Simply Whitstable Visitors Book Content

Date Message/Response Sender

Message Re: British.... English.... or Cornish?

Hi, Dave. My wife has always been and will forever be Cornish.


Peter Miller ex Middle Wall in the 50's

Site Response:

Thanks, Peter. I have rellies in the Plymouth/Tavistock area of Devon and one once told me that everything feels different when you cross the River Tamar into Cornwall. I tried it and got the same impression. Even "cream teas" are different. I can't remember which way round it is but one county places the cream on scones before the strawberry jam and the other does it the opposite way.

Of course, there is a "Cornwall Independence" movement and the county even has its own "national" flag - a white cross on a black background.

A lot of the tribalism stems from the various invasions of Britain in the distant past. Each subsequent invasion pushed the previous occupants further west. I was once told (by a Welshman) that many Welsh people have stunning dark hair and dark eyes (eg Liz Hurley) because they are the original ancient Britons whereas the fairer, blue-eyed occupants of England tend to be Anglo-Saxons, Danes and/or Vikings. Even the Normans had lighter hair colour than the Britons because they originated from Scandinavia before they became masters of Normandy in Northern France.

You would have thought that, after all these centuries, the inhabitants of Great Britain would have found a way to live in harmony and unity... but apparently not!!!! There is still potential for the UK to disintegrate into lots of silly little tribes.

But look on the bright side, we could yet establish our own Kingdom of Kent in the future!!!!! I am happy to be king and hold court at The Castle.

Peter Miller

Message: British or English?

Hi, Dave. A question for you. Sorry it's not about Whitstable but it came up for me recently. It started on Twitter with an argument with someone about whether or not I'm English or British? And it started with the suggestion that, if Andy Murray won Wimbledon he would be be a great British player but, if he lost, he would be a Scotsman.

Technically, we are  British or UK citizens because of our passports . But, for me, I don't feel British as I was born in England with English parents and regard myself as English. Would a Welshman or Scotsman or Irishman regard him/herself as British or Welsh, Scot or Irish.

 Considering that Great Britain is made up of 4 countries being England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is very confusing for many outsiders as to who we are let alone for us who came from there. Quite a few of my Asian friends here in New Zealand cannot understand how I always like to see the England football team win (but don't) but always enjoying watching the Scottish football team being beaten. They can't get their head around the fact that it's a separate country but part of the same country. I want them to lose as I could never support the Scotland football team. BUT my Asian friends think I should be supporting Scotland as well as they are part of Britain. How do you feel about this Dave... are we English or are we British!!!!

As far as I'm concerned I am English

Site Response:

Oh dear, Stephen.... you really are going to land me in deep "do-dos" with this one because it's a touchy and controversial subject nowadays!

Let me start by clearing up a point and making things even more difficult for your Asian friends. There are actually three tiers rather than the two you have mentioned. This is because "Great Britain" is NOT the same as the "United Kingdom".

The term "Great Britain" refers to the main island occupied by England, Scotland and Wales and therefore excludes Northern Ireland. This is why we compete together under the title "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in some international competitions. By contrast, the United Kingdom DOES include Northen Ireland. In fact, the term is an abbreviation of the title "The United Kindom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

To make matters even worse, you could even claim a fourth tier because we belong to the European Union - an organisation that increasingly seems to want to pursue the ludicrous idea of a European state. So, England is part of Great Britain..... which is part of the United Kingdom.... which is part of the European Union.

For official purposes, we are primarily Citizens of United Kingdom because, as you say, we hold UK passports and largely obey the UK  government whilst trying to ignore the European Sprouts of Brussels as best we can!!!. Informally, we can claim to be English... or British... or Citizens of the UK.... or, if the worst comes to the worst, European!!!! In fact, we can claim to be all of these at the same time by arguing that we are "English-British-UK-Europeans". The choice is ours.

That choice depends on how we feel in our hearts and the decision can vary between individuals. It can also vary over time and with changing circumstances.

If you posed your questions 40 years ago, I (like many English people) would have said that I was British. I would also have hoped that Scotland would win any international competition if England had been eliminated. However, that is not the case today. If I sign a hotel guest book, I now describe myself as "English" and I no longer show any favouritism to any Scottish sports team!!!! Andy Murray's success at Wimbledon left me cold and I am still waiting for the first of my countrymen to win the damn thing since Fred Perry!!!! That has particularly been the case since Murray's much publicised and somewhat trite comments about the England football team. ;-)

My change of attitude started when I began to feel that there was increasing antagonism and vitriol being directed at the English from a growing number of (but, admittedly, not all) Scots. After all, why should I put up with a stream of insults and criticisms from North of the border without reacting?

Sadly, my views have become even more entrenched because the division between England and Scotland has now advanced beyond sporting rivalry into much wider and more serious political and social issues. This is because Scotland now has its own parliament and can give itself a better deal on a number of matters - including such things as health care and the funding of university education. England has never been allowed a separate parliament. As result, we suffer the serious anomaly whereby a Scottish parliament can vote to make university education free for Scottish youngsters.... whilst Scottish MPs at Westminster can vote to impose massive tutition fees (often amounting to tens of thousands of pounds) on English kids. Thus, our young people start their working (and married) life at a massive disadvantage compared to their Scottish counterparts.

The whole devolution matter was very badly handled.... and I suspect that it was also pretty cynical from a polical standpoint. It seemed to me that the Labour government was becoming increasingly concerned by the growth of Scottish nationalism. After all, Scotland contains many of the party's electoral heartlands. By giving Scotland a parliament, Labour felt that they could grab control of it and also preserve the stream of Labour MP's flowing down the M1 to the UK parliament at Westminster. Along the way, they pretty much ignored England and the English identity. It was both callous and disgraceful.

It was also pretty stupid and an abject failure. Scottish nationalism continued to grow to the point at which the Scottish National Party (SNP) was able to gain full control of the new Scottish parliament and secure a referendum on full Scottish independence. That referendum will take place in 2014. If the Scots vote for independence, Labour will be in some trouble because they will lose their Scottish heartlands and find it far more difficult to win any Westminster election in the future. The face of UK politics will change forever.

Amidst all this, the plight of England continues to be ignored by all the main political parties. This is fuelling discontent south of the border and creating a growing sense of English identity. More people seem to be calling themselves "English" rather than "British". Furthermore, some opinion polls suggest that a surprisingly high proportion of English people support Scottish independence because they want to get rid of them!!!! ;-)

Deep down, my own view on Scottish independence is that the home countrieswill all be better off if they stick together as the UK. However, in a democracy, I recognise that the Scots have a right to decide their own destiny. I have also become heartily fed up with the constant griping from north of the border, sick of the inequalities and completely disgruntled by the issue of independence cropping up every decade. With some reluctance, I now wonder if it is time for them to leave the union and paddle their own canoe, toss their own caber... or do whatever else they feel is necessary in celebration of Bannockburn. I will simply watch the whole costly charade from a safe distance and with mild interest. It could be rather amusing.

I say "charade" because I suspect that there is more chance of the Royal Family streaking across Murrayfield during the Calcutta Cup than there is of the Scots voting for independence. The Scots aren't stupid and, when the big hitters start to speak in the lead-in to the referendum, the Scottish National Party's arguments are likely to fall apart in a quite embarrassing way. Even so, the referendum is likely to cause deeper rifts, resentment and mistrust between England and Scotland (and, indeed, between Scottish Nationalists and  Scottish Unionists). This is because the campaign will become increasingly bitter, spiteful, pathetic and (ultimately) tribal as polling day approaches. Irrespective of the outcome, it will take years for the wounds to heal.

I would also qualify my statement of "standing by" and "watching from a safe distance". There are three aspects of the referendum for which English people cannot be mere bystanders and must have a say.

