Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 20 November 2003


BELOW: A fine study of Victorian fashion at the old Pleasure Gardens Theatre - one of the photographs which feature in Bob Ogley’s new book about 19th Century Kent. The theatre was the centre of entertainment in Folkestone, in the mid-1890s, with plays and concerts of a high standard - and writes Bob, it was appropriate that the Pleasure Gardens, originally the home of the National Art Treasures Exhibition, of 1886, should premiere the first moving films as the cinema age dawned. The town was the first in Kent to introduce the ‘moving picture show,’ he says.
A FASCINATING photograph of staff in period costume at the old Pleasure Gardens Theatre, from Folkestone public library’s collection, is among interesting Shepway pictures featuring in a lavish new, large format book by one of my fellow journalists.

Called Kent, 1800-1899, A Chronicle of the Nineteenth Century, it is by Bob Ogley, of Westerham, well known for his previous books on a variety of subjects, including the four-volume set Kent, A Chronicle of the (20th) Century, still available as a set or in individual volumes. Others include Kent at War (1939-1945) and Doodlebugs and Rockets.

His string of books, which have raised large sums for charity - including the Demelza House children’s hospice, the RAF Benevolent Fund, National Trust and the RNLI - follow the unprecedented success of his first book, about the ‘Great Storm’ or Hurricane, of 1987, which did so much damage all over the county.

Kent, 1800-1899, A Chronicle of the Nineteenth Century, tells in a very readable way, of an exciting but turbulent century of astonishing progress. It features many colourful personalities, such as the Duke of Wellington, who, of course, lived at Walmer Castle, Horatio Nelson, Jane Austen, Dickens and Charles Darwin.

The author begins with the threat of invasion by Napoleon, at the onset of the 19th Century, tells of long working hours
and hardship leading to riots. Then, on a brighter note the county welcomed the reign of the young Queen Victoria, who was passionately concerned for the poor.

There were great advances as steam power was harnessed with a vengeance. The coming of railways made travel easier and faster, and there were many changes, as thousands moved away from the country and into the towns and cities.

Locally there was the building of the Royal Military Canal and Martello Towers, as well as big changes in coastal defences to counter a threat of invasion.

Cliffs blasted

Sir William Cubitt designed the massive Folkestone Viaduct built by Samuel Moreton Peto and blasted away some of the lofty White Cliffs as the railway was extended from Folkestone to Dover in 1844.

Folkestone flourished as a resort following the coming of the railway and, as time went on, and lines continued to stretch out like the tentacles of an octopus, to quote Bob’s description, more and more towns and villages were given access to easier travel — if they could afford it.

In April 1868 a Hythe woman became the last person in Britain to be publicly hanged. Frances Kidder, 25, was convicted of murdering her step-daughter.

In 1877 labourers worked for almost five months to clear chalk and rubble from the railway line between Dover and Folkestone
after it was blocked by a landslide, following a New Year storm.

Meanwhile, at Hythe, the sea breached defences and sea water swept down into the town flooding shops, and one man died.

Rescue workers used boats as Marine Walk and High Street were inundated and a flood relief fund was set up.

Folkestone’s Victoria Pier, built at a cost of 24,000, was opened by Viscountess Folkestone in 1887, watched by thousands of holidaymakers. The Viscountess said the pier would “put the town in the front rank of British watering places.”

1893 brought the devastating Sandgate landslip, which resulted in 200 properties being damaged or destroyed.
At Folkestone in 1896 Kent’s first “moving picture show” was given at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre thanks to a wonderful invention called a Viva-ceographe - a projector. Show promoters, Messrs Banks and Graves, described it as “the sensation of the age” and the “electric marvel of the day.” The Folkestone Herald urged all readers to go and see it.

