The reporter sneered, ‘What did Wellington ever do for Dover that warrants a Doverhistorian.com tourist plaque in memory of him?’ Alan, a member of Doverhistorian.com, had suggested that one should be placed on the wall outside the headquarters of Dover Harbour Board at Harbour House on Waterloo Crescent. True much has been written about Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), on both his military accomplishments – particularly the Battle of Waterloo of 1815 – and his political career. Less has been written about his role as the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (pronounced ‘sink’) but there is the excellent book by Gregory Holyoake on Wellington at Walmer, Buckland Publications 1996. As for Wellington and Dover, he does feature in this author’s academically acclaimed book Banking on Dover, published in 1993 but there is little else until this article was uploaded!
The Duke of Wellington was installed as the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1829. The Cinque Ports originated during Saxon times (circa 450AD and 1066) as a loose confederation of the fishermen of Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich along the south east coast of England. Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) recognised both their seamanship and the ships they built were strong enough to withstand the conditions in the English Channel and the North Sea. In 1050 he proclaimed that the five towns (the two antient towns of Rye and Winchelsea joined later), would provide ‘ship service’. That was, 57 ships, fully manned for 15 days’ service a year, each port being allocated a share of the total burden. In return, the King gave the towns many rights and privileges and created the office of the Constable of Dover Castle as the protector of the Cinque Ports.
The Cinque Ports grew in both financial and political strength and in order to regain control, Henry III (1216-1272) created the office of the Warden of the Cinque Ports – it was not until 15th century that the post had the prefix Lord. William d’ Averanch was the first Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports and was appointed 12 March 1226. The Confederation of the Cinque Ports was legalised by Charter in June 1278 and the duty of the Warden was to maintain and defend the liberties of the Ports and to preside over the Court of Shepway. The latter was perhaps the most powerful instrument in discharging the duty, as the Warden was the King’s representative independent of the other Royal Courts. During the 14th century, some of the Wardens held office as Admiral, with command not only of the Cinque Ports ships but also of the whole of the English fleet.
Following the change from Warden to Lord Warden the office was synonymous as a reward to the greatest of the nobility and held for life. This role included the office of the Admiral of the Cinque Ports, presiding over the Cinque Ports Court of Chancery, the chief muster master of the Cinque Ports militia and with that the position of Lieutenant of Kent. The Lord Warden was given the right of flying the distinctive flag of his office in all the Cinque Ports and their Liberties and later the residence at Walmer Castle. These days, the position of Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports is the most ancient military honour available in England. The Duke of Wellington was appointed as the Lord Warden and Constable of Dover Castle on 20 January 1829.
Arthur Wellesley was born on 1 May 1769 in Ireland, probably Dublin. He was commissioned as an ensign in the British Army on 7 March 1787, rising through the ranks and following the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) becoming a Lieutenant-Colonel in September 1793. During the next few years, Arthur Wellesley played a significant part in some 60 battles and was noted for his organisational skills, perseverance and courage. A Tory, Wellesley was also interested in politics and was elected Member of Parliament for the Cinque Port of Rye in a by-election that took place in April 1806. A position he held until the general election in the following November, when he lost the seat.
Wellesley led the British Army in the Peninsula Wars (1808-1813) in Spain and Portugal against Napoleon (Emperor of France 1804-1814) and attained the rank of Field Marshal in June 1813. On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated with the signing of the Chaumont Peace Treaty. He was appointed the ambassador to France and was granted the Dukedom of Wellington. On 11 July 1814, Wellington was in Dover where he greeted the leader of the Prussian forces, Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742-1819), on the newly built Buckland Bridge. Neither men knowing that in less than a year they would be allies in the final defeat of Napoleon. In March 1815, Napoleon returned from Elba at the head of an army and the Wars resumed. Wellington spent much time in Dover reassembling his Army, having footwear made by Coultard and Wilson of Last Lane for his soldiers. Also battle orders printed by Mr Mate of the ancient former Dolphin Lane that ceased to exist in 2018, his premises were approximately where the Granada cinema stood until recently.