Firstly, we must insist that the referendum is straightforward "yes or no" vote based on Scotland's EXISTING situation. Our politicians must NOT in any circumstances offer the Scots extra goodies in order to "bribe" them to remain part of the union. I suspect that some people north of the border already accept that there will be a "no" vote but see the referendum as a way of improving their lot at the expense of the rest of the UK. Such bribes will merely exacerbate the inequality and bad feeling between the home nations. Scotland should have two basic options.... "Participate in the UK on an equal basis... or go its own way". We have reached the stage where we cannot afford to pussyfoot around with it anymore. We cannot keep offering concessions and we certainly cannot keep revisiting the issue every few years. The world is becoming more competitive and we need to build for the future rather than be constantly reminded about Bannockburn, Rob Roy and William Wallace.

Secondly, in the event of a "no" vote, the main parties must address the anomalies of England's pariamentary representation.

Thirdly, in the event of a "yes" vote, English people must have a say in the way that assets and liabilities are split. I have to be honest and say that I trust Alex Salmond (leader of the SNP) no further than I can spit!!!!

Phew... I hope that lot helps, Stephen!!! If all this resentment can be resolved, I may call myself British again.... but, for now, I am most definitely English. ;-)

Stephen Holmes
New Zealand

Message Re: Back Copies of Publications (Whitstable Times)

Doesn't the British Library hold all the archives?

Site Response:

Thanks, Barry. I really don't know the answer. However, a number of our readers do seem to quote old WT articles and I don't think they all use the Microfiche at the Whitstable Library. So, hopefully, we will get to the bottom of the problem.

Barry Freeman

Message: Coronation Sports Day - Three Legged Race

Can anyone help me please?

Is it possible to access back copies of Whitstable Times? I am trying to find a photograph from the Coronation Sports Day on South Street playing fields in 1953 . It concerned a 3-legged race won by John Gould and myself but also showing Fred Warner and Roy Kendall who were second. John and I EACH received a 5 shilling Nat Savings cert. which was a small fortune to a 10 year old.

I keep in regular touch with Fred and John but have not contacted Roy since 1996 when he came to lunch at my office on Waterloo Station.

Site Response:

Thanks, Chris. I remember the coronation event being raised in the Visitors Book a few years ago by Fred Warner. He kindly provided the following photo of the SECOND PLACED three legged team....

Coronation sports day 1953 - The three legged race

As you say, that second placed team comprised Fred and Roy Kendall.... and they appear on the left of the shot. The other people in the picture are not known.

Even after 60 years, I believe Fred is still asking for a steward's enquiry on the grounds that you and John didn't tie your legs together properly!!!

I understand that old copies of the Whitstable Times can be viewed on microfiche at the Whitstable Library but I doubt that you could get a copy of the photo from that. Does anyone else know if there is another method of obtaining this material. Does the newspaper have a subscription CD or an archive web site?

Chris Daughton
W. Sussex

Message Re: Ancestry Query

Good day.

For the past few months, I have been researching my ancestory and having migrated to Australia in 2000. My only search engine is obviously the internet. I have been trying to track information on my Grandparents Frederick George Sandy (1901-1980) and Florence May Sandy (nee Drapper and originally Camburn) (1902-1973). 

 My grandad was actually born in Chartham. However, the 1911 census indicates he was a scholar and was living at 39 Swanfield Rd, Whitstable along with his dad, Albert George and mum Lucy Ann (nee Moat) and siblings Ethel, John, Elsie, Herbert and Dorothy.

My grandmother in the census of the same year is at school and is living at 6 Dragson Terrace, Suffolk Street, Whitstable with her mother Emily Grace Camburn (nee Whiddett) and siblings Frank, Emily G, Emma, Arthur, Dorothy, Hilda and Ellen.  At that time, George Drapper was living at the same address as a 'borader'.  George was in fact father to Dorothy, Hilda, Ellen and my grandmother Florence all of who must have changed their surname to Drapper upon his marriage to Emily G Camburn on 10 September 1919. My grandmother's house must have been really crowded. 

 I would love to find out which school my grandarents attended and any information you can offer. My grandpaents were married 25 August 1928 at the Parish Church Whitstable and I have a copy of their marrigae certificate. So, if there is anybody out there who has some information I would love to hear from you.

Kind regards,


Site Response:

Thanks, Glyn. It's interesting how close-knit the community was in Whitstable of that time. People often seemed to marry someone from the same or a nearby street. Suffolk Street and Swanfield Road are fairly close to each other, of course.

I have not heard of Dragson Terrace but it was quite common in those days for individual terraces to be named and numbered quite separately from other houses in a street. Later, such terraces were rationalised for address purposes and given straightforward street numbers. At that point, some names were lost in the mists of time and eventually forgotten. However, there are cases where the name can still be spotted in the brickwork - usually high up on the front wall where it goes unnoticed.

As you say, your grandmother's house must have been very overcrowded. Again, this was very typical of the era.... and I have heard of other families in that district that had even more children!!!

Identifying your grandparents' school would be very difficult without more information. By the time of the 1911 census, they would  have been around the age of 9 or 10. The local state school for that age group would have been the Council School in Oxford Street (now known as Whitstable Junior School) . The main Church of England school (now known as The Endowed) was also in Oxford Street.

The majority of "ordinary" youngsters would have attended one of these two establishments. However, there were quite a few private schools. Some were  posh and expensive. Others operated in ordinary residential properties, charged quite small weekly fees and fell within the budget of some working class families.

I hope someone will be able to provide you with a bit more help.

Glyn Barrington Jones
Coomera Springs

Message Re: Education


I was interested to read your comments pertaining to Brian Smith's posting of 14/6/13 - specifically those on today's educational system in the UK as opposed to the time when you were being schooled (indeed, some of us even earlier)!

I recently read, on the BBC website, a well-researched list of twenty/twenty-five industrialised nations and how they rate in terms of education. I was very (pleasantly) surprized to see that the UK was Number 5 with Finland Number 1. The USA was placed at Number 20.

 Your reference to "third rate" universities brought to mind a "warning" given to me by my American fiance shortly before I came to the States. That being:  "Don't be impressed by 'the piece of paper' (a college degree) because so much depends on the university from which it came.  Many colleges in the U.S. are academically inferior".

Forward to 1963 and the assassination of JFK. I was then working as secretary to the Managing Editor of a metropolitan daily in Dayton, Ohio. Because of the magnitude of that incident, I decided to write a personal reaction. This was for me, purely something to keep and show to my children, grandchildren many years on.  However, the Managing Editor asked to see what I was composing and the result was that my article was the only "local" piece - the others being wire service entries - on Page One of the following day's paper.

A few short months later, it was entered in a nationwide journalism contest with over one thousand participants - professional journalists. It was one of ten winners.  The upshot was that I was promoted to Feature Writer, BUT, the editor of our paper was "college obsessed" and, knowing I hadn't attended university, insisted that I go to the local college and acquire a degree! 

Attending college in the evenings likely would have taken me five YEARS to obtain "the piece of paper"!  The ridiculous part of this fiasco was that NO stipulation was made as to WHAT I might study - basket-weaving would have sufficed. This illustrated to me the "thing" about a college education here. I had proven I could out-write many professional journalists but that wasn't enough. I'd point out that I was a product of the "old" UK educational system. 

 I didn't attend university because due to my Mother's early death during WW2, I missed the Eleven Plus exam. I was able to take it at Twelve Plus, but when I began at Canterbury Technical School for Girls, I was put into the SECOND year as opposed to the FIRST year and therefore missed taking French which was a mandatory subject in the School Certificate "O" levels - therefore absolutely no chance of taking the O's or the A's! Also being a child in London during the War, I, along with thousands of others, missed a fair amount of schooling due to the air-raids - many London schools were closed for some time during the conflict.  But, I could indeed WRITE. 

I think all of the foregoing makes it clear that what my former fiance told me many decades ago was true. Without "the piece of paper", I simply was educationally unacceptable in a society where a college degree is a MUST in order to obtain/hold a "good job".  It also reinforced my opinion that the UK educational system for MY generation, bearing in mind the intervention of the War, was a very, very good one.

Site Response:

Thanks, Rosemary. As so much education claptrap emanates from The States, I suspect that you tend to hit problems somewhat earlier than we do!!!!! I tend to "go off on one" whenever the problems of education are raised because I have always been fascinated by education theory. Even "bad theory" is interesting because it makes me laugh so much... particularly if political correctness is also involved!!

