Farthingloe – The Historic Valley of Legends and Outstanding Natural Beauty

Farthingloe, Maxton & Elms Vale - Bartlett's street map pf Dover c 1960s.

Farthingloe, Maxton & Elms Vale – Bartlett’s street map pf Dover c 1960s.

In September 2016 the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Kent) won an Appeal against Dover District Council to save the beautiful, historic, Farthingloe valley from development. Below is the story.

Farthingloe is a dry, long valley with a gently sloping valley bottom on the west side of Dover. It runs parallel to the cliffs beyond which is the Channel and until the building of the A20 over the cliffs, Round Down Cliff was part of Farthingloe. Much of the valley is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and in Roman times, there was a settlement that centred on what became Farthingloe Manor (now Great Farthingloe farm). Numerous types of Roman pottery and tiles have been found along with a Roman cemetery comprising cremation burials.

Following the arrival of the Saxons, Farthingloe was given the name Venson Dane and Wellclose, names retained by the Normans and referred to as such in the Domesday book of 1086. The name Farthingloe was first mentioned in connection with Matilda de ffarthinglo who held the manor in 1385, in the Dover Corporation deed of that year, it is spelt Ffarnyglo. According to legend, Lady de ffarthinglo lived in the valley during the 5-6th century when King Arthur defended Britain against the Saxon invaders.

Farthingloe Valley looking west. AS 2014

Farthingloe Valley looking west. AS 2014

The Lady of Farthingloe was reputed to have been a great beauty and one day, so the story goes, Sir Gawain was returning to Camelot from the Continent by way of Dover. He saw the beautiful Lady of Farthingloe, instantly fell in love and promised to come back and marry her – his numerous amorous affairs and declarations of love were well known. She, however, believed him but it was not for another seven years that he returned and during that time she had probably contracted smallpox. By the time Sir Gawain did return, the once beautiful Lady of Farthingloe was ‘cruelly pitted’. Albeit, when Sir Gawain saw her he declared that he still loved her, they married and lived in quiet seclusion in the Farthingloe valley.

Time passed and things started to go wrong in Camelot. Lady Guinevere, Arthur’s wife, had fallen in love with Sir Lancelot and Sir Mordred, another knight of the Round Table, told Arthur. The distraught King laid a trap for the ill-fated couple and Guinevere was sentenced to the stake. At the last minute, Sir Lancelot saved the beleaguered queen but this led to civil war. Sir Gawain, always faithful to the King, gave chase to Sir Lancelot who had escaped to France. Arthur joined him, leaving the kingdom in the hands of Sir Mordred who immediately crowned himself king and planned to marry Guinevere. She, however, had fled to a convent. Arthur and Sir Gawain returned to England and met Sir Mordred at Barham Downs, between Dover and Canterbury, where a bloody battle ensued.

There, Sir Gawain was killed and the Lady of Farthingloe went to search for his body but only found his head. This she took to the Canons at St Martin-le-Grand in Dover. Peace negotiations followed and Arthur gave Kent to Sir Mordred and after his death, the rest of the kingdom. Sir Mordred, however, was not satisfied. Sir Gawain, the legend tell us, appeared to the Lady of Farthingloe and she ‘set forth for Camelot to warn the King of Sir Mordred’s impending treachery.’ There, because she was so disfigured no one would believe that she was Sir Gawain’s wife and her entry was barred. Sir Mordred did see King Arthur, challenged him  and both were killed.

Haunted Dover by Lorraine Sencicle published by History Press

Haunted Dover by Lorraine Sencicle published by History Press

On hearing this, the distraught Lady of Farthingloe joined Guinevere in the same convent. She also gave the Manor of Farthingloe to the Canons of St Martin’s, where later the Prior‘s manor house was built. As for Sir Gawain‘s head, in William Caxton’s (c.1415- c.1492) preface to Sir Thomas Malory’s (d.1471) Le Morte d’Arthur, he wrote, ‘… in the Castle of Dover ye may see Gawain’s skull.’ It was believed that the skull was kept in St Mary de Castro Church at the Castle for several centuries. This and other legends/ghost stories of Dover can be read in Haunted Dover – History Press 2009.

Farthingloe Manor was held by the Canons of St Martin-le-Grand during the Saxon period and the Prior’s residence was built there. Farthingloe, along with the remainder of the Canons’ possessions was transferred to Dover Priory following their demise in 1139. They held Farthingloe until the Dissolution of Monasteries that began in 1536. The Manor House, the valley and the cliff were, at that time given to the Archbishop of Canterbury and administered by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners until the twentieth century.

