Page Updated:- Monday, 03 January, 2022.


Earliest 1840-

Royal Oak

Open 2020+

Folkestone Road


01303 244787

Royal Oak

Above photo, date unknown.

Royal Oak 1940

Above photo 1940, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe. Customers keeping an eye on RAF vs. Luftwaffe dogfights during the Battle of Britain.

Above photo 24 March 1941, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe. Thomas and Isabelle Moore serving members of the local Home Guard, who are enjoying a pint, having just completed their patrol duties.

Royal Oak 1978

Above photograph kindly supplied by Jan Pedersen, 1978.

Royal Oak Capel

Above shows a gathering of the Home Guard outside the Royal Oak during WW2.

Royal Oak Capel after storms 1987

Time called: Royal Oak public house in Capel stands amid rubble, broken tiles and fallen bricks, as the sun shines in at its windows, just after the storms of 1987.

Royal Oak (Capel-Le-Ferne)
Royal Oak Capel
Royal Oak Sign

Above photographs by Paul Skelton 15 Sept 2007


According to the pub sign, this public house was established in 1611.

In 1874 and 1882 the address was given as Hougham Post Office Directory 1874Post Office Directory 1882Kelly's 1903Post Office Directory 1913

Often referred to as the "Halfway House" as being situated half way between the centre of Dover and Folkestone

During the first world war there was an airship station next to the Royal Oak Inn that was set up to assist the Dover Patrol in escorting convoys and patrolling for U-boats. The opening ceremony in May 1915 turned into a fiasco, when a visiting airship overshot the landing site, crashed into telegraph wires and caught fire. Within a few months, however, four airships were operating successfully from the base.

It was at Capel that airships became known as "blimps". The term described the sound made when the taut fabric gas bags were plucked by the inspecting officer to see if they were properly inflated. This later inspired the cartoon character; Colonel Blimp. The base closed at the end of the war and the site was cleared in 1919.


From the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, Saturday 11 July, 1840.


On Thursday last an inquest was held at the "Royal Oak," half way between Dover and Folkestone, before Thomas Thorpe Delasaux, Esq. Coroner for the Eastern Division of the County, over the body of Richard Howland, a native of Ashford, railroad labourer, aged 24, who was found drowned in the sea, near the Double Cliff.

Mr. Miller, a foreman on the works, deposed that deceased was employed by him on Wednesday morning, at about seven o'clock, in wheeling some of the excavated earth from the line of railroad; but finding he was missing for about 20 minutes, he (witness) went in search for him, and found him floating in the surf, at about 190 yards from the spot where his barrow was standing. He immediately procured assistance and carried him to the "Royal Oak" public house, but life was quite extinct. Deceased had on all his clothes at the time of being found. No cause can be assigned as to why or how he was drowned; although in all appearance, it would seem to be a voluntary act on the part of the deceased. He was of a very cheerful and lively disposition, remarkably steady, very industrious, and of a religious turn of mind.

Verdict - Found drowned. Deceased has left a widow, a native of Herefordshire, far advanced in pregnancy,  and one young child.

It is somewhat remarkable that the grandfather of the deceased was accidentally killed, and an inquest held over his body in the early part of the week, and that from the same accident his father obtained a broken leg, and his mother a sprained ankle; and a contusion of the knee.


From the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, Saturday 25 July, 1840.


THURSDAY. - John Wood, who was last week committed for trial on two indictments for felony, was again brought up for further examination, under the following circumstances.

Corral, inspector of police, deposed, that, in consequence of several articles being missed from the premises of Mrs. Pierce, and which were not found in Wood's possession, he was led to make some further enquiry after the missing articles, at Folkestone, on the 18th inst. when he ascertained that they had been disposed of by Mr. Godden, auctioneer, &c. of that town. The articles there found were 2 pails, an iron pot, a copper frying pan, a stew pan, 2 screw drivers, and two bradawls; the articles now produced in court.

George Pelling, of the "Royal Oak," Folkestone Road, deposed that on the 14t inst. prisoner came into house  between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning, and called for some refreshment. He had with him a wheel-barrow in which was a wooden box; and, when he went out of the house, he went towards Folkestone. Prisoner returned about two in the afternoon, when he again called and partook of more refreshments. He had the wheel-barrow, but no box in it, on his return.

David Godden, auctioneer, &c. deposed that about 10 o'clock prisoner came to his house, having a wheel-barrow, in which was a box and the other articles now produced, and asked witness to buy them for one pound. Witness having looked at the articles declined them at that price, but offered him 13s. Prisoner, however, refused to take the money for the articles, at that time, but subsequently came again to his house, and offered the articles for the 13s. when, on receiving the money, prisoner departed. Witness had since the purchase sold several of the articles to different persons in the town, all of which, however, were produced to the Court.

 Sarah Child, servant to Mrs. Pierce, recognised the whole of the household articles, as belonging to her mistress; and Richard Claringbould identified the screw drivers and bradawls, as being stolen, with the articles enumerated, last week, from the shop of Mr. Hart, his master on the 6th inst.



From the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, Saturday 25 July, 1840.


George Pelling, of the "Royal Oak," Folkestone road, deposed that on the 14th inst. prisoner came into his house between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning, and called for some refreshment. He had with him a wheel-barrow in which was a wooden box; and, when he went out of his house, he went towards Folkestone. Prisoner returned at about two in the afternoon, when he again called and partook of more refreshment. He had the wheel-barrow, but no box in it on his return.

David Godden, auctioneer, &c. deposed that about 10 o'clock prisoner came to his house, having a wheel-barrow, in which was a box and the other articles now produced, and asked witness to buy them for one pound. Witness having looked at the articles declined them at that price, but offered him 13s. Prisoner however, refused to take that money for the articles, at that time, but subsequently came again to his house, and offered the articles for the 13s. when, on receiving the money, prisoner departed. Witness had since the purchase sold several of the articles to different persons in the town, all of which, however, were produced to the court.


From the Dover Telegraph, 1 November 1840.


Another inquest was held at the same time (click here) on view of the body of George Joiner, railway labourer, who was found dead at the cliff near East Way on Monday morning. William Page, labourer, was coming along the top of the cliffs between 10 and 11 o'clock, when he saw the deceased lying among some bushes about half-way down the cliff. He hastened for assistance, and got several men who went to the bottom of the cliff while he took the top to point them out the spot where deceased lay. Edward Lows, another labourer went up the cliff and found deceased. He was quite dead. His head was much bruised, and one leg and one arm were broken. There was a tobacco-box laying under deceased, with some tobacco and 3s. in it. George Pelling, victualler, "Royal Oak," Folkestone Road, had known the deceased for the last twelve months. He came past witness's house night and morning to his work. Saw deceased last about four o'clock on Saturday afternoon going towards the pay-table of the Railway Company at Folkestone Turnpike. He was much addicted to drinking; and as he, like others of the railway workmen, was supplied with provisions and drink at a "Tommy Shop," kept by the railway people, witness did not suppose he would have much more to take of his wages on the Saturday night than the sum found in his tobacco-box. The road by the top of the cliffs was not the deceased's way home, but it is likely, from his habits, he might have been in liquor and had been making his way to Dover. This being all the evidence that could be procured respecting deceased, the Jury hesitated for some time in going to a verdict. Ultimately, however, it was put to the vote, when six Jurymen expressed their conviction that the death had been caused by accident, while five dissented, expressing themselves to the effect that sufficient evidence had not been adduced to warrant them in bringing in a verdict of accidental death. There not being equality of votes, that of the foreman, was not, of course, taken; and the minority falling in with the majority, "Accidental Death" was the verdict come to.


From the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, Saturday 28 February, 1846. Price 5d.


On Tuesday a dreadful accident occurred between Shakespeare and Abbots Cliff tunnel, from an explosion of gunpowder. Various exaggerated reports were in circulation, but on enquiry at the situation we ascertained that ten bodies were there lying dead. Two men named Hambrook and Willis were taken to public-houses in the vicinity, where the former expired on Wednesday evening, and the latter on Thursday morning. The ganger being among those killed, the number of men could not be ascertained. A third party named James Gilham was taken to his residence at Charlton, where he still remains in  a very precarious state, although some hopes are entertained of his recovery. It was for some time feared two other bodies had been blown into the sea, but we are pleased to find that such was not the case. Various causes were assigned for the explosion, the particulars of which will be gathered from the evidence given at the inquest.

On the explosion being heard, several carpenters, who were at dinner in another cave, ran to the spot, when a dreadful scene was presented. Three bodies were lying inside the wall, about 16 or 20 feet from the cliff; two were on the line of rails, seven on the beach below, and one in the water, who must have been propelled a distance of nearly 200 yards.