It's interesting to compare modern times with the past. Both my wife and I could have progressed to university after A-Levels but we chose not to for different reasons. At the age of 18, we entered the adult world.

I joined the Civil Service and, after some excellent "in-house" training, my first post involved supervising 7 people aged between 21 and 55. I can tell you...... I had to grow up pretty fast!!!! After 5 years, I became a staff training instructor in London and then swiched to a technical post in IT in the early days of networked computers. My wife applied for trainee computer programming posts with "blue chip" companies. She was eventually taken on by the Greater London Council.

The point I am making here is that a degree wasn't necessary in order to approach some of the country's biggest employers. Nowadays, I doubt that you would get anywhere near the IT department of a blue chip company without a degree. I suspect that it might also matter which university had bestowed the degree. Along the way, A-Level status has been devalued to the point at which it is merely an invitation to apply for higher education rather than a standalone qualification in its own right.

In my day, the "fast tracking" into desirable posts at the age of 18 was made possible by the attitudes of the era and the willingness of companies to accept the burden and costs of in-house training. After the initial outlay, companies gained because, from Day 1, they were able to mould and train staff to meet their very specific requirements. Youngsters gained because they were earning and progressing immediately instead of waiting 3 more years to enter the workplace. The nation gained because it had more taxpayers to fund such things as the retirement pensions of the older generations.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that all "three year" degree courses are crap. They are not. There are many fields of employment for which a full degree course is important or even essential. The most obvious ones include such things as the medical, scientific, engineering and architecture professions. However, the modern attitude of sending every A-Level student to uni so that they can get a degree is severely flawed.

Too many kids are encouraged to approach life in the wrong way. First, they are sold the idea that they must go to uni to have any hope of a decent job. With no real idea what they want to do in the long term, many opt for a course that sounds interesting.... or, at the very least, one that sounds no more than moderately boring. There are, of course, some favourites for the bewildered student of limited acdamic ability. Sports science sounds great... doesn't it? And... how about media studies?

Then, they spend three years at an obscure uni that mascaraded as a college of further education  until Tony Blair embarked on his "Ejukation, Ejukation Ejukation" crusade. Eventually, they get a 2/2  and have to pursue a real career.

That is when they find that jobs in sport and the media are few and far between..... and decide that they didn't really want a job in sport or education anyway.... because their course was really just an excuse for a 3 year party while they considered what they really wanted to do with their lives once the hangover cleared.

The end result is that so many of them end up in the dole queue or in jobs that they could easily have done three years earlier. Unfortunately, they are now stuck with a massive student loan (running to tens of thousands of pounds) for a pointless education. They can't afford a house for years to come... and they can't start a family until they are well into their thirties. The government also misses out on their income tax... and scratches its head as to how it can fund its growing state pension commitments for an ageing popualtion, health service and defence commitments while presiding over a shrinking workforce.

Just think how stupid all this has become. A uni education is arguably the second most expensive purchase that young people will ever make and, yet, some of them spend less time and take less care in making their choice than I would devote to the selection of a pair of shoes. At the end of the day, they can spend £20,000 or more and allocate 3 years of their lifespan to the whole iffy process. Their so called "vital" uni course becomes little more than the most expensive "piss up and sleep in" in the annals of human history.

A big shift is needed in the way that education works. Firstly, kids need help to work out what career they want to pursue BEFORE their A-Levels and then a plan should be worked out to earmark the specific education they need to achieve their aim. In some cases, that may well entail a full degree course. In others, it may involve short courses at a college of further education or, perhaps, "in house" training by an employer.

For many years now, I have argued that universities needed to change the way they served the nation. Yes... they should run full degree courses where appropriate. However, they should also run short modules on very specific topics. This would enable youngsters to train more quickly for the particular job that they want to pursue without having to sit though a whole load of irrelevant stuff on a three year course. It would also enable employers to send staff to uni for a few weeks or months in order to supplement their in-house training. Fortunately, unis are beginning to do this.... but 30 years too late!!!!

I suppose much of my frustration built up while working in the IT industry. Let me explain just a few of my irritations.

Even in my day, the IT industry involved so many different specialisms... including application software development, systems software development, system administration, database design, computer communications, cabling infarstructure.... etc.. etc. The list is endless. So many "long courses" at uni and colleges were far too general for the real world. Some students fresh from uni knew a bit about a lot but were masters of nowt.... and they had little experience of IT in a real business context. Furthermore, the technology was advancing so fast in the real world that studies in year 1 of a three year course could be out of date by the time the student hit year 3.

While all this was going on, there was, from time to time, a desperate shortage of technical people in certain specialisms within the overall IT industry. Unis and colleges were simply too rigid in their approach to respond quickly to the need.

Workers in these areas of staff shortage could attract high salaries and they often switched employer to get a better deal. Companies found it easier and cheaper to attract (or even poach) staff from a rival than to train their own people from scratch. Those employers who were committed to taking on kids at age 18 eventually ditched the idea because, after investing vast sums in staff development, they watched their investment diappear out of the door after a year or two due to poaching. The industry started to become a closed shop as far as school leavers were concerned.

I'll shut up now... and slip into my carpet slippers!!!! 

Rosemary Gilbert
San Francisco

Message Re: Whitstable Boys School and the Busy Bees

Dear Dave,

 We've probably discussed this before but mention of the Busy Bees at Oxford Street school has prompted me to add a few things.

I remember when I was in 1A, Mr Lawrence's class, in what would have been 1954-55, that it was Miss Wood, the teacher of 1B next door to us who ran the Busy Bees. Miss Wood was a tiny white-haired woman who was nevertheless a very a firm and assertive teacher, in spite of some of the boys even at seven years old being almost the same height as her. I remember seeing her break up a fight in the playground by separating the two protagonists, talking very severely to them, then finally making them shake hands! Those playground fights were moments of high drama, where other boys would crowd round the spectacle shouting Fight! Fight!....or was it pronounced more like Foight!? Thankfully, I was never involved in one.

But back to the Busy Bees: I believe it was a sort of junior fundraising club for the PDSA People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. We didn't have pets in my family when I was young, but I seem to remember seeing people taking their sick pets to the PDSA clinic in a mobile unit which parked in the car park behind the Assembly Rooms some weekday evenings.


Site Response:

Thanks, Ian. I well remember thr fights. I couldn't make head nor trail of those chants. It sounded more like "Foi... Foi". However, it was sufficiently distinctive to attract the attention of a teacher within a few minutes!!!!

I also recall the PDSA van. For a while, I believe may also have operated on the cinder wastelands of Victoria Street car park. In those days, money was tight and many people were unable to afford the luxury of a private vet.

Ian Johnson
W. Yorks

Message Re: St Alphege School

I attended the school for two years 1941-42. There were 3 mixed classes. Most of the boys moved on to Oxford St. Boys School after two years. Girls remained the extra year before moving on to the Endowed Girls. I don't think girls remained due to their achieved accademic level as I recall some who later performed rather well at both the Endowed and Simon Langton Grammar schools. Perhaps the girls remaining for the third year was due to an Endowed Girls school capacity issue?

All teachers were women although I no longer recall names.

An attempt to form a school band was made in my first year but I don't think that survived beyond a few frustrating attempts - frustrating for our teacher! We did learn to grow Silk worms thanks to the leaves I could take in from our Mulberry Tree at home. I guess we did try to learn the 3Rs as we used slates not paper until part way through the second year. Perhaps that was due to the wartime paper shortage?

Slates were 'orrible but the thin watery ink we had to mix ourselves from powder & water demanded plenty of blotting paper. When we did eventually get paper most of my arithmetic and spelling efforts disappeared into a watery blue 'pond'. The writing paper, as paper, was just a different colour to the blotting paper and almost as absorbent!

Someone mentioned 'loos' there! I can't recall them! Wonder what I used?  Air raid shelters there too so someone once wrote. Yeah? Perhaps, I was occupied feeding the Silk worms. 

Site Response:

Thanks, Brian.