Farthingloe Manor and the lands were rented for farming in the early 17th century. It would appear that the Manor was the centre of Mastiff breeding at that time. Mastiffs are a large molosser breed of dogs known for their size and strength and in early 1625, Edward Dering (1598-1644) purchased one from Farthingloe. In June that year he bought two more to give to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1625-1628), George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628) and a favourite of James I (1603-1625). The following year, on 25 October, another Farthingloe mastiff was sent by Dering to the Duke who was then in France.

Round Down Cliff showing the Coining House cave. Alan Sencicle

Round Down/Abbots Cliff showing the Coining House cave. Alan Sencicle

Long before Edward Dering’s time, the mists over Round Down Cliff lent it both smuggling and another legend. When Kent historian, Edward Hasted (1732-1812) was writing, circa 1790, he noted that in the middle of Round Down cliff, ‘are two large square rooms cut out of chalk, one within the other, they are called the Coining House, and have a very difficult way to come at them, the cliff here being upwards of four hundred feet high.‘  called the Coining House caves, they were used to store smuggled goods and long before Hasted’s time were said to be haunted by a ghostly voice calling out the name ‘Susanne’. This, along with the precarious descent to the caves, served to keep anyone from prying.

English high quality wool had been sort after by Continental weavers for centuries and therefore export taxes were imposed. It was these that led to smuggling and by the 17th century customs officers used professional informers to help bring about prosecutions. The informers earned their living from the rewards paid on conviction. The story of Susanne goes back to the middle of that century, when one such informer was William Carter, a Kent clothier who between 1667 and 1689 was the foremost in the profession. He specialised in catching smugglers of un-manufactured wool and his eldest son, Richard, was equal to his father in proficiency.

In 1669, Richard came to Dover to investigate suspected smugglers operating between Dover and Hythe. While in the town, he was seduced and subsequently fell in love with a girl from Hougham, of which Farthingloe is a hamlet. Her name was Susanne. One misty day he went to meet Susanne and while walking along the top of Round Down Cliff he stumbled over an iron bar that had been hammered into the cliff. Attached to the bar was a rope, which he recognised as belonging to the samphire gathers that precariously collected the plant that grows there on the cliff face.

At that moment, the mist cleared and Richard saw that the rope, instead of going all the way down the cliff face as it would for the samphire gathers, stopped after about 30 feet. From there was a path that appeared to zigzag its way down the cliff face. Richard went down to investigate and found the Coining House and inside were a large number of sacks containing un-manufactured wool. The full story and what happened next can be read in the book Haunted Dover. Suffice to say that it is Richard’s ghost that haunts the cave. Not long after these events two Coastguard stations were built overlooking both Round Down Cliff face and Farthingloe Valley. Both stations had cottages for the coastguards.

World War II battery on the site of one of the Napoleonic gun emplacements . Round Down Cliff. AS 2014

World War II battery on the site of one of the Napoleonic gun emplacements . Round Down Cliff. AS 2014

By the end of the 18th century, a thatched chapel had been built in the valley when the lessee of Farthingloe Manor was a Nathaniel Walker. Although his widow held the lease at the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815), John Marsh occupied the Manor. During the Wars the number of buildings increased around the Manor and fortifications were built at Western Heights and along Round Down Cliff. Indeed, the latter was crowned with 27 guns! It was also a popular venue for the folks of Dover, such as diarist Thomas Pattenden, to watch the hostilities that took place at sea.

The Folkestone road, through Farthingloe, had opened in 1783 following the demise of the Old Folkestone Road as a toll road. As the Pier District of Dover developed in the 17th century, Snargate Street and Limekiln Street came into existence. From there the road to Folkestone was by way of Haycliffe, Round Down Cliff, Abbots Cliff, Capel and Folkestone. Turnpiked in 1763, gradually the name Haycliffe was changed to Aycliffe but due to cliff falls, the road was proving dangerous and costly to maintain. By Act of Parliament, the turnpike proceeds were used to lay a new Folkestone Road through the Farthingloe Valley and a tollhouse was built on the corner of the present Elms Vale Road. The road remained a turnpike until 1877.

Great Farthingloe Farm. AS 2014

Great Farthingloe Farm. AS 2014

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Georgian style Great Farthingloe farmhouse had been built and it would seem that the name change was due to Little Farthingloe farm, on the north side of the Folkestone Road, coming into existence. Features from the old manor house were incorporated into the Great Farthingloe farmhouse and it is now Listed as a Grade II building. The Marsh family continued to live there but by the early 1820’s there were other farms in the valley. These farmers included Thomas and Robert Elve, William Carey and Edmund Greaves.