On Thursday, at 12 o'clock, an inquest was held in a room at the Dover station, on twelve bodies, before G. T. Thompson, Esq., the Borough Coroner, and the following jury:- Mr. J. Sims (foreman,) Messrs. Morris Bushell, R. Bushell, J. D. Squire, W. T. C. Atkins, Thomas Petts, John Bates, W. Buckman, O. Butler, John Fox, L. Bean, J. Blackman, and J. H. Lewis.

The names of the sufferers and their respective ages, as handed by the coroner, by Mr. Way, the station-master, are as follows:- Joseph Hambrook, aged 24, left a widow and one child; William Jordan, aged 23, a widow; Thomas Hatton, 52, a widow and no family; James Cook, aged 52, two children; John Russell, single man; John Pain, aged 39, a widow and seven children; Israel Hughes, aged 28, single man; John Wilson, aged 28, a widow; William Richards, aged 39, a widow; Edward Ruck, aged 38, a widow and two children; John Kendall, aged 24, single man; Joseph Willis, aged 30, a widow and two children.

The Coroner asked Mr. Coleman, jun., who had been in attendance on the survivor, James Gilham, if he was in a fit state to be examined. Mr. Coleman replied that  the man was still suffering great pain. He thought he might be able to give a statement, but, that it would be necessary for the jury to go to his house in Charlton.

Mr. Sims said before they proceeded with the investigation he wished to ask if it was legal for the Borough Coroner to hold the inquests, the accident having occurred in the county.

The Coroner replied that they had the power, under the 6th Victoria, cap. 12, in which it was stated that the Coroner in whose jurisdiction the body lay, should hold the inquest without reference to the district in which the cause of death occurred. Knowing that there was a different impression abroad, he had, on hearing the particulars of the accident when in London, immediately prepared a case which he submitted to Mr. Sergeant Manning, and his opinion was, clearly, that he (the Coroner) had jurisdiction in the matter, and was bound to hold the inquests.

Mr. Barlow said the Company were obliged to remove the bodies. It was impossible they could be left on the line, and they had been taken to the nearest place where they could be put under cover.

Mr. Sims did not blame the Company for having the bodies removed, but great complaints had been made at the Town Council meetings of the charge for inquests, and in this case he thought the expense ought to be borne by the county.

The Coroner replied he could not help what the Town Council thought. He was satisfied that he was acting legally and should proceed to hold the inquests. If he acted wrong he was amendable to the Court above, and not to the Town Council.

The Coroner and jury then proceeded to view the bodies. The remains of the unfortunate men were so horribly mutilated and disfigured, that the spectacle they presented was appalling to the last degree. Their heads were charred and shattered to such an extent that several of them could with difficulty be identified, and their scorched bodies and broken bones made every spectator, who had the courage to look at them, shudder with horror.

After viewing the bodies the jury proceeded by special train, provided by the Company, which is about two miles from Dover, and a short distance from Shakespeare tunnel. The cave in which the men were when the powder exploded is about a dozen yards from the line, having been excavated with two others at the base of the high cliff, which in that portion of its course the railway skirts. It is only a very few feet square, and so low that even a short man cannot stand upright in it. The jury expressed their surprise that so many persons could possibly have found room within. By some it was supposed that they must have been seated at the time the accident happened. From the narrow space, the crowded state of the chamber, and the quantity of powder exploded, the poor unfortunates must have been shot out with nearly as much force as if they had been blown from the mouth of a mortar, and it is only wonderful that a single survivor remains from his shocking catastrophe.

On return of the Jury to the inquest-room, Mr. Clark, solicitor, of London, (the party whose exertions were so conspicuous in the detection of the late railway robberies,) who attended to watch the proceedings, stated that the Company were desirous the fullest investigations, and had issued orders to their servants to give every information in their power.

Mr. Barlow, engineer; Mr. Ilbery, superintendent of the line; Mr. Way, chief clerk at the Dover station; and other gentlemen connected with the Company were present during the investigation.

On the names of the jury being recalled, the following witnesses were examined:-

Henry Marsh, a ganger in the employ of Messrs. Grissell and Peto, deposed - I recognise among the bodies those of Israel Hughes, John Watson, Joseph Hambrook, and Joseph Willis. They were in the company of Grissell and Peto, as were the other parties killed. They had been employed about three weeks repairing the groynes of the sea-wall. I last saw them at the works on Tuesday, about half-past eleven in the afternoon. I knew nothing of there being any gunpowder in the cave.

John Jones, superintendent of railway police at the Dover station, deposed:- On Tuesday last I was present when several bodies were brought to the station. I recognised William Jordan, Thomas Hatton, John Pain, William Richards, and John Kendall. Jordan and four others were alive when brought in, but two died shortly afterwards.

Francis Barnes, commissioned boatman in the Coast Guard at Lydden Spout station, was next examined and deposed:- On Tuesday last I left the station at 12 o'clock, and went on duty along the line. I stopped at the police box, and remained a few minutes in conversation. I then proceeded towards Shakespeare tunnel. While on the eastern end of the sea wall I saw an explosion take place at the foot of the cliff, about 50 yards distant. I saw, among the smoke, several bodies blown across the line. I went towards the spot and met an old man with his hands across his stomach. I asked if they were blowing the cliff, and he said - "Oh no, there is a dreadful sight." I went towards the cave and found three men inside the wall alive, but much disfigured by gunpowder, and one lying on the line was dead. I then looked over the sea wall and saw several other bodies lying on the beach apparently dead, except one whom I saw move. I then proceeded to the police box and fired my pistol to alarm our men on the cliff. I then returned to the scene of the explosion, and saw our chief boatman and some of our men coming, to whom I related what had happened. I have been eight months in the station, but never knew there was any powder in the cave. It was always locked, and I never saw it open. The witness afterwards said that had he not stopped at the police box, he should have been opposite the cave at the time of the explosion.

John Town, chief boatman in charge of Lydden Spout station, deposed - On Tuesday last I was alarmed by the last witness firing a pistol, and hastened down the cliff. Near the explosion I saw three men alive within the wall. I conversed with one of the men, who could stand, and walked with assistance to the engine which had been sent up from the station. One died in about ten minutes, and the other was alive when forwarded to Dover. There were also two men lying on the line. They were both dead. There were seven or eight lying on the beach below. I have been four and a half years on the station. I have known the cave in question a long time. The door has always been shut, and I never saw it open. I do not know if it was locked. I did not know there was powder in the cave.

Thomas Dingley, a plate layer in the employ of the South Eastern Company - I am foreman of the plate layers from Abbott's Cliff tunnel to Dover, and have charge of the caves and stores in that district. There are three caves; in one I keep rabbits - another is used for a tool shop - and the third, I understood contained powder. That cave I have always seen fastened with a padlock. On Saturday last, some of Grissell and Peto's men (two or three of whom I have missed since Tuesday, but do not know their names) were eating their breakfast with me at the tool cave. One asked me if I could let them have another of the caves. I told then I could not, unless they spoke to my superiors; and I recommended them to go to Mr. Way, clerk at the Dover Station. They were anxious to go to the cave, but I told them it was not fit. I afterwards went with two men and drew the staple of the door which was loose. On opening the door I shewed them the powder. There was one whole barrel, the head of which was off, and another was burnt, and the contents strewed on part of the floor of the cave two or three inches thick. It was very wet. One, if not both of the men, took up a handful of the powder. I then told them if they got an order to have the cave I would clean it out, and bury the powder. I then took a flint and knocked the staple tight, with the padlock on. I did not notice the cave on Sunday, but saw that it was closed on Monday or Tuesday mornings, at half-past six and at half-past eight o'clock. I saw nothing more of it till I heard the explosion.

By Mr. Barlow - My orders are to apprehend all persons found trespassing on the line, and to permit no person to pass through the tunnel. I have been about a fortnight on this part of the line, and have known of the powder being in the cave about a week. I was told by Briggs, one of my men. He told me that the key was lost. I never asked for another.

In reply to questions from Mr. Nash witness said, he and the other men had nailed shoes on when they stamped on the powder; and with the greatest nonchalance said they thought nothing of that, or of striking an iron staple with a flint stone. The danger was not considered. (Great sensation.)

The staple and a padlock were produced. The padlock was picked up on the beach, and was identified by witness as similar to the one used to fasten the door of the cave.