They certainly hit the the 3Rs big time at the Oxford Street Boys School of the 1940s and 1950s. In my first year there, we had to learn "times tables", the alphabet and "joined up" writing. It all went reasonably well while we were using pencils. Then, one day, the teacher (Mr Lawrence) filled our ink wells and gave us cheap wooden pens - comprising a stick of wood with a damaged nib on the end!!! It was all down hill from there until mum bought me a fountain pen from Everetts (ie the stationers next to Tele-Radio).

The "times tables" were permanently suspended at the front of the class and we had to copy and learn two per week. They covered  a range from "one times" to "thirteen times". I could see the point of "twelve times" because it tied in with 12 pence being worth one shilling.... but I couldn't understand the use of "thirteen times". Maybe it was because older people still talked about "baker's dozens" even though no-one actually used them anymore

We were tested every Friday. If we got them right, we were allowed to move on to the next set of tables. There was intense competition to be the pupil with the "highest successfully completed table".

It got even more intense in the second year under Mr Hake. Every week, we had to write an essay, learn 20 spellings, undertake dictation, insert punctuation in a block of text, write a diary entry and read out loud. We also had cards  containing sums of ascending difficulty. Late on Friday afternoons, Hake read an instalment of Oliver Twist to us. He was brilliant at the accents - particularly Fagin.

Everything that could be tested was tested... and everything that could be marked was marked.

At the end of each week, marks were totalled and desks were reallocated based on the outcome. Boys with the lowest marks were placed at the front. It was a sort of "itinerant education system" because we had to wander around with all our belongings every Friday until Mr Hake allocated a new desk by tapping it with his ruler and shouting the name of its new tenant.

We didn't need official exams to tell us how well education was going. The teachers knew it at all times.... because they had a register  of weekly marks in their drawer. We knew it too because he/she told us the results!!!! Their big mistake was telling everyone else our results... because that caused humiliation and disillusionment for some.

During that second year, there seemed to be little else but the 3Rs. The exception was singing... which was a particular passion of Mr Hake. We were even graded on that. We had to sing solo in front of the class, whereupon, we were placed in Group A, B, C or D. I have told the story of this on one of our Whitstable Boys School pages (click here). It put me off music for life... and I have never sung at a funeral or wedding since!!!! I just stand there and read the hymn book to myself while I wait patiently for everyone else to finish what they are doing!!! Why do hymns have to have so many verses?

There were some very good and some very bad aspects of those old teaching methods. However, overall, I still think they produced better results than the modern system. Having helped my kids through modern education, I am absolutely convinced that I would have been a complete failure if I had received my education today. The saving grace would be that no-one (except me) would be allowed to call me a failure. I would probably be labelled with the name of the latest learning disability to be imported from some learned professor or other in the United States. That would excuse both me... and the education system that created the dilemma!!! In education, no-one is to blame and everything is fine because the eventual GCSE certificates say it is so.

Nowadays, we have so many extra "third rate" universities that the majority of sixth form pupils can acquire the somewhat dubious accolade of a massive student debt and a 2/2 in such things as Sports Science, Media Studies or Peforming Arts... provided that they can achieve some very modest A-Level results. After completing the course, too many end up in the dole queue, working as admin assistants or manning the phone at a call centre at the ripe old age of 22 or 23 - situations that they could have filled at the age of 18 without incurrring half a lifetime of debt. Meanwhile, the old and much vaunted Technical Colleges of the past have fallen into a black hole of despair and we now import workers from Europe to undertake valuable technical work. ;-)

I'll run along now before brickbats arrive from any educationalists amongst our readership!!!!

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing

Message: St Alphege Infants School

Hi, Dave.

I went to the infant school near the bridge on Oxford St in the 1950s. There were not enough classrooms to take everybody. So, some of us got marched down to the hall in town where, underneath there was a room we used as a classroom. At play time, we went out the back where there was a cinder yard which we used to run about on.

Does anybody else remember this. If they do, it may be I went school with them as, after this, we went to the boys school in Oxford St.

 There was a club called the Busy Bee club - run by one of the lady teachers. There was a bike shed that separated the older boys from the younger ones and an outside toilet.

Site Response:

Thanks, Lawrence. I am sure that we have a number of readers who progressed from St Alphege Infants to the Oxford Street Boys School in the early 1950s. Of course, the girls normally moved up from St Alphege to the Endowed Girls School.

As you say, the main St Alphege building was down an alleyway close to the Oxford Street railway bridge. It was right alongside the railway embankment and it gave rise to one of the oddest school photos I have ever seen. It was from the 1920s and it was kindly forwarded by Jock Harnett....

St Alphege School bank photo

The kids posed on the railway embankment with the school building in the background.

Built back in 1875, the premises were really too antiquated for a "modern" school of the 1950s. However, it had a very good reputation and there was quite a demand for places. My mum tried to get me in there circa 1954 but failed. I think part of the problem was that it was a church school and I was a heathen who would eventually become a Jedi knight in censuses of the 21st century. ;-)

The school's popularity and limited accommodation meant that it struggled for space and it's interesting to hear that you were taught in a hall in the town centre. From your description, it sounds as if it was St Mary's Parish Hall. That would make sense because the hall would probably have been church-owned at that stage and St Alphege was a church school. The hall still exists today as a community centre and the cinder area serves as a public car park.

There were a lot of space problems for many schools in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Both the Oxford Street Boys and Endowed Girls had to cope with extra pupils when the school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15 in 1947. Prefabs were built on the land to the side of the Boys school. These were the white structures that appeared at many schools around England at that time. They were known by the acronym "HORSAs" (ie Hutted Operations for Raising School Age).

The Boys school occupied HORSAs close to Oxford Street. The Endowed used some alongside the alley that ran between Cromwell and Argyle Roads. The two sets were separated by the Boys small playing field.

The HORSAs were supposed to be temporary until a new secondary school (The Sir William Nottidge Secondary Modern) could be opened in Whitstable. That finally  happened in1952....  but the HORSAs remained for many decades thereafter!!!

By the time I went to the Boys School in 1956, the boys were only using one of the HORSAs (Mr Notcutt's room) and the Endowed were only using a couple down by the alley. The rest had been handed over to St Alphege Infants to supplement their old building down at the Oxford Street railway bridge. The HORSAs weren't ideal but they probably removed the need for St Alphege to use the Parish Hall.

The location of the HORSAs meant that little crocodiles of pupils were often seen commuting between buildings. Endowed Girls marched along the alleyways between the prefabs and their main school at the rear of the church. St Alphege infants marched along Oxford Street to their old building at the bridge.

You are right about the bike shed at the Boys School. If you look at our school history page you will find some rough plans of the playgrounds. The school canteen was at one end of the bike shed and a washroom was at the other. At lunch time the boys formed a queue at the washroom to wash their hands before making their way down the playground to the canteen.

The smell generated from that canteen remains with me today. It was 'orrible and I am glad that I was able to go home for dinner!!!!

I vaguely remember a Busy Bee club. There were very few lady teachers at the school in those days and they taught the younger pupils. I seem to recall that one may have been called Miss or Mrs Beesman (or some similar name) of class 1C. I wonder if she became Queen Bee of the Busies!!!! The other lady teachers were Mrs Cooper of class 1B (whose husband was also a teacher at the school) and Miss or Mrs Hogben of class 2C (possibly). I am sorry for the confusion over "Mrs", "Miss" and "Ms". I really can't remember who was what.

Male teachers at the school when I first arrived in '56 included.... Mr Lawrence (1A), Mr Hake (2A), Mr Kemping (2B), Mr Porritt, Mr Hardy, Mr Notcutt and Mr Glenn (4A). Mr Glenn had recently replaced the very popular Jack London who had sadly died shortly before. Jack was also involved in the well known family business of Star Mineral Waters of Essex Street.

I was with Len Hake in my second year when he transferred to a Herne Bay school. We got a new teacher (Mr Hime) and he moved up with us from 2A.... to 3A and, finally, to 4A.

There were some things that would never happen today. I recall a teacher asking us if anyone knew much about cars. One boy put his hand up whereupon the teacher gave him his keys and asked him to fetch his tobacco from the glove compartment of his Rover. The car was parked in those cycle sheds. When the boy returned, the teacher rolled a fag and lit up. Smoking was such an accepted practice in those days.

