Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 17 May 2001


‘Nessie’ ferry

THE KENTISH Lights is an interesting new book about the lighthouses and lightships around one of the most accident prone coasts in the country. The author is Alan Major, 72, who reveals that there were plans at one time to build a train ferry terminal close to the Dungeness lighthouse, opening a service to Boulogne.
Imagine what might have happened had this ever been built! In 1881 Lydd Railway Company did build an Apple-dore to Dungeness line for goods traffic, followed by a three mile branch line to a station called New Romney and Littlestone-on-Sea where a large holiday resort was expected to be developed. The Dungeness line ended within a few yards of the lighthouse.

Alan began writing seriously after he had an article published in the "The Children's Newspaper," a publication my parents used to buy me in preference to comics, when I was a youngster.

Alan's first article was published in March 1950, netting jthe princely sum of about 52p in today's currency, and since then, he says, he has never looked back.

Alan took up writing full time in 1965 and "The Kentish Lights," his 16th book.

It is a very readable review of lighthouses and lightships, with glimpses of links between some early lighthouse keepers and smugglers.

Naturally, the Dungeness lighthouses figure prominent-
ly in the book, in fact a fine colour picture of them has been used as the book cover.

Alan tells of the railway service to Dungeness and how the South Eastern Railway recouped some of its heavy costs by excavating the shingle and carting it away by the truck load, both to repair their own tracks and to sell it for building purposes.

Later of course the line had a very different role - for trucking away nuclear waste from the nearby nuclear power station.


The author tells how John Allen, a Rye goldsmith, set out in 1612 to do something about the succession of ship casualties which ran foul of the Ness. He sought consent to build a lighthouse, any surplus income probably intended to swell the coffers of Rye Corporation.

However, John Allen didn't get very far, because he lacked influence. But the Admiral of the Narrow Seas, Sir Edward Howard did and he obtained the rights to levy a toll on ships passing Dun-
geness, of one penny per ton. The money was for building and running a lighthouse built 100 yards inshore.

The first structure was of wood and the light an open brazier fire. The venture was not an immediate success as ship owners were elusive and did all they could to dodge paying. They complained the light was a 'nuisance'and not an aid to navigation, or that the light output was poor.

A new owner enlisted Crown aid, leading to tolls being collected by Customs Officers when vessels entered port.

In privately owned lighthouses the keepers often had difficulty getting their money.

This made some early Dungeness keepers prone to bribery and corruption and there are cases on record of how they helped smuggling gangs, with a system of prearranged warning signals, when the Navy's anti-contra-band patrols were nearby.

A new lighthouse was built in 1635, nearer the sea. It was 110ft high with living quarters in the base. But as late as the early 1700s the light itself was still a blazing coal fire in a huge
basket. And of course there was no railway in those days to deliver the coal.

The poor quality of light led to more and more complaints and in 1790 Trinity House had a new lighthouse built,116ft high with improved oil lamps and concave reflector, creating an intense beam of light.

Disaster struck on Christmas Day, 1821. Lightning hit the lighthouse, the oil-filled lantern caught fire and, tragically, one of the keepers was blinded by molten lead from the roof.

Reports differ as to damage
to the lighthouse but it is said because of fears the tower might fall it was strengthened with three bands of copper, like hoops around a barrel.

In 1862 the lighthouse went electric, with a "magneto-elec-tric apparatus." But fluctuating voltage proved a problem, and in 1875 it was back to oil, and an 850 candlepower lamp.

Many experiments followed and, in 1901, work started on the fourth lighthouse, 143ft high, built 50 yards from the base of the 1792 tower, using three million bricks. The light
FAMILY history researcher Mrs Janet Wurstlin, of Tring, would love to hear from any members of the family of William M. (Malcolm) Bayley, who was manager of the Natwest Bank, Hythe in 1940-50, living at 37 High St. He had two daughters, Diana and Patsy who would be Janet's first cousins, and possibly two other children. "Malcolm came from Henley, where his father was well known as parish church organist and music teacher. My father was very proud of his relations in Henley and Hythe and their contribution to the life of these towns," says Janet. You can phone/fax her on 01442 382277 or write to 21 Bulbourne Court, Tring, Herts HP23 4TP
A MODERN view of the Dungeness lighthouses featured in a new book by Alan Major.
was a pressurised paraffin lamp of 164,000 candlepower. A radio beacon helped ships officers plot their positions.

Today Dungeness lighthouse is ultra-modern, unmanned and automatically controlled. 43 metres high it replaces the 1961 one which had a 'blind spot' after the building of the nuclear power station close by.

