathleen and Bob Hollingsbee’s extensive archive.
2008 The 2008 AGM saw the membership record broken again at 464.
As its contribution to the 2008 Dover Festival, the Society underwrote and organised an expensive Tallis Concert in the ancient refectory of Dover College where Thomas Tallis (born 1505) would have eaten during his six years as organist at St. Martin’s Priory. It was a unique occasion with a 40 strong Canterbury Cathedral choir. The Festival included yet another Dover Pageant, which celebrated its centenary. Member and Pageant Master, Mike McFarnell, vowed that it was his last!
It was good to hear that several empty properties were to be brought back into use by converting them to dwellings: the Salvation Army Citadel, the Churchill Club (former Buckland School), the former college in Ladywell and the URC church in High Street - tragically the last was burnt down just before completion. Plans to improve Station Approach were welcomed, but we lobbied for many more station parking spaces than the existing 29 to cope with the expected increase in commuters using the high speed trains. Air quality concerns caused by ships and lorries were voiced as were worries over so many new houses planned without new jobs. We supported Langdon Action Group’s opposition to a wind farm so close to dwellings which eventually succeeded after a public inquiry.
Recognising the 125th anniversary of the opening of Connaught Park in 1883 the Society planted a holm oak.
Lorraine Sencicle’s long battle to secure a new hospital for Dover appeared to be reaching a successful outcome in 2008, but subsequent controversy over a suitable site (Whitfield or town centre) caused lengthy delays. The official choice of the town centre was scuppered by Environment Agency concerns over flood risk and the Buckland Hospital site, despite its access problems, was eventually chosen.
Our attempt to tidy up the area at the foot of Mote Bulwark and possibly open the historic site to the public was frustrated by no co-operation from the private owner and Kent Highways opposing any access off the A20. We had better luck with refurbishing a plaque in Saxon Street commemorating the help Belgian workers gave in 1946 repairing war-damaged houses in the area.
A proposal to create a lorry park for 3000 vehicles to replace Operation Stack and to reduce congestion in Townwall Street when ferries were disrupted was considered, but - guess what - it never happened! We also objected to too many houses proposed for the Westmount site in Folkestone Road, which is still derelict.
Town Hall project A talk during the Dover Film Festival by John Clayton, retired DDC Director of Technical Services, led to the Society approaching the owner, DDC, as to whether a major lottery bid to refurbish the Town Hall might be possible after the 2012 Olympic Games (when lottery funds might be more plentiful); DDC agreed. A modest Society Town Hall Restoration Fund was opened using a block of shares donated by a member. The Town Mayor, Sue Jones, was enthusiastic about our hopes for the restoration of the Town Hall and a joint approach was discussed with Jon Iveson, Museum Curator. As a result the Society convened a meeting with representatives from DDC (the owner), Sue Jones (the Town Mayor), Dover Rotary Club and Thanet Leisure Force (the Town Hall operator) which agreed to form a group to consider the feasibility of restoring the Town Hall to something like its Victorian splendour aided, it was hoped, by a major Heritage Lottery Fund grant, making its history better known and increasing access to the building.
The first task was to make the public both near and far more aware of the building and its history. A modest start was made in May 2011 with guided tours every Wednesday morning once a month with guides provided by the Society and Kent Greeters. From September, with the opening of the new History Room in the old Court Room, tours are now available every Wednesday. By May 2012 500 people had visited. With this increased momentum, publicity was aimed also at groups attracting up to 40 people at a time. Attracting cruise passengers proved more difficult!
The project is now in its second and more difficult phase of preparing the ground for a major lottery fund bid considering what should be restored and how it should be used and managed in the future to maximise its potential for commercial, community and heritage use.
A short, sharp campaign was waged to save a Second World War ARP post in Station Approach - one of the few surviving - which resulted in its listing. The Society pursued with KCC, thought to be the owner, the possibility of us cleaning it up and keeping the area around it tidy. Unresolved ownership frustrated our offer to adopt the site.
