Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 11 July 2002


An INTERESTING new book on Charles Dickens' links with Shepway has been published by Folkestone & District Local History Society. Called "Dickens in Folkestone," and written by Ann Nevill MA, it is one of a regular series of booklets on popular topics, produced by a go-ahead group of enthusiasts.

Charles Dickens spent some time in the town, as a break from the big city of London, staying several times as he absorbed its atmosphere and studied its local characters, and then used this as material for his popular books.

The local vernacular of the man in the street sets the scene beautifully in most of his books.

Dickens stayed three months at the newly-built Albion Villas at one end of the Leas in 1855, working on instalments two and three of “Little Dorrit."

He had already, by this time, written “Pickwick Papers," “Oliver Twist," “The Old Curiosity Shop," "Martin Chuzzlewit" "Dombey and Son," and “David Copperfield."

Ann Nevill tells us Dickens was so popular in his day that people waited eagerly for the next instalment of one of his novels - then published in serial form.

He was one of the best known personalities in the country, entertaining a wide circle of friends, famous writers, artists and actors in his mansion home in London - his wife Kate, meanwhile raising 10 of his children.

In Folkestone he would go for long walks on the Downs, and think nothing of walking to Dover and back along the cliffs as he thought of new literary efforts and his editorship of the then
popular publication called “Household Words."

While writing a book, says Ann, he had a regular routine of writing from 9 till 2, followed by a walk on the Downs till 5. He also wrote copious letters - over 14,000 in his lifetime.

He wrote of "hideous blackguards" - mercenaries at Shorncliffe in the British German Legion, many of them going on later to colonise South Africa. They were inspected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in August 1855.

Dickens gave at least one of his popular readings during a stay in Folkestone. He read part of a "Christmas Carol" in a carpenter's shop in Dover Road, insisting on a low admission charge for the working man and he describes features of the town in two of his articles, “Out of Town" and “Out of the Season" in "Household Words."

Smugglers’ haunt

He calls the town 'Pavilionstone' and writes: "Within a quarter of a century it was a little fishing town and they do say that the time was, when it was a little smuggling town - it was rather famous in the hollands (gin) and brandy way."

And woe betide the old fashioned lamp-lighter if he was too efficient at lighting certain steep and narrow parts of the town where smugglers were active - his fate was likely to be that he "usually fell over the cliff at an early age."

And writing of the fishing quarter, he says "many herring hangs squeezed in between cottages .... must have made the harbour area particularly flavoursome!"

The then recently opened Pavilion Hotel features in "Pavilionstone" as the Lion. Dickens also refers to it as the "great Pavilionstone Hotel," with "superior" accommodation._
Before this was built Dickens writes of a little horse-bus carrying passengers to a rather dubious hotel/boarding house while awaiting ships. The bus "bumped over infinite chalk until you were turned out at a strange building which had just left off being a barn without having quite begun to be a house," an allusion to the rough streets and an inn which offered "unexpected sea views through cracks in street doors!"

Seasick Dickens
Dickens wrote eloquently about the newly-built Pavilion Hotel comparing it to a comfortable club, offering a news room, dining room, smoking room, billiard room and music room, a public dinner twice a day — and hot and cold baths.

So glowing was his description the hotel manager ordered 5,000 copies of that edition of
"Household Words" in which it appeared.

I was particularly struck by Dickens' humour in his description of some 'amusements' - "looking at trains, steamboats and sick passengers and baggage is our great Pavilionstone recreation."

For Folkestone was notorious, it seems, for the number of spectators who would mock passengers who alighted, ill and green-faced, after the hazards of a Channel crossing. It was a popular subject for cartoonists of the day too.

Dickens himself, after a particularly stormy crossing, stepped ashore to the 'greeting' of "Ain't he green!"

The Society packs quite a lot into the 20-page booklet, which is well illustrated and nicely printed. Copies, priced 1.50, are available from local libraries, tourist information centres or from the Secretary, Peter Bamford, on 01303 223337.
SPACE has run out on me this week but I would like to thank Memories readers who have contacted me about the names of people in the East Cliff outing picture which featured on this page recently, the Mundella School song and other topics. I will return to these subjects in the next Memories feature. Jean Hall (nee Hawker) of Wear Bay Road, Folkestone, kindly sent me a photocopy of a Mundella Girls' School prize day programme for 1938 which has the official wording of the School Song "MUNDELLA" on the back page and I will give these official verses, written by Edna I. Milsom, next week.
"GREAT Pavilionstone Hotel" as Dickens dubbed the old Pavilion Hotel, now the Burstin, in one of his books. The engraving is one of the interesting illustrations in Ann Nevill's new book

