‘You weren’t born in Dover so you have no right to write about its history!’ I was again in trouble from this particular section of the Dover community and I knew that it was pointless to rebuke. The fact that I have lived in the town for most of my life and my husband and two daughters attended Dover schools was not part of their beliefs. I also knew that if I pointed out that Dover’s excellent museum curator along with the present and past chairmen of the Dover Society were not born in the town but all make major contributions to Dover’s history, it would be pointless.
The bullying did not come about because I am a female per se … there was (and still is) enough of them who are of the same gender as me and it was a woman who had made the accusation! The resentment goes far deeper. On this particular occasion, they were angry because I had questioned the lack of transparency and my concerns had been upheld. Therefore, at the point I was denounced as being ’maliciously jealous’ – their favourite term for people like me – I stopped listening and started to muse!
The majority of Dover historians from the Reverend John Lyon in the 18th century to the present day are male and most were not born in Dover. Mary Horsley is arguably the most famous female local historian. She wrote loving tomes on Dover’s history, even though she was not born in the town or maybe even in England!
In Dover, it was generally stated that Mary was born in Dunkerque, northern France, about 1847. At the time, her father, John William Horsley, was the Priest-in-Charge of the Anglican congregation in that town. Mary’s mother, Susanna, was from Dover and had married John at St Mary’s Church in 1843. Susanna’s father was William Sankey, a local doctor who was born at Eythorne, outside of Dover, and was active in local affairs. In 1842, Dr Sankey helped Canon Puckle, the Vicar of St Mary’s, to raise £3,000 from public donations towards the restoration of the Church. St Mary’s was virtually gutted and refurbished in the then popular Victorian Gothic style that we see today. Dr Sankey was also instrumental in the building of Camden Crescent. Numbers one and two, which are still standing, were specially built for him. He died in 1866 and Elizabeth, his widow, moved into a smaller house by Guilford Lawn, since demolished.
In 1849, Mary’s father died and his widow, Susanna, eventually returned to England initially settling in Canterbury. Following Elizabeth’s move to Guilford Lawn, Susanna and Mary came to Dover and lived with the elderly lady. Mary took a teaching post at St Mary’s School, then on Queen Street, and helped her mother look after Elizabeth Sankey until she died in 1876.
With their combined savings, Susanna and Mary bought 28 Pencester Road, since demolished, and it was there that the two women appear to have been their happiest. Susanna and Mary took up painting with Mary signing her pictures by linking her two initials together.
It was at this time that Mary started to publish her writings on local history and giving talks on the subject. The town had a flourishing interest in local history with a contingent that included the Town Clerk, Wollaston Knocker of Castle Hill House, whose late father, Edward, became the chairman of the national Antiquarian Society. There was also John Bavington Jones, the editor of the Dover Express, who recognised Mary’s abilities. There were those that took a philistine attitude towards both Mary and her work for bigoted reasons.
Susanna died in 1904 and Mary on 1 February 1920. There is a plaque in west end of St Mary’s Church to Mary’s memory and reads: To the Glory of God and in affectionate memory of Mary Horsley died 1 February 1920. This tablet was erected by her friends as a tribute to her faithful service of more than fifty years for this church and parish. A Mother in Israel Judges v.z.’
Mary’s major legacy, in my opinion, was her two booklets, Some Memories and Some More Memories of Old Dover. These are the recollections of two aged Dover citizens’ of day-to-day happenings in the town during the 19th century. That is, until the day of the ‘kangaroo court’. Elizabeth Knott’s father had been an auctioneer’s clerk at Flashman’s in the Market Square and had acquired a collect of some 122 painting by Mary, Susanna and also the Reverend Maule of St Mary’s Church. Miss Knott had died at the age of 92 in 2005 and she bequeathed them to Dover Museum. Earlier in the day of the ‘kangaroo court’, I had been to the Museum to look at them.