At the conclusion of the above evidence the Coroner and Jury proceeded in omnibuses to Charlton, to take the statement of the survivor, James Gilham; but on their arrival he was found to be suffering so severely from excruciating pain, that the Coroner, with the concurrence of the jury, declined to disturb him, and returned to the inquest room, when the investigation was resumed.

The body of John Russell was identified by Jonathan Sharp; and those of Wilson, Jordan, Hatton, and Ruck by Philip King.

George Williams, carpenter in the employ of Grissell and Peto - On Friday or Saturday last I was in the tool cave at breakfast with Hanson, Hunter, and eight or nine other workers, when Dingley came in. Some of the men asked to have the use of another cave. He said there was powder in it, and they must ask Mr. Way. I did not know there was powder in the cave. I never saw it opened.

Henry Hunter, a carpenter in the same employ, after corroborating the evidence of the last witness, further deposed - I saw the cave, said to contain powder, was fastened on Saturday. On Tuesday morning, between 8 and 9 o'clock, the door was open, and I, with several others, went into it and had some beer, of which two casks had been brought up on Monday. One was empty and the other contained about two gallons. While we were drinking, I saw the powder strewed on the floor. About 12 o'clock we went into the tool cave to get our dinner. The beer cask was brought from the powder cave, and the beer served out by Watkins. I do not know that any of the men who were drinking in the morning are those who have been killed. We heard from one another that the powder was wet and useless, and had been there for three years. I have only been at work there about a week. I never knew before Tuesday  that beer was kept in the cave.

Jabez Bills, carpenter, in the employ of Grissell and Peto, deposed - I have been employed for nearly four years on the line between Dover and Folkestone. On Saturday morning, while at breakfast, about half-past 10, the men were asking Dingley about another cave, when two pile-drivers, named Hopkins and Wright, went with him to look at the cave, and on their return they said there was room for six or seven men, if cleaned out. They never said anything about powder being in the cave.

William Watkins, labourer in the employ of Grissell and Peto - I have been at work on the line between six and seven years. On Tuesday morning, about eight o'clock, I went to the cave, which I knew had contained powder for the last five years. I drew out the staple with my hand, and went in with a man named Wilson to see if there was room for the men to get in for our meals. There was powder lying on the floor. Shortly after eight I put an empty beer cask in the cave, and another partly full. Hunter and four other men came and had some beer. The cave was then closed. At twenty minutes before twelve I again went into the cave alone, and took the beer cask into the carpenter's cave. I closed the door, and there were no men then near the cave. The explosion took place about half-past twelve. I directly went to the cave, and saw some men with their clothes on fire. I immediately ran to the Dover station for assistance. An engine and tender was instantly dispatched, and I followed on another with a carriage. Four bodies were placed on the first engine, and seven in the carriage. The powder had been left after the work was finished, and had the character among ourselves of being damaged. On Monday morning there was one barrel full, a large lump, and some on the floor. The man named Wilson, who ordered me to go to the cave with him on Tuesday, is one of those killed. He was a ganger on the line. He made no comment on the powder, except that it was good for nothing.

During the evidence of the last witness, Mr. Delasaux the county coroner, entered the room, and, addressing Mr. Thompson, said that he had no wish to interrupt the proceedings, but he considered it his duty to state publicly that the inquest on the eight persons, who died before they were brought into the borough, was illegal, and that it was his intention to hold an inquest on those bodies to-morrow morning at 10 o'clock, in the parish of Hougham.

Mr. Thompson replied that the subject had already been discussed by the jury. He, himself, felt satisfied on the legality of his proceeding, but anticipated some doubt might arise, he had taken Council's opinion, which was that the bodies having been brought into his jurisdiction, he was bound to hold the inquests.

Mr. Nash said, after the lengthened enquiry that had already taken place, it would be useless to hold another inquest, and suggested that the coroners should unite in continuing the present enquiry. On the part of the Company, he could not sanction the bodies being removed to any other than they final place of rest.

Mr. Delasaux said he could not agree to such a course. If the jury returned verdicts in the case of those persons who died in the county, he should move the Court of Queens Bench to quash the inquisitions taken by the Borough Coroner.

Mr. Thompson said that would be the better course and would settle the question. There would however be some difficulty in viewing the bodies, as the County Coroner had no more right to enter the Borough for that purpose than he (Mr. Thompson) had to go into the County to do so.

Mr. Delasaux repeated his determination to summon a jury in the parish of Hougham, and then to view the bodies where they were now lying, and he then retired.

George Virgo, a ganger in the employ of the South Eastern Company, deposed - I had charge of the cave containing powder from 1843 till July, 1844, when I gave the key to Mr. Graves, an assistant engineer employed on the line. He has since left the service of the company. There were then four barrels, containing about 400lbs., in the cave. The powder was what had not ignited at the explosions. It was then put in the cliff in bags, and on being taken out was shot into empty barrels. I have heard that some of the powder has been stolen, but do not know by whom.

The Coroner said this was the whole of the evidence he had to offer, and it was for the jury to decide whether they could come now to a decision, or adjourn the enquiry to take the deposition of Gilham, in case he should recover. He (the Coroner) had received from Mr. Nash a statement made by Willis previous to his decease, which would throw some light on the explosion, but he could not receive it as evidence. He had questioned Mr. Walter, who stated that Willis at the time he made the statement was in great hopes of recovery. Had he made the statement under an impression that he was dying the law would allow it to be received as evidence.

After some further conversation the jury decided on adjourning the enquiry till Wednesday next, and the Coroner issued his warrant for the interment of the bodies.

The following is the statement made by Willis, above referenced to:-

"I Joseph Willis, make a statement, as far as I can recollect, of the cause of the accident. At a quarter before one o'clock on Tuesday, I, in company with others, entered a cave close to where we was at work, (in consequence of its raining at the time,) to finish our dinners; after which one of my mates (I do not know his name) took a lucifer match to light his pipe with, and having done so, he accidentally let it fall upon the ground, close to something black, which immediately began to hiss, and we all became alarmed, and endeavoured to effect our escape, during which time it communicated with two barrels, which were in the cave, and contained gunpowder. I did not know at the time the barrels contained gunpowder, but judge they did, in consequence of the explosion which followed directly after. I recollect nothing further.

"Witness: - E. T. Way, Edmund Nagle, John Walter, surgeon."

The Railway Company have provided very neat coffins for the bodies of the deceased, in which they were yesterday conveyed, in hearses, to the houses of their relations. We also understand that the whole expense of the funerals will be defrayed by the Company.


Yesterday Mr. Delasaux, the Coroner for the eastern division of the County, conveyed a jury at the "Royal Oak," in the parish of Hougham, for the purpose of holden an inquest on the bodies of Hatton, Cook, Russell, Pain, Wilson, Richards, Ruck and Kendall, the eight persons who died previous to being brought into the Borough. After being sworn, the jury proceeded to the terminus to view the bodies, and on their return, evidence having been taken similar to that adduced before the Borough Coroner on the previous day, the jury returned a verdict, "that the deceased were killed by the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder, but how it became ignited there is no evidence to show."

I believe the cave in question was actually the Beer-shop the "Shakespeare Head."

Further research suggests that the man named John Pain age 39, was also licensee of the "Endeavour."


From the Kentish Gazette, 3 March 1846.


DOVER, Thursday Night.

This morning, at twelve o'clock. Mr. G. T. Thompson, coroner for the borough of Dover, held an inquest on the bodies of the sufferers by the late explosion on the South Eastern line, near Dover. The following is a list of those to whom this terrible accident has proved fatal:- William Jordan, aged 23; Thomas Hutton, aged 52; James Cook, aged 56; John Russell, and John Pain, aged 39; Israel Hughes, aged 28; John Wilson, aged 28; William Richards, Edward Ruck, John Kendall, aged 24; Joseph Hambrook, aged 24; and Joseph Willis, alias Reader. Of these ten have left widows, and one of them, Pain, a family of seven children. Shortly after twelve o’clock the jury and coroner went to view the bodies and the scene of the disaster. The remains of these unfortunate men have been so horribly mutilated and disfigured, that the spectacle they presented was appalling to the last degree. Their heads have been charred and shattered to such an extent that several of them could with difficulty be identified, and their scorched bodies and broken limbs made every spectator, who had the courage to look at them, shudder with horror. The spot where the accident took place is about two miles from Dover, and a very short way from the Folkestone and the Shakespeare tunnel. The cave in which the men were when the powder exploded, is about a dozen yards from the high side of the line, having been excavated with two others at the base of the high cliff, which in that portion of its course the railway skirts. It is only a very few feet square, and so low that even a small man cannot stand upright in it. The jury and all who visited the spot expressed great astonishment that so many persons could possibly have found room within. By some it was supposed that they must have been seated at the time the accident happened. From the narrow spaces, the crowded state of the chamber, and the quantity of powder exploded, the poor unfortunates must have been shot out with nearly as much force as if they had been blown from the mouth of a mortar. Some of them were carried to a distance of 150 yards, right into the sea, and it is only wonderful that a single survivor remains from this shocking catastrophe.