On 21 June 1836, the South Eastern Railway Company applied to Parliament to build a railway line from London to Dover and was soon after given Royal Assent. It was planned that from Folkestone, the railway line would run through the cliffs or along the beach to Dover. On 14 November 1837, Round Down Cliff and the beach below were transferred by Deed, from the Archbishopric of Canterbury to the Railway Company.

Round Down Cliff showing exposed cliff following the 1843 blast. Below is the Channel Tunnel ventilation facility. AS 2014

Round Down Cliff showing exposed cliff following the 1843 blast. Below is the Channel Tunnel ventilation facility. AS 2014

By June 1842, the line from London had reached Folkestone. Although tunnels could be cut through the cliffs to Dover, Round Down Cliff, rising to a height of 375-feet above sea level, was considered too unstable to be tunnelled. On Thursday 26 January 1843 the Cliff was blasted out of the way bringing down an estimated 400,000 cubic yards of chalk on which the railway line runs today. Of note, the Coining House Cave was to the side of the blast so can still be seen.

Great Farthingloe Manor Farm was put to auction on 17 December 1846 at the Shakespeare Hotel, Dover, on behalf of the leaseholder, Richard Marsh. The auctioneer was a Mr Harrisson and the solicitor responsible was Edward Knocker of Dover. The estate included the 500 acres lands called Fants or Hants and comprised of arable pastureland with a substantial farmhouse, 3 cottages, gardens, barns, stables and other buildings. The Church Commissioners administered the estate by a renewable lease that in 1846 still had 22 years to run. In March, the following year John and Benjamin Taylor of Langdon Court bought the lease for £6,640.

Modern day Plough Inn, Folkestone Road, Farthingloe. AS 2014

Modern day Plough Inn, Folkestone Road, Farthingloe. AS 2014

At this time, or shortly after, the Plough Inn was built on the corner of the Folkestone Road and the track leading to Church Hougham. Richard Constable and his wife Mary ran the pub and Richard also farmed 23 acres. Like a number of Dover pubs, inquests were held there and probably the body, or bodies, were kept in the cellar for the inquest. At the end of January 1848, the inquest on the deaths of Thomas Chatwin, age 34, and Richard Betts, age 17, both seamen, was held at the pub. They had drowned below one of the Coastguard stations when their boat had capsized. The coroner was Thomas Delasaux and Daniel Tapley was the jury foreman. The only witness was mariner Thomas Baker, who had been in the boat with the deceased. A verdict of Accidental Death was returned.

A map dated 1866 showed orchards and a tree-enclosed lawn east of Great Farthingloe farm and to the west a network of farm lanes connecting to Folkestone Road. All the tithes were paid to the Rectory of St Laurence Church, Hougham. At about this time speculative builders had turned their sights on the Folkestone Road. At first building was slow, the 1868 Dover Directory list forty middle and upper class villas along with the Winchelsea Street estate. Soon after, semi-detached villas were built along the road and newly laid streets to the north. The Clarendon estate, behind the south side of the road were then built. Towards the end of the 19th century, housing had reached Maxton. Farthingloe, however, was in the hands of the Church Commissioners and they curtailed any more development.

In 1862, William Adcock of Nottingham came to Farthingloe to undertake work for the Church Commissioners. While in Dover, he met and married tailor’s daughter, Elizabeth Mowle, and settled in the town. Adcock went on to set up what became a highly successful building business, was elected Mayor twice and was noted for both his buildings and for beneficial employment of those out of work in Dover. Sometime prior to 25 May 1870 John Brockwell was the lessee of Great Farthingloe Manor farm but on that day he was declared bankrupt. At the time, besides the farm assets listed in 1846, there was a large pond to the west of the house. The other farmers in the valley included, Christopher Woollage age 56 with 14 acres and Henry Harbourn age 36 with 40 acres.

Farthingloe Coal Boring c1896

Farthingloe Coal Boring c1896

Although life in the valley carried on as normal, deep underground changes were taking place. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a Channel Tunnel was started at the foot of Shakespeare Cliff. Financed by Edward Watkin, the Chairman of the South Eastern Railway, a 22.55 metre shaft was sunk and a level heading driven for 792.68 metres. A second heading was driven for 1,944 metres under the sea. However, in July 1883, following advice from government, the project was abandoned. Across the Channel, near Calais, coal had been found so not long after the channel tunnel operations were suspended, a borehole was sunk at the bottom of the abandoned shaft. A second borehole was sunk at Great Farthingloe farm and together with a third bore hole, it was confirmed that there was coal of sufficient quantity and quality to be worth mining.