•In the Second World War the Dungeness and South and North Foreland lighthouses housed secret transmitters which jammed German radar on the French coast.

Swinish multitude’ chase pig - and go cock-fighting

*1 om A CENTURY aS our feature writer, X9UJ. Felix, looked back a century through April 1799 pages of Sporting Magazine to Easter Monday Holiday 'Sports' at Sandgate and Shorncliffe. Events got under way with pony races. Then there was a racc for a Holland Smock in which "Kentish Maids" took part, followed by an aquatic racc for four-oared cutters and, after a lunch interval, a racc for Kentish Hunters that had ‘been in at the death of two brace of foxes' in the past seas-jn. A humorous sack race followed and then things turned swinish as a pig was turned loose, its tail having been "suitably” shaved and soaped, the object being for men to try and catch it by the tail and throw it over their heads (!) Felix commented that n ‘ swinish multitude" chased the pig. but. happily no one succeeded in the task, over a period of two hours. Worse followed with cock-fighting, described as a Welch main of cocks, at the New Inn, an old coaching house - later the Kent Hotel. The pony race for a bridle, saddle and silver-mounted whip, was won by “Chanticler" owned by a Mr Hollis.
Rider’s lucky escape as lightning strikes his bike

QCi FIFTY years ago a Folkestone school-_L70JL master was trying to work out how he 'lost' nine minutes on his way to school. The story was related on the front page of the Herald under the headline "Struck by Lightning on Motor-Cycle." William Anthony O'Leary was on his way to Morehall County Secondary School from Hawkinge when the incident happened. He remembered adjusting his goggles as it came on to rain and then "I felt a pain in my stomach as thought I had been kicked violently. The next thing I knew I was sitting astride my stationary motor-cycle. There was a horrible smell of sulphur and brimstone. I had a pain in the stomach and there was a tingling sensation in the palms of my hands. I took off my gloves and found that my hands had been burned," he told the Herald. He said he saw no flash and heard no thunder, but he believes lightning must have stalled his engine as it struck him. He felt shaken and his speech was slightly affected but he went on with his work. His rubber boots may have saved him from serious injury. Folkestone said it with flowers, adopting the slogan of "Floral Folkestone" for the year and held a floral Shopping Week, as a prelude to a July Festival and Flower Show.

Lucky escape for local JP and farmer, on world trip

1 QOC LOCAL JP Mr J.E. Quested of Newington X>7.Owas back in town after a narrow escape during a 30.000 mile trip to America and the Far East, during which he judged cattle at an international fat stock show in Chicago, where he was invited to judge 1.600 animals, mainly bred from English and Scottish stock, over three days. The champion beast was an Aberdeen Angus. While in japan he had a narrow escape from death, the tram in which he travelled up a mountain to visit one of the tourist spots, crashed on the way back down, causing death or serious injury to a dozen people. Possibly having a premonition, he had walked down, refusing to rejoin the tram. The building of the new band pavilion on the leas was the subject of a page feature on architecture in a daily paper which must have been valuable publicity for Folkestone. Meanwhile Cllr Forsyth proposed that the Council should try and get a visit to the port by a Royal Navy ship which, he said, would give the town a boost. Councillors were supporting a 'backing Britain campaign' by supporting home manufacturers and contractors who were on a list known as the King's Roll. No one turned up when the Chamber of Commerce decided to discuss the need for resort publicity.
20,000 protest at geriatric plans for town’s Royal ‘Vic’

a OVER 20.000 local people signed a peti-

■LZ/fOtion against a plan to turn the Royal Victoria Hospital into a unit mainly for geriatric patients, and won the backing of the South-east Kent Community Health Council, which added its weight to the objection. The watchdog council pledged that it would appeal to the regional health authority for the cash to adapt the Royal 'Vi*:' for use as a community hospital, with 29 beds retained for medical and postoperative surgical patients, and 60 used for geriatric patients, when the William Harvey opened at Ashford in 1978. An army of furious Romncy Marsh residents decided to march on Shcpway District Council, in a spirited campaign against higher charges for emptying cesspools. And they threatened they would not pay the proposed new charges if they were introduced, but leave the cesspools until they were about to overflow and then demand they be emptied on health grounds. And the protest seems to have worked, the Marsh folk won a cut of half in the proposed new charges. At the same time it was decided to send a deputation to Shcpway Council pressing for a speed-up in plans for main drainage. Folkestone's Carnival planners adopted the slogan of Quality, not quantity for the 1976 event, problems being created bv the brilliant 1.5mile long procession in 1975.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-