The Battle of Waterloo took place on 18 June 1815 following which Wellington landed in Dover on 23 June. He arrived in Dover Bay at about 03.00hrs in the sloop Rosario, and the guns on Western Heights were fired to welcome him! By the time the Rosario came into Dover harbour, the quays and piers were crowded. On landing at the Crosswall, the exultation was deafening and the Duke was lifted onto the shoulders of townsmen Henry Jell, Emanuel Levey and Thomas Birch. They carried the Duke to the Ship Inn, on Custom House Quay with the crowds cheering all the way. When they reached the Inn’s low entrance the three men refused to put the Duke down, instead they crouched so the Duke would not bump his head! Inside, Marshall Blücher was there to greet his friend and comrade.
Following the Wars, Wellington returned to politics and in 1819 was appointed Master-General of Ordnance and later Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. At the time the Prime Minister (1812-1827) was Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1770-1828). The Earl was also the Lord Warden a position that he held from 1806. During his last days as Prime Minister and for sometime after, there was political deadlock with two Prime Ministers of short duration holding the office. This ended on 26 January 1828 when the Duke of Wellington was appointed and it was during this term of office that Wellington earned the epitaph ‘Iron Duke,’ over his resolute stance on issues.
A year later Wellington was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle. Although, it is said that he dispensed with the formal installation this is untrue. The installation took place at Dover Castle on 28 July 1829 and was a splendid affair with royalty and many local and national dignitaries attending. On Thursday 15 October 1829, the Duke attended his first Dover Harbour Commission session held in the Council House on Council House Street in the then Pier District. This was presided over by Wellington as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and he wore the uniform of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, decorated with the Order of the Garter.
Attended by Robert Henry Jenkinson, a relative of the former Lord Warden and Deputy Warden of the Cinque Ports, and an entourage of dignitaries and officials, Wellington left the Ship Hotel on Custom House Quay for the Council House. A guard of honour was waiting and upon the arrival of the procession a salute of guns was fired from the Drop Redoubt Battery on Western Heights. Following the inaugural Session, Matthew Kennett – Mayor of Dover, John Shipdem – Register of the Harbour Commission along with Harbour Commissioners, Commanding Officer of the garrison and his men, the full town council, collector of customs and his officers etc., the entourage walked the full length of Snargate Street. The procession returned along the quays to the Ship Hotel. There, the dignitaries partook in an ‘elegant dinner’ at which ‘every delicacy the season afforded’ was served.
It was at the Lord Warden’s official residence, Walmer Castle, where Wellington was to spend as much time as possible and where he stuck to his renowned rigorous regime. This was getting up early, taking regular exercise, eating simple food, drinking in moderation and sleeping on a hard, uncurtained bed. He often invited guests to stay and besides his family, these included Queen Victoria (1837-1901), and Prince Albert (1819-1861), a number of favoured female friends and many illustrious personages of the time. Wellington retained all the servants at the Castle at his own expense and paid Mrs Norman, who had retired as the long-term housekeeper before Wellington took up the appointment.
From amongst the locals, Wellington had a small group of friends with whom he spent a great deal of time. They included, John Iron (1774-1867) – Dover harbour master, Henshaw Latham (1782-1843) – banker and treasurer of the Dover Harbour Commission, Thomas Pain – Register to the Admiral of the Cinque Ports, Daniel Peake (1766-1852) – senior Cinque Ports pilot, Luke Smithett (1801- 1871) – senior packet captain and James Worsfold (1795-1870) – the Commissioner of Salvage at the Admiralty Court. The men all lived in Dover and when asked why he enjoyed their company, Wellington is reported as saying that Deal and Walmer were poor places for information adding, ‘Now Dover, you always see somebody to tell you the news … or what he does quite as well, somebody you can quote for having told you it!’
As Admiral of the Cinque Ports, the Lord Warden presided over the Admiralty Court that met in St James Church on St James Street. There, all aspects of maritime law were judged and Wellington was noted for being ‘most punctual in his attendance at the Court.’ Under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court were the Court of Lodemanage and the administration of the Cinque Ports Pilots. Of his many other duties as Lord Warden, Wellington was not particularly interested but he did appoint ‘worthy occupants who took the responsibilities seriously.’