Shakespeare Colliery, owned by Kent Collieries, 24.04.1912 - Times

Shakespeare Colliery, owned by Kent Collieries, 24.04.1912 – Times

Under the supervision of Francis Brady, the Chief Engineer for the Railway Company, drilling was started to a depth of just over 300 metres from the beach. In 1896, Arthur Burr formed the Kent Coal Field Syndicate, bought the mineral rights and the first shaft, named after Francis Brady at the new Shakespeare Colliery, was started that year. The colliery was on the site of the blasted chalk from Round Down Cliff but from the outset, it had troubles and proved unproductive. Nonetheless, the continual demand for coal encouraged other borings to be undertaken in and around the Dover area and 14 coal seams, stretching from Dover almost to Herne Bay, were eventually found. The first bucketful of commercial East Kent coal was raised at Snowdown Colliery, north of Dover, on 19 November 1912. Shakespeare Colliery was closed in 1915.

By 1882 John Brooks was the landlord of the Plough but that year was in trouble with the police for allowing skittles, the British form of nine-pins, to be played on his premises. Under the Gaming Act of 1854 skittles would have been allowed as long as there was no betting. At the Plough the loser(s) paid for the beer that they and the winners drank while the game was in progress – and that was illegal! Brooks had been cautioned twice before by the police, on this occasion he was fined £1 with costs. Albeit, the pub was a popular venue, particularly on fine days when its garden would be full of folk from Dover out for a stroll. In 1901 the Census recorded that John Tapley ran the 200-acre Little Farthingloe farm, on the same side of the road as the Plough, while William, Charles and Arthur Broadley had taken over the lease of Farthingloe Manor farm. On 19 January 1912, they dissolved the partnership.

Sound Mirror, Abbots Cliff, west of Farthingloe and Dover

Sound Mirror, Abbots Cliff, west of Farthingloe and Dover

The Ministry of War took over much of Farthingloe valley and Round Down Cliff during World War I (1914-1918) and erected defensive military structures such as pillboxes. An aerodrome was built at Capel and in 1916, the Admiralty laid a 6-inch stoneware drain from the Aerodrome to the Corporation’s main drainage system at Manor Road, Maxton. It was laid along the main Folkestone Road as far as Little Farthingloe farm where it crossed the fields of Great Farthingloe farm to Manor Road. The farms, at that time, were short of labour due to the men going to the Front but in 1916, the Women’s Land Army was formed and the women eased the problem. During and following the War concrete-slab sound mirrors were built along the cliffs including one at the adjacent Abbot’s Cliff, which can still be seen.

Following the War, Farthingloe was returned to the Church Commissioners but in 1921, the lessee of Little Farthingloe Farm, M Stuart, was declared bankrupt. Dover College founded in 1871, on the site of the old Dover Priory, was granted a Royal Charter in 1922. Part of the Little Farthingloe farmlands, at about this time, were rented by the college for a playing field. On 27 June 1929, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) arrived at Marine Station and was met by the Seaforth Highlanders, of which he was Commander in Chief. From there, the Prince and an entourage of dignitaries wended their way in motor cars and carriages to the Dover College playing fields at Farthingloe.

Farthingloe Valley former Dover College Playing Fields. AS 2014

Farthingloe Valley former Dover College Playing Fields. AS 2014

Lining the route from the Dover College sports ground at Maxton to Farthingloe, were boys from Dover College. At the ground, the dignitaries were met by boys from the Duke of York’s Military School, dressed in their brilliant red uniforms, who showed them to their seats. When this duty was accomplished the Dukies assembled into a band and marched away to their music during which time boys from the College replaced them to look after the dignitaries. The Seaforth Highlanders then undertook the Trooping of the Colour and were inspected by the Prince. The event finished with the salute and the kilted soldiers, against the rugged green background, were apparently quite awesome. In the afternoon, there was a programme of games organised for the Dover College boys.

In 1925, Dover College applied to have an extension of the main drain from the Dover sewerage system at their pavilion in Maxton to the sports fields at Farthingloe. The main drain laid by the Admiralty from Dover to Capel was sealed off at Manor Road in 1923 when the Admiralty surrendered all rights to it and Farthingloe was outside of the town boundary. As Dover College was within the boundary the council agreed but when they looked at the old sewerage pipe, it was found to be in a poor state.  Basic necessary repairs would cost £260, £390 if permanent repairs were undertaken or £640 to lay an entirely new sewer.

