The Palmers of Hythe part two- the Journalist

Edward Palmer was the fifth child of another Edward Palmer, the founder of Hythe’s National School and its first head master (see The Palmers of Hythe part one – the School Teacher). He was born in Hythe in 1853 .  Edward senior encouraged all his children to follow in his profession and most did, including, for a while, Edward junior.   He qualified, obtaining a diploma in French, and for a few years taught in London.  In 1876 in Kensington, he married Minnie Frostick and they settled down in Kensington.  A son, Harold Edward, was born the next year.

The little family moved to Islington in 1882, where Edward earned extra by providing French classes for adults.  However, he seems to have decided that teaching was not his true vocation, and in 1883, the family moved back to Hythe. When Edward senior had retired from teaching in 1875, he had set up a stationer’s and bookseller’s business on the corner of High Street and Great Conduit Street, and his son joined him there.  In 1886 young Edward became the Hythe agent for the Folkestone News  handling correspondence, reports and advertisements, and he was soon established as a reporter.

The High Street premises of the Palmers’ stationery shop & HQ of the Hythe Reporter

That first issue consisted of four pages:  as was then the practice, the front page comprised advertisements only. In his introductory column, the editor promised full and fair reporting of all Hythe events.  On municipal affairs, he said, the paper   would advocate ‘economy with efficiency’:  appropriately, this was the policy of the Hythe Ratepayers’ Association, whose supporters had elected him to the Town Council the previous year.

It was perhaps odd that he agreed to represent the group at the Town Hall, as he apparently disliked public appearances. A rival newspaper reported of him: ‘Mr. Palmer’s forte is not speaking, and as pale and trembling, with faltering speech, he addressed the noisy meeting, he must have passed through moments of intense agony.’ Perhaps this is why he abandoned teaching.

Edward & some of the Hythe Reporter’s staff

Without the backing of the family business, the Hythe Reporter could not have survived those early years.    In 1892 it was enlarged; four years later it doubled its size – and its price.  By the end of the decade it had taken over the Hythe and Sandgate Echo.  Harold joined the paper as a journalist, but eventually decided that his future lay in teaching English as a foreign language and moved to Belgium.

Outside journalism, Edward’s family doubled in size when a daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1889. A couple of years later, he helped make news himself, when in November 1891 a severe storm  wrecked the cargo ship Benvenue off Sandgate, and the Hythe lifeboat,  Mayer de Rothschild, going to her rescue,  overturned two hundred yards off shore, flinging its crew into the sea. Edward was there to report on the event and with other townsmen he waded into the surging sea and helped drag ashore two of the lifeboatmen; he had caught hold of a third when a heavy wave knocked him off his feet, and he went under water with the lifeboatman on top of him.  He experienced a few moments of sheer terror before someone seized the two of them and pulled them to safety.   Eventually, twenty-seven of the Benvenue’s crew of thirty-two were saved; one Hythe lifeboatman was drowned.  Among the onlookers was Edward’s son, Harold, aged fourteen.  His sketch of the launching of the Mayer de Rothschild was published next day in the Daily Graphic.

An artist’s impression of the wreck of the Benvenue

The following year, a suggestion made by Edward at a public meeting led to the first Venetian Fete on the Royal Military Canal at Hythe. Although it got off to a rocky start because of lack of funding, it eventually became a biennial event , comprising floating tableaux and, after dark, illuminations and fireworks.  It continues to this day (though currently, Covid-19 has put it on hold).

 

A twenty-first century Venetian Fete float

In 1916, Edward conceived the second event which still survives.  Canadian soldiers were a common sight in Hythe during the First World War. On arrival in the UK they were accommodated at one of the many camps which ringed Hythe until they were shipped to France. Many came back injured and many of these did not recover. They were buried a Shorncliffe cemetery, just outside the Hythe boundary. Each grave had its uniform wooden cross bearing name and regiment, Edward wrote in the Hythe Reporter but the men’s relations thousands of miles away were denied the consolation of visiting these graves.  He would like to see a day set apart for the placing of flowers on each grave, ‘and who is more fitted to this than the children who wave flags and salute the flag on Empire Day? So Canadian Flower Day was born.

In the early evening of Wednesday, 13th July, 1,500 schoolchildren assembled on the sloping ground of the cemetery.  Nearly all had walked there.  To the music of the Band of the Canadian Artillery, they and the adult visitors sang ‘The Maple Leaf’ and the National Anthem.  Then the children walked quietly among the graves with their bouquets and posies, until every grave was a mass of flowers.  Many Canadian soldiers were present, and it was noted that afterwards a number picked a few flowers to send to relations in Canada. This became, until 1939, and annual event and was reinstated in 1952.

