Reformatory Boys 3- George Cloke

George was born in Saltwood in 1858, the second child of William and Julia Ann (or Juliana) Cloke. His father was an agricultural labourer and later a quarry labourer.  George never attended school and by the time he was thirteen, he was at work as a ‘farm boy’, which mostly involved bird-scaring, and he also got some work helping the ‘navvies’ who were building the railway line from Sandling to Hythe.  His mother died in 1871.

William Cloke then moved his family to Albion Cottage in Stade Street in Hythe where he set up home with a Mrs Tanton, or, in the words of the authorities at the Royal Philanthropic School, where they ‘lived in fornication’.  William’s decision is understandable: he had only one daughter, Jane, aged nine when her mother died and too young to keep house for her father and two older brothers.

The arrangement did not work out well. George’s older brother, John, left to go into service in Kentish Town. Little Jane, at eleven, was sent to work in service in Sandgate.  George was simply turned out of the house.  He resorted to stealing and was found guilty, with William Impett, of stealing eighteen eggs from a shed in a field. On 23 Jan 1874 he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment in Canterbury followed by five years at the Royal Philanthropic Reform School in Redhill. In the magistrate’s opinion, he was ‘utterly neglected’.

Official protection of vulnerable children was a long way in the future, and there was nothing else the magistrates could have done to safeguard George. Unfortunately, admission to a Reformatory was dependant on having served a prison sentence first.

He was described when he arrived at the School as being 4 feet 10 inches tall with dark hair and a ’round, chubby, rustic face’.  His father, who earned about  £1 a week in the quarry was ordered to pay one shilling and sixpence a week towards his keep, though the Town Council also contributed.

Boys working on the School farm

George did not get off to a good start at Redhill. Barely seven months after his admission he was punished by being isolated in the school’s cells for three days for breaking into a cottage on the site. Thereafter however, he mostly kept out of trouble, apart from a few minor infringements of the rules.

The only people to visit him during his stay were his brother and sister.  In  1878, George was given permission to spend Christmas with John, at his invitation. By then, George had been allowed out on licence to work in service.

He was discharged from the School in February 1879 and went to live in Chalk Farm, near his brother.  In September that year, he went back to the School on a visit and said he was doing well. He survived a period of unemployment the next year, but then got a job making new flowerbeds in Regent’s Park.

All subsequent reports back to the School suggest that he that he had settled down and was in good work, including labouring at Cannon Street on the Metropolitan Line extension. He married in 1881 and he and Matilda (or Mary as she was known), his wife, went on to have three sons and two daughters (though three other children died young). They lived in Napier Road, East Ham, near to the Central Park.

From about 1897, for nine years, he was employed by the Beckton Gas Light and Coke Company, but in January 1906 he was told his services were no longer required and was given one hour’s notice. He had the confidence to take the company to court, claiming that as he was paid weekly, he should have been given a week’s notice. His erstwhile employers contended that he was employed by the hour, but paid weekly for convenience and the magistrates upheld their claim. Fair employment law was also a long way in the future.

He soon found other employment and moved house to Telham Road, a five-roomed house which he shared with his son, another George, and his family. We know this from the 1911 census which George completed in a firm, clear script. Thirty-seven years earlier he had been homeless, illiterate and ‘utterly neglected’. If the Royal Philanthropic School gave him nothing else, it gave him literacy.

Information about George’s time at the Royal Philanthropic School is taken from their admission registers at Surrey Archive in Woking: 2271/10/16 page 205


The Hole Family Part One


Sacred/to the memory of/James Hole/who died/1 April 1860/aged 74 Years

Also Elizabeth, his wife/who died illegible May 1869/aged 85  Years

Remainder illegible

James Hole, born in Hythe, was baptised in St Leonard’s Church there on 4 March 1787. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Hole. He married a Lydd woman, Elizabeth, and they went on to have five children, Thomas, William, Elizabeth, Mary and John. James was a fishmonger with premises in Hythe High Street. We know little of their lives, but Elizabeth was admitted as a ‘sister’ of St Bartholomew’s hospital in 1867, two years before her death. (1)

Thomas, the eldest son, born in 1817, married Susan Dowle in Hythe in 1840 and went with her to live in Ashford where, like his father, he set up as a fishmonger and became the father of many children. He died there in 1872.


