Near Shakespeare Cliff
Above picture shows the aftermath of the blasting that occurred in 1843
to remove part of Round Down Cliffs for the railway.
At the eastern end of this length of cliffs was the artificial
failure of January 26, 1843, caused by the blasting of Round Down. This
measure was chosen as a cheaper alternative to tunnelling for the
construction of this part of the railway. The charges, totalling 8390 kg
of finest sporting gunpowder, were placed in three short tunnels just
above the planned rail level and fired at 2:26 p.m. A coastwise length
of 150m of cliff was involved, so the active charge was 56 kg/m. The
fall of the cliff was described as gradual, being accomplished in two
minutes. It appears to have broken down less than a natural chalk fall,
especially in its rearward parts.
Approximately 300 X 103m3 of in situ chalk was
removed. The average height of the cliff above mean sea level was 119m.
The shape of the debris lobe was not surveyed below high-tide level. It
is reported as covering an area of 63 x 103m3 to
depths varying from 4.6 to 7.6m and to have had a seaward reach of 305
to 366m. The operation was described by Hutchinson (1843). The L/H ratio
is estimated to have been 3.85. The debris from this fall provided the
platform from which the Shakespeare Colliery shafts were sunk from 1896
onward. A further smaller volume of cliff (50 x 103m3)
was blasted down at 4:30 p.m. on March 2. 1843. Earlier heavy falls
affecting Rownd Down in February 1840, and in 1840-1842 were also
reported by Hutchinson (1843). The area is now occupied by the spoil
from the Channel Tunnel and associated surface structures.
Above picture shows Round Down Cliff and the wreck of the Tigress
which happened on 3rd February 1849.
On Sunday night week, the East Indiaman the Tigress, went on shore to
the westward of the Shakespeare Cliff, Dover; in a few days she became a
total wreck, and portions of her cargo strewed the beach as far as the
South Foreland. The prospect of booty attracted hundreds of the lower
orders, men, women, and children, to the shore, eager to possess
themselves of floating pieces of the wrecked ship, spices, cocoa-nuts,
or anything else that came in their way, to make lawful prize; and,
unfortunately, in one or two instances, despite the vigilance of the
officers of customs and coast-guard boatmen, casks or puncheons of rum,
which had been washed ashore, were stove in, and the contents carried
off in the crows of hats, in boots, or any available article at hand;
and a disgusting scene of drunkenness ensued — men, women, and children
lying on the beach, huddled together in the worst state of intoxication
so that many of them were nearly drowned by the rising of the tide,
whilst others were rendered so insensible through the drink, that they
were removed on shutters.
Recent research has found the following reference to a pub at a place
called Round Down, near Shakespeare Cliff, and I am going to assume it is
this house. If not this establishment, then it's the "Mulberry
From the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General
Advertiser, Saturday 15 August, 1840.
EAST CLIFFE, DOVER
Sale of valuable building ground and premises.
Respectfully announces that he has received the transaction to
SELL BY AUCTION,
On Monday, the 17th day of August inst. at the "Shakespeare Hotel,"
in Dover, at two for three o'clock in the afternoon precisely, the undermentioned valuable property.
LOT 2. All that BUILDING recently erected on Round Down, near
Shakespeare Cliff, and used as a Beer-House, where an extensive Business
has been, and now is, carried on with the Persons employed on the S. E.
The above Lots present a sure investment, either for a Brewer or an
industrious Man with small Capital wanting Business.
For Particulars and to treat for the Purchase, apply to the
Auctioneer, Phoenix Fire Office, 18, Bench Street, Dover.
Around the 1840s Shakespeare tunnel was being excavated for the
proposed train line and I have heard mention of another pub at the base of the
cliff called the "Mulbury Tree". With so many workmen around at the time,
working on construction of the railway, it wouldn't surprise me if a pub was
open for the workmen close by and probably near beach level. I am going to make a guess that this was a
pub for the workmen and that the parish of Hougham encased part of what is
now Ayecliff estate right down to Lydden Spout. If Lydden can have a spout
there, why not Hougham?
From the Dover Telegraph, 1 November 1840.
MELANCHOLY AND FATAL ACCIDENT.- TWO LIVES LOST.
On Monday last an inquisition was holden at the "Shakespeare Head,"
parish of Hougham, before Mr. De Lassaux, the County Coroner, on view of
the bodies of Samuel Shilletto and Thomas Bayley, two old men, mariners
of Dover, who were drowned on the previous Friday evening while carrying
bricks from Dover harbour to the South-Eastern Railway works near Lydden
Spout. From the evidence of Elgar William Hall, mariner, aged about 18,
it appeared that witness, the 2 deceased, and a boy named George Cooper,
somewhat younger than the witness, had proceeded from the aforesaid
harbour about 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, in a ship's
long-boat, heavily laden with bricks; that, when they came nearby
opposite Jenkin's Pond, where their cargo was to be landed, the tide not
being sufficiently high to float them in shore over the rocks, they
cast anchor to await its flow. They lay at anchor till about half-past
7, when Bayley, who was captain of the boat, ordered the anchor to be
got in, which was done, and they made for shore. The night was very
dark. Not having any watch to tell the time, the anchor was got too
soon. They got it at half-past 7; but the tide should have flowed till 8
o'clock before they attempted to land. They had not proceeded far when
the boat struck on a rock, and the rudder was inconsequence unshipped.