At the time, many of the former villas along the Folkestone road, recently classed as A259, were being converted into guesthouses and this was putting added pressure on the sewerage system. To cope with this plus repairing/relaying a sewer to Farthingloe was expected to cost a further £1,070 so the council went for the cheapest option and asked the tenants of the Farthingloe farms to contribute. In 1934, the boundary was redrawn and Farthingloe, up to the Plough inn, became part of Dover and the council ended up having to pay for the most expensive option!

The publican at the Plough Inn was in trouble in September 1925, this time for selling intoxicating liquor out of permitted hours. John Sayer was found to have five men on his premises drinking beer at 22.45hrs. He was fined 10shillings and the drinkers were bound over for a year with one, John Green, being fined 5shillings. Sayer left the pub and the new landlord, Mr. Bowll, a former Cadet Corps Instructor at Dover College, appears to have behaved himself. However, the pub became a target for thieves. In 1931 ,it was taken over by Albert Chapman and became a popular eating-house for motorists. In 1935, he was granted a licence to supply wine with the meals he served. That year Chapman carried out structural  improvements and the pub became even more popular. Albert Chapman died in 1952, having retired three years earlier.

WWII Gun Emplacement Round Down Cliff. AS 2014

WWII Gun Emplacement Round Down Cliff. AS 2014

Following the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), the number of military personnel in Dover increased significantly and defences were strengthened. Initially, it was hoped that Allied forces on the Continent would deter a German advance west to the Channel ports and therefore attack from the air was seen as a greater risk. Anti-aircraft batteries were built along the cliffs, including Round Down, in groups of four or more and directed from their own command post. Following the German invasion of Norway in April 1940, anti-invasion measures were increased and the arrival of the German forces on the Channel coast followed by the Dunkirk evacuation led to an expected invasion and pillboxes were erected.

Along the coast, barbed wire and guns commanded every likely line of approach and Round Down Cliff was heavily defended. By 1941, the batteries were equipped with radar for target-detection and gun-laying and although most were later destroyed, remnants can still be seen. In the valley, troops trained in the art of mechanised warfare and carried out manoeuvres in readiness for the day when the enemy should come. Air photographs following the Battle of Britain (10 July-21 October 1940) show both Round Down cliff and Farthingloe valley to be heavily and extensively cratered from the bombs and shells. In 1944, the batteries were incorporated as part of trip line batteries along the Kentish coast to counter the VI flying bomb offensive. Locals, however, still lived in the valley and the town was subject to both bombing and shelling until the end of September 1944.

Little Farthingloe farm Women's Land Army Museum. AS 2014

Little Farthingloe farm Women’s Land Army Museum. AS 2014

Before War was declared, the vulnerability of Britain being an island nation would lead to food shortages and women for the Land Army were recruited from June 1939. Administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries the figurehead was former Women’s Suffrage movement stalwart, (Gertrude) Trudie the Baroness Denham (1884-1954). Initially, the Army was made up of volunteers but as the war progressed conscription was introduced. Coming from all walks of life, the women had to be single and if they did marry they were obliged to leave.

Women's Land Army at Work. From a British Government leaflet. Doyle Collection

Women’s Land Army at Work. From a British Government leaflet. Doyle Collection

The Women’s duty was to aid the farmer for which they received low pay, worked long and very hard hours. Their duties included tending poultry and animals, digging, sowing, hoeing, weeding, driving farm machinery, threshing and sacking. To give more daylight in the evening double summertime was introduced when clocks were put forward by two hours. The Women’s Land Army was finally disbanded on 21 October 1949 and the only museum in the country dedicated solely to them is at Little Farthingloe Farm. The exhibition consists of personal letters from ex-Women’s Land Army girls, authentic uniforms and information and is well worth a visit.

Following the War, the north side of the valley, including Little Farthingloe farm, was returned to the Church Commissioners. The south side including Great Farthingloe farm remained in the hands of the War Department. Folkestone Road (A259) through Farthingloe was the less used of the two main roads out of Dover to London, the more popular was the A2, via Canterbury. In order to improve the A259 the Ministry of Transport sanctioned modern street lighting along the road as far as the boundary with Folkestone that was, by this time, on the west side of Capel.