In June 1830 George IV (1820-1830) died, Parliament was dissolved and in the elections that followed, in his capacity as Lord Warden, Wellington could choose one of the two representatives. Wellington’s chose Sir John Rae Reid (1791-1867), who, although not a local man, Sir John owned a fleet of ships. On becoming one of Dover’s two Members of Parliament, he ensured that his ships used both Dover’s harbour and her mariners. Like his patron, Reid was a Tory and he was also the Governor of the Bank of England. The Freemen of Dover chose the other Member, and their choice was Tory, Charles Poulett Thomson. However, although Dover sent two Tory’s to Westminster, the Tory’s lost the election to the Whigs and Wellington was no longer Prime Minister.
As Admiral of the Cinque Ports, Wellington took his position seriously and many of the cases were of a routine nature. However, on one occasion, what appeared to be routine case turned out to be anything but! This concerned the disposal of a whale that had been driven into Whitstable Bay, north Kent, in the autumn of 1831. Whitstable was within the jurisdiction of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and the local fishermen, having secured the whale on the shore claimed salvage. James Worsfold – the Commissioner of Salvage at the Admiralty Court – advised Wellington to uphold their claim.
Not long after, much to everyones surprise, the Admiralty brought a high court case against Wellington, as Admiral of the Cinque Ports. He was accused of sanctioning the claim of salvage to which the fishermen were not entitled. The writ went on to say ‘the whale, like the sturgeon was a royal fish and therefore the property of the Crown.’ In court, Thomas Pain, the Register to the Admiral of the Cinque Ports, argued that although the whale belonged to the Sovereign, the Sovereign may transfer this right to another and in this case to the Lord Warden. He used a case that took place in 1668 as a precedent and the court upheld Wellington’s decision.
Wellington was known to be fair, and a legal stance on behalf of the Cinque Port Pilots was to set a precedent. The fraternity had existed since Saxon time, and from the beginning they took charge of ships traversing through the Cinque Ports area of Channel – one of the most dangerous seaways in the world. By 1495, the Dover pilots, as elsewhere, were governed by a set of tight rules that they were obliged to obey and on 20 May 1515, Henry VIII put the Cinque Ports Pilots on a formal footing that he sanctioned by Charter. Since 1526, the Lord Warden had adjudicated internal disputes of the Fellowship of the Cinque Ports Pilots. This over time was extended to external disputes resulting in the Court of Lodemanage.
Before Wellington was appointed Lord Warden, Lloyds Insurance of London was increasingly prosecuting Cinque Ports Pilots in the Admiralty Court in London on matters that seemed, to the pilots to be unjust. Daniel Peake – senior Cinque Ports pilot – told Wellington of this. Following one particularly unfair prosecution in 1832, Wellington instructed the Register, Thomas Pain, to write to John Bennett, the Secretary of Lloyds Insurance. In the letter Wellington made it clear that any complaint against the Cinque Port Pilots was to be addressed to him. And that such complaints were, ‘fully substantiated and that every circumstance bearing upon the particular case be brought and the circumstances states under oath, in order for a just and satisfactory decision.’(12.06.1832) The Cinque Ports Pilots thereafter held Wellington in high esteem.
Parliament was dissolved in June 1831 over the highly controversial Reform Bill. The country was in a volatile mood and Wellington’s London residence was attacked. In the next Parliament, when the Reform Bill was going through the final Reading in the House of Lords, Wellington, in order to avoid widespread riots and possible revolution persuaded Peers who felt the same as he, not to vote. The Bill became Law that year. In Dover, there was an election in 1832 and a by-election in 1833. In November 1834, the Whig Prime Minister, Viscount Melbourne, resigned and Wellington was temporarily appointed to the position on 17th of that month and in December, Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) became Prime Minister.
As Chairman of the Dover Harbour Commissioners, Wellington hardly ever missed a meeting and in the Board Room, Wellington installed his favourite chair. These days it can be seen at Harbour House on Waterloo Crescent. The continual problem of the Eastward Drift, that washed the shingle round the head of Dover Bay and into the harbour entrance, dominated most meetings. The autumn of 1833 was particularly noted for the number of gales with the inclement weather continuing throughout the winter bringing ‘unprecedented’ quantities of shingle that blocked the harbour mouth. At Christmas, the situation was so bad that the packet-boats were suspended for three days while the harbour was cleared. John Iron, the harbour master, suggested a resident engineer should be appointed to deal with the problem. Civil engineer Elias Pym Fordham of Sandover, Hertfordshire was given the job. Fordham was married to a granddaughter of Dover’s Samuel Taverner and appointed on the 25 April 1832.
