DOVER KENT ARCHIVES
John Bavington Jones

Published in the South Kent Gazette, 1 August, 1979.

A PERAMBULATION OF THE TOWN, PORT AND FORTRESS.

PART 18.

 

The idea of making better provision for the congested traffic in the central part of the town was revived 20 years later by the late Mr. Edward Hills, who suggested that a new street should be made from the Market Place to Priory Place. That proposal was taken up by the town council in June, 1881, when Mr. Henry Hayward and Mr. Matthew Curry, the borough surveyor, gave an estimate that a new street, 50ft. wide, from the Market Place to Priory Place, would cost £76,500. This was at once met by a counter estimate, made by Mr. Worsfold Mowll and Mr. Edward Wickens Fry, for widening the main thoroughfare to 45ft. from the Market Square to Priory Street, for £54,406. Both sets of figures far exceeded the amount that the town council were then prepared to spend, and the street improvement question was shelved for 10 years.

The subject was revived again in October, 1891, when a Common Hall called on the town council to widen the main thoroughfare; and parliamentary power for that purpose was obtained in 1892. In due course, negotiations were entered into, and the property on the west side of the street was purchased, from the “Rose Inn“ down as far as Bryson’s Bakery, for which slice £24,201 2s. 1d. was paid. Below that point (i.e., from No. 15) the property was not bought, although two shops were rebuilt, making a complete line of new frontage down to Messrs. Wright Brothers’, who had rebuilt on their own account a few years earlier. On the other side, the whole of the property from the churchyard down to the Market Place was purchased for £20,689 4s. 2d., making a total of £44,890 6s. 3d. compensation paid for the whole of Cannon Street. Expenses of valuers, solicitors, arbitration and some other property subsequently bought, brought the final total up to £53,744, and that, reduced by the re-sale of the land, left the net cost of the improvement £32,844. The demolition of the old houses in Cannon Street disclosed quaint interiors, some of them dating from about the time of the Commonwealth; but very little of antiquarian interest was brought to light. There were scarcely any human remains found on the site of the “Antwerp Hotel,“ where had formerly stood the west end of St. Peter’s Church, but, a little higher up, where the graveyard of St. Peter’s had been, a few human skulls and bones were unearthed. When the whole of the buildings on the east side were down, the south side of St. Mary’s Church was to be seen from a point of view which had not been obtainable for centuries, and probably never will again. Photographers secured unique views of the church from that aspect.

St Mary's Church from the South side

ST. MARY’S Church — a view from the south side that had remained hidden for centuries and was only obtainable after the buildings on the east side of Cannon Street were demolished when it was decided to widen the street.

 

 Before the rebuilding commenced, the vacant land was used to erect a temporary gallery to hold several thousands of the schoolchildren of Dover, who there sang “God Bless the Prince of Wales,“ to greet his Royal Highness, afterwards His Majesty King Edward VII, who visited Dover on the 20th of July, 1893, to lay the memorial stone of the Prince of Wales Pier.

In the rebuilding of Cannon Street it was stipulated that the east side should follow designs by Messrs. Stenning and Jennings, selected by the town council out of some forty-five competitive designs, in almost all styles of architecture, which were on view for a week at the town hall, in June, 1893. The first premises built after the widening were those of Mr. G. N. Chidwick, known as Havanah House. The design was drawn by Messrs. Cresswell and Newman, and the building, which was done by the late Mr. Harry Richardson, was completed and occupied on 1st September, 1893.

Then followed the building of the “Metropole Hotel“, which cost £17,000 to build and furnish, but failed as a successor to the “Royal Oak.“ Eventually the upper portion became flats, and when the Plaza Cinema was built in 1929, at the rear, its main entrance was the former hotel one. The nine shops on the east side of Cannon Street, in accordance with the designs above referred to, were built in 1894. The premises at the corner next to the church, erected originally for Mr. J. P. Brown, chemist, who died in 1918, well displayed the skill of the designer, but the whole of the nine establishments between that and the Market Place exhibited features that at the time of building were well above the level of provincial street architecture.

Since these street improvements, Cannon Street has seen many changes. In 1908 the old premises at No. 11, known as Cannon House, which were Mr. Harley’s, were rebuilt for Boots Cash Chemists, Ltd., though 16 years later they migrated to the corner site of Biggin Street and Worthington Street, a move that incidentally led to the amalgamation of two of the best known grocery businesses of former days, and their coming into the possession of the International Stores, which have since been closed. Of these businesses, Rubie’s and Dickeson’s (under changed owners), the former had always been at the Worthington Street corner, but Dickeson’s retail department was moved from Market Lane to Cannon Street when the widening took place.

 

UNDER THE EASTERN WALL.

The triangular piece of Old Dover lying between Church Street and Stembrook within the eastern wall has been associated with much of interest in the past. The Clearance Scheme arranged for this area, under the 1930 Housing Act, removed many landmarks.

Church Street, which leaves the Market Place in a northern direction, is an ancient road; but in the year 1343 its Market Place end was covered by St. Peter’s burial ground. The street was laid out, it is believed, after the demolition of St. Peter’s Church, the land and the materials thereon having been sold in the year 1590 by Mr. Thomas Allyn, the mayor, the proceeds being devoted to the improvement of the harbour. Shortly after that time, Church Street became a public thoroughfare, and the path leaving this street on the south side of St. Mary’s Church roughly defines the boundary between the ancient cemetery of St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s churchyard, the latter coming into use as a parish burial ground after St. Peter’s was disposed of.

The street at the back of St. Mary’s was originally crooked and narrow but its width was increased by taking a strip off the churchyard 30 years after it ceased to be used for burials. The building line on the east side of Church Street presents no features of antiquity. At the Castle Street comer the remains of the “Antwerp“ Stables stood until they were rebuilt in 1881. The old established “Burlington“ public house stood nearby. It was there under that name in the year 1846, having been sold at that time under an order of the Court of Cancery. Another hostelry in the street in years gone by was the “Star,“ well known as a market house of call and was kept for about 25 years by Mr. Thomas Longley, well known as “His Majesty’s heaviest subject.“ His weight was 46 stone. He died in 1904, aged 56 years. Adjoining the “Star Inn“, for a good many years, were the joinery works of Mr. G. T. Parks, a well known public man, who was a member of the town council in 1869. At No. 18 formerly resided Mr. J. R. Williams, the founder of the Dover Philanthropic Society. The idea occurred to him on a snowy December day in 1838, when he kept the “Duchess of Kent“ eating house, on seeing a number of unemployed men standing in the Market Place with their hands, and nothing else, in their pockets, and starvation stamped on their wan faces. He thought with how little money their pressing wants could be met, and, on stating the case to Mr. Steriker Pinnis, Mr. S. M. Latham and others, a sufficient fund was soon raised, and a soup kitchen was established.

 

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