DOVER KENT ARCHIVES
John Bavington Jones

Published in the South Kent Gazette, 18 April 1979.

A PERAMBULATION OF THE TOWN, PORT AND FORTRESS.

PART 3.

 

Civil disputes were, from an early period, settled by the Mayor and Jurats in the Dover Hundred Court, many of the decrees of that Court being still preserved in the muniment cabinet of the Corporation. The Hundred Court, however, was found to be too clumsy a machine to deal with modern commercial disputes, therefore, to improve the civil administration, the Dover Court of Requests was established by Acts of Parliament in the year 1784, for the recovery of small debts, the members of the Corporation and 25 other substantial townsmen being the Commissioners. That Court ceased to exercise its functions in the year 1847, when the County Court system was established.

 

CARE OF THE POOR.

The poor of Dover, as in other places, were mainly provided for by the ecclesiastical authorities until the dissolution of the monasteries; but, after the Priory, the Maison Dieu, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital were closed, the Corporation provided an Almshouse and an Almshouse Fund, of which the Mayor and Jurats were the Master and Wardens. When the care of the Poor, in the year 1601, was transferred by statute to the parish overseers, Poor houses were provided in St. Maryís and St. Jamesís parishes; but, alongside that statutory provision, which was harshly administered, the Master and Wardens of the Dover Almshouse Fund continued their functions; and, although the Poor Law Act of 1834 cast the entire local responsibility for the care of the poor on the Dover Board of Guardians, the voluntary work commenced by the Mayor and Jurats, at the Reformation, was continued by the Dover Almshouse Trustees, to whom the property and the duties of the Trust were transferred when the old Corporation was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835.

A change was made by the Local Government Act of 1929, and after March, 1930, the work of Boards of Guardians was transferred to the County Councils, who formed Public Assistance Committees with local Guardians Committees, Dover being then united with Eastry for this purpose. The last meeting of the Dover Board of Guardians was held on March 27th, 1930, Alderman C. J. Sellens, J.P., the Chairman, being subsequently the first Chairman of the Dover and Eastry Guardians Committee of the Kent Public Assistance Committee.

 

PROMOTION OF EDUCATION.

The Dover Corporation, in the old time, was not responsible, neither by charter nor statute, for promoting education; but, in the year 1616, the Mayor, Jurats, and Councilmen voted £8 a year, to be paid to Robert Udney, a schoolmaster, in respect of which he was to give free education to six poor children of the town. That arrangement lasted only four years; but the school continued for many generations. In the year 1789, the leading men of the town, with the Mayor at their head, voluntarily made provision for the education of the poor by establishing the Queen Street Charity School, which continued to do useful work until it became absorbed in the general system of voluntary education.

In February, 1836, Mr. Edward Pett Thompson, the Mayor, assisted by the principal townsmen, established a Museum, associated with which was a Philosophical Institute, and, ten years later, the Corporation took charge of the Museum as a municipal institution.

Eight years before the Education Act of 1902 placed Technical Education under the care of the Kent Education Committee, the Dover Corporation established a Technical School, erecting a handsome building adjoining the Maison Dieu, in 1894. Under the Education Act of 1902, a new duty was cast on the Corporation, rendering them responsible for Elementary Education in Dover. Since the passing of the Education Act of 1870, it has been carried on by Voluntary Schools, Dover never having one of the School Boards that the Act of 1870 created. River, which had a small School Board, was not included in the Borough till 1904.

 

DOVER GARRISON.

Dover Garrison is a very ancient organisation, dating from the Norman invasion, when the greater part of the lands of Kent were laid under tribute to provide the men-at-arms. From the Conquest till the reign of Henry VIII, knight's service prevailed, first by the personal service of knights and retainers, and later by payment of compositions in lieu of service. In the time of Henry VIII, the knight's service having fallen into disuse, the King took possession of all the lands then attached to the Castle, after which the Garrison was provided by the Crown, forming one of the first of the bodies of professional soldiers maintained by the State.

The accommodation for troops was largely increased at the Castle in the 18fch Century, and on the Western Heights in the early part of the 19th, from which time until the early part of the Twentieth Century the strength of the Dover Garrison averaged about 3,500 men. Twentieth Century barracks improvement at the Castle and its neighbourhood only transferred troops from the Western Heights. This average ignores the huge Military and Naval influx into Dover during the Kaiser War.

 

South Front Barracks

South Front Barracks on the Western Heights as depicted by an old print.

 

New Barracks Dover Castle

Officers' apartments at the "new barracks" at Dover Castle.

 

THE POPULATION OF DOVER.

The population of Dover before the first census, of 1801, is not definitely known, but it is believed it was quite as large in the latter part of the Norman period as in Tudor and Stuart times. State papers of the reign of Henry VIII, testify to the decline of Dover, owing to the decay of its harbour in the reign of Henry VII, and it does not appear that there was any great increase of the population until the last quarter of the 18th Century.

 

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