2009 Having persuaded DDC to celebrate the centenary of Louis Bleriot’s historic 37 minute first cross Channel flight on 25 July 1909 and to have a lasting legacy of the celebration by improving the memorial site and access to it, we were pleased with the work done and the ceremony on the day. The event was made more special by an original Bleriot XI plane flying across, a fly past by the Red Arrows and their French counterpart and a display of veteran aircraft at the Duke of York’s School followed by dinner in the castle grounds and fireworks.
Concerned about the neglected state of the town’s historic interpretation panels and with DDC too cash-strapped to help, we urged, with only partial success, DTC to take on their maintenance and we offered to fund the replacement of the Bleriot panel in time for the centenary. Our suggestions that the empty B&Q premises at Charlton Green should become a bowling alley and /or ice rink and that Snoops (the empty former cinema) should be compulsorily purchased for a community centre both came to nothing.
The proposed Local Development Framework taxed us - particularly the plan for up to 10,000 new houses in the District, including 5,750 at Whitfield. We considered that jobs before houses were a must.
The so-called Olympic Legacy in the form of a massive, intrusive TV screen in the Market Square, broadcasting daily from 7am to 11pm, received the thumbs down from the Executive, but, despite many objections and no recommendation from its officers, DDC’s Planning Committee approved it. From installation until the 2012 Olympics no sizeable audience was attracted to justify the running costs paid locally or for the eyesore created. With DDC now responsible for it, this half million pound monstrous white elephant may be too expensive to demolish and so Market Square may be blighted for many more years. We felt it necessary to support an appeal to the Ombudsman for maladministration on the part of DDC in respect of an application for back garden development in Maison Dieu Road.
Refurbishment Committee With all the grand regeneration schemes making slow, if any, progress, the Society was anxious to identify and lobby for a range of modest improvements to make the town more attractive to residents and visitors and to promote some civic pride in our surroundings. These ranged from tackling the continual litter problem and other antisocial behaviour to forcing some property owners to maintain their buildings. The Refurbishment Subcommittee was set up to concentrate on these issues. In addition, it undertook a survey of Dover’s buildings to review listed buildings and conservation areas, whether other buildings should be listed and to check the state of the buildings for possible enforcement action. As DDC lacked resources, we offered to monitor conservation areas for them and to report problems but DDC had to point out that, unfortunately, enforcement action would be very limited due to staffing cuts. After providing a priority list of buildings that we urged should be repaired compulsorily, DDC decided in 2012 to trial the application of ‘Section 215 action’. DTC carried out legal checks and DDC issued warning letters, resulting in 50% of owners reacting positively without enforcement action. The initial scheme, covering Castle Street, has since been extended to other areas of the town.
A new Society plaque was installed to commemorate Thomas Pattenden, draper and stocking seller, but, more importantly, a Dover diarist who recorded daily events for over 20 years throughout the Napoleonic period. Put on St Mary’s Parish Centre it overlooks the churchyard where he is buried, but where all trace of his grave was removed in 1978.
Something of a bombshell was the financial failure of the Civic Trust, which had provided a national voice for amenity societies for many years. After careful consideration of the cost benefits the Society chose not to join the successor organisation at least for the time being.
With DDC and ASDA unable to agree over whether the associated car park should be free for users or not, the supermarket withdrew from the St. James’s redevelopment throwing the whole scheme back into the melting pot. We wondered whether it was a blessing in disguise offering perhaps an alternative with quality and style. A new scheme was unveiled with smaller retail units and retaining the old street layout, which the Society welcomed as much better than the ill-fated ASDA scheme, but with reservations regarding the quality of the buildings and landscaping.
Another controversy was the bid put together for Dover by SEEDA, KCC, DDC, DHB and English Heritage for grants under the Sea Change programme to improve coastal resorts. No consultation was held until grants had been received already ring-fenced for specific projects which had to be match-funded locally. These included refurbishment of the Bleriot Memorial, the expensive and grand furnishing of Dover Castle’s keep (the Great Tower project), a new reception building for the castle, renovating the officers’ mess, a feasibility study for a cable car project and yet another improvement to the sea front. We objected to spending £2m on what was already an attractive promenade in front of Waterloo Crescent when so much of the town centre was and still is in desperate need of a facelift. The money could not, however, be spent anywhere else.
