Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 12 April 2001


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- AW_.

Bus nostalgia
AVIATION history researcher Roy Humphreys, of Hawkinge, has shown me some fascinating copies of old postcards of early motoring interest that were shown to him by Peter Wills, of Folkestone, who is a descendant of 'Father' Ernest Valentine Wills, of Cheriton, one of the bus proprietors who pioneered public road transport services in the Shepway district.
'Father' or 'Pop' Wills, as he was popularly known, set out to run his own bus company in the early 1900s, competing with the "Yellow Pots" - a fleet of charabancs run by Folkestone Motors Ltd.

This company had close ties with local coachbuilders and motor dealers Maltby Motors, which had their origins in Sandgate. One at least of the Maltby family was a director.

Another local competitor was John Cann, who started with small MMCs and later managed a fleet of much bigger vehicles in Folkestone that were called Cann's Patent Motor Coaches. John Cann objected to the use of the term 'charabanc.'

These Thames Ironworks vehicles were somewhat larger coaches, having a removable, covered coupe section at the back which must have been a boon in wet or windy weather.

Very soon the firm had become the London & South Coast Motor Service Ltd, with John Cann managing director. And, in 1908, John Cann told Thames Ironworks that eight
coaches built on their chassis clocked up 165,200 miles. The firm went 'bust' around 1914.

The 'Pop' Wills' charabancs were in dark green livery, many of them coming from the Maltby works, including 'Sandgate Pullmans,' and, by the time he sold out to the East Kent Road Car Company in the mid-1920s he had around 27 vehicles.

Folkestone Motors, not to be confused with the later Folkestone District Road Car Co, was up and running as a registered company by mid-1901. It began running a motor service between Folkestone and Hythe from July 23, 1901.

‘Mustard Pots’
The firm seems to have favoured yellow livery from the outset, although at first they were blue-black picked out in yellow and with yellow panels. It was probably when they became predominantly yellow they earned the nicknames of "Yellow Pots" or "Mustard Pots."

John Cann also seems to
have liked yellow, two at least of his early cars were black and primrose with primrose wheels.

'Father' Wills came to Folkestone from Chilham with his wife Rose Annie to open a garage at Park Road, Cheriton, in 1903.

He later took over an old building on the opposite side of the road to house his fleet of coaches and did so well he eventually took over the old "Yellow Pots" of Folkestone Motors Ltd, before selling out to the East Kent.

His pride and joy seems to have been a 75hp monster capable of carrying 32 passengers at speeds considered quite remarkable in their day.

When the railway track between Folkestone and Dover was blocked by a landslide early in the First World War, Wills' coaches ferried thousands of passengers between the two towns. And the service was continued for some time after the war.

Sadly, both Ernest Wills, 80 and his son Mr E.B. Wills, who ran the Park Road garage, died the same year, in 1956.
WRITING to the Herald from New Zealand, Don Love, a war veteran, who left Folkestone for a new life 'down under' in 1949, tells me he is shortly going on a trip down memory lane with 50 other veterans on a return visit to Korea. Don served in the NZ army in Korea from 1951-53 and says one of the scheduled places to visit is the UN war cemetery at Pusun, where most of the Commonwealth troops who were killed are buried. And he writes: "I believe at least one soldier from Folkestone is buried in the cemetery." He says he could try and get a photo of the grave and send it to them. Don can be contacted at 35 Queen Street, Feilding, New Zealand (tel: 06 323 7278.)
PETER Wills’ pictures include this one, above, of Folkestone Brass Band all set to be taken to the Leas bandstand in a 1913 Maltby charabanc, a 30-seater. It is standing in Foord Road at the junction with New Street. Rye’s wallpaper depot seen in the photograph is now occupied by Dunn’s plumbing. In the background, in the original picture, is the spire of the now demolished St Michael’s Church, at Dover Road. The other photograph, right, is of an all-male outing group aboard a 1908 Maltby-built ‘Sandgate Pullman.’ Both were owned by ‘Pop’ Ernest Wills of Cheriton.