Sir Henry Oxenden, a member of the Harbour Commission, had previously spent a great deal of time and his own money on trying to solve the problem of the Eastward Drift. At the time, the harbour was at the west end of the bay and comprised of the Tidal Basin – the main entrance and exit from the sea – the inner harbour or Bason and the non-tidal Pent into which the River Dour flowed. Oxenden made a number of recommendations that received the full approval of Wellington and the other Commissioners. Fordham was ordered to install new lock gates to the Bason and to clear the mud out of the Pent. The idea was that the deepened Pent water could be used to flush away the shingle from the Tidal harbour mouth. Fordham managed to have 19,926 tons of mud cleared from the Pent but the townsfolk were not happy, saying that the work was of little use, as ships could still not get in except at spring tides.
On New Year’s Day 1834, a public meeting was held at the Paris Hotel on Snargate Street with Councillor William Prescott, a grocer and tea dealer as chairman. Most of those who attended were particularly critical of the Harbour Commissioners saying that merchants paid port dues but because of the shingle bar and the lack of anything being done about it, were excluded from using what they paid for. The outcome of the meeting was that if nothing were done by 16 January 1834 to improve the condition of the harbour, further plans would be made.
Attending the meeting on behalf of Wellington, who was in Reading, was Henshaw Latham who besides being the Harbour Commission treasurer, headed one of Dover’s two banks and also a partner in one of the town’s major shipping companies. Also at the meeting was John Minet Fector junior (1812-1868), owner of the other of Dover’s two banks and also the owner of a major shipping line based in Dover; and Edward Rice (1790-1878) of Danes Court, Tilmanstone – a partner in the Latham bank/shipping business. Fector was a Tory and Rice a Whig and both had their eye on becoming the next second Member of Parliament for Dover.
The following day Latham sent an account of the public meeting to Wellington and on that same day, Rice contacted Sir Henry Oxenden who was a close friend of his mother Sarah Rice. Because of the distance involved, the correspondence with Wellington took time. This delay was interpreted by the townsfolk that nothing was being done. On Thursday 16 January a second meeting was held at the Town Hall in what was then the Market Place (now Square) and chaired by Humphrey Humphreys, owner of Stembrook tannery. Again, there was a good deal of criticism of the Harbour Commissioners but the meeting was also attended by Daniel Peake and other Cinque Ports pilots, who knew of Latham’s commitment to Dover becoming a Harbour of Refuge. Little notice was taken of the pilots and the next morning a petition was written and signed by solicitor George William Ledger who was the Town Clerk, and addressed to Wellington.
A few days later, a deputation, headed by the Mayor Joseph Pilcher and Humphries, went to see the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House, his London home. Five days later Thomas Telford (1757–1834) the Scottish-born engineer, road, bridge and canal builder arrived in Dover. He had been appointed by Wellington to examine, ‘existing works for the construction and maintenance of the harbour, and conversing with the engineer employed there … you should report your opinion, whether any other and what works ought to be constructed for the purpose of a harbour at Dover; at what expense; and, if you should think that the works now in existence are sufficient for the purpose, whether any additional means of operation could be given to them to render them efficient.’
Thomas Telford came to Dover, made an assessment and a number of suggestions. These came to £29,410 and to pay for them Latham, as treasurer, applied to the government for a loan of £16,000. The 1828 Dover Harbour Commissioners Act provided safeguards against personal liability that protected the Commissioners if they applied for a government loan. However, such loans had to be equally matched by finance from other sources. Harbour Commissioners William Osmond Hammond agreed to loan £2,500 at 4% per year, W F Grenville £3,500 and Sir Henry Oxenden £4,000 giving a total of £25,000. It was estimated that remainder of monies required could be met by tonnage dues – a tax on shipping passing through the Strait of Dover and imports and exports through the town of Dover.
The contract for the work was given to George Burge and the agreement was signed on 8 April 1834. Within a year the estimated cost for the works had risen to £31,905 6s 2d, however, during that time Thomas Telford had died on 2 September 1834. Wellington wrote to James Walker (1781-1862), the President of the Society of Engineers who accepted the invitation. Walker and Fordham did not get on well and in the end, Fordham resigned in November 1835 after which Walker became the resident engineer.
