upper walmer in the 1920s and 1930s - WalmerWeb

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Walmer's Past
Upper Walmer in the 1920s and 1930s
Audrey West was brought up in Walmer in the 1920’s and 30s. Here she recalls some of her earliest memories of Upper Walmer......
In December 2010 Jennifer Blake, who now lives in Wiltshire, kindly provided some additional details to Audrey's account and these have been included as notes in the text.

"I was brought up in Walmer in the 1920's and 30s and, since retiring in 1980, my husband and I moved back to the house that I lived in as a child. Here are some of my early memories of Walmer up to 80 years ago.


"The first shop I can remember is Mrs Woodcock's greengrocer's shop at 207 Dover Road, just above what was the Drum Inn.

"Coming up the road the first shop you came to on the right hand side was a sweet and magazine shop where there is now a hairdresser.

(Jennifer recalls: There was a cobblers, just before the almshouses, and further up (opposite the convent) was the sweet and magazine shop mentioned by Audrey.)

"On to the corner of Station Road, where Londis is now, was Farmer's Grocery Shop and a little draper's shop, run by Mrs Farmer and entered up steps from the main Dover Road. She dealt in pins and needles, cottons, wool, knitting needles, buttons, etc and was always willing to change some of my carefully hoarded farthings into much appreciated pennies. The grocer's shop had an entrance where the Londis entrance still is, then a smallish dark shop where you sat on a chair and asked for what you wanted, which was then fetched from the back of the shop.

"Across Station Road where there is now a chemist, several businesses were opened and closed including an electric goods shop.

(Jennifer recalls: For many years it was a electrical shop run by the Joyces. Many was the time we trundled up to have our accumulator battery for the radio re-charged.)

"Next door was Mr Pickard's butcher's shop, run after the war by his son George and is still doing good business today in the hands of Mr Johns and his wife and son.

"Next to Pickard's was Mr Goodbarn's cycle repair shop. (Jennifer recalls he was "Mr Goodban".) He also sold new bicycles when there were ordered. He would mend punctures in my Fairy Cycle for 6d. Before coming to the Post office the little land led to Mr Parker's carpentry business. Next to the Post Office was, and still is, the newspaper and sweet shop and the next shop had a varied life: one of which I remember was Vyes grocer's shop.

"Across the road from the paper shop was Mr Burnap the baker. He made bread and rolls in a huge baker's oven and also cooked my aunt's fruit cakes when she made them.

"Further up the road on the left hand side after Clarence House were two shops, Walter's Dairy and the pork butcher's. The Butcher's made delicious pork sausages from pigs, bred and killed in the farm behind the shop.

"After these two shops was the garage which is still in existence as "Hi Q Garage". It was run first by Mr Kimberley and later by Mr Evans.


"The churches remain as they were in the 20s and 30s with the exception of the Catholic Church which used to have a convent next door to it. That was pulled down after the war but I remember it as a very closed order with only one nun allowed out to do the shopping. In 1939 when we were all being issued with gas masks, my father was the only man allowed into the convent to fit the nuns with gas masks.

(Jennifer adds: The convent was still open in the late 1950s and local children were allowed in to look at the beautiful needlework.   Webmaster's note: There's more on the Convent of
the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary in an article on Upper Walmer's history, here.)

"The two vicars in the 20s and 30s were Dr Radcliffe and Canon Tonks. The vicarage was in the house that is now called Moreton Court next to Hillside on Drum Hill.


"There were four schools in Upper Walmer in the 20s and 30s.

"The Village School as it was called was situated at the corner of Church Street and has now been converted into two private houses. The playground was very small for the number of children in the school and when they were all out in it at break times the noise was deafening. When I was very young I was terrified of walking past at these times.

"Leelands in Walmer Castle Road was mainly for girls up to 14, boarding and day girls, with boys up to 6 or 7. Leelands also took in several children whose parents were working abroad and looked after them in the holidays. The school started in what is now Lee House and later took over Glebe House on the Dover Road as an extension and for more classrooms. When the school outgrew this accommodation they moved to St Mildred's, which was a big red house with a tower at the back of St Mary's Church. Leelands was run by Miss Belshaw and Miss Taylor and after the war moved the whole school into St Clare, of which more later.

"Sheen House was a girl's school both boarding and day school and was situated up a long drive just past Walmer Castle Road. Miss Keighly was the headmistress and I think they took girls up to about 16-17 years.

"St Clare was a boys' boarding school for boys from 7 to 13 or 14 when they went on to Public School. It was entirely boarding except for the vicar's son Robin Tonks, who was allowed to come in daily. St Clare was in the big white house which is now converted into flats and is now known as Leelands.

"When the war started in 1939 Leelands was evacuated to one of the boarding houses in Benenden School and St Clare moved down to Devon. After the war Leelands moved back to Walmer, taking over the premises of St Clare which had closed down. St Mildred's was demolished and a small housing estate was built in the grounds.

