Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 20 September 2001


Happy days!
OPEN country wasn't very far away from the small terraced home in Garden Road, Folkestone, where local cinema organ enthusiast Eric "Ricky" Hart was born some 75 years ago.

Eric, of Chart Road, Folkestone, who says he is blessed with a very good memory, has been telling me how he remembers being in the infants at Mundella School, in Black Bull Road, when, in a good summer they used to have canvas folding beds set out in the playground by the teachers for the younger children to have a snooze in the afternoon.

More recently, he says, he has thought he must be nearing his 'second childhood' as the idea of an after-lunch snooze has become steadily more appealingl

From the top of Garden Road, he recalls, there were once well tended allotment gardens stretching to within a short distance of the North Downs overlooking the town. And in his memoirs which he has set down on paper for his greatgrandchildren at his grandson's request, he talks of roaming across the fields of Park Farm as he and his friends made their way over "The Cuckoo Field" to the Tree Reservoir (or 'Rezza') where anglers could fish for roach or perch.

A dead-end track bordering the pond led to a 40-acre field with a corrugated iron hut providing changing rooms for local amateur football teams in the winter. But throughout several summer seasons in the 1930s it became an airstrip for a small aviation firm giving sight-seeing trips over town in small biplanes for an incredibly low price
of five shillings (25p.) Admittedly petrol then was only around a shillings (5p) a gallon!

The flights, says Eric, were advertised in town on a placard at the kerbside in Bouverie Square, transport being provided in the form of a Citreon saloon car, easily recognised by the large chrome chevrons across the radiator grille and wide 'running boards' along the sides of the car.

He and his mates, he said, would throw caution to the wind and as the bi- planes came into land would race along the perimeter fence so as to be immediately underneath the aircraft as they came in to touch down.

They were always fascinated too, by the sounds coming from the wires carried by telegraph poles alongside the dusty road which led to the old brickworks - where the Park Farm Trading estate was later constructed. They imagined that the peculiar whining noises from the wires, caused by the breeze, were in fact made by "someone on the line!"

Steam plough prank
In the ploughing season they would watch, fascinated, as a pair of mammoth traction engines, belching steam, would haul a six-furrow plough across the field via a cable from large drums strung below the tractors.

Then, at the end of the day, the coal fires of the engines would be damped-down and a board placed over the funnel.

"Having watched the procedure at length, was it so surprising then that we felt we had to try this ploughing for ourselves, after the workmen had set off for home?" asks Eric.

"With the 'damper' board removed there was
BELOW: The famous Tea Chalet in the Warren, one of many attractions of the area in years gone by. The Warren, incidentally, is the subject of a hardback book, by Paul Harris which has recently been reprinted with an attractive cover. Folkestone Warren in old Picture Postcards was first published in 1993. Publishers are European Library, of Holland, who also produced two similar books on Dover for me, and other local titles.
enough steam in the boiler to attempt another run, so, with one of us on the plough and the rest of us on the hauling engine we successfully turned another six furrows, then carefully replaced the damper."

While conceding this was childish 'devilment,' he says it certainly wasn't vandalism as we know it today. And to this day he wonders if the ploughmen noticed the extra furrows that had been ploughed!

Holy Well, nestling beneath the hills overlooking Folkestone was another boyhood haunt. There they camped, pitched a 'tent' - a makeshift affair made with a blanket secured to the top of a barbed wire fence and
staked the other end with rocks.

Here, in their 'oasis,' with bottles of powdered lemonade and a sandwich or two, or perhaps potatoes cooked in a billy can or frying pan over smouldering twigs, they could spend hours climbing trees and swinging across wild watercress beds on ropes fixed to trees.

Another memory was of climbing Sugar Loaf Hill and crossing the main Folkestone to Canterbury road to the cottage of "Granny May" who ran a sort of 'tuck shop' where they could buy "Bing" lemonade.

The Warren, below the cliffs, another playground, was a "peaceful paradise of wild flow-ers, multi-coloured butterflies
and moths, and obstacles created by the famous landslip which once blocked the railway, had all the makings of an ideal setting for a "Tarzan"-like adventure."

From infants school Eric and his friends went to George Spurgen School, in Sidney Street, which had 400 boys and mixed infants. In the mid-30s the pals were introduced to 'scrumping' in an orchard next to the school, belonging to greengrocer Mr Pritchard.

