Dover Society logo   Registered Charity No. 299954

Registered with the Civic Trust

founded in 1988

 

 General Meeting 

Monday 18th January 2010

at

St. Mary's Hall

Dover

 

 

  Christine Waterman introduced

by Jack Woolford

The early links of the famous Rolls Royce Company with the Dover and Deal area have been highlighted as a result of research for this year's centenary celebrations of the first "there and back" aircraft flight of the English Channel. 

The Honourable Charles Rolls flew from Swingate to France and back again to Swingate in June 1910. 

Miss Christine Waterman, a Vice President of The Dover Society, is the District Council's Director of Housing, Tourism and Culture, and as such is responsible for local celebrations recalling Rolls' flight Miss Waterman MBE, the speaker at our January meeting at St Mary's parish centre, has carried out detailed research into the life of Charles S. Rolls and his association with the RollS-Royce Company. Her talk was entitled Mr Rolls, Mr Royce and Mr Johnson and their connections with White Cliffs Country. Mr Claude Johnson, a managing director of RollS-Royce, lived at one stage at Kingsdown. Miss Waterman revealed that Henry Royce Henry Royce at one time lived, with the help of his nurse, in Granville Road, St Margaret's Bay, while his engineers stayed at Sea Street at St Margaret's. 

 

Further more it was at St Margaret's that the first Rolls-Royce aero engine, The Eagle, was designed. More than 4,000 were made. Rolls-Royce engines are now being used in the aircraft industry throughout the world. 

There was one story, said Miss Waterman, that Royce was not interested in flight, only motor cars. He declined to make engines for aircraft until one day he was shown an airship battling against the wind to cross the Channel. 

His companion asked Royce could he not make a better engine than that on the airship. The challenge was too much and so Rolls-Royce aero engines were born. 

The main subject of Miss Waterman's talk was on the life and times of Charles Rolls, the son of a wealthy Monmouthshire family. She traced his education, his degree in engineering, his great interest in speed-first on bicycles, tricycles, motor cars, balloons, and eventually flight. 

It was possible, she said, that he was in Dover to await the first flight of the English Channel by Louis Bleriot, a year before his own epic crossing. While waiting and preparing for his flight at Swingate, Rolls stayed with the governor of the military prison then at Langdon Cliffs. It is likely that Rolls initially never intended to fly to France and back but once over France, where he dropped a letter of greetings to French aviators, he decided to turn round and head back to Dover where his ground crew were surprised by his return. 

Miss Waterman told of Rolls' earlier visit to Dover, in 1899, when he and one of his cars took part in a car show at Crabble Athletic Ground and a race around the perimeter circuit. There was a car procession marshalled by Sir Henry Crundall.

Looking ahead to this summer's celebrations, to be held on 5th and 6th June, Miss Waterman said she hoped to organise a re-enactment of the Crabble event. 

Talks were in progress to get up to 100 Rolls-Royce motor cars lined up on the sea front at Dover while the Rolls' memorial statue would be refurbished. It was not meant to be green, she said! There would also be an exhibition at Dover Museum. 

Dover is not the only place celebrating Rolls. His home town of Monmouth will be recalling his birth, the Isle of Sheppey will be remembering the earliest days of flight in the UK while Bournemouth will be commemorating his death in an air show accident 40 days after his Channel flight.   Rolls, who held the second UK pilots' licence, was the first Briton to die in an air crash.

 

Text by Terry Sutton

 

  

 

Steve Lang

Manager Dover Castle introduced

by Derek Leach

In the second talk of the evening Steve Lang, Head of Visitor Operations, Dover Castle outlined the reasons for the converting of the Keep into the Great Tower experience. 

Henry II, born at Le Mans 5th March 1133, was one of the most powerful kings to rule England but not one of the most famous. He was nineteen when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the greatest heiress in Western Europe. They had eight children, the most famous being Richard I, Coeur de Lion [Lionheart] and King John of Magna Carta fame. At Westminster Abbey on 19th December 1154 Henry became the first King of England. Before that the title was King of the English. Henry died at Chin on on 6th July 1189. 

The catalyst for improving Dover Castle came in 1179 when he met the King of France, Louis VII, on Shakespeare Beach, one of the first state visits. Having nowhere locally to entertain Louis he decided he had to show his importance and if pilgrims and dignitaries from across the Channel were to be more frequent he needed to be able to receive them in the proper fashion. He therefore built the castle tower as a royal residence. 
The Keep Thwer built in 1181 is the largest in Britain and the last example of an Anglo-Norman domicile. Very old fashioned for the time when it was built it was not for defence but as a showpiece for Henry's power and influence. The Keep is four storeys high, it contains the basement cooking area and the second floor, spanning two storeys, form the royal accommodation. There are two chapels, both with eye-catching stained glass windows. The lower chapel is in Gothic style, the upper or Thomas Becket's Chapel of Norman style, richly decorated. This is unique to Dover Castle. 

The restoration cost almost £2.45 million, involved two years of research and took 140 artists and craftsmen about 18 months to complete. They spent thousands of hours on the design and making 80 pieces of furniture, dozens of embroidered textiles and 140 metres of wall hangings. They crafted 21 new oak doors and more than 1,000 other objects. Clever use of projected virtual reality figures, including the King, add a further impact to the completed work. 
The furniture and furnishings contain a surprising amount of colour. The beds seem unusual and are small by today's standards. In Henry's reign people would not lie down to sleep. They were afraid that if they fell asleep and their mouths opened the devil would enter their bodies. With a shorter bed they could sleep in more of a sitting position and this would not happen. 

One of the fine 180-foot long wall hangings, inspired by the Bayeux Thpestry, depicts the Norman Conquest and another the story of 30 people who lived in the Great Tower. Major challenges were the limit on the type of stitches, the use of crewel wools and silk floss and the deliberate use of imperfect stitches to replicate those of the period.

Steve then mentioned some of the little known facts that had came to light in the research of the period. A great favourite at the castle was Roland the Farter. He so entertained the king over the years that when he retired he was given 30 acres of land. There were very few men accompanied by their wives at the castle. This led to the employment of a Marshal of the Court Whores who was in charge of the prostitutes.

Alys, Countess of Vexin had, in 1169, become betrothed to Henry's son Richard the Lionheart. Whilst Richard was away in the Holy Land Henry took her for his mistress and by 1177 this had became an open scandal at court. After Richard came to the throne he terminated their engagement in 1191 on the grounds that she had borne a child by his father. She went back to France in 1195. 

Steve Lang finished by outlining future plans for Dover Castle and answering questions about his talk from members of the audience. 

                                                                                                                                                       Text by Alan Lee