They still pulled in shore till again the boat struck on the rocks and
immediately sank in about four feet of water. On the instant, witness,
Bayley, and Cooper, left the boat to wade on shore; but they had only
proceeded a yard or two when Bayley fell into a hole and was drowned.
Witness swam across the hole with the boy Cooper on his back and gained
the shore. When he had got on shore he called to Shilletto, who had not
left the boat, to hold on a few minutes till he (witness) procured
assistance; and Shilletto answered the call. Witness then ran to fetch
the Coast Guard men, who were near, but when he again reached the beach,
and called to Shilletto six time, he received no answer. The galley
belonging to the Preventive Station at Lydden Spout was readily launched
, manned by witness, Cooper, and four Coast Guard men. They proceeded to
the spot where the accident occurred; but though they reached it only a
few minutes after, and made every possible search with boat-hooks, &c.,
no trace of either of the unfortunate men could be found. William
Cooper, the other boy who was in the boat, corroborated the foregoing
evidence. John Nicholson, commission boatman, deposed to finding the
bodies on Saturday morning. That of Bayley was found between two rocks
close to the place where the boat sunk; the other was found about three
quarters of a mile apart, at high water marks. The witness Hall, on
being recalled, stated that he had heard Bayley say that both he and the
captain of another boat similarly engaged, had been cautioned by the
railway people not to endanger their lives and their cargo by bringing
their boats overnight. Every exertion was being used by the Coast Guard
men to save the lives of the unfortunate men. The night was very dark.
Search was persisted for a considerable time round the rocks without
Verdict.- Accidental Death, with a deodade of 1s. in each case on the
From the Dover Telegraph, 28 August, 1841.
An inquisition took place at the "Shakespeare Head", in the parish of
Hougham, on Saturday last, on the body of a young man, named William
Thompson, who had accidentally drowned on the previous day, near
Shakespeare Cliff. It appeared from the evidence of a witness that he,
with the deceased and another person was, bathing in the sea, when
the tide running very strong, the deceased was carried by the force of
it beyond his depth, and being unable to swim, called out to his
companions for assistance. They immediately swam towards the spot, and
exerted themselves to the utmost to rescue him; but in consequence of
the strong tide, their humane endeavours were ineffectual, and the poor
fellow sank into a watery grave.
Verdict, "Accidental Death."
South Eastern Gazette 10 March 1846.
DOVER. - THE LATE EXPLOSION.
The borough coroner completed his adjourned inquest on Wednesday, on the
bodies of the men killed by the explosion of gunpowder in a cave in
Dover Cliff. Since the adjournment, another man, (Gillham) has died of
his wounds, making the thirteenth sufferer by the accident. It appeared
from the evidence adduced on Wednesday, 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.
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."
assuming this was the pub. Paul Skelton)
Read report of explosion
From the West Kent Guardian, 28 February, 1846.
DOVER. FATAL EXPLOSION.
A very serious accident occurred on Tuesday to some workmen employed
near the Shakespeare Tunnel, at Dover. It appears that the men repaired
to a cave where some gunpowder was stored, for the purpose of sheltering
themselves from the rain while they ate their dinners; after which one
of them, having lighted his pipe, threw the burning match carelessly
away, and by some means set fire to the gunpowder. An explosion took
place, and ten of the men were instantly killed. One other is in a
hopeless condition, and two more are severely injured, but they are
likely to recover.
The cave in which the gunpowder was stored was carefully locked, but the
door was forced open by one of the men who was killed. It is therefore
quite evident that no blame can attach to the parties in charge of the
Thirteen men in the employ of Messrs. Grissell and Peto, who were
constructing a sea-wall at the Rounddown-cliff, near Dover, for the
South Eastern Railway Company, were at dinner on Tuesday between twelve
and one o'clock, when a shower of rain came on; and to protect
themselves from the wet, one of the men forced open the door of the cave
in the Chalk-cliff, which had been kept locked, having been used as a
store for gunpowder.
One of the men after lighting his pipe threw down the match, when,
shocking to relate, the gunpowder exploded, and left but two survivors
to tell the tale. Most of the bodies of the men were blown over the
railway works, some on to the cliff, and some into the sea, and the
bodies of two on to the line of railway.
It is melancholy to reflect that these men had been warned of the
contents of the cave so late as on Saturday last by Mr. Fraser, the
inspector of the works, who had removed his store of tools from another
cave to give the men the full use of it, and that the warning had been
unheeded and ineffectual to prevent this awful sacrifice of human life.
On Thursday morning, at 2 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 tbe South-Eastern line, near Dover. The following is a
list of those to whom this terrible accident has proved fatal:— William
Jordon aged 23; Thomas Hutton, aged 52; James Cook, aged 56; John
Russell, and John Pain, aged 39; Israel Hughes, aged 28; John Wilson,
aged 25; William Richards, Edward Ruck, John Kendall, aged 24; Joseph
Hambrook, aged 24; and Joseph Willis, alias Reader. Of these 10 have
left widows, and one of them, Pain, a family of seven children. Shortly
after 12 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 had 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.
After the whole of the evidence had been heard, the coroner adjourned
the inquest till Wednesday next, at one o'clock.