Talking of cycle sheds, I must mention that the whole "bicycle business" at the school gave rise to one of my saddest moments. The headmaster decreed that boys could only ride to school if they passed the Cycling Proficiency Test. Certificates were handed out in assembly.

So, even though I was in the first year and just 7 years old,  I signed up for the Cycling Proficiency Lessons. These took place at the school on Saturday mornings when, under the gaze of the local plod, we had to ride around the school playgrounds and weave in and out of obstacle courses. My bike was so tiny that I could whip around the course faster than anyone... and I thought I was doing well because the plod were whispering about me. However, it was actually bad news. A bobby came over and told me that I was expelled because my bike was too small.

Not to be put off, I shot home..... and got my brother's bike. When I returned, I started to weave very precariously around the course.... and got expelled again. This time I was too small.... on the basis of an administrative technicality. My feet didn't extend all the way down to the ground and I did not, therefore, have full administrative control over gravity when faced wirh a "stop" sign. To be honest, they didn't even extend down to the pedals.... BUT I was coping!!!!

Not only did I have to manage my disappointment, I also had to go home and explain to my brother why his bike had suddenly gone missing form the shed. It wasn't a good day.

Lawrence Gibbens


I was brought up in Canterbury in the early fifties, and spent many happy days in Whitstable having cycled over there with either my brother or friends.

I am very interested in all forms of old transport, which of course, includes the Crab and Winkle line. In fact, I went to the Archbishop's School in Canterbury and the southern  opening of the tunnel was in it's grounds. I had often walked through the tunnel, and climbed the signal that was just south of it! I well remember the line when still in use, and my mother, until very recently, lived within a few yards of the last remaining piece of railway embankment in Canterbury.

However, the reason for me writing is to do with another form of transport, i.e. Maflin's Coaches. My very first coach journey was in one of these coaches while I was a pupil at Holy Cross School in Canterbury. A number of coaches took the school to Windsor for the day. I have a keen interest in coaches having been a part time coach driver ( I was a teacher until I retired in 2000) and would like to obtain some photos of Maflin's coaches for my collection. I have been trying to find some information on line, but have only found out on your website that Edna Maflin recently passed away in Australia. Can any of your contributors help me in this matter please?

Site Response:

Thanks, Robert. Most of our older readers remember Maflin coaches and their old garage in Canterbury Road (now the site of a Co-Op convenience store). The subject has been discussed several times in the Visitors Book and we hoped that we might be able to find some photos so that we coud create an article. However, too date, we have failed to do so,

I have had a quick look back through old Visitors Book pages and the only entry with technical information was kindly sent by Gary Maflin some years ago. This is the text of Gary's message.....

"On reading the visitors book, I was interested to read about people's memories of 'Old Coaches" in days gone by and thought, with respect, I'd clarify some points. 

Jimmy Bottle did indeed have coaches and was a business in his own right. He did do school runs as did my step father's coaches... he being Aubrey Maflin. 

When I was a nipper, our coaches were four 1949 Leyland PS1's ... 38 or 40 seaters from memory with half cabs and a 4 or 5 speed crash gearbox. I spent many an hour washing and cleaning out those things after they returned from wherever they went. It wasn't too pleasant on the inside sometimes I can tell you. I'm sure many will remember the coaches with their yellow and black livery.

Con Regent worked for us for many years as a mechanic and driver along with Bill Amos, Bert Maflin and a chap named Bill Ball, I believe. Con Regent actually drove one of our coaches to Europe.. I'm not sure but I think it may have been Switzerland. Con was a real comedian and always playing tricks and larking about.. and he was great with the patrons.... especially the elderly. Some years after leaving us, he did start his own coach business which was of course Regents Coaches. I was in OZ when this happened.

Our garage was in Canterbury Rd. and was tied up with the the then Regent Oil Company. Our coaches did the majority of the 'Nottidge' school work. Jimmy Bottle and Aubrey helped each other out when either were short of a coach now and again but I believe there may have been a bit of rivalry and some heated exchanges from time to time.  Jimmy did have a couple of 'Loaves' I think and so too did Aubrey and his father I'm told but that was before my time".

The reference to "loaves" concerns a comment by another reader. At one time, the coaches used for school runs were brown and shaped like loaves of bread!!!!

Robert Clegg

Site Note: Castle Grounds Photos

As part of the revamp of Simply Whitstable, I want to rebuild our collection of current day photos. (I am sure some of our readers will recall that, at one time, we had around 400-500 modern shots of the town on the site).

To this end, I have deciuded to take my camera whenever I go for a walk around town. My first "walk" was on 5/6/13 when I captured scenes at The Castle Grounds. You can click here to view the results.

The new photos are accessible from the "The Modern Day Pictorials" section of Simply Whitstable's main menu.

If we get plenty of sunshine, the whole section may be completed during the summer months. However, if the weather as bad as it has been for the last eighteen months, it may take 10 years!!!! It is now June and I am sitting here in an overcoat!!!!!

Site Note

Message Re: Whitstable Junior School

Hi, Dave.

Would there be any chance that the school would have archive material that would help in finding the names of the school houses pre-WW2? Just a thought.

Site Response:

Thanks, Dave. When the school produced its centenary booklet back in 1977 (ie Bell, Book and Boys), some dedicated people ploughed through some very detailed records. Thus, I suspect that archives do exist somewhere. However, I have always been very reluctant to worry schools with enquiries because staff are under such pressure nowadays. The other problem is that, with the site revamp going on, I wouldn't have time to devote to the task.

One of the interesting things about Bell, Book and Boys is that it only makes one brief mention of the house system. Perhaps, the authors didn't regard it as a significant aspect. On the other hand, it is possible that it didn't get a mention in the archives.

Archives would give us a much better idea of so many aspects of the school history. In particular, it migh solve another big mystery. Back in 1877, the buildings were constructed to accommodate three interrelated schools under the control of a single school board - a boys, girls and infants. Eventually, the girls and infants disappeared and the boys occupied the entire site. At the moment, we have no real idea when that split happened. I have documented this in one of the school pages entitled "The Riddle of the Missing Girls and Infants".

Bell Book and Boys is quite vague and, in some parts, a little misleading on this mystery. Of course, the purpose of the book is to relate the history of the boys school and, understandably, it only makes brief mention of the girls and infants. It may also be that the archives of the girls and infants schools were either passed on to other schools or lost in the very early days.

The more I think about the girls and infant problem, the more I feel the evidence points to it happening in the early 1920s. However, if it occurred that late in the schools history, surely someone would remember it.

Dave Warner
New Zealand

Site Note: Whitstable Boys School Houses - Another Update!!!

It took just 24 hours to get a response to our discoveries about the pre1940s house system at Whitstable Boys School (Oxford Street).

John Wraight wrote from Australia to tell us that there was a Pitt House. While perusing the excellent local web site, he had come across a photo of the Pitt House football team of 1932.

I have now amended our article The House System pre-1940s . As you will see, there may now be just one more house name to discover. So, over to you... and your family photo albums of the 1920s/1930s.

Site Note

Site Note: Whitstable Boys School Section Update

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I have updated the article on the history of The House System at the Whitstable Boys School (Oxford Street).

Most of us attended the school after World War II when there was a vibrant system comprising houses called Becket, Marlowe, Caxon and Wolfe. However, over the years, we received information that suggested the system and house names were different before the war. Initially, we discovered a house called Chaucer.... and then one called Dickens. Now, Jock Harnett has found a photo with yet another house name..... ie Barham House.

As a result, I have now re-written the section and divided it into two pages.These are...

  1. The House System from the 1940s
  2. The House Sytem pre-1940s

The latter now delves into the early history of the system and comes up with some ideas on when it all started and how it was first implemented. It also highlights gaps in our knowledge that some of our readers may want to discuss and fill. For instance, there may yet be more house names to discover.

Before you look at the pages, here is a little test for you. Of the modern houses of Becket, Marlowe, Caxton and Wolfe, which was the first to be used at Oxford Street? You'll find the answer in the articles.

