DOVER KENT ARCHIVES
John Bavington Jones

Published in the South Kent Gazette, 12 December, 1979.

A PERAMBULATION OF THE TOWN, PORT AND FORTRESS.

PART 41.

 

PRIORY ROAD.

Priory Road is a name that dates only from 1872. Before that time, this thoroughfare had no name, although the houses in it had various designations. From Effingham Street corner to the bottom of Norman Street it became St Martinís Place; and from Norman Street to Saxon Street, on the same side, Norman Terrace. The whole of the east side, from Priory Street to the "Prince Albert," was called Priory Place. The inconvenience of this arrangement was felt, and in August, 1872, the thoroughfare was named Priory Road. Up until 1845, there were no houses to the west of Priory Place except the Priory Farm, to which, from the top of Priory Street, there ran, in a westerly direction, a road through Priory Meadows called Priory Walk. Looking back to the year 1820, the east side of Priory Road was only the backway to the Biggin Street houses, with the exception of a quaint old double house, long occupied by Mr Tester, which, at that time, stood alone within the grounds of Colemanís Farm.

Northward of this house were the remains of a wayside chapel, the 13th century St Edmundís Chapel, which still stands.

Beyond it, the Priory Fields were bounded by a stone wall on the side of Biggin Street, which extended past the Maison Dieu to the foot of Priory Hill, there being a small gate in the wall (where Effingham Street starts), opening to a path which led to the front of the Priory Farm.

St Martinís Place and Norman Terrace were both built in 1845. At No. 9, in St Martinís Place, later 19 Priory Road under a re-numbering scheme which omitted the name St Martinís Place, the Misses Haddon opened their ladies' school, which became celebrated, and which they transferred to special premises at Effingham Crescent now used by Dover College and known as Leamington House.

Ayerís forge which stood at the south-east end of Priory Road was an old established industry. A little to the north of it stood the old Salvation Army barracks. Originally known as the Memorial Hall it was erected in 1880 for a congregation of Baptists, which had for several years been meeting at the Wellington Hall, Snargate Street, under the ministry of the Rev. J. F. Frewin. The cost of the building was mainly borne by the late Mrs Hyde. In 1896 the building was sold to the Salvation Army for £1,000. The hall and forge were demolished to clear a site for the new general post office erected in 1913-14.

 

THE PRIORY MEADOWS.

Norman Street and Saxon Street were laid out by Mr Parker Ayers, in 1846, on land then called the Priory Meadows. Under Saxon Street were found the foundations of the choir and chancel of the Priory Church. Effingham Street, extending from the Maison Dieu, through part of the ruins of the Priory buildings, to St Martinís Hill, Folkestone Road, was originally called St Martinís Street, and that name was used from 1847 until 1872, when, in response to a petition from the inhabitants, the name was changed to Effingham Streets. The name Effingham was attached to the villas first built in this street, near the Maison Dieu, after Lady Effingham, who contributed to the building of Christ Church.

The plans of the eight Effingham villas, now called Effingham Crescent, were submitted to the town council, by Mr Parker Ayers, in March, 1847, and the foundations of the first two were laid on the 5th of April, 1847, the first house being for Mr W. Clarke, who was mayor of Dover in 1842, 1843 and 1844. The other side of Effingham Street was built a year or two later. The whole of this thoroughfare occupies historic ground, associated with the Priory of St Martin. Opposite Norman Street it traverses the site of a building which stood at the east end of the Refectory; and from that point, to some little distance above the end of Saxon Street, the road passes over the foundations of transepts of the great church, details of which will form part of the history of the Priory.

 

HISTORY OF THE PRIORY.

The story of Dover Priory must be prefaced by stating that Eadbald, the King, soon after the conversion of the Saxons, founded a College of Secular Canons in Dover Castle, and that, later, King Withred built for them the church and monastery of St Martin-le-Grand on the banks of the Dour, near the havenís mouth, the ruins of which have been excavated in the past few years to the rear of the west of the Market Square. The Normans deemed these Secular Canons out of place in the centre of the civil community, and out of character in their claim to independence of the diocesan authority; therefore, 70 years after the Conquest, they were turned adrift, and an Order, constituted in accordance with Norman ideas, was set up in a new house called The Priory outside the town as it then existed.

 

THE PRIORY BUILDINGS.

The glade at the opening of the valley leading out of Dover, towards Folkestone, presented itself as a perfectly ideal spot for the new Priory ó a natural amphitheatre sheltered by ramparts of hills. Here Corboil, the Archbishop of Canterbury, began to build in the year 1131, with such zeal that the principal part was built in four years. History gives but little detail, and if we had not the outline of the ruins to correct our ideas, we might have supposed from the shortness of the building period that they had constructed only a few cells and a small conventual chapel, whereas, the Priory church was unequalled in size by any ecclesiastical edifice now in Kent, except Canterbury Cathedral.

It was much longer than both St Maryís Church and the new St Jamesís church, which was demolished after the last war, put together end to end, and stood on three times as much ground as that occupied by St Maryís. Yet this church was but a part of the work; there is the Refectory remaining as a silent witness of the good work of those distant ages; and there were many other large buildings erected within 10 years of the commencement of operations.

 

STRANGE DEDICATION SCENE.

In the year 1135 the Priory was ready for occupation. The quarrels for the possession and control of the establishment furnish many curious incidents, but the most dramatic occurred at the dedication. Archbishop Corboil wished to hand over the Priory to the Austin Canons of Merton, of which fraternity he had been the Prior, but the Monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, so violently opposed this step, that the Bishops of Norwich and St Davidís, who had been sent to consecrate the Priory Church, and the Canons of Merton, who had come down to take possession, had to retreat without accomplishing their purpose. This so preyed upon the mind of Archbishop Corboil that he died eleven days after the event. During the two yearsí interval, before the next Archbishop was appointed, there was much contention, and, for a time, the old ejected Canons of St Martin took possession; but they were ousted, in favour of Benedictine Monks from Christ Church, Canterbury.

 

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