However, the inadequacy of both trunk roads became evident in January 1955 during particularly heavy winter snow. The A2 was already blocked so all traffic was using the A259 when a four ton lorry overturned at Farthingloe blocking the only access and egress to Dover town and port. Two years later, in order to alleviate such problems, the road through Farthingloe was widened and an application was made to the council for planning permission to build a petrol station next to the Plough Inn. However, this was refused.

In April 1955, the War Department proposed to erect new gun practice ranges on the Round Down Cliff side of Great Farthingloe farm. There had been ranges along the south side of the valley and cliff top since the beginning of the War. The new ranges, they said, would be for the firing of rocket-propelled weapons and this caused public outrage. Albeit, the council were obliged to accept the proposal but did make stipulations. These included reassurances that live ammunition would not be left on the ranges, a baffle wall to keep down noise and they forbid army vehicles accessing the ranges by the Old Folkestone Road through the Aycliffe housing estate.

The Church Commissioners put Little Farthingloe Farm to auction in 1963 when it was stated that the 174 acre farm, had a good main residence, farm buildings and out buildings. At the time the tenants of Great Farthingloe farm was the Miller family who were great supporters of the Dover carnival and each year would enter a float with a thatched roof. When Peter Miller’s father died, his mother moved to the Gateway and Peter took over the running of the farm. However, on 4 December 1975 he died in tragic circumstances.

His close friend, Barry Sheppard, takes up the story. ‘While Peter’s wife was in hospital after giving birth to their first child, two soldiers from Folkestone who had been out for the night in Dover were walking back to barracks. When they reached Farthingloe, they were very cold and decided to seek refuge. They entered the cellar of the house, in which was stored straw. They lit a fire for warmth but it got out of hand. Peter’s bedroom was above and became filled with smoke. He and his faithful sheepdog died.’ The soldiers were from the 1st Royal Green Jackets, based at Shorncliffe, Folkestone. Rifleman Christopher Radmore age 23, a married man with two children, also died as a result of the fire. Great Farthingloe farmhouse was not badly damaged.

Map showing the National Trust landholdings at Farthingloe. National Trust 2014

Map showing the National Trust landholdings at Farthingloe. National Trust 2014

In 1979, National Trust purchased part of the 67-acre Great Farthingloe farm from the Ministry of Defence for £25,000. This included the top of Round Down Cliff. They also tried to purchase the beach below that was, by this time, owned by  British Railways, Southern Region. Although they were not interested in selling it, as they needed to retain access to the railway lines, an arrangement was made with the National Trust to look after it. Great Farthingloe farm remained a tenancy of the Ministry of Defence.

The following year, 1980, the Saxon Shore Way long-distance footpath opened. Starting at Gravesend, Kent, it follows the Southeast coast as it was in 3rd century AD when the Romans occupied Britain against marauding Saxons. The path is 163 miles (262 km) in length and finishes at Hastings, Sussex. At Farthingloe, the path runs along Round Down Cliff top having come from the Western Heights. Farthingloe, by this time, had become a tourist destination and for years there had been an accommodating caravan park next to the Plough Inn. In 1987, the pub owners, Beefeaters, applied for planning permission to build a 50 two-bed roomed Travel Lodge but this was refused. They applied again, two years later, having modified their plans to 32 bedrooms and permission was given. In 1995, they successfully applied to erect a second block of 32 bedrooms and in 2007, the pub underwent a major refurbishment. In the summer of 1990, a farm trail opened at Little Farthingloe farm that gave visitors and locals the chance to see a working farm.

Prior to building the Channel Tunnel, Eurotunnel had looked for a site for its construction workers camp. They did not get their ideal location at Aycliffe but accepted 36acres east of Great Farthingloe farm. Eurotunnel then made a bid to buy the land but the Ministry of Defence, who still owned it, declined. Dover District Council (DDC), were delighted at the decision over the location of the camp and hoped that the ‘after use’ of the site would be tourist related. The Chamber of Commerce also gave its backing, but made it clear that they saw the ‘after-use’ as an industrial/ business park.

Over the latter there was major opposition, not only from those who lived in the in the Valley but from Dover folk, Kent Trust for Nature Conservation and the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). The site under consideration was in an Area Of Natural Beauty (AONB) and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and therefore should be protected. Following discussions, the ‘after use’ of the site was dropped and temporary planning permission was given for a Channel Tunnel workers camp.