Site Note: Clubs & Organisations Section

I have now reinstated this section and it is available from the main menu. I will be adding more organsitaions and extra material to it shortly.

Site Note

Message Re: Whitstable Fire Station and The Stroud Family Tree

Hi. Dave. Good to see you back in control of things.

My grandmother was a cook for the firemen manning the Troc fire station. The stand-by room and cooking/dining area were all on the first floor. There was also a telescope on the balcony. I can just recall watching the minesweepers through it. The Christmas party was held in the Troc. (I learnt to play cards there. Also the forbidden Crown and Anchor).

Your recall is not letting you down about the Strouds at the corner of Station Rd. That would have been Stuart's grandfather... which makes me his second cousin. I lived in Westmeads Rd.

Aussie Tony

P.S. I still need more information to fill in the Stroud family-tree please

Site Response:

Thanks, Tony. It's fascinating to hear about the fire station at Marine Parade.... but was there a fireman's pole? You can't have a fire station without a fireman's pole. It's the law!!!! ;-)

Tony Stroud


Hi Dave & All. 

Great to see you back and I trust you are well again. I gather the site was down for some time but I'll now look in more often again.

 I think I told you before that my cousin Terry Alder and her husband John are part owners of the Pearsons Arms, my parents favourite pub in the 60's. We here are proud also to hear of their son Jake now at the Prince Albert. So, if you go into either pub, Dave, say G'day & make yourself know  to them.

I look forward to more news of the town.



Site Response:

Thanks, Vince. I will call in when things are a bit quiet down at the Prince Albert. In the meantime, I wish Jake every success in his new venture.

Vincent Nash
S. Australia

Message Re: World War II and the PNEU School

I came across your interesting site whilst 'browsing'. I spent the war years in your area - originally in Chestfield then, after my mother was killed in the rail crash on August 16th 1944, caused by the shot down V1 destroying a bridge, in Swalecliffe.

I went to the PNEU school as an 'infant' and have - amongst other 'hazy memories' - one of being on a golf course near Chestfield when a German bomber crashed. I went home with a 'souvenir', which turned out to be the joystick.

Site Response:

Thank you for getting in touch, Graham.  I presume that the rail crash was the one that occurred at Rainham and involved a London to Thanet train with some 600 passengers on board. Eight people died in the tragedy. It must have been an incredibly sad and desperate time for you and your family.

I am not sure that our "Whitstable at War" feature includes anything on the German plane at Chestfield Golf Course. I wonder if any of our older readers can provide more information.

I am always amazed by the things that children managed to collect during wartime and the dangers that they risked in doing so. I hope you still have that joy stick after all these years.

Graham Stephen Smith


Hi, love your web site. I am from the Stroud and Rigden clan of Whitstable.

There are some stories about Whitstable and my family. Do you have an email so that I can email them to you. I am researching Whitstable history, WW2 and the old days. I would love to chat to you about Seasalter and Whitstable.

I have read this on the site (see )...

"The date was 13th November 1957. I was seventeen and mate on the fishing boat Pandalus owned by Bert Stroud, an ex RAF man whose father owned the bakery opposite the Oxford cinema. Bert also owned Portunus which was skippered by 'Cod' Kelsey. Dave Stroud (no relationship to Bert) was mate on this boat - Dave Jordan".

Bert Stroud, the baker, is my dad's (Bert Stroud's) uncle. He was named after him.

Manston?? Do you know about the UFOs in Kent . There is a book out about it. See the following Wikipedia link....


Site Response:

Thanks, Stuart. It's good to hear from a member of a family that has been such an integral part of the fabric of Whitstable for so long.

Over the years I have known quite a few Strouds and Rigdens. As a kid in the 1950s, I had some Stroud neighbours who lived at the corner of Railway Avenue and Station Road. I seem to recall that the son was known as 'Bertie' Stroud. If my memory still holds up, I believe his mum was one of "The Ladies of the Lamp" (an usherette) at the Oxford Cinema. She was a lovely person and very adept at walking backwards in the dark holding one of those torches!!!!

I believe that the UFO incident may have been mentioned in the Visitors Book in the distant past but I cannot locate the entry at the moment.

Thank you for the extra information relating to Dave Jordan's article on the rescue carried out by the Pandalus in 1957. Dave's article can be accessed via the link you have given. However, at the moment, it is not yet attached to the new Simply Whitstable main menu. This is because I am currently revamping the site.

I will email you to let you know how to send information to the site.

Stuart Stroud
Whitstable/ Seasalter


Hi, Dave. Do you remember me sending a photo of my dad retiring at Whitstable harbour with his toaster in is hand. After reading about the oyster boats, I was looking at the postcards of Whitstabl and saw a water colour of me on theslipway with the Rose and Ada in 1963.

I had been in the Merchant Navy. My dad had worked at the Seasalter and Ham before going on the harbour and he got me a job there for a while. It was a cold winter that year and the boat got damaged. It was scraped, re-corked, plugged and retarred. There is no guessing who did the tarring. Yes.... Me!!! I know it was me in the painting as there were only the two boats left - the other being the Speedwell. The skipper, Harry Harman, died many years ago.

How can I send a photo of the painting to you? The artist did a lot of paintings of Whitstable. He came from York. He died but his son put the paintings for sale. He sent me some that he sold of Whitstable.

Site Response:

Thanks, Lawrence. It's nice to hear from you again. The painting sounds fascinating. I will email you to let you know how to send a photo of it.

PS The photo of your father will be back on the web site soon. Along with many other articles, it is in the process of being transferred to the new menus.

Lawrence Gibbens

Message: Response to Elizabeth Manley's Message of  22/7/12

Just been told Simply Whitstable is back. Great news, Dave.

Re: Mrs Manley's message about her bridesmaid Danielle Jerebek. I remember Danielle very well at school, also her staying with Mrs Berry in Queens Road. I corresponded with her for a few years when she returned to Paris. Such a lovely person, I often wonder how she is.

Thanks, Dave, for all the hard work you do. Much appreciated.

Site Response:

Thanks, Maureen. I suppose that there is a chance that Danielle could get in touch if she evers searches Google for the Sir William Nottidge School.

There is still some way to go before Smply Whitstable is back to normal but, hopefully, we wil get there.

Maureen Rossiter (Pike)
Oving Aylesbury

Message Re: Dad - Charlie Cuttelle

Dave, great to see that you have got the site back up and running. I am now in the process of moving from Thailand back to Ireland (west coast). The pound and euro took a big fall against the Thai Baht and the pensions would not cover the 40% difference.

Also, Dad, who was "98 plus", passed away a couple of weeks ago, so my access to the history of Whitstable has gone.

Cliff Cuttelle

Site Response:

Thanks, Cliff. I was stunned and so upset to read the news of your dad. Along with our other regulars, you and he have always been at the very  heart of Simply Whitstable and the very reason that the web site exists and continues. I hope you will accept our condolences and best wishes at this sad time.

Although it might feel like it at the moment, your access to Whitstable history hasn't gone, Cliff. History belongs to us all. In our own small way, we have created it every day of our lives and it exists within us by virtue of our experiences, our memories and the wonderful stories bequethed to us by our parents. As long as the memories remain, the past and our loved ones will be with us and we will have a rich legacy to pass on to future generations.

Our thoughts are with you and we hope that you will enjoy life on Ireland's west coast. It will be quite a change after having a snake on your gate in Hua Hin. Apparently, St Patrick removed all snakes from the Emerald Isle a few years back!!!

Cliff Cuttelle
Hua Hin

Message Re: Michael Daniels' Photo

Hi, Dave. There is a possibility that a member of his family was sent to Bexley for some reason. I myself was sent to live with maternal grandparents for a couple of months at about the same age as these children and went to a different school. These kids don't look very happy!!

Site Response:

Thanks, Dave. It's certainly a possibility.

It's fascinating to discuss old photos and much can be learned from them. However, school photos are particularly difficult because the backdrops are so limited. That wooden structure behind the children in Michael's photo could be anywhere and it has probably long since disappeared.

Dave Warner


I was very pleased to see your excellent site up and running again. Not contributed before and, since this is the first time and I am sending a photograph, posting direct to you as instructed.

