Facing Coombe Valley Road is a late 18th century house, once-upon-a-time called Bucklands, which was once under threat of demolition. It was part of ‘old Dover’ that the council, at the time, wanted knocked down to make way for modern concrete and glass office development. Luckily, a building preservation order protected it, but the adjacent cottages were demolished and the modern office block was built around the house.
Listed as 110 London Road, the house was built by Sir Thomas Hyde Page, the military engineer responsible for a number of important defence works at the Castle during the American War of Independence (1776-1783). He was also responsible for starting what eventually became the Western Heights fortifications, building four shore batteries (since demolished) which together with Archcliffe Fort and a canal along the seafront, made an effective line of defence during the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815).
After the War of Independence, Thomas built the mansion in Buckland. The extensive gardens of which ran from present day Lorne Road to Cherry Tree Avenue and extended to the east bank of the Dour, which was crossed by a ford. His wife, Dame Albina, took charge of the gardens and were said to be the most beautiful in East Kent.
Meantime, Sir Thomas interested himself in local affairs and was responsible for the founding of the Dover Volunteer Association, the origin of the present Territorial Army. Dame Albina Page died in 1804 and about 1810, Sir Thomas sold his extensive lands in Buckland and Charlton to William Kingsford for £5,750 and moved away.
What Kingsford was going to do with the house and garden is unclear, however, on 17 February 1834 he was declared bankrupt and his property was put up for sale. In the sale documents, foundation walls for an oil mill (Lower Buckland Mill) were listed as part of the London Road property. George Hatton Loud bought the house, garden and 130 acres of the Kingsford estate. He enclosed the house and garden with a wall on which was inscribed, ‘This wall built in 1835 is the property of G H Loud.’ The bridge providing access to the east bank of the garden was rebuilt.
In 1835, the boundary of Dover Borough was extended to southern edge of George’s home. Part of his newly acquired lands and properties included Dudmanscombe farmhouse, approximately where the Sportsman pub, on London Road, is today. This now was within Dover town so the farmhouse was demolished and George, Erith and Victoria Streets were built.
Land, at the back of the farmhouse, through which a footpath to Poulton that eventually became Coombe Valley Road ran, George sold to John Finnis, brick maker. He also sold the land for the workhouse, which eventually became Buckland Hospital. Shortly after George was elected to the Town Council and over the next three decades, he farmed the remaining lands, selling off parcels for development when the price was right.
At the time he bought the house and lands, George was about 33 years old and married to Mary Kingsford from St Margaret’s Bay. They had a son, George, born in 1830 and daughter, Caroline, born two years later. In 1836 Georgiana was born and on 19 July 1838 Jane Wood Loud was christened at St Andrew‘s Church, Buckland.
In 1844, George, no longer a councillor, received a great deal of praise from the town for his quick thinking when a fire threatened to engulf the Pier District. He was returning in his dogcart from the Folkestone direction and saw Robson’s engineering works, in the highly populated area, on fire. Alarm bells, strategically situated around the town, were sounding and one of the town’s fire appliances was on the way to the disaster. A second one was being hauled to the scene manually and George attached it to his cart and took it to the scene. Eventually eleven appliances, many belonging to the railway company, brought the fire under control.
By the time George Loud died, age 59, on 15 September 1861. His son died three years later so it was Mary, his wife, took over the running of the estate, still selling parcels of the farmland for development when the price was right. The two remaining daughters cultivated the garden, which became as famous as it was in the days of Dame Albina. Mary died in 1871 and Georgiana in 1880, leaving Jane in charge.
Jane was to use her remaining years tending the garden, selling off the remainder of her estate and pursuing philanthropic work. Bucklands, the name she gave to her home, still marked the start of Buckland parish even though the civic boundary with Charlton was further south. It was at her house that the beating of the bounds procession started and Jane would provide the victuals to sustain parishioners for the walk around the parameters of the parish. She also conducted meetings at a Mission Hall in Primrose Road, erected about 1893, and provided help to young mothers and ‘fallen women’ of Buckland.
However, she was especially remembered for her kindness to the town’s tram drivers and police officers. During inclement weather, she would ensure that covered jugs of hot coffee and either cakes or sandwiches were placed at pre-arranged points for them.
Jane died on 24 March 1922, age 83 and was buried at Buckland cemetery and it was reported that there were a large number of sympathising friends present, including her faithful servant and friend, Ann Boyle. Jane’s name was engraved on the family vault but in 1991, local historian, Joe Harman, photographed her gravestone in a scrap yard by Kearsney Station. The dedication stated that ‘she hath done what she could.’
Following Jane’s death, Bucklands had a series of occupants, Major H.C.F. Hull in 1926, Miss Olphert between 1930-3. From 1933 to the outbreak of World War II a series of military gentlemen, Captain S.L. Appleton, Captain W.H.A. Bishop, Captain Alexander George Davidson and Major Thomas R.A. Carson.
Following the war Dr. Richardson moved in and the house was renamed Whitehead. Drs Ross and Rutherford succeeded him; and I well remember walking past and admiring ‘Miss Loud’s garden’ as it was still called. However, in 1969 the house was empty and under threat of demolition.
The developers who bought the property and the two adjacent Pear Tree cottages, on the corner with Cherry Tree Avenue, promised to renovate the house and garden as long as they could demolish the cottages for parking. They refurbished 110, but soon after demolishing the cottages they resold the land for industrial development. The garden with its wall and plaque, were destroyed and the modern offices and businesses that we see today were built.
- Dover Mercury 03 & 10 February 2011