(Webmaster's note: You can read more at our Leelands School and St Clare School pages.)


"As I remember there were five pubs in Walmer. One was The Hare and Hounds which is now the pink private house just before you get to St Margaret's Close. The only contact I have with the Hare and Hounds is going into the bar with my aunt to get three clay pipes for myself and my two cousins to use as bubble blowing pipes.

"Next there was the George and Dragon, which is now The Thompson Bell. Further down on the left hand side between the Alms' Houses and Church Street was The Cinque Ports.

"There was also The Railway, which is still there at the end of Mayers Road.

"The Drum was on the left hand side of the main road, almost opposite to Walmer Castle Road. It got its name because when soldiers were stationed at Walmer Castle they were summoned for their meal at the pub by the beating of a drum - hence Drum Hill. Mr Minter who ran the pub also ran a taxi service.

(Jennifer recalls: Mr Minter was also a builder and funeral director. The Chapel of Rest was in the dip between the Drum and the pathway which ran through from Drum Hill to Salisbury Road.)


"There were two main large houses in Upper Walmer: "The Shrubbery" on the left hand side of the main road going towards Dover, between Castle Street and Grams Road. It was lived in by Mr and Mrs Arthur Matthews and their daughter Eileen.

"The other house was further towards Dover on the right hand side of the main road and called "The Old House" and was lived in my Mr and Mrs Willie Matthews (brother of Mr Arthur).


"The main business in Upper Walmer was Thompson Brewery on the left hand side of the main Dover Road just above Hawksdown. The owners of the brewery were Mr Arthur and Mr Willie Matthews. My grandfather worked for them until he died in the early 1900s. The brewery was pulled down shortly after the war and became Downland and Newland.

(Jennifer adds: Demolition of the brewery was much later than that - probably late 1950/1960s. Webmaster's note: There's much more on the Thompson Brewery here.)

Hawksdown estate

"In the early 1920s the first of the Denne houses were built on the edge of the field now known as Hawksdown Estate. The first two were what is now know as Denne House but then was Greenways, built for Mr Gerald Hardman, a solicitor in Deal. The second was "Gillows" built for Mr Reggie Denne. The next two houses built in 1925 were No 7 and Whitstone, further down the rough road on the left hand side.

"No 7 contained my family, consisting of Grandmother, a permanent invalid, confined to bed, two of her daughters - Bessie and Peggy and two sons - Sandy and Ronald. Also Sandy's daughter (me), my mother died in childbirth, and Ronald's daughter and son whose mother had also died, I think from rheumatic fever. Bessie looked after all of them with the help of two nurses for Grandmother - a live-in maid (Emily) and a nanny for the children (quite a houseful, though Sandy and Ronald were both sailors, and were away from home for much of the time).

"Whitstone was occupied from 1925 until the early 1950s by two maiden ladies, Miss Alice and Miss Fanny Bird and their maid.

"The next house to be built in about 1933 was Laughton, which was occupied by Mr and Mrs Murton who lived there again until about 1950. Then in about 1934, Mr Hardman and family moved from Greenways to another house between "No 7" and "Whitstone" which they also called Greenways. The original Greenways had a few other names, one of them being "Brora".

"Meadow House was the first to be built along the road that turns to the right from the original rough road. It was occupied by Colonel Buchanan Dunlop and his housekeeper. Next door was "Green Shutters", lived in by Mrs Bichett and her two sons.

"The house next door was called Derry, I think, and then turning left was "Huntley". The last house to be built before the war was "Ray's Hill", where Mr Harold Wynne and his wife lived.

"The whole of the rest of Hawksdown was still fields with a large number of sheep, and stayed that way until after the war when a developer from Deal wanted to buy up the rest of the land and build what was known as a "Bungaloid development". This was fiercely objected to by the original residents of Hawksdown who approached Mr Wilson-Haffenden and put to him the possibility that he might purchase the land and then gradually sell off suitably sized sites for building houses the would fit in with those already built. This he did much to the relief of the residents and so was started what is now known as Hawksdown Estate.

(Jennifer recalls: Local children used to be taken to see the lambs in Hawksdown - a great joy because they were in a meadow right beside the road, opposite the house of Mrs Peek (of Peek Freans biscuit fame).)

"Hawksdown Road, which is not in the estate but is a left hand turning at the bottom of the main road running through Hawksdown, already had three big Edwardian Houses - Bradfield, Alderden and Hawksdown House, on the left hand side and no houses opposite. All The other houses in Hawksdown Road were built after the war. Hawksdown House was pulled down but the other two big houses still stand.


"The village policeman in the 20s and 30s was PC Edwards, who lived in a small house on the right hand side of Church Street. He was a big man who rode around on a bicycle and lent his jacket to the Leelands girls when they played the part of a policeman in one of the school plays."

Audrey West (nee Morton)
With additional information provided by Jennifer Blake.

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