The first Canadian Flower Day

During the war, Edward also volunteered for the Hythe Volunteer Fencibles, a sort of proto- Home Guard.

Edward in uniform

After the war, Edward interested himself in maintaining and developing the entente cordiale with France, organising cultural, sporting and educational exchanges. In 1924, he was awarded the Palmes Academique for services to the Republic of France.  By now, he and his wife had moved to Folkestone, where they lived in Audley Road.

Edward died on 7 October 1927, having been ill since the beginning of the year, though he had continued during his time to submit historical articles to his newspaper.  One obituary said of him that he had three great beliefs – in Hythe, in international friendship and in decency.

And the Hythe Reporter was published until the paper shortages of World War Two led to its demise.

To be continued

Frank White – A Republican in Hythe

Frank White arrived in Hythe in 1888 from Hastings and set up shop as a butcher in the once-dilapidated ‘Smuggler’s Retreat’, an old house in the High Street where he had restored the ground floor. He claimed that he had learned his trade while working on Queen Victoria’s estates in Windsor, which if true, was ironic, as he was a committed republican. He had been married to Clara (Wakefield) for seven years and they had three sons and a daughter. A final child was born the next year.

The Smugglers Retreat in Hythe High Street, now demolished

Frank’s full-page advertisement in the Hythe Reporter for Xmas 1891

Frank made his first foray into local politics in 1889, aged thirty-two when he was chosen by the Hythe Ratepayers Association to oppose the Mayor in the East Ward. He took only nineteen votes, to the Mayor’s ninety-six, but was undaunted.

He founded the next year the Hythe Liberal and Radical Association, which held meetings in the room above his shop. With the Labour party still to be born, this attracted the left-wing element in the town,not admittedly a large number, the main political bias being Conservative. They speedily decided that the House of Lords should be abolished. At their annual dinner in 1892, Frank proposed the toast to the Queen – and rather shockingly added that he hoped she would be the last monarch to reign.

In 1893 the Ratepayers Association adopted him as a candidate to be a Guardian of the Elham Union workhouse in Etchinghill. He topped the poll . He was, however, still determined to become a councillor and in the November 1893 elections he achieved this by one vote: standing as an Independent, he defeated the Ratepayers’ Association’s official candidate in Middle Ward.

                                                                  Frank’s election pitch, 1893

In 1896 he was returned again with a sizeable majority.

During the 1890s, he worked hard to secure better conditions for the inmates of the workhouse, though he lost his position as a Guardian of the Poor because his work made it difficult to attend fortnightly meetings. He always cycled to the workhouse and on one occasion arrived soaked and covered in mud; instead of apologising, he used his condition to emphasise the need for an indoor staircase at the building so that women inmates did not have to go outside to reach their dormitory. He also supported the introduction of an old age pension, so that the destitute aged did not have to go to the workhouse.  The money, he said, would come from taxing the idle rich and rack-rent landlords.

A few years after opening his first shop at the Smugglers’ Retreat as ‘The English and Colonial Butcher’, he was able to move to better premises opposite at 50 High Street (now 106). When he was in trouble for slaughtering on the premises, he built a slaughterhouse two miles to the west of Hythe. His most ambitious project was to convert a large private house in the High Street opposite Theatre Street into the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, with his wife as proprietor.

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, now also demolished

After that, it was, as far a business was concerned, all down hill.

In 1895 he sold the butcher’s shop as a going concern for £500 and for the next two years traded as an auctioneer and fruit salesman in Hythe and Folkestone. The venture failed. After that he had no regular employment, but did odd jobs such as removals, selling fish, and portering at auctions, earning about £1 a week. Clara kept things together by taking in lodgers at their home in Saltwood Gardens, near the seafront in Hythe.

Frank had lost his council seat, too, but stood again in 1902 and was successful and as controversial as ever. He objected to restricting the number of licences given to motor bus proprietors, saying that more cars meant improved communication between Hythe and Folkestone – and a better chance of reduced fares. When he persisted in arguing with the Mayor, John James Jeal, he had to be removed from the council chamber by a constable. In 1905 he presented a scheme for the municipalisation of the canal boats, which was approved by the General Purposes Committee. Then objections came from councillors who did not want Sunday boating; attempts to keep the two matters separate failed, and the scheme was rejected. He said Hythe Town Council was the laughing-stock of Ashford Market for buying horses without a proper veterinary certificate: boys ran from the station to the Market saying, “Here they come: we’ve got ’em again!” He continued to argue the need for a public convenience on the seafront. He urged the Council to employ an attendant to prevent noisy children disturbing band performances in the Grove.