Sing-song’ entertainment would "vulgarise’town

*1 QH1 A GOVERNMENT inspector heading an inquiry into the Folkestone and Cheriton sch ernes for a Tramway system serving both districts was told an overhead power line system would be 6.000 cheaper than the con-duit-in-the-road system proposed by Folkestone Council. The Folkestone scheme would cost 30,697. At the eleventh hour Cheriton learned that Folkestone was axing a proposed line from Sandgate Rond to the Central Station which they badly needed. Faccd with this setback. Cheriton. without consulting the ratepayers, axed part of its own scheme. The Herald criticised a "singsong" scheme for Marine Gardens entertainment. morning, afternoon and evening. This, it said, would "vulgarise the charming locality" and annoy nearby residents. Happily, the scheme was thrown out by a large majority. Winston Churchill, who later bccame the UK's wartime leader, gave a talk at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre, on his exciting adventures in the Boer War. as official Morning Post war correspondent. Winston was captured by the Boers, but he escaped.
snow mis taster nocKey and soccer programme

• nr<l EASTER at Folkestone came too early and was one of the bleakest ever, as snow fell heavily on the Saturday and part of the international hockey festival programme had to be abandoned. At the 25th anniversary dinner of the Folkestone Optimist Hockey Club in February, it had been predicted the 1951 Easter Hockey Tournament would be worth at least 15,000 to the town. Folkestone Town's soccer match with Sittingbourne also had to be abandoned with the score at 1-1. but over the Easter holiday they beat Margate 4-1 and Betteshanger CW 1-0. James David Hayley, MC. DCM, of Surrcnden Road. Folkestone put aside his uniform for the last time on retiring from the Army after 50 years. It brought to an end one chapter in a unique family record of 150 years almost continuous service to their country, which began with Jim's grandfather, who joined the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment in the mid 1800s. And Jim's three sons, all warrant officers, said the Herald's former midweek paper, the Gazette, were all set to better the record. Warrant Officer James Hayley earned the MC in 1916 when he had to take command in France after all battalion officers were killed.
Marine Gardens Pavilion opening ends campaign

*1 QOC MARINE Gardens Pavilion was officially D opened by the Mayoress of Folkestone, Mrs EJ. Bishop, who unlocked the building with a solid gold key, admitting a large gathering invited by the Mayor and Mayoress to an official reception, and unveiled a commemorative plaque. The opening was the culmination of years of argument and debate about the need for a all-weather band pavilion for the resort, parliamentary powers having been obtained back in 1920. The hall, based on the Westbrook Pavilion, Margate, was built by Folkestone contractor Otto Marx and had seating for 1,500. The Herald report of the event occupied three broadsheet columns and included the names of all those who accepted invitations to attend. Widespread efforts were being made to encourage people to seek a new life by emigrating 'down under' to Australia with a scries of public meetings as Britain's unemployment figures reached 1.25 million. On the same page the poor state of British agriculture was highlighted by a speaker who told of the young farming talent that was being lost to emigration. A Hythe editorial slated the Town Council for not moving with the times and buying a small motor lorry instead of a horse and cart!
Snot leopard had escaped from John Aspinall park

a^/j JOHN Aspinall identified a rare clouded JLtJ IO leopard shot by an Elmsted farmer as one that escaped from Howletts’ wildlife park, near Canterbury some 8 months before. It weighed only 18lbs. Another had been recaptured. He said they were the only ones to have escaped. At the time of the shooting he was preparing to open a walk-through wild life park at Lympnc. and there had been fears that animals might escape. The Tories on Shepway District Council were reeling from the shock decision of the Council chairman Cllr Alan Burrage not to seek re-election in May. He was a member of Lydd Town Council and a former borough mayor. Nine councillors decided not to seek re-election and 14 were being returned unopposed. Nearly 70 Council homes were being planned for Reachfields estate on former Army land in Dymchurch Road, Hythe in a scheme costing 750,000. And 47 more houses were planned at Downs Road, Folkestone. But starter homes planned for Hawkinge at a disused piggery site were given the thumbs down by Whitehall after objections that it was in an area of great landscape value. "Concrete Lego speculators have been afforded full licence to convert this holiday town Into an architectural nightmare” wrote a reader soon after moving here having fallen in love with the district on a visit from London.

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