Landslip in Sandgate

article by Fred Moore

Two years later (after the Benvenue went down off the coast of Sandgate) Sandgate was again in the headlines. The west of the village, from a line from the old Rose Inn opposite the Coastguard Cottages to the Frenches at Seabrook end of the Esplanade suffered a massive landslip, toppling and twisting houses, jamming doors and making many houses uninhabitable.

Paving stones were pushed up to an acute angle, the sea wall opposite Encombe was pushed seawards, buckling several breakwaters. It was said that the rock formation at low tide level was pushed up several feet.

Reports in the Sandgate Weekly News, reprinted from the Folkestone Express, March 17th 1893, gives a graphic account of this disaster. It states: “Considerable damage to the Coastguard Cottages. The pavements on the north side are lifted and overlap one another. The first of the sixteen cottages to feel the motion were the middle ones but the one which is most damaged is that at the western end, which is wrecked. Nos’ 15, 14, 13, and 12 are not much injured but 11 and number 10 are very greatly damaged.

The row originally stood in a perfectly straight line, now they are twisted and bowed and it is difficult to say where the centre ones have gone backward or the end ones forward. In the majority of cases it may be said the houses have gone several inches seaward. But there is no doubt that there was a rush of the forming of the substation of the soil to seaward, and this would cause the houses in settling to take a backward movement. At low water there is a distinct rise on the rocks, showing that there has been an upheaval of the earth at this point”.

The newspaper continues with its report: “Between seven and eight o’clock of Saturday evening a female rushed out of the Coastguard cottages exclaiming “There’s an earthquake, the houses and ground around are all of a tremble” Simultaneously some hundreds in others houses were terror-stricken with similar experiences of what turned out to be a serious landslip, which has wreaked havoc amongst the houses, roadways, and property in all directions in this charming watering place.

The Coastguard Station seems, however, to have born the brunt of the shock. Not only has the boundary wall been split and the cottages mutilated in every possible way, plaster falling, fissures in the walls, and staircases doubled up, but the land has moved and the roadway in front of the houses has been jagged and ruffed and strained out of shape.”

The report continues in great detail and gives an account of further damage. “In the close proximity of the Coastguard Cottages Chapel Street (now renamed Wilberforce Road) where the damage has been most severe, the artisan and the labouring classes are the sufferers, also that class has occupied many humble dwellings with which the back of Sandgate abounds, and it was pitiable to see them moving, in the panic, their goods on Saturday night.

Through the kindness of the Rev. Russell Wakefield (Vicar of St Pauls) the National Schools were utilised for sleeping purposes. The half-past nine o’clock bus was besieged by a number of worried women who had taken just enough clothes for the nights use and were going to Hythe in search of lodgings. The White Hart, The Swan, and the Seabrook Hotel were speedily filled with the refugees”.

The following is an account of a meeting held the following day of the Sandgate Local Board: “On Sunday afternoon there was an urgent meeting of the Sandgate Local Board, held at the Board Road, Sir Charles Keys presiding. All the members were present and the meeting was of short duration. It was decided to send at once to the Local Government Board asking the Board to institute an inquiry, and at their insistence of Mr. J. J. Jones sand Rev. Russell Wakefield (the then Vicar of Sandgate) it was resolved to make a special appeal to the country through the medium of the London newspapers for pecuniary aid for the sufferers of the disaster, which it will be seen has been the production of a liberal response.

The Mayor of Folkestone (Alderman John Banks) said he would give ten guineas and his excellent example has been followed by many others. The Mayor has promised to render what assistance he could in the matter of sending down police. Sir Charles Keys brought to the notice the petty thefts which have been committed in the Encombe grounds, in which people had helped themselves to flowers from the damaged greenhouses.”