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

The Palmers of Hythe part one – the School Teacher

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Inscription In/loving memory/of/Edward Palmer

Remainder illegible except for the name Harriet Palmer

Edward Palmer was born in Coningsby in Lincolnshire in 1812 and baptised there on 1 January 1813. He was the son of Robert and Jane Palmer. He became a teacher and worked in the National Schools, at first in Yorkshire, where he met and married Harriet Sharp of Lincoln. The couple’s first two children were born in Guisborough, before they moved to Tamworth in Staffordshire, where a third child was born.

National Schools were religious educational establishments run by The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales – usually, for obvious reasons, abbreviated to The National Society.  They had started setting up schools in 1811, in response to a similar initiative by the non-conformist British and Foreign School Society.

Edward and Harriet settled in Hythe in 1849, and he became headmaster of the town’s National School, then situated in Stade Street in a ramshackle old building.  He soon proposed a new school premises. In 1850 the town council bought from the Treasury the site of an ordnance yard to be used for the school(1).  It was ideally situated opposite the town green, which was used as a school playing field for games and recreation.

 

20170120_125311Hythe National School, viewed from the Green. The buildings are now private houses.

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And Hythe Green, which has provided a recreation area for the town for hundreds of years.

Edward also served as schoolmaster at the School of Musketry in the town, and became the local Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths.  Meanwhile, Harriet gave birth to another seven children.

After Edward’s retirement in 1875, when he and Harriet were presented with a marble clock, he was appointed School Attendance Officer for Hythe, at a salary of £20 per annum. Harriet died in 1886, aged sixty-three.

Edward was a supporter of the Liberal Party, and was agent for the town’s MP, Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild from his election, unopposed, in 1859 until his death in 1874 (until 1950, Hythe formed a separate parliamentary constituency). Rothschild, was only able to take up his seat thanks to the Jewish Disabilities Act passed the previous year. Before that, all members were required to take the oath ‘on the true faith of a Christian’. Rothschild was a scion of the banking family, and appears to have left no mark on British politics: his main interests in life were hunting and horse racing.  However, the electors of Hythe seemed to like him, and when his horses won both the Oaks and the Derby the church bells were rung in celebration. His daughter and heiress endowed the town’s lifeboat which was named ‘Meyer de Rothschild’ in his memory.

meyer-de-rothschild

Baron de Rothschild

Aged eighty-five, Edward retired to Farnham to live with his daughter Jane, also a school teacher, but they had returned to Hythe by 1905, when he was reported to be ‘in the best of bodily health with mental faculties unimpaired’. He lived in Oak Walk, near St Leonard’s Church in the town,  where he died in 1912 aged 99. His life had spanned the lives of six monarchs: George III, George IV, William IV, Vistoria Edward VIII and George V.

 1. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/1

To be continued