As the apples ripened so the footballs would start to fly over the fence, quickly followed by about 10 boys eager to retrieve it - and juicy apples! Simple but fairly harmless pleasures!_

Encombe estate opened to public for RVH funds

<| THAT veritable "paradise" by the sea

a century ago. the Encombc estate at Sandgate, with its "sylvan glades, leafy bowers and winding walks" from which a lovely series of sea views unfolded for the visitor, was opened to the public by Miss Reilly, the owner. The grounds were opened for an open-air service in aid of funds of Folkestone's Royal V ctoria Hospital. He also referred to the rapid development of Cheriton which would turn that urban district into an important suburb of Folkestone, and that of the West Cliff estate of 52 acres, once part of Coolinge Farm, between Shorncliffe station and the Mctropole Hotel. The laying out of the estate roads and building sites had been going on for some time and sites for 50 homes in Bathurst Road. Baldric Road and Turketel Road, were about to go on the market in a sale at the Queen's Hotel. It was reported that Tunbridge Wells was opening ii cuuniii-run telephone exchange, said to be the first of its kind in the UK and it gave Folkestone councillors considerable food for thought.

Victoria Pier beauty show declared first in World!

■f QCf ONE OF Folkestone's claims to fame, •LZ/O.L wrote Herald columnist ‘‘The R oamer," was that It was the first town in the world, he wrote, to hold a beauty queen contest. That took place 40 years before, in the heyday of the old Victoria Pier, where the late Alderman R Forsyth, who ran the pier, held the contest. Arguments that people walking on land at Round Hill, also known as Castle Hill, at Folkestone, were trespassing on private property were rejected by a Judge at Kent Assizes at Maidstone. A Herald reader advocated that colourful hanging baskets at the Central Station, which might, perhaps, be supplied by the council's parks department, would pay off in giving visitors a good impression of the resort. Efforts were underway to raise 7.500 for an appeal fund to restore Lydd Church, popularly dubbed the "Cathedral of the Romney Marsh." A London, woman walking in the area with her family in 1949 while a group of men were shooting pigeons, lost an eye and successfully sued for damages in a case lasting two days. New Romney WVS worked hard to turn waste land near the parish church into attractive gardens with a plaque commemorating the work of the local WVS during the Second World War.
Local bricks build urgently needed 'cottage’ homes

QA/t HERALD writer Felix was writing about the .L!7^0 unabated demand for small 'cottage' homes in the district and how the Council and other builders were using bricks made at the Park Farm, Folkestone brickworks by local men. He also noted with some satisfaction that newer homes were being allocated bigger gardens than had hitherto been the case. 500 cottages, each with three bedrooms were being instantly snapped up. The editor commented on yet another failed attempt by local hotels to get consent for licences for dancing on Sundays, noting that the decision of the Council was "by no<> unanimous," giving grounds for hope the opposition of local Free Churches might not succeed on some future occasion. The concern of the churches seemed to be that it could mean some staff havini; to work on a Sunday who didn't want to. Henry Selby Lowndes, who had completed 26 years as m.istor of the Kent Hunt by 1926. wrote of sonr of hi-, reminiscences In a new book. Folkestone was bathing in the limelight as its Cricket Festival featured matches between the Aussies and the All England XI - an unofficial ‘test match' - between Kent and the.- MCC .ind another between FS Calthorpe's XI and LH Tc-in>;>unS XI.
Millionaire toasts victory in fight for new zoo park

>| Q*7/J JOHN Aspinall won his three year battle to JL7 I O open a new zoo park at Port Lympne in the 270-acre home and grounds of the late Sir Philip Sassoon, one time MP for Hythe and Folkestone. Once a mecca of the famous the fine country house, with unrivalled views across Romney Marsh to the Sussex border and across the Channel to France, and the stepped, ornamental gardens were part of an ongoing restoration prnjcct which took millionaire Aspinall several years. ‘'Fun-riot carnival grows too big for its routes'1 read the Herald headline over a report on Folkestone's annual carnival. Said to by the Herald to be the biggest of its kind on the south coast, the event, which attracted a crowd estimated at 65,000, gave the organisers a giant-sized headache. Carnival association chairman Mr John Rendle said afterwards "The whole thing is just too big. But whether we can find a better route I don't know." The oiKJiiibcrs had set out to restrict it to the same size as the previous year's 135 entries, including 14 bands and 14 beauty queens. But the bands proved bigger and the number of people taking part also increased. Another problem was the hawkers who defied efforts to ban ‘traders' from outside the town cashing in on sales of streamers and trumpets. They evaded the net to rob local charity funds of much-needed cash.

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