Archaeological work was undertaken at the site in advance of the camp being built but nothing of interest was reported. The Tunnel-related work involved the terracing of land up the slope and the construction of an access track to the Channel Tunnel workings at Aycliffe. The workers camp, which formally opened in 1988, contained some 1,600 rooms, in 38-bedroom blocks, cost Eurotunnel £9million and was nicknamed Stalag 15. There was a chapel dedicated to St Patrick in the 18th century thatched barn, spacious bars and a subsidised canteen.

Farthingloe -Workers Camp late 1980s. Dover Museum

Farthingloe -Workers Camp late 1980s. Dover Museum

Workers, earning on average £1,000 a week, paid £45 for this accommodation and the wartime Hougham battery complex was used for fire safety training. Ventilation shafts were built for the tunnel at the base of the cliffs and the spoil was deposited mainly along the foot of Round Down Cliff. Tunnelling was completed in 1991 and by 1993 the camp was empty. The contents were put for auction and each 38-bedroom block was sold for £16,000.

Proposed routes of the A20. January 1988

Proposed routes of the A20. January 1988

During this time, consideration was being given for the new A20 road to Dover’s Eastern Dock. Several routes were under discussion and there was a public inquiry in spring 1988. Nonetheless, the route chosen was the one preferred by the Department of Transport and stated by DDC Chief Executive John Moir, to the House of Lord Select Committee on 18 March 1987 (Hansard pp343-345), as the council’s preferred route. This is the route we see today going across the west of Farthingloe Valley, then along the cliffs separating Farthingloe from Round Down Cliff and Aycliffe from Shakespeare Cliff, then into Dover close to Western Docks. From there it separates the town from the seafront before finishing at Eastern Docks. Started in 1989 and completed in 1993 it cost £24mllion to build. It has since been stated that this was not DDC’s preferred route, that they wanted the link to the M20 via an improved A2 and A249.

Farthingloe Wastewater Treatment Works, Broomfield Bank. AS 2014

Farthingloe Wastewater Treatment Works, Broomfield Bank. AS 2014

Because of the new A20, the first major modification to Dover’s sewerage system took place in 1994. The original main outfall near Western Docks was replaced with a 1,500mm diameter concrete pipe. At about the same time a well-landscaped, virtually automatic water treatment plant was built on Broomfield Bank, on the north side of the Farthingloe Valley. This was completed in 1999 at the same time as the pumping station in Elizabeth Street was upgraded to take the town’s wastewater to Broomfield Park for treatment. Another change, due to the new A20, Folkestone Road was redesignated as B2011. As it was no longer a trunk road many of the former hotels and guest houses were turned into one-bedroom flats – which put an unforeseen strain on the new sewerage system!

With tourism in mind, a consortium of DDC, KCC, Eurotunnel, Kent Trust for Nature Conservation, Countryside Commission, Shepway District Council and the National Conservancy Council launched the White Cliffs Countryside Project in December 1989. Run by full time staff and volunteers, the initial aim was to attract more visitors to the area as well as protecting and managing areas directly affected by the Channel Tunnel. The Project, led by Dr Kirk Alexander, was scheduled to last three years but was so successful that it became permanent and the name was changed to White Cliffs Countryside Partnership (WCCP). The headquarters are at the Council Offices, Whitfield.

In 1998, the WCCP took over the management of Samphire Hoe, at the foot of Round Down Cliff, the 75 acres of newly created land from the Channel Tunnel spoil. Samphire, after which the Hoe is named, is a succulent plant that grows in crevices on the cliff face and used to be pickled as a delicacy. The samphire gatherers, mentioned earlier, drove iron bars into the top of the cliff, attaching a rope that they climbed down to gather the plant. They were immortalised by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in the tragedy, King Lear (Scene 6 Act 4):

‘There is a cliff, whose high and bandy head

Looks fearfully in the confined deep…

Show scarce so gross as beetles, halfway down

Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!

Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.

The fishermen that walk upon the beach

Appear like mice…’

Even though temporary planning permission had been given for the Channel Tunnel Workers camp before it was removed, Eurotunnel Developments Ltd applied for a further two-year extension to the temporary planning permission. By this time, it would appear that they owned the site on which they wanted to develop a high quality low-density business park. It was envisaged that the business park would provide 19,510 metres of office space and research accommodation and that the site would be landscaped to include a lake. The thatched barn was to be turned into a restaurant and belts of woodland were to be established. Actively supported by Dover’s Chamber of Commerce, outline planning permission was given and the designation of the site was changed from temporary to permanent. Renamed Farthingloe Technology Village, hard core was laid at the entrance to the site.