Beautifully illustrated and printed, the new book could be a solution to that annual problem of what to buy loved ones and friends at Christmas! Published by Froglets Publications, it costs 13.99 and is in many major bookshops. A hardback edition, at 18.99, will also be available by the time this Memories page is published.
Century of progress and great changes

Moves to buy land to put up building to house tramcars

< QrtQ^HE TOWN Council decided to hold a -L7\SOmeeting early in December to discuss the building of the planned Folkestone-Cheriton Tramway. Reports on four separate systems had been given and costs compared. Lengthy debates occupied columns of the paper, over the course of recent months and a majority of councillors felt a loss would be made on any of the systems using power drawn from rails or a conduit (groove) in the road, which left overhead wires as in trolley-bus systems. It was also argued it was practically impossible to estimate the number of passengers who would use the system. The council was split over the controversial issue, some believing trams lowered the tone of a town. At least two councillors claimed it would need about 10,000 passengers a day, for six days of the week, to avoid making a serious loss. Another councillor said it would require every living soul in the town to make at least 121 journeys a year on the tramway to make it pay. The Council was considering the purchase of land near the electricity works, from Lord Radnor, at the rate of 800 an acre, as a site for a tramshed for the tram cars.

Modern swingbridge for heavier trains to be built

A q/jqFOLKESTONE harbour's old swing-bridge, between the inner and outer harbours was due to be "re-constructed" to modern railway standards. A team race and a water polo match between Folkestone Swimming Club and Folkestone Police, a special attraction at the annual swimming sports of George Spurgen School at the Folkestone Bathing Establishment, resulted in a 7-1 triumph for the law in polo, while the clubmen narrowly defeated them in the team event. The story of how ordinary cargo ships, tramp steamers, were cunningly converted during the First World War into floating arsenals to hunt enemy submarines, unfolded at a meeting of the Folkestone Bouverie Society when the speaker was Rear-Admiral Gordon Campbell V.C., D.S.O., who had commanded some of the vessels. These "mystery ships" or "Q ships" were a familiar sight at one time in the Channel ports. The normal crew of about 30 was augmented to form an 80-man fighting force. Smart work by a local 'bobby' saved a Brighton visitor's car from destruction by fire outside the Queen's Hotel in Sandgate Road. Dashing to the car PC Brittain cut away burning seat upholstery and doused the flames with water.
Hockey thrills as the town hosts international games

qfqAN ESTIMATED 500 visitors came to ■L*/DO Folkestone for a feast of 48 international hockey matches at the town's Sports Ground, held in conjunction with the fifth triennial conference and hockey tournament of the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations. The event was eclipsed, said the Herald, by the South African team which whipped the Aussies, 5-0, ending their undefeated record. England were beaten by the Aussies but trounced New Zealand 7-1, Ireland beat Germany 3-2 and Scotland drew their match with Holland. Lydd the annual Club Day carnival was reckoned to be the best ever, with some truly remarkable tableaux. One, of the Sphinx was said by the Herald writer gave the illusion that, some how, the great monument had been brought over from Egypt. That illusion was said to have been enhanced by the 30 attendants, all in impressive costumes of great figures in Egyptian history. No less captivating was the St Trinian's tableau by Miss D.K. MitteU's girls in appropriate blue gym-slip costume.
Near-panic in bread queue as bakers stage strike

>4 Q7Q PENSIONERS and housewives were I O anxiously queuing on the bread-lines of Shepway as a bakers' strike began to bite. Panic buying started early on a Monday morning when members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union began industrial action over a pay claim. Supermarket shelves were soon bare and customers turned to the small independent bakers, for a daily crust, said the Herald. Working round the clock to maintain supplies, they were forced to ration buyers or give priority to regular shoppers because principal suppliers of flour. Pledge & Sons, of Ashford, could not increase deliveries as they were already working to capacity. One supermarket still baking its own bread increased output from 800 to 2,000 a day and was still selling out. Mrs Kathleen Drury, of Hythe, was writing in the letters column about destruction by fire of Encombe House, Sandgate, where her mother had been lady's maid to Kathleen Bell, wife of Capt Matthew Bell. Her mother wed the caretakers' son, who worked on maintenance at Encombe. St Peter's church hall, in Wear Bay Crescent, was due to be turned into a store for furniture for removal firm Hildebrands.

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:-