This page will be short on high brow technical stuff about the estate as all this is more than adequately provided for on other sites – see the links. Hopefully it will provide an insight to the way things have developed over the years, the population who reside here and also, we would like to think, the site will provoke comments from those who are far more knowledgeable than the author, thus in time building up to a first hand, potted anecdotal history. (This then can then be turned into a book and sold for great profit! – a likely scenario).
Anyway back to Dungeness
A promontory on the South Coast of Kent, so sayeth the Encyclopaedia Britannica or the 'Fifth Continent' according to another author.
Not around until the 14th Century when the tide went out, Dungeness forms the southern most point of the Romney Marsh.
Sceptics expect the land to be returned to the sea within the next 150 years leaving just the two lighthouses and the 5th and 6th Nuclear Power Stations visible above the waves. But for the time being we have the Romans to thank the fact that we have not already 'gone under' They created the sea defences, at Dymchurch and the Rhee Wall, which stretches from Appledore to Romney. Since then, with EU help, we have very recently witnessed the completion of the multi-million sea wall at Dymchurch and beyond.
The point of Dungeness sits about 3 miles out into the English Channel, is an area of Special Scientific Interest (SSI – see their site- Links), a bird sanctuary and an area protected from any future development. Thus Dungeness will remain an unspoilt tract of land – except for the rubbish left by inconsiderate visiting leisure fishermen and flotsam and jetsam collected by numerous locals – all in the name of art.
Dungeness Estate was originally owned by the Tufton family but was sold to Southern Railway (subsequently British Rail and now probably the Ajax Holding Company in Honolulu). It was then sold to Mr G T Paine and it remains today in the hands of the trustees of the Paine Family Trust.
Boasting only the aforementioned lighthouses, a lifeboat (see their site - Links) and around 80 assorted shacks within which reside a collection of individualists escaping the torments of the outside 'civilised' world.
Had this been written some 30 or 40 years ago reference would have been made to the residents being predominantly local fishing families, (a few of whom remain) and rock crushers. The Tart (originally French and from the Tartes) and Oiler families were two of the first families to reside on the beach from around the turn of the century (20th!). Always fishing families they have, over the generations, formed the backbone of the locality and have played a large part in the manning of the numerous lifeboats that have been located on the beach. The men-folk crewing and the ladies helping with the launching (before the days of tractors!).
No not the cartoon character but the hub and source for PLUTO – an acronym for PipeLine Under The Ocean. A series of small bore high pressure hoses were trailed across the seabed to France to carry much needed fuel for the D Day landings in Normandy during the Second World War. The pumping equipment was ‘hidden’ in various inconspicuous buildings including one that is now known as the ‘Pluto B&B house, situated just outside the estate gates. The pipeline was an unmitigated success and at its peak could pump one million gallons of fuel a day. A few remaining structures that went to make up the PLUTO operation can still be foundto the west of the power stations.
A few remaining structures that went to make up the Pluto operation can still be found to the west of the power stations.
At the 'north' end of the estate will be found the 'Watering House' which, as the name implies was constructed to house the family who provided fresh water to passing shipping. This house was built in the late 19th century and was joined in 1916 by the purpose built 'Pennycot' and followed shortly by, 'Garden Cottage' & 'Sea View',
The majority of the shacks at the 'south' end of the estate came to being in the 'twenties' when workers employed by the then Southern Railway purchased old rolling stock and had them towed off at the end of the line – to become holiday shacks. The majority of these immigrants were from Ashford, hub of the Southern Railway – in those days.
A nostalgic slideshow of Dungeness:
The cost of these holiday 'chalets' was about £10.00 – yes TEN pounds (with the more up market ones being £20.000). The cost of owning a shack today above £150,000.00 for a property neding rebuilding to well over £250,000.00 and rising (What recession?). This has resulted in the majority of original 'locals' moving away and a influx of 'outsiders' moving in.
However with the advent of the newcomers and as a result of more families residing permanently on the estate long needed changes came into being. No more taking the thunder buckets to the seashore at high tide (and getting it back if the wind were coming off the sea). No more hand pumping water up from the beach. No more collecting the milk in jugs from the bowser that delivered once a week oh and of course with the advent of the new fangled electricity out with the Tilley lamps. Yes, as early as 1961, the 18th century had caught up with Dungeness! Incidentally there is still one house without electricity – hopefully an interview with the hermit soon.
Queen Victoria's personal carriage, now hidden behind tongue and grooved cladding, sits opposite the Britannia Public House and several houses still retain the original railway carriage (or guards vans) albeit within the walls of rebuilt structures.
Filmed in 2005 the Channel 4 programme 'Up your street' visited two 'shacks', both of which have retained their railway carriage/guardsvans within. We are currently trying to get Channel 4's permission to reproduce this program for those interested. more to follow Dungeness is also the 'end of the line' for the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway which claims to be the worlds smallest public railway, having a gauge of just 15 inches.
And towering above the small railway station and light refreshment café are the two (for the time being) nuclear power stations (see their site- Links for a 'guided' tour). These two monstrosities, one already past its sell by date but making a profit and the other white elephant are likely to be joined by a third and then possibly a fourth in the not too distant future. 'Over my dead body' is the plaintive cry from the local – which, with another little mishap with the reactor, could possibly be a prophecy in the making.
In the meantime its 'fision' chips as usual at the Britannia Public House.
Dungeness is also home to a unique variety of wildlife and more than 600 different types of plants – about one third of all plants found throughout the UK. It is also one of the best places in Britain to find rare species of moths, butterflies, bees, beetles and spiders. Many of the insects not to be found anywhere else.
Enjoy your stay and do visit the other sites on our Links page.