Mr. Nash, from the office of the company’s solicitor's, Mr, Barlow, the local engineer, and Mr. Ilbery, superintendent of the locomotive department, watched the proceedings on behalf of company.

In answer to a question put by the foreman, as to the legality of such an investigation before the borough coroner, the Coroner stated that he had taken the opinion of Mr. Serjeant Manning on the facts of the case, and he was clearly of opinion that the inquest was within his (the coroner's) jurisdiction, as the bodies were then lying within the bounds of the borough.

The foreman of the jury complained of the expense entailed on the corporation, and intimated his doubts as to the validity of the proceedings, which he thought should have taken place before the county coroner.

The jury then proceeded to view the bodies and the scene of the catastrophe, being conveyed to the spot by a special engine. On their return, the inquest was opened, and the fallowing evidence adduced:-

Henry Mark, the first witness examined, stated that he is a ganger, in the employ of Messrs. Grissel and Peto, who are contractors for the South-Easlern Company. He had seen the bodies of the unfortunate men, and recognized Israel Hughes, John Wilson, Joseph Hambrook, and J. Willis. They, with the others were in Messrs. Grissell and Peto’s employ, on the works between Folkestone and Dover, for the last three weeks, and he had last seen them on Tuesday, at eleven o’clock.

John Jones stated that he is in the employ of the South-Eastern Railway Company, as a policeman, and is stationed at Dover. On Tuesday last he saw several bodies brought there, and he was satisfied as to the identity of W. Jordan, Thomas Hutton, John Payne, W. Richards, and Kendal. Jordan was living when he reached the station, and four more, but these he did not know.

Mr. Nash, on behalf of the company, stated that they were most anxious to afford the jury every facility in the investigation.

Francis Barnes, a commissioned boatman in the Coast Guard stated that on Tuesday last he left his station to proceed along the line on duty, and stopped on the way for a few moments at the policeman's box to speak to him. After that he proceeded to the Shakespeare Tunnel, in the direction of Dover, and while on the sea wall the explosion took place in front of him. Seeing it he ran back out of the way. It took place about 50 or 60 yards in advance of him, and shook him very much, he saw among the smoke the men flying away, and being quite confused he stood a few moments, and met an old man with his hand crossed on his breast, whom he did not recognize, but who said, "I never saw such a sight before." On going to the spot he saw three men near the mouth of the cave, groaning, and praying to God, and very much disfigured, but he was so confused he did not know what they said. There was another lying dead in the drain beside the line, and looking over the sea wall he perceived several lying apparently dead on the beach, except one who was moving. He ran and fired his pistol to give the alarm to the people on the cliff, and then went back to the scene of the explosion. Shortly after, the chief boatman of the station, with his men and the foreman of carpenters sent to Dover for the trucks. He had never seen the door of the cave opened, and he had been at the station for about eight months.

John Town, the chief boatman in charge at the Lydden spout station, was alarmed by the firing of a pistol, and hastening down to the foot of the beach, found himself in the midst of the dead and dying. On the north part of the line he saw three men alive, one who was able to walk about, and who was at once sent to Dover by the engine, the other lying on a piece of oil-cloth, and another at the mouth of the cave, who died a few minutes after. He did not ask any questions as to how the accident happened, for the one who was least hurt was in great pain, and as he wrung his hands the flesh dropped off. He also saw two men lying dead upon the line, and one alive upon the buttresses of the south wall. There were seven or eight lying strewed upon the beach below. He had been on the station six years and six months. Knew the cave was there, and though he had never tried whether the door was locked he saw that it was shut. Latterly there had been few men working there, and he had never seen the cave used as a place of shelter at any time, nor was he aware that there was any powder kept there.

Thomas Dingley, a bricklayer in the employ of the South Eastern Railway Company, and foreman of the gangers from Abbot's-cliff tunnel to Dover, stated that on Saturday there was a great number of them in one of the other caves, at breakfast, and they applied for leave to go into the cave where the accident happened, but he refused, without the sanction of his superiors, and told them there was powder there. They were very anxious to see if it was fit for them, and he told them it was not. The caves were three in number; one of which he used for holding rabbits, another which was a tool shop, and the third holding (as he understood) powder, and fastened with a padlock. He let two of them see the cave by drawing the stapling; and he remembered one of them took up a handful of loose powder. There was one whole barrel full, with the lid off, and another burst, and the contents strewed two or three inches deep about the floor, but quite wet and chalky. He thought there were about 100lb. of powder in the cave. He told them that if they got an order to go into the cave he would have the place cleared out and the powder buried. One of the persons, at least, of those who then heard him, was still alive. After he had shown the place, he drove the staple home with a flint stone, and tried if it was fast. He diil not see the cave on Sunday, but on Monday and Tuesday morning the door was closed. He passed it twice on the latter morning. The third time he went by the door was blown off, and the explosion had taken place. The powder in the barrel was in a hard lump, but not wet. He had nails in his shoes when he went into the cave. His instructions were, to apprehend any person trespassing on the line, and to allow no one to pass through the tunnel. He had only been a fortnight on the line, and had known that the powder was there for about a week previously.

The padlock and staple were produced in court, having been picked up on the beach.

William Robus identified the body of Cook and Paine; and Jonathan Sharp that of Russell; and P. King that of H. Ruck.

George Williams, a carpenter in the employ of Messrs. Grissell and Peto, stated that on Friday or Saturday last they were sitting together in one of the caves, at breakfast, when Dingley came in. He was asked by some of the men for permission to use another of the caves, and his answer was that there was powder in it, and that they must ask leave of his superiors. He knew that there was a cave there, but had never seen it open, or that there was powder there.

At this stage of the proceedings the coroner and jury visited Gillham, the sole remaining survivor of the accident, whose evidence they were anxious to procure. The unfortunate man, however, was far too ill to be examined, and although sensible, when his attention was roused, his power of articulation was utmost entirely gone. The coroner, therefore, very properly gave up the attempt. The poor fellow’s sufferings are, it is said, terrific, and very serious doubts are entertained of his recovery.

The following statement of the circumstances attending the accident was made by one of the sufferers before his death, and though rejected by the coroner, we insert it, as throwing light upon the case.—

"I, Joseph Willis, make a statement as far as I can recollect, of the cause of the accident. At a quarter before one o’clock p.m.. Tuesday, in company with others, I entered a cave situated close to where we were at work, and in consequence of its raining at the time, to finish our dinners; after which one of my mates (I do not know his name) took a Lucifer match to light his pipe with; having done so, he accidentally let if fall upon the ground, close to something black, which immediately began to hiss, and we all became alarmed, and endeavoured to effect our escape, during which time it communicated with two barrels which were in the cave, containing gunpowder. I did not at the time know the barrels contained gunpowder, but judged they did, in consequence of the explosion which followed directly after. I recollect nothing further."

On the return of the jury. Henry Hunter, a labourer, who corroborated the evidence of the last witness, stated that on Tuesday morning, between eight and nine o'clock, the cave was open and he and several more entered it. Among them was Barney Watkins, who served the beer. He drank half a pint of it, which he took, sitting upon an empty cask, as the place was not high enough to stand while doing so. Two four and a half gallon casks of beer came up there on Monday. On Tuesday he saw the powder kicking about on the floor. They paid for the beer themselves. He noticed nothing about the staple and lock of the door, nor did he see any cask of powder there. At dinner time, Watkins brought the beer to them in the tool cave, and waited with them. None of those who had been killed were with him when he had his beer in the morning, and he thought nothing of the powder, as the others told him it was wet and useless, and had been there for nearly three years.

— Briggs, a carpenter on the line, stated that Dingley took Hopkins and Wright, two of the pile-drivers on Saturday, to look at the powder cave, and on their return he heard them say if the cave was swept out it would hold four or five men.

Barney Watkins stated that he had been at the cave twice on the morning of Tuesday; first at eight o'clock, and afterwards about 12. He had on the former occasion pulled out the staple with his hand, as it was very slightly put in. On Monday he had put two casks of beer there, one of which had been emptied, and the other he removed to the tool cave on the following day at noon. To his knowledge there had been powder in the cave for five years previously, and since that time the door had been open for weeks together.