He was re-elected in 1905, but disaster was not far off.  A small strip of land in South Road owned by the Council was appropriated by a neighbouring householder, who fenced it in and claimed it as his own in 1906. The Council decided to pull down the fence, and produced documents proving ownership. The householder instructed his solicitor to oppose this. It became clear that expensive litigation would be involved, and the Council decided it was not worth spending public money on so small a piece of land. This angered Frank and he said that if the fence was replaced, he would pull it down. It was, and he did. The result was a lawsuit, which he lost. Since he could not pay the costs of the lawsuit, he was adjudged bankrupt. By law a bankrupt could not be a councillor.

In 1908 he was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly in the High Street and  by 1911 he had lost his home and was lodging in Wood Road. He said he was married, but Clara was not there. Then he seems to have rallied.

By 1913 he was the Town Crier who concluded his ‘cries’ with ‘God Save the People’ instead of the traditional ‘God Save the King’. When councillor Jeal (a Seabrook builder against whom Frank had a particular animus) was defeated in an election he cried ‘The King of Seabrook is dead. No flowers.’ He was not actually an employee of the council, but they supplied his bell. He was ordered to return it and told his services were no longer required.

He was, when war broke out, theoretically too old for active service, but in January 1917, he joined the Royal Defence Corps, telling them he was fifty-four (he was actually sixty). They judged him fit enough, despite his varicose veins and a bunion which stopped him marching. He was sent to guard German prisoners of war in Scotland, probably at Stobs camp in the Borders.

Prisoners of war at Stobs camp, 1918

He was discharged in Canterbury in January 1919; his true age had been discovered.

In 1919, he applied to have his bankruptcy discharged, saying he did not want to die a bankrupt and intended to go to Russia to help the revolutionary forces. He was discharged, but did not, as far as we know, get to Russia, though he did make at least one more attempt to get a seat on the Council, in 1921.

He died in Rampart Road in 1925.

The Many Causes of Sarah Kingsley

Sarah Maria Kingsley Haselwood was born in Chelsea in 1842, the second daughter of Richard Haselwood, a captain in the Indian Navy and his wife Ann. Her father died before she was nine, and her widowed mother took the girls to live with her own mother, in Manor Terrace, Chelsea.  Sarah later worked as a governess.

On 19 July 1864, she married her second cousin, Henry Kingsley, twelve years her senior. He was the  younger brother of Charles Kingsley, who had published The Water Babies the previous year. After leaving Oxford University, Henry had tried his luck in the Australian goldfields but was unsuccessful and returned to England after five years to write a novel,  The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859), set in Australia. More novels followed, of which Ravenshoe (1861) was the best received.

Henry Kingsley

In 1869, Henry and Sarah moved to Edinburgh, where he was to edit the Daily Review, but he soon gave this up, and in 1870 became war correspondent for the paper, covering the Franco-German War of 1870-71.  He continued to write fiction, though this was increasingly poorly reviewed. In  1874, the couple moved to Cuckfield in Sussex, where Henry died of cancer on 24 May 1876.

Sarah named her house after Henry’s book

Sarah moved in 1884 to Wimbledon, where she lived in a house she called ‘Ravenshoe’. Still young, with no ties and presumably an inheritance from Henry, she devoted the rest of her life to good causes, mostly to do with temperance and ‘morals’.

The year of her arrival in Wimbledon she became embroiled in  controversy when the annual gathering of military volunteers on Wimbledon Common attracted the usual rowdy mob of London hangers-on. The Times published a piece entitled ‘The Wimbledon Scandal’ and  Sarah wrote to the editor to verify the debauched scene the paper had reported. She said that she and other ladies had formed a ‘vigilance committee’ to protect ‘young girls, especially of the servant class, from the yearly contamination of immoral women and equally immoral men’.  It was suggested in other publications that Sarah and her kind wanted to keep the common for themselves, and not have it used by ordinary people to enjoy themselves.