As you may have noted, I'm a Daniels, born in Whitstable in 1931 and left for Essex two years later. However, I'm still very active using this machine and have done a lot on family history - paternal side, with much research of the branch, trunk as well, of our forebears taking the family back to the 1600s.

I have collected quite a fat album full of old photos and I am sending one that has created quite a puzzle because the centre child (marked with a cross by someone!) is, I think one of us, but who?....

Bexley PS School Photo

This is an enlarged extract....

Bexley PS Close up

I believe I have heard of Bexley P.S.

 When I look at some of the old photographs, I imagine that will take your site folks back to their great- grandparents time since they are of old cricket teams and several, like the one here, are of school classes. One or two may go back to ggg-grandparent's days -  just into the 20th century, perhaps.  

Best wishes for continual improvement in your health.

Michael in Holland-on-Sea, across the water, in Essex.

Site Response:

Thanks, Michael. It's nice to hear from a member of a family that was such an integral part of Whitstable history. It would be nice to see some of those photos.

The picture above has me confused. As you mentioned during our exchange of emails, it should be somewhere local but, to date, I have never come across the specific name "Bexley PS" in connection with Whitstable. It will be fascinating to highlight the problems and see if our readers can come up with some answers.

Let's start with an approximate date for the photo. Based on the children's clothing, Michael has suggested that it might be First World War or 1920s. That was my initial feeling too... but I am not good with fashions and I wouldn't rule out an earlier date!!!

The label "1C" on the board and the fact that all the children are of a similar age would suggest that it is indeed a class photo. However, there are 38 kids on view and assuming that there was also a 1A, 1B.... AND other year groups, the school would have been massive. In fact, it could have been as big as the town's main state school in Oxford Street.

The next problem is the sufix "PS". I am sure our readers will come up with some ideas for this with the most obvious being primary school, preparatory (prep) school, private school or public school. I would tend to rule out "primary" as this term was mainly used after the Butler Education Act of 1944 when a clear distinction was made between primary and secondary education. Prior to that, terms such as "elementary" were more common.

Finally, we have the name "Bexley" which would immediately cause us to look 40 miles west to the London Borough of Bexley where there is still a Bexley Public School of some stature and with a history stretching back 125 years. Interestingly, old photos from that school deploy similar chalk boards to identify the class as the one in Michael's photo. But, could there have been a Bexley PS in Whitstable? Well, I can only think of one possibility.... and it really is a long shot. In the distant past, Whitstable had a church school in Bexley Street and it is wrapped up in the history of St Peters Church.

Nowadays, we all know that St Peters Church is located in Sydenham Street but it actually started life circa 1870 at the junction of Woodlawn Street (then known as Harbour Place) and Bexley Street. The large, multi-storey, building on the corner is believed to have been the vicarage and there was a storeroom at the rear that was converted into a two-storey misson chapel that later became known as Bexley Street Chapel. (NB The vicarage building has had quite a history over the years. At one time, it was a Temperance Hotel for young ladies. By the 1950s, it was better known as Waverley House and housed the well-known Waverley "fish and chip" shop. In recent years, it has been a Chinese Takeaway).

The church school opened in the chapel building in 1871. Could it have been the Bexley PS depicted in the photo? My immediate reaction was a very quick "No" because it wouldn't have been big enough. However, take a look at the excellent web site of St Peters Church and read a bit of the history. The numbers of children attending that school are staggering - 100 Sunday School pupils, 170 day pupils and an unstated number of adult evening pupils (men and older boys). My guess is that schooling may have been part-time in order to cater for those numbers in such small premises.

Mind you, I remain unconvinced that the church school was Bexley PS for the following reasons....

  • The St Peters web site only mentions the school in the context of the early 1870s. Many changes occurred soon after and it seems likely that the day school contracted and/or disappeared long before Michael's photo. The CofE Endowed school grew in stature at nearby St Alphege Church and an infants school was added to it in 1875. State education arrived in Whitstable in 1877 with the construction of the large Oxford Street school. (This initally had boys, girls and infants sections but later became an "all boys" school).  An extra state infants schools arrived in 1879 in Bexley Street and this was replaced by an even larger infants school (ie Westmeads) in Cromwell Road circa 1904. As these years passed, there would have been far less need for a church school in Bexley Street. Furthermore, all sorts of statutory requirements would have been imposed regarding hours of attendance, curriculum and school leaving ages. These might have been a bit beyond the informal arrangements of the Bexley Street school.
  • The church itself underwent major changes - relocating to a new St Peters building in Sydenham Street at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. The old chapel in Bexley Street was eventually taken over by a non-conformist church.
  • I cannot see why the church school would ever acquire the suffix "PS" or use the title "Bexley" without the word "Street".

If Bexley PS was not in Bexley Street, its is hard to think where it could have been located in Whitstable. It is also difficult to see how such a substantial establishment could slip under the radar of historians for so long. All this leaves me wondering about Bexley in London. Bexley isn't too far from the barge and shipping trade on the Thames and we know that the Daniels family had extensive maritime interests.

So, it is over to our readers to see if they can identify Michael's rellie in the photo and/or unscramble the riddle of where the picture was taken. If someone can identify members of other local families in the photo then we really are going to have to look for a Bexley PS in Whitstable.

Michael Daniels


Hi, Dave. There was a sigh of relief from the cognoscenti here in Manhattan when they learned that UKIP, so rudely known as "the fruitcakes", had been narrowly defeated in the election for Whitstable's Kent county councillors.

In this week's Whitstable Times, Mike Harrison, one of the two re-elected Conservatives, is reported as saying, "There was a real risk that the council's £2 billion budget would have been in the hands of people who did not know what they were doing".

 What a disaster that would have been!



Site Response:

Thanks, Peter.

I don't know why party politicians feel the need to make comments such as those you have highlighted. They don't seem to be able to grasp the fact that the British public is now heartily fed up with all the "slagging off" of opponents. The trouble is that they are so rooted in the politics of the past that we need a PhD in paleontology to study their antics. Maybe, it's time that some of them called it a day before they become extinct by a process of natural selection... or, at least, a process of democratic deselection. I am just sick and tired of them all.

PS Isn't some of that £2 billion budget still in the hands of Icelandic banks.... courtesy of "people who knew what they were doing"? And wasn't it people who knew what they were doing who tried to send Tankerton's westbound seafront traffic down tiny Park Avenue? And how about the latest town centre traffic proposal being promoted by people who knew what they were doing? Someone's obviously 'aving a larf at our £2 billion expense..... Aren't they?!!!! ;-)

Peter McInally
New York


Hello Dave. I'm so pleased to find your website is back on line and I do hope your eye problems have resolved.

 I have read your comments about the Clare Road embankment and wish to confirm The Trust has recently purchased the whole of this section of land from Sustrans. The approved planning applications still stand and the Trust is employing a project manager to push this forward and to raise the necessary funding. The area was cleared of all litter in April and a 'Celebration Event' will be held at that location in September.

Please be reassured the aims of the Trust to reopen as much of the old track bed, at both ends of the line still stands. And this includes the re-building of the two bridges. I recommend a visit to the North Portal of the Tyler Hill Tunnel which has been lovingly restored by the University.

Please see and visit Friends of the Crab and Winkle Line on Facebook.

Kind regards.

John Burden,
The Crab & Winkle Line Trust

Site Response:

Thanks, John. I am very pleased to see your update as I would love to see the whole line reinstated as a footpath.

Of course, many of our older readers will recall that it WAS a footpath (albeit unofficial) for us back in the mid-late 1950s. That was after the rails and sleepers had been removed but before the bridges had been demolished. The Tyler Hill tunnel was also open.

As a kid living close by in Railway Avenue, I played on the track, embankments and bridges. I also used it as a safe way to get to... the beach.... London's fields.... Church Street sports field... South Street....  Chestfield Brook and Convicts Wood... Clowes Wood... the Old Red Bridge... Gypsy Corner.... Tyler Hill.... and even Canterbury.

At this time of year, the woods were carpeted in bluebells and there were a multitude of primroses on the banks. It would be wonderful if these flowers could be re-introduced by a conservationist group.