At this point of the inquiry a considerable sensation was created by the appearance in the room of Mr. DeLasaux, coroner for the Eastern division of the county of Kent.

Mr. DeLusaux said that he had not come to interrupt the proceedings of the borough coroner, but he thought it as well to state that if any person died in the county, and was afterwards removed within the borough, that would not bring the case within the jurisdiction of the borough coroner. He would therefore hold an inquest to morrow (Friday), at 10 o’clock, on the bodies of those men who had died in the county.

Mr. Nash suggested that there would be some difficulty in ascertaining who they were.

Mr. Thompson explained to his learned brother functionary the course which he had adopted, and again referred to the opinion of Mr. Serjeant Manning as his authority for acting on the occasion.

Mr. DeLasaux then informed Mr. Thompson, that if his return on the investigation exceeded the limits of his jurisdiction, he (Mr. DeLasaux) would apply to the Court of Queen's Bench to quash the inquisition, on the ground that the borough coroner had no power over the bodies killed in the county.

Mr. Nash, on the part of the South Eastern Company, protested against a second inquisition, as uselessly entailing additional expense on them. Being told, however, by both the coroners that it was a matter entirely between them and in which the company was not concerned he suggested that they ought to amalgamate, and so get rid of the difficulty.

Mr. DeLusaux said that it was impossible to do so, and quoted as a precedent a case that had occurred at Milton-bridge, near Canterbury; in which it was decided that the city coroner had no jurisdiction over deaths in the county.

The foreman of the jury here rose, and finding himself backed up in the objection which he had made at the commencement of the proceedings, renewed that objection with increased confidence.

Mr. DeLasuux, after expressing his regret of the interruption he had caused, and having again announced his intention to hold an inquest to morrow, withdrew from the room.

It should not be omitted, that in answer to Mr. DeLasaux’s objection, that the bodies should not have been removed within the borough at all, Mr. Nash explained, that apart from what humanity dictated, it was the only course which could be followed with regard to them.

After some further evidence had been heard, the coroner adjourned the inquest till Wednesday next, at one o’clock.


From the Kentish Gazette, 3 March 1846.


On Friday Mr. DeLasaux, agreeably to the resolution he expressed at the above inquiry, held an inquest at the "Royal Oak," Folkestone road, parish of Hougham, on view of the bodies of the eight men who were killed on the spot, of the several names of Hatton, Cook, Russell, Paine, Wilson, Richards, Ruck, Kendall. The evidence was necessarily a repetition.

Verdict:— "Killed by the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder, but how it became ignited, there is no evidence to show."


From the Kentish Gazette, 10 March 1846.


Dover, Wednesday Night.

This afternoon, Mr. G. T. Thompson, the borough coroner, resumed the inquiry respecting the death of the twelve unfortunate men, who lost their lives by the late explosion.

He said he regretted to inform the jury, that since they last met, the poor man, James Gillham, from whom they were in hopes of obtaining some positive information as to the actual cause of the accident, and who was in the cave at the moment of the explosion, had expired; making the thirteenth who had met with their death by the sad event. As the body laid in the borough, he should at once swear the jury on view of it.

The jury proceeded to view the body of the deceased James Gillham, and then returning to the inquest room, took the following evidence:-

William Gillham, a labourer, residing at Charlton, said deceased was his brother, and was aged 23 years, as present, at his mother’s house, when he was brought there after the exclusion. His head, arms and legs were considerably burnt; he died yesterday.

Coroner:— Did he make any statement to you as to how the accident occurred?

Witness:— Yes, he did.

Coroner:— What was his belief at the time. That he would recover or die?

Witness:— He thought he should die.

Coroner:— Very well; now tell us the statement he made to you.

Witness:— It was on Friday that he thought he should die. On the following day, he told me, that six or seven of them were in a cave on the railway; one of the men was smoking a pipe, which he let fall, or a match, on the powder that was lying on the floor, which went off. It did not go off at the moment, as it was damp, as he supposed.

John Vergo proved that he had charge of the keys of the cave from September, 1843, to July, 1844, when he gave them up to Mr. Graves, who had since left the company's service. The cave then contained four hundred weight of powder.

Other evidence was then adduced which satisfactorily showed that for some time past the cave had been converted into a kind of beer shop to supply the labourers employed on that particular part of the line, notwithstanding the dangerous nature of the contents, which they were perfectly aware of.

There being no further witnesses to examine, the Coroner summed up the evidence, and observed that, according to the dying declaration of the deceased, the cause of the accident was fully explained.

The court was then cleared of strangers, and, after the lapse of nearly three quarters of an hour, the jury found the following verdict:—

"That the deceased were killed by the explosion of a certain quantity of gunpowder, not being properly protected from the possibility of an accident; and that the said explosion was caused by a lighted pipe being dropped by one of the deceased on the said gunpowder."


Kentish Gazette, 15 June 1852.

An inquest was held on Wednesday, before T. T. Delasaux, Esq., at the "Royal Oak Inn," the half-way house between Dover and Folkestone, to enquire into the death of Thomas Sutton, aged 22 years, of Postling Court Farm, whose body was found on Tuesday morning, on the beach at the base of the cliff, near Abbot's cliff tunnel.

John Murphy, boatman of the Coast Guard, stationed at the Pelter Brig, deposed:— Yesterday morning, at 3 o'clock, I was on duty on the beach, in the parish of Hougham, when I saw the deceased lying on his face quite dead. I did not know the man.

Finch Kite, farmer, deposed:— I reside in the parish of Hougham, and in consequence of having heard that a man had been found on the beach below Abbot's cliff, I traced his footsteps along the footpath leading from Dover, to the very spot where he went over. To get to that place he must have gone 5 rods out of his course; the ground was very rough. He seemed to have kept his road well until he got to the spot, and had walked steadily before he reached the top of the cliff.

No other witnesses being called, the Coroner proceeded to sum up, in the course of which he briefly adverted to the principal points elicited in the examination, remarking, in conclusion, to the jury, that it was for them to consider whether death had resulted accidentally, as the result of deceased's not perceiving the path; or whether the act had been done at a moment of temporary insanity, or with a view of committing self-destruction in a sane state of mind, and for some cause at present unexplained. That it was not from necessity, had been proved by the money found in deceased's purse. At the close of the summing up, the jury forthwith returned "That deceased met with his death by accidentally falling over the cliff." From what has subsequently transpired, it appears that deceased was at Dover a few hours previous to the fatal occurrence, and that he left between 12 and 1 o'clock, purposing to walk home. Up to the time of the verdict being returned, the body had not been identified; but as the jury were on the point of separating, a friend of the deceased, from Dover, was permitted to view the body, when its recognition took place.


Kentish Gazette 11 July 1854.


Ann Bromley, victualler, "Royal Oak," parish of Hougham, appeared to answer a charge preferred by Superintendent Stokes, for allowing a dog fight to take place in her house on Tuesday, the 13th of June.

Fined 5, including costs.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, Friday 28 May, 1864

From the Kentish Chronicle, 28 May, 1864.


At the Magistrates' Clerk's Office, Hythe, on Monday, Richard Marsh, a labourer, living at Capel, was charged with maliciously setting fire to a stack of hay and straw, at Capel, on the 14th instant.

Mr. William Bromley, of Hougham, farmer, stated that he occupied a farm at Capel. About a fortnight ago he had a stack, consisting of about 30 cwt. of hay and 7 tons of straw, standing in a field called Abbotts Lane. The value of the straw was about 2 per ton, and the hay was of about the same value. About 11 o'clock in the morning of the 15th inst. He received information that the stack was on fire. He went to it about three o'clock the same afternoon and found it burning all over. It continued to do so till nine or ten o'clock at night, when the whole of the stack was destroyed. It was insured in the Norwich Union Fire Office. The damage he estimated at 17.

Other witnesses were called, who proved that on the evening of Saturday, the 14th inst., the prisoner was in the "Royal Oak" public-house, at Capel-le-Ferne. He left there a little before nine o'clock in the company of a man named Thomas Papson, and a boy about ten years of age, named Thomas Granger. They walked together towards their home. When they got about two or three rods from the stack they met John Finn the prisoner's mate. The prisoner asked Papson to give him a match to light his pipe. Papson replied that he had not got one; and he then asked Finn, and he gave him one. Finn and the others then walked on, leaving the prisoner opposite the stack. When they had gone 20 or 30 rods prisoner came walking up to them. Just then Papson turned round, and seeing the stack on fire, said, "What have you been at, Dick? Have you set that stack on fire?" The prisoner replied, "I haven't set it on fire; it wasn't alight when I came by." Papson said, "We shall be brought up on this concern." Prisoner replied, "I meant to have a flare up."

