GMS Notes No.62 September- October 2013

August Meeting

A visit to the Eastry Caves


Steve__gargoyleOn Thursday, 15th August members of the Great Mongeham Society were treated to a tour of the labyrinth of tunnels that are Eastry Caves, thanks to the kindness of the owners Zara and Richard Meacham.

Although there are stories of Thomas Beckett hiding away in the Caves when fleeing King Henry II and them stretching for miles, they most likely started life as a simple chalk mine. A plan exists from 1833 drawn up by an H Foord which show a maze of tunnels, slightly less extensive than currently exists, owned by an A Foord.

Mike_disappears_down_tunnelThe 1841 census shows an Abraham Foord (aged 50), George Foord (20), Henry Foord (40), John Foord (30) and William Foord (35), all bricklayers residing nearby in Eastry. In 1881 the sole Foord involved in Val_in_tunnelbricklaying was William Foord (41) son of John Foord.

Chalk was instrumental in bricklaying, being burned in a limekiln on the surface to create lime for mortar, and it was likely that the family created the mine in order to extract the chalk for their business. As mining goes the 'caves' are very uneconomical so it suggests business was slow and they were dug more folly-like, and only ended when the neighbours were unhappy about their land being undermined!

Through the network of passages the walls are strewn with thousands of names from visitors to the caves throughout the 1800s and 1900s, many recognisable local families and many military personnel who must have boarded locally.   Various beehive chambers exist covered in nails from local fetes when visitors nailed branches to the walls for decoration, and bullet holes from when the Home Guard had a rifle range in World War Two.Alan_emerges



Post war the caves were owned by Jimmy Gardner, of Chislehirst Caves fame, who painted murals on the walls of the Two Princes and the Giant, with ambitions to open them as a tourist attraction, but this fell through as it wasn't sufficient parking back in the days when the Ramsgate-Dover road passed through the village nearby.

Now the caves lie forgotten beneath the family home and are an amazing playground for the children and the occasional visitor....

Thanks to Paul Wells for the text (photos are mine)








October Meeting

At our next meeting Anne Barnes will be giving us an insight into her rôle Kent Police & Crime Commissioner. As usual we meet in the village hall at 7.30 pm on Thursday, 17th October.

We would like a full meeting so bring along anyone who might be interested. 





Remembering Reg

Reg_CLong time village resident and active society member Reg Coleman has passed away. Reg was passionate about education and during his career taught at Dulwich College, and later became Headmaster at Dover Grammar School for Boys for more than 20 years. Many may be unaware that prior to teaching, Reg served in the Army, Navy, Air force, and Marines! After “retiring” Reg continued to be involved with youth activities including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, helped found the Kent European Youth Association, and served on school admission appeals committees. He was awarded the O.B.E. in 2002 for his services to youth work. He was also a member and former president of the Deal Rotary Club. Despite his obvious intellect, Reg was unassuming and encouraging to others. His passion for history and education were obvious to anyone who heard him speak, and he remained up to date on education matters. He was a very active member of the Great Mongeham Society giving a number of presentations including the King James Bible, and Clementine Churchill - delivered using no script because he knew the subjects so well. Reg often also led the official thank you to other presentations, given in the enthusiastic manner that was typical of him. Reg’s passing is a sad loss to those that knew him and condolences go to his wife, Marjorie, and family.

Steve Chappell (Chairman)

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