Concerned about the cost effectiveness of the DDC wind turbine at Whitfield we discovered that it would take 55 years to recover the capital and running costs! After firing a broadside at DDC for closing two of Dover’s public toilets without warning in its attempt to transfer the cost to DTC we were pleased to see one reopened after a public outcry. DDC’s Local Development Framework for the years to 2026 was approved by government including 14,000 new homes in the District and an expectation of 6,500 new jobs! The subsequent exhibition of Phase 1 of the Whitfield Urban Housing Scheme raised concerns about density, A2 congestion and possible impact on town centre retailers.
We welcomed the occupation of large empty premises by Peacocks and Morrisons, but remained despondent about the 26 empty shops between Townwall Street and the Town Hall.
The unauthorised enclosure of some land, including an established public right of way, resulted in the Society taking legal steps to protect the path.
The December 2009 Newsletter carried an obituary of Peter Johnson (1922-2009), a Society Vice President and founder member.
2010 Western Docks Redevelopment and Future Ownership of the Port Considering our response to the formal proposals by DHB for redevelopment of the Western Docks (called T2) and for restructuring of the Harbour Board took up a great deal of time in the first three months of 2010. These proposals were considered so important that we consulted the membership by post about the Executive’s recommendations before finalising our submissions to the Secretary of State. We had already agreed in principle the Western Docks T2 development with certain provisos, most of which had already been met. Our formal submission to the Secretary of State confirmed our support but with a number of conditions. Regarding restructuring of the Board, we covered all possibilities. Whilst preferring to retain the status quo i.e. Trust Port status, we considered this unrealistic in the economic climate with any government looking to sell some of the family silver and the need for the Board to borrow money for T2 development without increasing the national debt. Therefore, we suggested an amended Trust Port status with the ability to borrow money without increasing the national debt and enabling the Board to support the local community financially via a charitable trust. On the other hand if the government opted for privatisation, then we would prefer the government having a 51% share in the new company with a number of provisos which applied equally to 100% privatisation. These included a guaranteed income for a charitable trust managed by and for the community and an employee share scheme. Future ownership of the port was again time consuming in 2011 but had to be a top priority, involving several meetings with the Chairman and CEO of DHB and carefully considered submissions to the Secretary of State. To complicate matters even further the Dover Port People’s Trust (DPPT) was launched with the aim of acquiring the port for the benefit of the people of Dover rather than private investors. We examined the scheme and its financial viability and then urged the Secretary of State to give the DPPT equal consideration with the DHB proposals. DTC held a referendum for the town’s residents which resulted in an overwhelming vote for the DPPT. Some of our members with a strong interest in the future of the port felt disenfranchised and so the Society gave all its members the opportunity to vote. With a 68% response (cf DTC’s 25%) 94% opposed the sale of port as proposed by DHB and supported transfer to the Dover community instead. With no decision from government we continued to be closely involved with developments to seek the best possible deal for Dover. Views were submitted on the government’s proposed revised criteria for the sale of Trust Ports and the final criteria required the local community to have a long term involvement in the future development of the port. This caused further delay with DHB being given time to reconsider its proposals. A significant development was DHB handing over to representatives of the community the task of setting up the Port of Dover Community Trust (part of its original proposals) should it be needed. The Society was represented on this independent working group considering the aims of any such Trust, its structure, how its board members would be recruited and the area of benefit. We responded to DHB’s subsequent revised proposals in July 2012 but by the end of the year there was still no decision from government. Transport ministers change so quickly that none of them ever seem to reach the difficult files in the in tray!
We agreed in principle to the possible erection on the Western Heights of a memorial to the 1,700,000 commonwealth troops from 54 countries who died in both world wars.