Leas Pavilion welcomed with open arms in town

<| QftO^HE Herald was singing the praises of ^*7 V/^the latest attraction, the newly opened Leas Pavilion, celebrating its centenary this year. This elaborately decorated hall with a gallery supported on attractive pillars, housed .in up-market cafe, offering lunches, tea and light refreshments in a relaxed atmosphere with live music by a ladies' orchestra. Outside, as today, in fine weather. there were tables and chairs to relax in the sunshine and soak up the sea air. It was run by a company headed by Mr F. Ralph. It was the nearest the resort had got to providing a "kursaal" or “winter garden" to attract and cater for ‘winter season' visitors, said the paper. That idea, thankfully, was being taken up by the Pleasure Gardens Theatre company building a new theatre. 600 children and parents from Sandgate. Shorncliffe and Seabrook areas, flocked to the hayfields of local farmer J.J. Jones, at Military Road, for a giant tea party, part of Coronation celebrations. More than 300 guests braved atrocious weather to celebrate at a garden party thrown by the Mayor and Mayoress. Lord Radnor and his wife the Countess of Radnor, in the gardens of the old Pleasure Gardens Theatre.
Exhausting programme for visit of Prince Henry

ft MID-JULY 1902 Folkestone was celebrating

I and the Herald published a picture feature on the visit to Folkestone of a very busy Prince Henry. The page incorporated a fine drawing of the Leas Cliff Hall as it would appear to passengers and crew of an aeroplane approaching the coast over the Channel, along with numerous photographs. The prince was seen in casual clothes arriving to open the hall, then in uniform. on the Leas, inspecting be-medalled ex-servicemen. saluting war victims at the War Memorial, and on the balcony of the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he opened the new wing. The prince also visited the Harvey Grammar School to lay the foundation stone of a major extension and visited Hythe to open a new housing scheme, in what must have been a very taxing schedule, including official luncheon speeches. Herald writer Felix wrote that it was only the regular work of a dredger that kept the entrance of the harbour from being choked up with silt and sand, swept along the coast, which was constantly threatening the port. Bird lovers were reported to gather nightly at Folkestone's Marine Gardens to listen to the nightingales, prompting one resident to suggest to the BBC that they should record the birdsong for broadcasting.
Ambulance service gets update with radio link-up

<| Q F? O AMBULANCES serving Folkestone.

Hythe. Lydd. New Romney and parts of Romney Marsh and Elham rural districts were being fitted with radio communication equipment for the first time. Marking the restoration of the hospital, with before-and-after photos the Herald looked back to September 1944 when the Royal Victoria Hospital was seriously damaged by a shell fired from long-range German guns on the French coast. Shell warnings lasted 10 hours that day, and in that time five adults and a child, and 38 people were injured. Seven homes were demolished, five partially destroyed and another 500-600 properties damaged - while the west wing of the hospital was wrecked by a shell which hit the basement. There was a lengthy report on the disaster by editor Leslie Jones. A replica of the "Centurion" the first missionary ship of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which sailed 250 years before, paid a three-day visit to Folkestone, the Mayor and town councillors joining a procession of bishops and other clergy from the parish church down the Road of Remembrance to the harbour. British Railways put on a late train from London to Folkestone via Ashford for the summer season, leaving Charing Cross Station at 10.50pm.
Good news for jobs as firms move to Park Farm estate

f Q77 EUROPE'S biggest manufacturer of gas-fired I I warm air heating equipment, the company ITT Reznor moved into the biggest factory on the Park Farm Estate, forecasting a 1977 turnover of 1 million. The 18.000 sq ft factory, was opened by the Mayor. Councillor Mrs Ivy Allan. Meanwhile greetings card specialists and stationers Andrew Brownsword & Co, of Pennypot Estates. Hytlie. revealed plans to expand and open up in Folkestone. Mr Brownsword, 29, an old boy of Harvey Grammar School, was reported to have factories in Bristol and Hythe, and to employ 12 people. A tricky operation to transport giant transformers from Folkestone harbour to Dungeness B Power Station was supervised by council officials and police as three 300-ton “road trains.'1 each 160ft long, edged their way across Shepway. Each 'train' included five vehicles carrying the transformers in pieces. Council workmen, starting around midnight, went ahead of the convoy temporarily removing street furniture, such as bollards and traffic islands, and replacing them afterwards. Draught beer drinkers at local Whitbread-Fremlins houses were relieved, said a Herald writer 25 years ago, at the end of an unofficial strike by brewery draymen, said to have caused a beer drought in Shepway. The stoppage lasted three weeks, causing some landlords to re-stock at local supermarkets and cash-an-carry centres.

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:-