Inscription William Walker Hole/of illegible/who died illegible July 1882/ aged 59 years

Also of/ Olive

Remainder illegible

William, born 1822,  married Olive Tickner from Charing and took over his father’s fishmonger’s shop in Hythe High Street, while his father James, perhaps sick of fish, opened a beer shop instead. William and Olive lived in Stade Street, where Olive took in lodgers. She also assisted William in his business, ran a fruit stall on the same premises and quarrelled with the neighbours. Two of these arguments ended in court.

In 1866, Olive attended evening service at St Leonard’s and headed for her usual pew, to find it already  already occupied by Charles Nelson and Kate Godfrey.  Charles said it was his usual pew, and although there was room for one more, he would not allow her in – they were box pews then, with doors. The next Sunday, the couple were there before her again. After that, things got confused. Olive said Charles attacked her and to save herself from falling she grabbed hold of his whiskers. She then went into the pew in front, climbed over the partition and chaos ensued. The sidesman sensibly refused to get involved and sent for the vicar. Olive sued Charles and Charles sued Olive. On this occasion, Olive won.

The next year, she was back in court. She and William were on bad terms with their next-door neighbour in Stade Street, Alfred Day. The cause of most of their animosity was the height of the fence between the two back yards. One day, Olive found Alfred’s ladder in her yard, put there so that could tar the fence. When he would not move it, she did so herself, putting it in her kitchen (William gave it back that evening).  The next day, it was back and Alfred was standing on it. He dared her to move it – quite a reckless thing to do as he was tarring at the time – and Olive, who seems to have been a nimble woman,  climbed up onto the roof of her outside toilet and then onto the fence, getting covered in tar in the process. She tried, unsuccessfully to push the ladder down, but Alfred stood his ground and pushed her away. She charged him with assault, but this time the case was thrown out.

Rows with the neighbours apart, the couple must have prospered in their business, as by 1866 their house in had in the yard a new brick building with a slate roof, which housed a stable and had a herring-hang attached and a large wooden shed built against it. William woke one night to find the lot in flames. He ran into town to summon the fire brigade.

Hythe fire Brigade had been founded in 1802, the first in Kent. It had just acquired a magnificent new  Paxton fire engine at a cost of £173. 3s. 0d raised by public subscription. This was capable of discharging a hundred gallons of water a minute to a height of a hundred and twenty feet – depending, of course on there being a suitable water supply at the premises.

Eight volunteer firemen and the new engine, drawn by a horse, attended the blaze, and forty-odd men from the School of Musketry which had been based in the town for the last thirteen years, also arrived. Unfortunately, the water main in Stade Street was only two inches in diameter and useless for a major fire. The fireman had to take water from the sea and four nearby wells. They stopped the fire spreading and saved the houses in Stade Street, but had to let the fire in William’s outbuildings burn itself out.

William lost everything – his van, cart, sets of harness and fishing nets and his black mare. The total cost was between five and six hundred pounds, a huge sum, and William was not fully insured.  It must have been a terrible blow, but William had other sources of income as a property owner who rented out houses, so he was not left entirely bankrupt.

William and Olive did not have children.


In loving memory/of/Frances/wife of John Rann Hole/who died(illegible) November/1886/aged 78 years

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord

Also of John Rann Hole/died 3rd November 1897/aged72 years

I have fought a good fight I have finished the course I have kept the faith

The youngest son, John, born 1826, started his working life as a footman and at the age of thirty-two married Frances Smith, who had also been in service, working as a servant to the Fagge family of Hythe. She was fifteen years John’s senior.  After their marriage, they went to live in Sheerness, where John worked as a labourer in the royal dockyard. By 1871 he was back in in East Kent, in Folkestone, working as a lay missionary at the new Church of England Mission in Sidney Street. The Mission was set up for the poorest people in the town, the railway workers. Its first premises were in a former baker’s shop in Sidney Street and housed a Mission Chapel, Sunday School and Cocoa Tavern – a teetotal alternative to the public house. John and Frances lived just around the corner in the Mission Room in Canterbury Road. After his wife’s death, John returned to Hythe where he lived in Stade Street until his death.

Continued in The Hole Family Part 2

  1. Kent Archives EK2008/2/Book 16




A Tide in the Affairs of Men – Part Two

Fishing was the mainstay occupation of the town and an Elizabethan survey of 1566 estimated that there were thirty three boats in the town worked by a hundred and sixty men. The survey was more guesswork than an accurate count, but it can be deduced that there were a lot of boats and a lot of fishermen.

Fish were a valuable and limited resource. Any industry exploiting such a resource is highly regulated, and fishing was no exception.  If, during your imaginary walk through Hythe you had turned up on the beach with your boat and nets, you would have been regarded with considerable suspicion, even hostility. The fishing season was tightly regulated in terms of who could fish, and when, with what and with whom.