June brought the centenary celebrations of the first two-way Channel crossing flight by Charles Rolls with a grand display of vintage Rolls Royce cars on the seafront in front of a cleaned-up Rolls statue, where a ceremony was conducted. This had first been suggested by the Society to DDC who organised the event.
The December 2010 Newsletter launched two new series highlighting listed buildings and local heroes. A listed buildings section was also added to the website.
Society members were involved with river litter clearances which in one year and in only six sessions produced 300 bags full plus 19 cones, 18 scooters, two trikes, two pushchairs, four bikes, three trolleys, a TV, an ironing board and a garden pond! Oh, people of Dover, what an indictment!
Dover Town Council exercised its newly won right to appoint Honorary Freemen during the year by appointing Society members John Turnpenny and Jack Woolford plus Royston Tant. Our own Terry Sutton was honoured the following year.
2011 With the Society’s funds receiving virtually no interest consideration was given to increasing membership subscriptions which had not changed since 1996 - £6 or £10 for a couple. Fearful of losing members who would not change their standing orders, it was not pursued.
Barry Smith, the Society’s first secretary, died during 2011.
The old and almost illegible stone plaque commemorating the Granville Street Boys’ School, destroyed by enemy action in 1943, was replaced by The Society and unveiled in February 2011, funded by Charlton Primary School, Charlton Church and our members.
With Jack Woolford in a poor state of health, Patrick Sherratt became acting Planning Committee Chairman. Our reaction to the government’s Big Society policy (to offset the effects of necessary cuts in public finance by increased efforts by volunteers) was that there was already a massive contribution by volunteers and without the support of cash-strapped local authorities volunteers would become disheartened.
Land owners submitted over 100 new sites for possible development to be considered for inclusion in the Local Development Framework. The Society’s comments included objections to the possible loss of Crabble Athletic Ground. An unusual consultation was that for a new cemetery with the Society opting for Elms Vale as the most suitable site on offer.
One of the three remaining Swingate Second World War radar masts was demolished without warning, resulting in the Society lobbying for the listing of the remaining two. Another unwelcome surprise was the proposed closure of Dover Castle during the winter months (except at weekends). The many objections, including ours, proved pointless. A meeting with DDC’s Roger Walton discussed our concerns about the lack of seafront toilets, the sad state of the seafront Lindemann plaque, Connaught Pond, cleaning contracts, increasing traffic wardens’ duties to include litter offending and antisocial behaviour, the new rubbish/recycling collection arrangements as well as flower beds and planters.
We responded to DTC’s draft Ambition Plan (or wish list) which was a mixture of tasks that DTC could undertake and lobbying others.
Western Heights development A highly controversial and ambitious scheme was floated by China Gateway International which envisaged some visitor facilities for the Western Heights fortifications, but also a hotel and housing, plus more housing at Farthingloe coupled with a country club and park. Our initial reaction was that the Western Heights Ancient Monument should be protected; however, since private money appeared to be the only way to preserve and promote this valuable heritage asset, we should not close the door without considering some sensitive, limited development if there were a substantial gain for the Ancient Monument that outweighed any drawbacks. The original proposals were substantially modified, following consultations, in the subsequent outline planning application submitted in July 2012. The Society could not support it without a guarantee that the benefits for the Drop Redoubt were guaranteed as well as concerns over quality of materials and design. English Heritage opposed the application, but with DDC keen to regenerate the area, negotiations with the parties continue.
We continued to meet the DDC Director of Community and Development informally to discuss progress - or lack of - on all the major regeneration schemes. A start on redeveloping the Buckland Paper Mill site at long last brought sighs of relief. Meetings were attended about, or we submitted views upon, DDC’s draft Heritage Strategy, its Open Space Policy, its standards for shop fronts in conservation areas, the Green Infrastructure Plan, the Dover Surface Water Drainage Scheme, the proposed River Dour cycle route and the Localism Bill (now an Act). At long last DTC and DDC were taking legal action on our aim to see neglected properties improved or repaired and the Society nominated 60 for some attention. We were also lobbying about the need to bring the many empty homes back into use and were keeping a close eye on the derelict former cinema in Castle Street hoping that its proximity to the St. James’ development would at long last galvanise Wetherspoons into action.