Farthingloe Valley showing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Openstreetmap

Farthingloe Valley showing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Openstreetmap

Nothing more happened until 2000 when a planning application was made by Eurotunnel Developments Ltd for a temporary call centre at the Technology Village. Thereafter, the holding appears to have been sold and various planning applications have been submitted all of which, it would seem, have been refused or withdrawn.  In March 1998, Old Park was formally bought by Dover Harbour Board (DHB) with the stated intention of creating a Lorry Park and Port Zone. The lorry park was desperately needed to ease congestion to Eastern Docks but it never materialised to any extent on that site. Then, in November 2005, DHB announced that they were going to build a £30million lorry park off the A20. Several sites were being considered all of which were met with opposition from environmental campaigners as they were designated AONB sites.

By this time much of the south side of Farthingloe valley was either in the hands of /or being considered by China Gateway International (CGI) – a development company. They had divided the south side of the Valley into four plots designated A to D. Plot C was at the west end and, they stated,  was, ‘subject, in part, to contractual arrangements that have been concluded with the Dover Harbour Board. This comprises an area of 135.94 acres and the Company has granted the Dover Harbour Board the option to acquire between 50 and 70 acres at a price of not less than £25,000 per acre which it proposes to use for the purpose of providing a buffer zone/marshalling area for the Port of Dover.’ 

CGI went on to say that the  lorry park was to alleviate traffic congestion at peak times and that, ‘the Dover Harbour Board will be obliged as a condition of the sale to provide a new entrance and exit from the land purchased onto the A20.’ According to Bob Goldfield, former Chief Executive of DHB, negotiations with CGI were terminated by DHB about 2008 when it was evident that DHB would not get planning permission for the proposed lorry park.

Site of the former Channel Tunnel Workers Camp, Farthingloe. AS 2014In 2012, CGI sought planning permission for a housing development around Great Farthingloe farm together with developments on Western Heights. This was outside DDC’s Core Strategy, adopted in 2010, and neither sites were listed in the supporting Strategic Housing Land Allocations Assessment. In the part of the planning application applicable to Farthingloe, CGI proposed to build 521 residential units, a 90-apartment retirement block and the conversion of the Great Farthingloe farm and thatched barn to pub/restaurant plus the conversion of the stable block to a retail shop. Although for many environmental and historic reasons, this was seen as detrimental to Dover, outline planning permission was given. For this DDC could receive monies on account of the New Homes Bonus fund – this is a levy on money raised from the development that can be spent on the District.

At the time of writing, Farthingloe remains one of the most historic, beautiful and enchanting areas close to Dover’s town centre, but for how long?

The story above was first present in on 21 November 2014 since then:


December 2015: The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) tried to gain a Judicial Review against the Farthingloe development proposals pointing out that it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and as such protected by law. However, Dover District Council (DDC) encouraged by, amongst others, the local Member of Parliament – Charles Elphicke, spent £75,000 of council taxpayers’ money to fight CPRE and won. As CPRE are a registered charity, they are obliged to pay £10,000 towards these costs. Further, the ruling has put in jeopardy AONB protected sites throughout the country.

This is the second precedent the DDC Planning Committee has set, not long ago they allowed a carwash to exist in close proximity to the 18th century Grade II* Listed Castle Hill House. One councillor was reported as saying that he voted for the carwash, as he could not hear it when he was in the local pub!

September 2016: Following a second attempt to gain a Judicial Review on the proposed Farthingloe Development the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) were successful in saving the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from developers.
Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Simon at the Court of Appeal quashed the planning application to build 521 homes and a 90 apartment retirement village. They said that  Dover District Council’s planning committee failed to give legally adequate reasons for granting permission, contrary to an officers’ recommendation which had made ‘trenchant criticisms’ of the density, layout and design of the proposed development.
They went on to say that the Council planning officers had made huge efforts to mitigate the harm while ensuring the scheme was still financially viable. They recommended a reduction in the number of homes to 375 and changes to the density and design to protect the most sensitive part of the landscape. This was ignored by both the developer, China Gateway, and the planning committee!

Useful contacts:

Campaign to Protect Rural England (Kent): http://protectkent.org.uk/

Kent Downs: www.kentdowns.org.uk

National Trust : www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-cliffs-dover/

White Cliffs Countryside Partnership: http://www.whitecliffscountryside.org.uk

The Womens Land Army Museum, Little Farthingloe Farm, Folkestone Rd, Dover, CT15 7AA


About Lorraine

I am a local historian, whose love of Dover has lead to decades of research into some of the lesser known tales that this famous and beautiful town has to tell.
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