The boy Granger stated that when Finn gave the prisoner the match he said, "Now I'm going to set the stack on fire," but his evidence on that point was not corroborated.

The prisoner was apprehended on Saturday last by Inspector J. E. Smith, Kent County Constabulary. On being told the charge and duly cautioned, he said, "Old Bromley says there was six ton of it, but the Fire Office wouldn't pay him; it was only a lot of rubbish." Superintendent English was present and said, "Then I suppose you do not think it of much value." The prisoner replied, "No, more it was not; if it had been I should not have set it on fire." He also said he stooped to light his pipe at the stack, and then he started the stack off. He did not say he did it accidentally.

The Magistrates committed him for trial at the next Assizes, but subsequently admitted him to bail.


From the Whitstable Times, 26 January 1867. Price 1d.

On the Folkestone read, there is an immense quantity of snow, particularly between the "Royal Oak" and Folkestone Hill. We regret that a poor woman, a domestic, we believe, of Miss Fagge, at Caple, has been lost in the snow. The poor creature left home for Folkestone on Wednesday morning and reached there, but early next morning her husband went to that town to see if she were there, and learned that she had started for Caple the previous day.


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday 21 June, 1867.


On Sunday evening, about half-past six or seven o'clock, Caple Lodge was the scene of an audacious forcible entry. The greater part of the family had gone into town, and the gate-lodge was securely fastened An artillery man of the 13th Brigade, who happened to be prowling about, took advantage of the apparently deserted state of the premises, and forced an entrance into the lodge-house by breaking a large pane of thick glass. Having obtained ingress he rummaged about, but was watched , and subsequently traced to Marsh's "Half-way House." It seems that having arrived at the "Oak," he pulled out his purse and dropped some of the rings which, among other articles, he had purloined. These were the means of his detection. Information was given on Monday, and on Tuesday morning the men wearing good conduct stripes, of which the burglar had three, were paraded in the Castle. He was immediately identified by the young person who had seen him; and was, after a preliminary investigation, handed over to the proper authorities to be dealt with by the county magistrates.


From the Whitstable Times, 8 October, 1870.


The Duke of Cambridge reviewed the troops here in the drill-field on Wednesday. On Thursday there was a sham fight on the ground between Dover and the “Royal Oak,” on the Folkestone road, in which the troops from Shorncliffe joined. Yesterday his Royal Highness inspected the troops at Shorncliffe.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 14 September, 1877. Price 1d.


Frederick Kitham was charged with being drunk at the "Royal Oak Inn," on the Dover and Folkestone road, about the 20th of August.

Defendant did not appear but his brother was present and handed in to the Bench a medical certificate, which was to the effect that the defendant was confined to bed with congestion of the brain. he said his brother had been rather queer in the head some time and it was feared that he was out of his mind. The doctor had been attending him every day last week.

On the suggestion of Mr. Vidler, acting Clerk to the Magistrates, the case was adjourned until there is other business at the Court, in order that the Magistrates might not be put to the trouble od sitting for this case alone.


From the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 28 April 1900. Price 1d.


The East Kent Coroner (R. M. Mercer, Esq ) held an inquest on the 21st April at the "Royal Oak Inn," Hougham, on the body of a man unknown aged about 70 to 75 years who was found over a cliff at Capel-le-Ferne, on the 19th inst.

It appeared that the deceased went to the "Royal Oak Inn" at about half past twelve on the 18th April and called for a glass of beer, but only drank two mouthfuls and then left the house. The landlord thought there was something peculiar about him and on going towards Folkestone saw the deceased carrying his boots on his shoulder on a stick. He let them slip off the stick, went on, and then went back and picked them up. A mariner named Nicholas Charles Williams was going along the top of the cliff from Folkestone to Dover when just by the Eagle's Nest he saw a hat a few yards down the cliff and further still down he saw something like a bundle of rags. He went down and discovered it to be the body of a man. He reported it to the chief officer at Lydden Spout Coastguard Station and afterwards assisted in getting the body up the cliff.

The jury returned a verdict that deceased was found dead, having fallen over the cliff, but how he came to fall there was no evidence to show.

From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 22 June, 1900. Price 1d.


Herbert Broadley was charged with using obscene language on the highway near Abbots Land farm in the parish of Capel-le-Ferne on the 26th of May.

P.C. Kenward, stationed at Hougham, said that about 10.30 p.m. on May 26th he saw defendant with two other men in a public footpath at Abbots Land farm using language which witness considered too filthy to repeat, and wrote down. The defendant was on his way home to West Hougham from the “Royal Oak.” Witness had received previous complaints from the people by whose premises prisoner was passing.

Alfred Constable, manager at Abbots Land Farm corroborated.

Arthur Cox was charged with a similar offence while in company of the last defendant.

Similar evidence was given.

Each defendant was fined 16s. 3d. or 7 days in default. 10s. was paid down and time allowed for the remainder.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 20 April, 1901.


On Saturday morning last, one of the coastguards-men on duty at Lyddan Spout coastguard station discovered the body of a man lying under the cliff close to the station, the man having either fallen or thrown himself over the cliff. With assistance the body was recovered and it was found that life was extinct. The matter was reported to Mr. R. M. Mercer, Coroner for East Kent, who held an Inquest respecting the death at the “Royal Oak," Folkestone Road, on Monday morning.

A brother of the deceased identified the body as that of William. P. Johns, a Quarter-Master-Sergeant, employed in the R. E. Recording Offices at the War Office, and residing at New Brompton. It appeared that deceased, who had visited Dover on several occasions, came to the town on Saturday, and put up at the Shaftsbury Cafe, and he must have gone to the Shakespeare Cliff soon afterwards. He had had an attack of influenza.

Evidence of the discovery of the body was give by the coastguard; but there being no evidence to show how deceased came by his death, the Jury returned an open verdict of “Found Drowned."


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 31 July, 1903. Price 1d.



On Tuesday an inquest was held at the “Royal Oak,” Hougham, by the County Coroner, R. M. Mercer, Esq., on the body of a man who was found on Sunday afternoon beyond Abbott's Cliff on the South Eastern Railway, cut to pieces.

William Weller, a platelayer and watchman employed by the S.E. and C.R., stated that on Sunday morning he was patrolling the line near Abbotts Cliff. He had been on the line since six o'clock in the morning. At about 3.30 he saw the deceased on the line near the Warren station, and on going to him he found he was dead.

George Thomas Twyman, driver of the 3.22 train from Folkestone Junction on Sunday afternoon, said he was looking ahead, and could not have failed to see anyone unless such person got on the line from the banks, six or seven feet in front of him. Just after passing the footbridge he heard the ballast rattling. He looked over the engine, but could see nothing, and so proceeded to Dover. He examined the engine carefully and saw no marks on the front, but found marks of blood on the tender frame. He did not think the front of the engine struck the man.

Police-constable Lingsbury said that the body was that of a young man, whose age he could not say as the head was too much injured. His head was smashed, his foot cut off, and his side ripped open. He had a dark brown moustache, and was about 5ft. 4in. in height. He was wearing a pair of almost new elastic side boots, a blue suit and blue cap, and dark socks.

The Coroner complained of the body being removed to Hougham, saying it should have been taken to Dover or Folkestone. He should disallow the Police expenses for removing the body, which necessitated the employment of seven men to haul it up the cliff. He remarked that if they had wished to hide the man's identity, they could not have brought him to a better place than to that wilderness.

The articles found on the deceased were examined. They consisted of a ring with a white paste stone, a tide and time table of the River Thames, a copy of the Borough of Dover bye laws, which he had obtained from the office of the Town Clerk, Dover, and also the address of Mr. Sergeant, the Surveyor of the Dover Rural District Council. There was also paper bearing the name of W. E. Dixon.

The Coroner, in summing up, said that suicide was suggested, but there was no evidence of it, although it looked as if the deceased had jumped head first into the tender of the engine.

The Jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased was struck by a train and killed on the line.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 4 January, 1929. Price 1d.


Secret Pool

Above shows the "Secret Pool" where the body of a six month old baby was found. Some six months earlier a young Dover man also drowned here.


A discovery of a particularly gruesome nature, which apparently points to the murder of a child six months old, was made at the Warren on Thursday last week by Mr. G. F. Chandler, who is living under canvas. In a pool known as the Secret Pool, where a boy was drowned earlier in the year, he found the headless body of a female child, stated by Dr. Adamson to be about six months old. The head, which was missing, was apparently severed by a knife. The inquest opened by the East Kent Coroner, Mr. Rutley Mowll, on Saturday last, at the “Royal Oak” was adjourned until January 18th.