With my eye, knee and web site problems, I haven't been able to get out there and photograph the progress you have made but I will do so - starting with the Tyler Hill tunnel area. In the meantime, thanks for all the hard work you are putting in on behalf of the people of Whitstable.

John Burden

Message: Old Endowed School in Swalecliffe of 1911

Hello. I have an old postcard showing a class from Swalecliffe School 1911. Does anyone have any idea where it was please?

All I can find is the following which mentions a school. In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Swalecliffe like this:

SWALECLIFF, a parish in Blean district, Kent; on the coast, 2 miles E by N of Whitstable r. station. Post town, Whitstable, under Canterbury. Acres, 1,297; of which 335 are water. Real property, £1,754. Pop., 168. Houses, 32. The property is divided among a few. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Canterbury. Value, £315. Patron, Earl Cowper. There are a slightly endowed school, and a coastguard station.

Site Response:

Thanks, Graham. I am fascinated by that photo as it could help us to expand the "schools section" of Simply Whitstable.

 I must admit that I don't know a lot about the Swalecliffe school but I can have a stab at where it might have been. There is/was a "school style" building alongside the Chestfield & Swalecliffe Halt railway station in St Johns Road - about 50 yards east of the railway bridge on the seaward side of the line. It faced the parade of shops.

I don't remember it being a school in my time but I do remember it being an estate agent's office (ie New Homes Ltd) circa the 1970s. I remember calling in there and finding it quite strange to be talking "mortgages" in such a large room with such a high roof. Funnily enough, I drive past that locality quite often and, yet, I cannot recall whether the building is still there. If it is, I will get a photo and you may be able to match this with the background in your class photo.

The reference to "slightly endowed" in your quote is amusing. It is almost as if the builiding could have benefitted from silicon implants. Of course, the term "Endowed" referred to the way that a school was funded. "Endowments" usually involved a government grant that met part of the cost and the establishments were normally run by a trust - similar to the modern idea of a grant maintained school. The extent to which a school was "endowed" might affect the fees that were charged and the number of children from poorer families who might be accepted at low cost or free of charge.

I don't yet have the details but I understand that state grants go back to the first half of the 19th century (circa the 1830s). I am not sure that the early schemes worked too well and they may have been usurped by the middle classes rather than helping the poor. The Victorian upper classes weren't beyond a bit of skulduggery when it came to manipulating schooling and they had a vested in keeping the working classes uneducated. Working class people weren't in a position to argue. An attempt was made to improve things via the Endowed Schools Act of 1869. This set up an Endowed Schools Commission to ensure better distribution of schools and establish greater control over the way that money was spent.

Of course, Whitstable had (and still has) a C of E Endowed School  run by a church trust in Whitstable High Street. So, was there a connection with the Swalecliffe enterprise? Well, there were likely to have been similarities in that they were probably both run by a trust and received an endowment of some sort from somewhere. Churches were often involved and so it seems quite possible that the Swalelciffe school also had some connection with the C of E. If that is the case, it may have been linked to the "Church of St John the Baptist" in Swalecliffe Court Drive at some stage.

The Church of St John is some distance away from our suggested school location in St John's Road whereas the Whitstable Endowed school is built adjacent to St Alphege Church. However, the geography of Swalecliffe was rather different in that, until the construction of the Swalecliffe council estate in the late 1950s, St John's church actually sat in glorious wind-swept isolation in the middle of the marsh surrounding Swalecliffe Brook. It wouldn't have made sense to build a school there and, so, it may have been constucted closer to the local population.

However, there may be a slight problem in linking the school with St John's church. Although a medieval chapel once stood on the current site of the church, the current church building didn't arrive until 1875 - three years AFTER the entry you have discovered in the Imperial Gazateer. So, various things are still possible...

  • Perhaps there was another building being used as a church in Swalecliffe while St John's was being planned and constructed.
  • Perhaps, the school mentioned in the Imperial Gazateer is not the one in your photo or the one that I suspect may have existed alongside the railway line
  • Perhaps, the school had no church links after all

With all this uncertainty, dating the school is a bit difficult. If you look at the History of the Whitstable Boys School in Oxford Street, you will find some brief references to Whitstable's church schools. The Whitstable Endowed school started way back  (circa1843-1848) although it may not have acquired the name "Endowed" until  some time later - possibly as late as that Endowed Schools Act of 1869.  I doubt that the Swalecliffe school has quite such a long history.

From the early 1870s, there was a lot of activity on the education front - particularly in church circles. This was because state education was due to arrive in Whitstable in 1877 and churches of all demoninations were worried that they could lose out in terms of indoctinating the young faithful!!!! The C of E nipped in by adding St Alphege Infants to their Endowed junior school in Oxford Street in 1875 and it may be that they added the Swalecliffe school shortly before then. However, if that was so, I doubt that the Swalecliffe school would have started much before 1869/1870.

If the school was opened post-1869 and I am right about the location, it raises some interesting thoughts regarding its construction. By then, the London-Thanet mainline railway was operating and, so, the school would have been built within a few yards of the railway embankment with steam trains passing by the roof!!!! (I doubt that anyone would do that today). Mind you, the trains would have been a fairly quick distraction as there was no railway station at that time and they would simply have trundled by without stopping. The station didn't arrive until 1930 by which time Chestfield had developed as a substantial village with commuters.

Now I am waffling and getting nowhere!!!! So, can anyone provide extra information to solve the mysteries?

Graham Theobald

Message Re: Fire Service & Albert Potter

May I add my condolences to Linda Proctor and her family for their sad loss. We all owe her father and his colleagues our gratitude for keeping Whitstable safe. Memories are a great comfort and legacy.

Linda's message triggered a memory of my own, related to the fire service. Like you, Dave, I was fortunate not to have been born until after WW2 but remember the town recovering from it - with 'bomb sites', the (anti-aircraft) forts which would become 'pirate radio' stations in the 60s and the wailing sirens that, in our childhood, called out the retained firemen when they were needed. These were the sirens that wailed for a good minute with a chilling, monotonous tone that was inescapable and could be heard all over the town (a much smaller and compact Whitstable in those days). These were the sirens that, a decade earlier, had wailed intermittently to warn the town of German aircraft approaching. But in peace-time they also played the important role (in the days when few homes had telephones) of calling retained fireman to the fire station on Marine Parade which housed 2 Dennis engines, before it moved to the foot of Borstal Hill.

I seem to recall that the sirens were placed on the roof of the ambulance station opposite the Bear & Key (is my memory playing tricks - I'm sure that was a fire station in the early 1950s?).

There was, I believe, a siren at St Annes Rd and another in Canterbury Rd close to the junction with Joy Lane. I believe these sirens were still in place and in working order until the mid-1990s, when it was decided that the Russians were friendly and no longer a threat to Whitstable! Perhaps other SW addicts know of other siren locations or can correct my failing childhood memories!

Site Response:

Thanks, Barry. I have the same recollection as you regarding fire engines at the Horsebridge. Later, they were located next to the main doors of the, "by then", disused Troc cinema on Marine Parade.

Even earlier, I think the fire service occupied a place close to or on the site of the old Courts furniture shop.

Do any of our readers recall the loactions of the sirens?

Barry Freeman

Message: A Cold Blast from the Past?

Hello Dave, welcome back not only to you but also to the site. I have only just relised that it was again up and running.

Now I know why I came to Sunny Western Australia! I have just got back from the holiday in the UK. It was Marion's mother's 90th Birthday in February, so we came over for 7 weeks and the temperature never really got above 6 degrees all the time we were over there. BRRRR. I had forgotten what being cold was like. We left Perth at 106 degrees, and arrived at Gatwick to -1 degree. In Perth, the East Wind is a hot wind but, in Canterbury, it sure is a very cold wind.

Again welcome back Dave and thank you for your time and work in keeping this site running.

George T.

Site Response:

Thanks. George. The problem is you are becoming too soft out there in Oz!!!!! What's wrong with a good ol' Whitstable North-Easterly in springtime? ;-)

George T Marshall
Western Australia

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