By 1887 she was president of the Women’s Union in Wimbledon (part of the Church of England Temperance Society), one of a myriad of religious and secular organisations advocating either complete abstinence from alcohol or extreme moderation. Sarah was in favour of total abstinence, except for medical reasons. In  1888 she became a Guardian of Kingston  Board of Guardians (which included Wimbledon), their first woman board member. She was unafraid to speak her mind and told them that the workhouse master was inefficient and the surgeon too old to do his job properly.  She also founded the Wimbledon Society for Befriending Young Girls – specifically, young women who had left the workhouse who needed help to find accommodation and work.

In July 1891 the Surrey Comet announced that Sarah was moving to Hythe to do mission work and giving up public speaking as the strain on her voice was too great.  At a farewell presentation in October, she said Sandgate, where she intended to live, was a place where there was ‘an enormous amount of indifference and a great deal of sin.’ This remark was scarcely a good introduction to her new home and it not unnaturally upset the local press, who published her comments before her arrival together with a rebuttal.

Sarah got over the strain of public speaking very quickly and gave her first talk in Hythe a month later, entitled ‘How We Got Our Bible.’  In religious matters, she seems to have changed her allegiance and henceforward was associated with the Emmanuel Chapel in Park Road, Hythe. It was run by two sisters who were members of the Plymouth Brethren.

She continued with her temperance work. In 1894 she became secretary of the Folkestone Branch of the British Women’s Gospel Temperance Association (the gospel was preached at every meeting); the next year she was on the executive committee of the Kent Temperance Congress and attended the National Congress.

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Temperance propaganda which shows the effects of alcohol on all levels of society

Politically, Sarah seems not to have been partisan, but joined the Hythe Ratepayers Association, a pressure group which wanted to see value for money in local government. There were a few other women members: they were dubbed ‘the Screeching Sisterhood’ by the local press.   As the 1890s progressed, support for the Ratepayers’ Association declined, ironically becauvse it involved the council in an expensive legal case. In1898, Sarah took on its reorganisation, only to be dubbed a ‘Demon of Discord’ by another local newspaper.

At the same time, she was asking awkward questions of the council, usually through lengthy letters to the press. In one, she wanted to know if there had been any systematic investigation of the number of people living together in the town’s slum cottages: she referred to a recent case ’too disgusting and indecent to write about in any public paper’.  She wanted to know why an alcoholic woman was prosecuted for neglecting her children and her husband was not and why publicans were willing to serve the couple’s ten-year-old daughter when she was sent out late to buy beer.

The temperance movement had a good number of supporters in Hythe. At the town’s 1901 licensing sessions, a ratio of one licensed house per 222 persons was reported, and the police wanted to see a reduction. March 1902 saw the first meeting of Hythe and District United Temperance Council, which was attended by delegates from the various temperance organisations in the town and Sarah Kingsley was unanimously elected President.  She took her responsibilities seriously. A couple of years later she  followed a soldier she suspected of being drunk into a public house and demanded that the landlord refuse to serve him. The publican ignored her and served the soldier, who then threw his beer over Sarah. In 1905 she wrote to the Board of Guardians of the workhouse to insist that the inmates should not be given their annual treat of beer on Christmas Day. The Guardians disagreed and when she wrote another very long letter to them on the same subject two years later, they declined even to read it.

The Guardians of Elham Union Workhouse, which served Hythe, set up a Ladies Visiting Committee in 1893. Sarah joined it the next year, visiting the women’s and children’s wards, holding gospel temperance meetings and offering private interviews with the women.

Other causes caught her attention. In 1903 she refused to pay her rates because the 1902  Education Act had allocated local funding to church schools. She was prosecuted and told the court: ‘I am not going to contribute to the Roman Catholic schools’. The statement was greeted with applause by the packed court, but the magistrates still issued a distress warrant.  In 1910 she espoused the cause of Women’s Suffrage and organised a branch of the New Constitutional Society (a non-militant group) in Hythe.

She was seventy-two by the time war broke out and seems to have by then withdrawn from public life.  She moved from her house in Napier Gardens to the Bayle, in Folkestone, where she died in August 1922.

Sarah’s apparently unmarked grave in Spring Lane Cemetery 

http://www.findagrave.com

The causes she espoused are not, today, fashionable and it is easy to belittle the attempts of middle-class women to right the wrongs perpetrated on and by the working class, or to dismiss the women as ‘do-gooders’.  The press tried to undermine Sarah by name-calling but it did not deter her and there is no doubt that she cared,  especially about the poor women and girls she came into contact with. She was sometimes not tactful and sometimes prejudiced, but she gave her work her all.