George Frederick Chandler, a journeyman painter, living under canvas at the Warren, said that on Thursday afternoon at about 3.30 he was walking along the foreshore at the bottom of the cliff. On approaching the Secret Pool he noticed a white object in the seaweed on the high tide mark, the tide being on the ebb. On examining it he found that it was the headless body of a female child quite nude. He returned to his camp and obtained a small sack and box and he then lifted the remains on to the sack and put them into the box which he covered over with an old bath, after leaving it on the beach to protect it from vermin. He took the body to the top of the cliff at 10 o'clock the next morning and left it at the “Royal Oak.” He then went to Dover and reported the matter to the Dover Police. He did not care to leave his wife and children in the camp after dark without protection, and this was his explanation for the delay in reporting the matter to the Police. The pool was three quarters of a mile over rough ground from his encampment and the spot was 12 to 15 feet away from the pool towards the edge of the shore.

Dr. C. H. Adamson, of Kearsney, said he examined the body on the 28th and again on the 29th December, it was that of a female child, probably about six months old, and it was headless. The head had been severed from the body at the root of the neck on the level of a necklace. The cut of the skin at the severance was very regular, such as might have been made with one sweep of a sharp knife. This clean wound extended right round the neck but at the posterior surface there was a large tag of skin consistent with the finish of a cut with a knife at the final severance. The spinal column was disintegrated, and the thorax contained seaweed and fragments of ribs and vertebrae. There were no lungs or liver, and the whole of the interior of the child, down to the diaphragm inclusive, had been eaten away. The body was not decomposed; the erosion of the body was by animal life and not decomposition. The body had not been in the water long. The fact that the thorax was so thoroughly hollowed out suggested that the head had been removed before the body was placed in the water.

A very close search, which has so far been unsuccessful, has been made for the missing head.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 11 January, 1929. Price 1d.




In connection with the discovery of the body of a child, beheaded, in the Secret Pool, Lydden Spout, the Police in Dover and Folkestone and other neighbouring places, have been making very exhaustive enquiries. Parents who have baby girls of the age of six months are being asked to produce them. The pool was searched unsuccessfully during the weekend, and no arrests have been made, as rumour has said. The adjourned inquest is to be held on the 18th inst.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 18 January, 1929. Price 1d.




The adjourned inquest on the headless body of a baby girl, found on December 27th by Mr. Chandler in the “Secret Pool,” Lydden Spout, was resumed at the “Royal Oak” on Friday afternoon by the East Kent Coroner, Mr. Rutley Mowll.

Mr. Mowll, in reopening the inquest, said: You will remember the facts of this case. You will have some evidence put before you today which may be very material, and may not be. But in my discretion, I consider you should hear the evidence. Then I shall have to have another adjournment.

Herbert Horn, of 54, Cheriton Road, Folkestone, said: I am a journeyman gardener, employed at the Parish Church, Folkestone. I discovered a parcel in the churchyard on Thursday, December 6th, at 11.30 a.m. It was between the north-west door and the West Cliff Gardens. It was a brown paper parcel, and was on the gravel pathway near the wire netting. I just undid the string, and in consequence of what I found I took it to the Police Station at Folkestone. I do not know the Police Officer I handed it over to.

The Coroner: Are you in a position to say how recently you had been along the pathway when you found the parcel?

Witness: To and fro all the morning.

When was the last time you passed by that spot?

At 11.15.

Can you say that the parcel was not there then?

There was nothing at all; I am quite certain of that.

So it must have been placed there between 11.15 and 11.30 a.m.!

That is right.

Have you any idea by whom it was placed there?

Not a bit. There was no one about.

Now let me understand. You opened the parcel there, and then in the pathway, or did you take it somewhere else?

In the pathway.

Did you see enough to make you think that you should take it straight to the Police?

It was addressed to the Inspector of the Police.

You, in fact, took it straight away to the Police Station so that the parcel as handed over to the Police was exactly in the same condition as when you found it , except that the string was undone and you had opened it?

Yes; that is right.

The Coroner: This evidence becomes more important when you hear the evidence of the contents of the parcel. We will take that from another witness.

Superintendent Goulding said that he wished to ask the last witness a question. Do you know if anyone passed along that pathway between 11.15 and 11.30!

I do not.

Could the parcel have been thrown from some other roadway on to the pathway?


P.S. Fry, K.C.C., stationed at Alkham, gave evidence.

The Coroner: You have been making some inquiries into the case, and in the course of your enquiries did you go to the Police Station at Folkestone?

Yes; on the 31st December.

Have you since been handed the parcel?

I was at that time handed the parcel that was left by the last witness. It was handed to me by the Chief Constable, and it was then being kept in his office.

The outer part of the parcel is ordinary brown paper and no names or marks on it!

No marks whatever.

Now we will come to the wording there was on the envelope! – An ordinary foolscap envelope with the flap torn off. The envelope is addressed:- INSPECTOR. FOLKESTONE POLICE. URGENT.

In block capital letters written in ink. Then there was half a Christmas card in the parcel, on which is written, in capital block letters in pencil:- LITTLE GIRL MISSING, BLUE EYES; THESE THINGS HER'S. FOUL TREATMENT. And on the side FOUND NEAR.

The Coroner: I think the important point about this is; the parcel was found on Thursday, the 6th of December, whereas the body was found on December 27th, three weeks later.

Mr. Chandler asked if he might say something.

The Coroner said that he would take anything he wanted to say, but not whilst he was taking evidence of the witness.

Witness continued: The other contents of the parcel were a pair of child's knickers of a crepe sort of material. It was possibly made from a woman's blouse. It was at one time cream, but had been washed several times. There were two or three stains on it that might have been blood marks. There was a pair of woollen socks. There were stains on them. On both theses was a stain from the shoe, but there were other stains higher up the leg. One showed it more pronounced.

The Coroner:- They would be rather large socks for the child whose body was found!


What material were they?

Woolies. There was also a small stripe of wool felt (like the felt blanket of a paper making machine.) That is stained. There was a small quantity of fair hair (very golden in colour), but that felt artificial. There was a small part of the “Evening News” dated December 5th. There are stains upon that. By their appearance the knickers and the socks had been washed and the socks I should say have not been work since.

The Coroner: that is about as far as I can take the matter today.

Sergt Fry: Unless you take the place in which the parcel was found.

The Coroner: I took that from the witness Horn, but you want to give it to me in more detail?

Witness: Yes, to account for not seeing anyone.

Witness continuing said: On the afternoon of December 31st, the same day as I received the parcel, I accompanied the witness Horn. He pointed out to me a spot 20 yards from the West Cliff Garden steps. West Cliff Gardens in its turn, leads to the bus stopping station on the Sandgate Road.

The Coroner: Does that differ materially with the previous evidence. It amplifies it, I suppose!

Witness: Yes. It gives some reason why the last witness, who was working in the grounds of the church, did not see who placed the parcel there. It could have been placed where it was without him seeing.

The Coroner asked Mr. Chandler if he wished to ask witness any questions.

Mr. Chandler said that it was really a suggestion he wished to make. It was as regards the decompositions of the body in view of the date when the parcel was found. It might not be generally known that a body in the water at this time of the year decomposes very slowly owing to the coldness of the water.

The Foreman: is there a path running through the churchyard?

Sgt. Fry: Yes, there is.

The Coroner: Folkestone Parish Church can be approached by several paths!

Witness: yes, there are four.

The Coroner: This was one of the four paths leading up to the church. You can approach from Church Street, also West Cliff Gardens which you have described, from the Bayle and from the Leas.

The Foreman: Then it is possible for someone to walk there and place the parcel in the lapse of time between quarter and half past!

Yes, quite.

The Coroner: This may be a coincidence, but it is clear that the parcel has a date not previous to the 5th December. It is also clear that the parcel was not placed there in consequence of the finding of the body which did not take place until the 27th December, so that one might be very material to the other or might have nothing whatever to do with it. But it is obvious a case that requires the most careful investigation, and that I know it will receive from the Police. Possibly the publicity of the inquest and its adjournment may be some assistance to the Police in their further investigations. I am not calling any evidence as to what inquiries the Police have already made, but they have been far from idle in this matter. The Coroner added that he thought three weeks' adjournment would be suitable.

Supt. Golding: if we cannot find anything in three weeks we may give it up.

The Coroner: Well, we will start more optimistically.

