DOVER KENT ARCHIVES
John Bavington Jones

Published in the Dover Express, 23 November, 1979.

A PERAMBULATION OF THE TOWN, PORT AND FORTRESS.

PART 36.

 

THE newly-built "Salutation" Public House included in the development is at No 9 Biggin Street. The ecclesiastical name suggests that it had existed probably since the time of the Priory nearby although the building was dated 1650. This house was, in the 18th century, kept for many years by Mr Bowes, who died there at a good old age, on the 20th of January, 1794. He left in his house £340 in good halfpence, and about eight gallon measures full of bad ones, which he had accumulated in the course of his business. He was so attached to this sort of money that on being offered a £10 bank note in exchange for £10 in halfpence, he declared he would never part with good copper for paper. In 1846, the licence of this house was held by Mr John Phillips, and he was succeeded by Mr John Archer, who was the host of the "Salutation" for about a quarter of a century.

The Dover Institute was for many years at No. 6 from 1873. The premises had previously been occupied for a number of years by a draper named Samuel Hunter, and Mr John Richardson had his grocery establishment there sixty years since, until he removed lower down the other side. No. 8 was a rather high-class school when the Duke of Wellington was Lord Warden, and he frequently visited it. At No. 10, Mr Richard Adams had his butcher’s shop for over 40 years and Mr R. W. Pepper (later of High Street) carried on the same business. No. 11 was for over a century a furniture store, a great part of the time run by members of two families, first the Penns and later the Meadows.

 

THE OLD WOMAN IN GREY.

For more than half a century at No. 13 was Burkett’s bakery. Mr George P. W. Burkett was in the business when he married and went on to celebrate his golden wedding in the early part of this Century. Previously Mr William Wood ran a bakery business there and later, until after the second world war, Holmes Morris carried on the tradition. How long a bakery had been on the site nobody knows, but this is “the Baker’s in the street by the Maison Dieu“ mentioned in Ingoldsby’s Legends as the place to call at to inquire about "The Old Woman Clothed in Grey." Some have supposed that it was in the cellar, under this shop, that the old woman used to appear with her bag of money. The legend runs thus:

“You’ll be sure to find out if you ask at, the Baker’s,

Then go down with a light

To the cellar at night;

But as soon as you see her don’t be in a fright,

But ask the old hag

At once for the bag—

If you find that she’s shy,

Or your senses would dazzle.

Say, Ma’am, I insist,

In the name of St Basil.

If she gives it you, seize

It and do as you please.“

Nobody has ever caught a glimpse of the old lady or her bag of gold, and it is presumed that Friar Basil who took her confession, or the bandy-legged tailor who surreptitiously listened to it, found the treasure, and the gold being disposed of “the Old Woman in Grey“ has quietly gone to rest. It has also been suggested that Maison Dieu House was the haunted spot, but the building’s Stuart date put it out of court, for, as to date, the Lay says:

“... All that one knows is

It must have preceded the Wars of the Roses.“

From Nos. 11 to 16 Biggin Street stand the premises of the Dover and District Co-operative Society Ltd., the first part of which was built in 1889, at No. 14, which was previously known as the Priory Dining Rooms. Here, in 1872, was started the Good Templar movement in Dover, by the founding of the Maison Dieu Lodge, of which the Rev Hugh Price Hughes was the Chief Templar. The Invincible Lodge was also founded there, and on the morning of the 6th of March, 1874, a disastrous fire took place there, in which a young man, an officer of the Invincible Lodge, named George Allen, who slept on the premises, lost his life. Also on this slide of the street; stood offices of Finnis’ timber mills, which stood on the site now partly occupied by the Technical College, and Burts drapery.

On the other side of the road stands Dover’s Head Post Office (built in 1914, at the corner of Priory Street), and next to it are two other buildings of the Cooperative Society — once their baker’s shop and restaurant, built in 1921, and now the furniture and electrical goods department.

 

REMNANT OF THE PRIORY.

The old premises of Mr Richard Freeman, which stood near the Priory Street corner, were teeming with history. He bought them about 1865 with four cottages in the rear. Previous to that time, it was a large private residence, the cottages in the back, called Reynold’s Court, and later Freeman’s Cottages, being then newly built. There was in Mr Freeman’s house, one very large room adjoining the street, the ceiling beams of which were oak embellished with carved work. Below there were ample cellars. This house, which probably dated from the beginning of the Hanoverian period, had been preceded by an ancient farmhouse, fronting the street, with a passage through to the Priory, and was probably the Priory Farm before the Dissolution of the Monastery. When the demolition took place sculptured stonework, evidently from the Priory ruins was found. There was built into the front of the cottages in the rear, an old device in tiles, forming the shape of a diamond with a head on the top, a pair of scales in the centre, and three sheaves of wheat, one on each side of the scales and one under them. This probably was built into the ancient farmhouse as a symbol of just dealing in farm produce. The device is similar to Arms of the Bakers’ Company, of Exeter.

 

SALEM CHAPEL.

Salem Baptist Church, better and affectionately known to older folk as Salem Chapel had its front considerably altered at the enlargement of 1879. The Chapel, as built in 1840, stood back about 12 feet from the street, the intervening land being used as a burial ground until intramural burials were prohibited by the Public Health Act of 1852. The present frontage was erected by Mr Walker (the contractor for making the Dover and Deal Railway), who carried out the restoration of the Chapel in 1879.

 

Biggin Street from the Priory Road junction

One bottleneck in Dover’s main street which seems destined to remain is this section of Biggin Street from the Priory Road junction, denoted by the broken white lines on the right, to the Co-operative Society stores. The picture was taken in 1963, a matter of days before all the very old, low properties on the left, some constructed of flint and probably dating from the 1600s, were demolished for redevelopment — at a time when two-way traffic was still in vogue. Now a number of old properties, on the right are also down or about to be demolished, a joint venture of Whitbread, the brewers and Trafalgar House, to provide five shop units with offices above.

 

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