These regulations were taken seriously. In 1616, Richard Hutson filed a complaint against Nicholas Salisbury, another fisherman. Salisbury had taken to sea a man whom Hutson had already signed on for the winter fishing. The magistrates, many of them fishermen themselves,  took a very dim view of the crime and Nicholas Salisbury was fined and forfeited the freedom of the town.

The seasons were divided into ‘fares’, some for local inshore fishing and some in deeper waters.  From April to June, Shotnett fare, the Hythe men fished for sole and mackerel in all sizes of boat. Then in summer came Harbour fare, the smaller boats catching conger with ‘harbour hooks’ in home waters, while larger vessels headed north to Scarborough fare for cod and ling.  From September to November, the bigger boats with crews of a dozen or so sailed to Yarmouth, the most profitable fare of all, for herring.  When it was over, the boats returned to Hythe and continued to fish for herring in home waters until the end of the year.

In home waters, there was also a short sprat season, which was not very lucrative, but trammelling for plaice from March to October was.  Trammels were nets consisting of a triple wall of mesh, of up to 18 furlongs in length which rested on the sea bed.  Trawls were more economical, but the Hythe men were conservative, and hung onto their trammels.  The trammel boats were small and only carried a crew of six or seven. These smaller boats were sometimes referred to as ‘stade boats’, the stade being the open beach where they were hauled up by means of horse-turned ‘vernes’ or capstans. There is still a Stade Street in Hythe today, leading from the sea to the town centre.

Stade Street in 2015......
Stade Street, Hythe  in 2015……


...and the view from Stade Street - no fishing boats, no capstans, no horses, no haven
…and the view from Stade Street – no fishing boats, no capstans, no horses, no haven

The dates of fares were strictly controlled by the Crown, but Shotnett fare, particularly, was sometimes brought forward. February often saw the Hythe men petitioning to set sail early, either because the French had already started fishing or because Lent , when meat could not be eaten and fish was in demand, was early. In 1622 they skilfully managed to combine two gripes in one petition as they asked

for licence to go to sea forthwith to catch soles, being unable, if we wait the limited day, to supply the increased demand for fish occasioned by the Proclamation for strict keeping of fish days, as the soles which are now in season will meanwhile be swept up by trawlers

Trawlers were a big bugbear for the Hythe fishermen who believed that they were over-fishing. Their 1622 complaint was against men from Rochester and Strood, which they rather spoiled by overstating their case: ‘the town is ruined by such proceedings’, which was not strictly true, but as they had been shot at by trawlers in 1617, they felt they had an axe to grind. Two of the fishermen, Richard Hutson and Thomas Wallop even went to London in 1621, taking with them a purloined trawl net to show to a parliamentary committee. In 1631, the culprits were ‘the Barking men’, using huge beam trawls, which were subsequently banned. On this occasion,   one of the Essex men was apprehended and sent to the Lord Warden, but it turned out he had a perfectly good licence from none other than the king’s fishmonger, William Angel.

Apparently the fishermen of the Cinque Ports decided that if they couldn’t beat the interlopers, they would join them, as thirty years later the Duke of York, then Lord Warden, wrote to the Ports that he was

very sensible of the great and many abuses that have of late years been committed in the fishing on the English coast’ 

and ordered Ports fishermen to stop using unlawful nets

whereby the brood or fry of fish may be any ways prejudiced or destroyed, or to take or catch any fish at unseasonable times contrary to the law or the ancient custom in fishing affairs’

It is hard to blame the fishermen, as they had been operating under difficult conditions for years. Every time there was a war, against Spain, France or the Netherlands, which was more often than not in the seventeenth century, the fishing industry suffered. Sometimes they were confined to port, as in 1627, when Buckingham believed they might be passing intelligence to the French. The next year some Sandwich fishermen were actually taken by a French man-of-war. In 1656 the Ports joined together to ask for the protection of a navy convoy against the enemy of the day, the Dutch, and in  1672 Hythe was virtually besieged by four Dutch privateers ‘so that no fishing or other boat dare peep out’.

By then, French ships from Dieppe dominated the herring and mackerel fisheries in the Channel. This, the lack of a proper harbour, the obstacles faced, the effects of impressments for the navy on a dwindling population, and the decline of the Yarmouth fisheries all helped ensure that Hythe’s future was not to be as a fishing town. By the end of the eighteenth century, not a single boat remained in the town.