The inquest was adjourned till February 8th at 3 p.m.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 8 February, 1929. Price 1d.




The inquest on the headless body of a baby girl which was found in the “Secret Pool” on the Warren on the 27th December, was resumed at the “Royal Oak” yesterday by the East Kent Coroner, Mr. W Rutley Mowll, after two adjournments.

On the Jury being called, Reuben John Hadden, 1. Young's Cottages, Hougham, was absent.

P.C. Poulden, K.C.C. stationed at Hougham said that the Juryman was a labourer, who had been out of work for seven months. He called at Hadden's house that morning to remind him that he had to attend, but he did not see him until 1 o'clock, as he had left his house and gone to Dover. When he saw Hadden, he said that he had got a job and that if he did not turn up he would lose it. He said eh was sorry, but he had to study his living and had got a job blasting rock at Tilmanstone.

The Coroner said that he had entered into recognisance's for the sum of 10, and he was liable to pay that amount for breaking them. He felt sorry for a man who had been out of work and had just got a job, but he was under an obligation to the State and Crown to fulfil his duties as a Juryman. He would fine Hadden 2 and he did so with very great regret but he considered it absolutely necessary to maintain the authority of the law and it would not be fair to the other Jurymen to take no notice of it. If all Jurymen behaved in this way the administration of justice would be impossible. If Hadden wanted to make any representations to him he would hear what he had to say in excuse. It was gross contempt of Court, and he was liable to imprisonment. He could have sent him to prison instead of fining him 2.

Sergt. Fry, K.C.C., said that he had made very careful inquiries in the case, and had been unable to ascertain who the child was or how it came to its death. He had not been able to find out anything further about the parcel found at Folkestone.

The Foreman said that the Jury were quiet satisfied that the Sergeant had done his best.

The Coroner said that seemed to be all the evidence available in this case, which was one of considerable importance. There was a strong suspicion that there had been foul play, quite apart from the finding of the parcel, which might or might not have been connected with the case. One thing was very certain, and that was that somebody placed that parcel in Folkestone Parish Churchyard between 11.15 and 11.30 a.m. on the 6th December, 1928. There had been amply time since the adjournment for the person who placed the parcel there to be honest enough to come forward and tell them about it. That was a s far as they could go in that Court. It did not follow, however, that nothing more of the case would be heard. They would remember that the newspaper in which the contents of the parcel were placed was dated the 5th December, and it was quite clear that the parcel could not have been placed there earlier. Three weeks later, on the 27th December, at 3.30 p.m., the body was found, and considerable difficulty faced those who had to examine the body because of its condition, particularly the fact that the head was missing and there was no spinal column left. He thought hey ought to bear in mind that there might be further discoveries hereafter. The most appropriate verdict he thought they could return was one that the child's body was found as described in the evidence, and that they were unable to say what was the cause of death, and that, according to the law, was an open verdict. If, as they could not help hoping, the offenders could be brought to justice at some further date, then their verdict would not have been prejudiced any proceedings.

The Jury accordingly returned an open verdict.

The Coroner said that he had received an exhaustive report from P.S. Fry as to the steps taken by the Police in the case, and he was satisfied that their work had been done industriously, and the fact that nothing further had transpired up to the present was due to no fault of theirs.

The Foreman of the Jury said: We also think the Police have done very well.


From Dover Express, Friday, December 24, 1937.


The report of the Public Health Committee, held prior to the Council meeting, states that the Sanitary Inspector reported on an application received from Mr. T. E. Moore, of the "Royal Oak" Capel, for a license to use land for occupation of moveable dwellings. He had inspected the site and recommended it for approval, subject to the pail closet being replaced by a properly ventilated Elsan closet. A similar application had been received from Mr. P. Philpott, of "High Hope," Capel.

Sanitary accommodation, which was necessary, was being provided by the owner, and he recommended this for approval.


From Roy Humphries: Dover at War 1940 p67

Sunday 29 September 11.32 – Hes

Several high-flying enemy formations were observed flying above cloud. Ack-ack guns opened fire immediately, even before the sirens had sounded. Only one bomb fell, and that demolished a building at Northfall meadow, where it was stated that the ATS were billeted. Casualties were not mentioned.

London newspaper men seemed to be enjoying themselves at the Royal Oak public house, Capel, on the outskirts of the town. The Marquess of Donegall, writing in the Sunday Dispatch said, ‘So you and I are in the middle of some nice pork with real crackle when there's a big ‘plonk'. ‘A shell boys!' says the Daily Mail. ‘Nonsense Ack-Ack,' says the Evening News. ‘Sit down you fools, bomb in Folkestone!' says the Daily Mirror. With the net result that everybody leaves the pork, grabs tin hat, gas mask and binoculars, scrambles into cars and is off.'


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday 14 March, 1941

Miss Jane Moore, whose photograph appeared last December, in one of the national dailies, has received a letter from a reader of a New York paper, in which the photograph also appeared. The photograph showed 15 years old Miss Moore - whose address is "Royal Oak," Capel, near Folkestone - feeding chickens in the garden of her home near wreckage from a German plane. As the caption said "South-East Coast," Miss Simmonds, the sender of the letter, did not know the address, so she addressed the letter "South-East Coast of England, whose home is nearest enemy, a bit of land that juts out into the sea, England." The letter first went to Miss June Moore, of High Street, Deal, and she, realising who it was for, forwarded it to Miss Jane Moore, who is her niece.


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday 8 January, 1943

Alteration to the public bar of the "Royal Oak," Capel-le-Ferne were sanctioned at the Wingham Petty Sessions.


Dover Express 2nd August 1946.

The Justices, on Monday, granted Mr. T. Moore of the “Royal Oak”, Capel, an occasional licence for the Dover County Cricket Week from 17th to 23rd August, the hours being 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


From the Dover Express, Thursday, 18 October, 2012. 65p.


Capel Rockers

BOOST: Event organiser Neil Reynolds with pub landlord Paul Right and Tracy Barden.

A KENT charity received a cash boost of 1,800 thanks to last month's Capel Rock concert.

Bands from across the county performed at the "Royal Oak" in September to help raise funds for the Strode Park Foundation, which provides specialist care and services for children and adults with disabilities.

Tracy Barden, the charity's head of marketing, fundraising and press relations, was presented with the cash this month by organiser Neil Reynolds and pub landlord Paul Right.

A spokesman for the charity said: “It was lovely to be selected, we rely on fundraising to assist us to provide essential care services to local children and adults with disabilities.

“If anyone would like to fundraise or volunteer for Strode Park Foundation, we would be delighted to hear from them.”

■ Call 01227 373292 or visit



PELLING George 1840+

BROMLEY William 1847-51+ (age 42 in 1851Census) Bagshaw's Directory 1847

BROMLEY Ann 1854+

MARSH George 1861-67+ (age 32 in 1861Census)

MARSH Mrs Fanny 1874 (Post Office Directory 1874 listed under Hougham)

SAWKINS Edward 1881-82+ (age 37 in 1881Census) Post Office Directory 1882

SOLLY Edward to Feb/1891 Dover Express (Hougham)

BROWN John 1891 (age 50 in 1891Census) (Royal Oak Inn, HoughamCensus)

BACK J Feb/1891+ Dover Express (Hougham)

NORRIS W S 1901-Dec/1901 (Post Office Directory 1903 listed under Hougham)Dover Express

DENNETT Thomas S Jan/1902-03+ Kelly's 1903Dover Express

DONNELL Mr T to Jan/1906 Dover Express

KITCHEN Mr Jan/1906+ Dover Express

WEBB George 1913+ Post Office Directory 1913

NORRIS William Stephen pre 1922

WEBB Mr Henry William 1934 to Oct/1935 Dover ExpressKelly's 1934 (under Hougham)

MOORE Thomas E Oct/1935-June/43 (age 37 in 1939) Dover Express

MOORE Isabelle June/1943-July/46 (age 41 in 1939) Dover Express

MOORE Mr Thomas E July/1946-Sept/50 Dover Express (from his wife)

GREEN Gilbert B Sept/1950-74+ Dover ExpressLibrary archives 1974 Fremlins

RIGHT Paul 2012+


In the Dover Express Oct 1935, the Royal Oak was named as being in Hougham.


Bagshaw's Directory 1847From Bagshaw Directory 1847

Post Office Directory 1874From the Post Office Directory 1874

Post Office Directory 1882From the Post Office Directory 1882

Post Office Directory 1903From the Post Office Directory 1901

Post Office Directory 1913From the Post Office Directory 1913

Library archives 1974Library archives 1974

Dover ExpressFrom the Dover Express



If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-