Our response to the Local Government Resource Review with its proposals for business rates to be retained locally was that it would be good for thriving towns, but could put struggling towns like Dover at a disadvantage. We were, however, pleased to see that some of our major concerns about the government’s controversial national planning reforms were alleviated somewhat in the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework - the automatic presumption in favour of development was omitted, brownfield sites and town centres should once again be considered before green spaces are used and the term ‘sustainable development’ was at least defined, but would probably create a load of legal wrangles.
Member Alan Sencicle sets a fine example litter picking voluntarily in the town, but one man cannot do it all! Our request for DDC’s civil enforcement officers’ (parking attendants) duties to be extended to include certain antisocial behaviour and litter dropping eventually resulted in DDC implementing a zero tolerance policy early in 2013. On a brighter note, we were pleased to congratulate Morrison’s for the much improved area around their store. The state and lack of public toilets continued to give concern especially on the seafront. Efforts to get Kent Highways to replace any diseased street trees removed were rebuffed due to financial constraints. The need for an easily accessible and safe footpath to link the castle to Langdon Cliffs via the Bleriot Memorial resulted in the Society proposing a route. The cost of repairing Connaught Park pond meant that its future was in doubt, but after constant lobbying DDC eventually found the money.
Talks Talks given at Society meetings, free of charge to the public, have ranged far and wide over the 25 years with many covering aspects of Dover’s long and fascinating history, some highly topical or controversial such as regenerating Dover and the future of the Harbour Board. Perhaps just a few may be mentioned as particularly memorable. Dick Bolton’s unusual History of Bricks proved fascinating. The most moving was almost certainly by Richard Sturt, former Dover Coroner, about his most difficult and controversial inquest on 187 of the 193 people who died when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge in 1987. On the other hand, the most convivial has to be the talk on beer by the Head Brewer of Shepherd Neame, helped considerably by all the free samples! ‘Who Hung the Monkey’ was surely the strangest title when Jack Woolford told the story of his home town of Hartlepool. Finally, the prize for the longest talk goes to Budge Adams when he took us on a walk from Shakespeare Cliff to Langdon Bay, which ended at 10.45pm!
2012 The 2012 AGM saw the election of an Executive Committee without Jack Woolford for the first time since the Society was formed in 1988. Failing health meant that he played little part in Society affairs during 2011 and at 94 the time had come for him to retire. Jack, with Philomena Kennedy and Peter Johnson, were the founding fathers of the Society which had been the centre of Jack’s life ever since. The Chairman paid tribute to his outstanding contribution and added that we would miss his enthusiasm, wisdom, experience, wit, command of the English language - plus the champagne on his many birthdays! A presentation of a kindle was made by the President later. Jack remains a Vice President. Yet more Society historic plaques were being considered with the first in memory of Doctor Koettlitz to be placed on the newly restored Charlton House.
Despite poor weather during the summer, the vision and hard work of member Mike McFarnell was well rewarded when thousands of Dovorians and others enjoyed the fantastic Military Tattoo at Connaught Barracks to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June. The Olympic Torch arrived in July and, despite the rain, huge crowds thronged the seafront to see it, the entertainment and the fireworks display.
and finally... At the 2012 AGM when introducing his annual report Chairman, Derek Leach, said, ‘When asked, “What is The Society for?” I always summarise our objectives by saying that we care about Dover’s past, its present and its future. To do this we have to react and comment upon what is going on around us both locally and nationally, but we are also proactive by taking the initiative ourselves or by influencing others. A common thread running through our efforts...is making the best of what Dover already has. As usual, time will only allow me to give you the headlines of all the activities carried out on your behalf, but underlying them all is the continual and dedicated bread and butter work that goes on year in and year out by a relatively small number of members. All taken together makes The Dover Society what I hope, indeed I know it is: a force for good in Dover, a force to be reckoned with and a force respected.’
Long may it continue. Part I