‘Mrs Sencicle are you listening?’ Came the thunderous voice! I nearly fell off my chair! Without thinking, I replied, ‘Not really.’ It was not the best thing to say as it provoked yet another stream of diatribe! Then the chairman called order, looking me straight in the eye said that they would draw three lines under what I had done if I apologised. One of the others added that I was to stop researching and publishing articles on local history. No one disagreed instead they finished by one of them emphatically stating that I had to leave such matters to my betters whom had their approval!
Early in 2007 a gentleman contacted me writing:
I am registered disabled and am housebound. I have built a website www.doverwarmemorial.co.uk and this is now online. I regard this research as an ongoing community project and update the website on a regular basis. The Town Council and other people have been aware of my website since the 29th September 2006, but they all chose to ignore me.
At the time the Dover Town Council (a Parish council) was actively supporting a similar project ran by a close relative of the then Town Clerk. This had gone on line in November 2006 whereas Gareth’s had been up and running some two months before as can be seen from the whois registration on the right. It was during the interim period that the then Town Clerk had been appointed.
I brought this to the attention of the Town Council, especially as Gareth actually lived in the town and had not claimed expenses, whereas the relative of the Town Clerk did not live in the county so was claiming full expenses. I also queried what appeared to me as the lack of Transparency over the general funding of the Town Council’s favoured project – all of which was came out of council taxpayers’ money, including the purchase of a computer for the Town Clerk’s relative to use.
I was invited to a meeting following which it quickly became evident that the proverbial hatchets were out for Gareth and me. With the help of my husband, Alan, we collected and collated a great deal of hard evidence showing the lack of transparency over the funding of the Council’s favoured project. I presented this to the Council but our findings were rubbished. I therefore took our concerns to the Audit Commission and after investigating, they upheld the complaint – as can be seen.
The Local Government Finance Act 1982 established the Audit Commission for Local Authorities in England and Wales on 21 January 1983. The organisation began work as a public corporation on 1 April 1983. In August 2010, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced plans to put in place new arrangements for auditing England’s local public bodies. Legislation to abolish the Commission was included in the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 with a planned closure date of 1 April 2015.
As for stopping researching and writing on local history, as I had been ordered at the kangaroo court, I ignored the demand and carried on. The editor of the Dover Mercury, Graham Smith, continued to publish my work and the above article was published in the Dover Mercury on 3 December 2009.
At that time the Audit Commission’s report was not in the public domain instead the Dover Town Council had issued a watered down statement that was accepted by both councillors and the local press. In 2011, I publicly referred to the original Report and was subsequently threatened with legal action. It was evident that the plaintiff did not realise that I had a copy of the actual report – when they did the legal action was dropped.
Since that time council-taxpayers money has been spent on hiring an investigator to dig up the dirt on me – I found this out when he inadvertently addressed an e-mail to me that was meant for the present Town Clerk!
Nonetheless, shortly after I received an ‘invitation’ to attend another kangaroo court. On legal advice I declined and the result and the attendant publicity held no surprises. My web site came on line in May 2013 and in the autumn, a third party, working with Dover Town Council, sent an e-mail out to numerous people in Dover calling for me to be blacklisted.
Shortly after hateful remarks were reported in a local paper supported by a statement from a councillor saying that they did not go far enough (see cutting dated 29.08.2013). I was then ordered to remove a map of Dover from my website – for which permission had previously been given.
Earlier this year (2014) the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld a complaint I had made over a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act. The Town Clerk, instead of sending me the information I asked for passed my request onto a third party – one of those mentioned in the article on the right!
When Mary Horsley was researching and writing at the end of the 19th century, Dover was one of the top ten wealthiest towns in the country. The town was also in the forefront of enlightenment – see Women Suffrage. Now, the town is at the other end of the spectrum and the way Gareth Moore was treated and the way I am, is a symptom of this lack of enlightenment. Of note, Gareth did not receive any grants, payments or donations for researching and running his web site and I am not paid or receive any form of grants for my work …