Memories Of Vicars Son

Article written by Richard Gethin-Jones

Family Connections with Sandgate:

My father, the Rev. JC Gethin-Jones, was Vicar of Sandgate from late 1945 to 1958. Earlier in his life in the 1920s, he had come to Shorncliffe Camp as an Army Chaplain and had lived in a bungalow along  The Esplanade (this was still there in the 1980s).

Later, when he was sent to the Sudan, my mother came to live for a while in Cliff Cottage – a weather boarded house well east of the Castle. My father was inducted to the parish by the then Archbishop of Canterbury – Dr Geoffrey Fisher an exciting moment for the parish and certainly one for me as I had a chance to speak to him – I was then 10 years old.

My stepmother, who was largely responsible for my father coming to Sandgate, had been born in the neighbourhood in 1902. Her parents lived in a house called Latchgate which is up the hill near the Clarendon Pub, they then moved to a house along Seabrook Road called Northenden(e) a mock Tudor house which during our time became a nursing home.

She went to Canaema School (phonetic spelling) which was where the Riviera Hotel used to be in the Lower Sandgate Road. Her family moved to Bournemouth after the First world War. My step father was a keen golfer and a member of the Cinque Ports Golf Club/Hythe GC which was restarted after the Folkestone Club was bought for redevelopment.

I played on the Hythe course during the mid 1970’s and saw his name on one of the tournaments boards – he won some cup in 1897 – GH Walker was his name. Both my step-grandparents are buried in the Hythe Cemetery and my father and stepmother are buried in Saltwood Churchyard. They returned to Saltwood in 1958.

My own time at Sandgate up to 1952 was restricted to school holidays, but during the next three years I lived at the Vicarage but worked in Canterbury.

Our older daughter was christened by my father in Sandgate Church in 1964. One of my older brothers was married in Sandgate in 1952 with the reception being held at the Kent Hotel, alas no longer there!

Immediate Post-War Year:

The old vicarage – a house which we understood had been built and designed by Sir John Soane – had suffered some war damage with the result that we could not move in for some months. In the meantime we rented rooms in Knoll House, The Crescent just around the corner from the Post Office and later stayed with a Mrs Brickell who lived somewhere near Brewers Hill. I remember that my father found it very difficult to work in such confined circumstances so it was a relief for him to move in to the Vicarage.

The church has also suffered quite a bit from the war years – not from the war damage but from neglect, storm damage etc. Part of the North Aisle, including the altar, were boarded into a small chapel, probably for warmth and a little protection should the church receive a direct hit or near miss. Heating was from a coal fired boiler which my father would light and tend, always a panic on Saturday afternoons.

Naturally the village had suffered quite a bit from the war. I remember the coastal defences in the form of a scaffolding type wall all along the beach, placed at low water and covered with barbed wire.

Numbers of mines, breaking loose from their moorings, were washed up on the beach – all very exciting and thankfully nobody was blown up.

I also remember the very solid looking big gun emplacements along the Leas set roughly between the two bandstands – the guns had been removed.

The groynes had been neglected during the war with the result that the shingle was able to move freely at the whim of the tides, resulting in much damage to the sea walls. This was particularly so around the castle which had masses of concrete pumped in to save it from slipping in the sea; this was I think, the responsibility of the then owner, Mr Workman, who lived in the big house to the left of the castle. Mr workman was a director of Legal & General Assurance Company. One of two houses almost adjoining the castle were sucked in the sea during one storm.

These storms always seemed to left one or two slates from the church and /or the vicarage, my father was constantly climbing onto the roofs to check on any damage.

We also had a lot of rain lashing our front windows during the south westerly storms with water pouring through and lots of old sheets put on the floor to stem the tide.

The Esplanade also suffered quite a bit and massive steel aprons had to be driven into the shingle against the wall to stem the rough seas from sucking the foundations of the road away. This obviously caused considerable inconvenience to traffic. The coast path had not been built then.

The High Street (in the early 1900’s)

For the record I will list what I can recall of the shops etc..

  • X2 Bakers Legals opposite FHOD (which was then a Congregational Church)
  • Ludlows opposite the War Memorial
  • X3 Butchers Wanstalls next to Norden Antiques
  • B(l?)eaches opposite Wanstall with fixed canopy over the shop front
  • Stephensons between the Post Office and FHOD
  • X2 Fishmongers
  • X2 Greengrocers
  • X2 Hairdressers
  • X3 Grocers Bridgelands almost next to FHOD
  • Sainsbury ditto
  • X1 Laundry Wilberforce Road (Hythe end)
  • X1 Ironmonger near Fire Station
  • X1 Radio shop next to Ironmonger
  • X1 Bicycle shop
  • X1 Haberdasher
  • X1 Cobbler Fred Moore had just come out of the Royal when we arrived in Sandgate
  • X3 Tobacco/Sweet shops
  • X1 Antique shop ! Nordens
  • X1 Police Garage near Royal Norfolk with old Wolseley Cars with bell warning
  • Caffyns Garage opposite Post Office
  • X1 Cinema The Rex – a flea pit
  • X1 Library quite small but much used by us
  • The Bodsham Farm shop (Greengrocers) has their administration office in Sandgate; there were a number of shops operating under this name around East Kent of which one was in Folkestone. The company was owned by Jim Baden-Fuller who lived in the Lower Sandgate Road and was one of the churchwardens.

There were some 13 pubs in those early years – I recall most of the names mentioned by Bryan Evans in his article (Coast Guards keeping watch as Sea Point).

A number of shops remained empty for some years after the war. Much of the above may be common knowledge but given here in case it fills in a missing bit of someone’s jigsaw.

I well remember cycling with my step-mother to Bridgelands, the grocers, she would place a week’s order with them, all laboriously written out in duplicate, take a few items to put in her cycle basket and the rest would be delivered by van. We must have lived off far, far less then compared to the volume we now seem to buy on a visit to Sainsburys.

Post War

Gradually post war life in Sandgate returned to normal and church life started to flourish. Sunday Services were very well attended with quite a number of people coming from Folkestone. One such was a Commander Yule extremely advanced in years who managed to come by bus, shuffled up the nave and sat in the front pew under the pulpit where he used a brass ear trumput to hear the sermon. My father used to say that he knew when he had preached for long enough when the Commander removed the trumpet from his ear. Amazingly, he had taken part in the Bombardment of Alexandria as a young midshipman in 1882. Whether he served at Jutland, I do not recall.

My father made a point of visiting each house in the parish at least once in every year. Not always a success. He had a leather bound note book in which he had the name/number of every house and occupant which he always carried around in his coat pocket. Needless to say there were those who did not receive him well muttering that they wanted no clerical collar darkening their doorway, but much more he was well received. He did not use these visits as an opportunity to evangelise or to get people to come to church but rather to let them meet him and for them to feel that he was their to serve/help/advise them in time of need.

Annual parties were held at the Chichester Hall and the Church Hall. I have still got photographs of myself attending fancy dress dances as Charlie Chaplin having borrowed a bowler hat from Mr Lister, a local builder, who became Mayor of Folkestone during our time in Sandgate, and Col. Blimp using my father’s topee from pre-war years.

My father’s duties included taking a weekly short service at the Primary School and he was also the honorary chaplain to the Small Arms School in Hythe.