Because the plans for the proposed refurbishment of the Pent were in hand, Latham with the backing of Iron, Pain, Peake, Smithett, Worsfold and Rice started to sell the idea of Dover becoming a Harbour of Refuge to Wellington. Although Wellington recognised that a Harbour of Refuge was needed, he resolved that it should be on the Goodwin Sands side of the Downs off Deal. The Goodwin Sands are approximately 10-miles long and 2-miles wide but this varies as they are always shifting. They are soft, porous, tenacious quicksand and thus treacherous. The Downs is an 8-mile long channel approximately 4-miles wide between the East Kent coast and the infamous Sands that is safe for ships of those days to traverse except when a west-south-west wind blew. The first lightship, North Sand Head, went on station in 1795 at the Gull Stream – northerly entrance to the Downs. South Sand Head lightship did not go on station until 1832 and the East Goodwin lightship in 1874.
Although Wellington was adamant about the location of a Harbour of Refuge, he had quickly assimilated himself into the life of the town of Dover. He regularly visited schools to talk about his exploits on the field of battle and one particular school he returned to many times was situated at 8 Biggin Street. Locals had many stories of their interactions with the Duke and one concerned Wellington and his eldest son, Arthur Richard Wellesley, Marquess of Douro (1807-1884). He was in the Rifle Brigade and quartered in Dover during 1835.
The story goes that the Marquess frequently visited Squier’s Bazaar on Snargate Street and a favourite meeting place of the young affluent members of society and the officers quartered in the town. At the time, a Mr Reuban ran it and the Marquess was known to be remiss on paying his bills. Reuban, decided to send Wellington his son’s bill but instead of receiving the sum, received the following reply: ‘Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington in not the same person as the Marquess of Douro and declines to be the Collector of Mr Reuben’s debts.’ Wellington signed the letter for which Reuben was offered £5 but refused to sell it. Instead he had it framed and put it on show where it attracted customers who spent more than the original bill! Later Douro Place, which still exists, was named after Wellington’s eldest son.
The next general election took place in 1835 and as well as John Rae Reid, Tory John Minet Fector junior was elected with Whig, Edward Rice, coming third just 21 votes behind. In Parliament, the Whigs were in power. Dover harbour was one of the main issues during the election as the works that James Walker was undertaking were seen as much too slow. Further, the Harbour Commissioners, including Wellington, were becoming increasingly reluctant to commit to any more money to the project.
Henshaw Latham, suggested that they could promote a Bill through Parliament for the Harbour of Refuge at Dover which, if agreed, would enable the 1828 Harbour Act to be amended so that a total of £60,000 borrowing without matching funding could be included. Latham presented an excellent case for a Harbour of Refuge starting by showing that 1,573 vessels had been stranded or wrecked off Dover between 1833-1835. That 129 vessels were missing or lost and in the case of 81 vessels, the entire crew had drowned.
Although, Wellington was convinced that the Harbour of Refuge should be off Deal he agreed and a Bill to this effect was promoted in Parliament. When it came to the Second Reading in the House of Commons, John Fector junior moved that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. This, he argued, would give the inhabitants of Dover an opportunity to declare whether or not they were satisfied with the Constitution of the Dover Harbour Commission. So instead of gaining the powers the Commission sought, Wellington, Latham and the Harbour Commissioners found themselves the subject of scrutiny.
The Parliamentary Committee sat between 12 May and 7 June 1836 and examined nineteen witnesses including Henshaw Latham, John Shipdem, Daniel Peake, Captain Edward Boxer (1784-1855) – Royal Navy, William Cubitt (1785–1861) – Civil Engineer and Government Witness, Philip Going – Ship owner, Robert Hammond – Warden of the Pilots, Philip Hardwicke – solicitor and Receiver of Harbour Rents, John Hawkins – Clerk of Works, Humphrey Humphries, John Iron, Captain Harry David Jones – Royal Engineer and Government Witness, Isaac Pattison – Harbour Pilot, John Benjamin Post – Cinque Ports Pilot, William Prescott, James Walker, Richard Wardle – Engineer’s Assistant, Edward Rice and Lieutenant Benjamin Worthington – Royal Navy and author of a plan to improve the harbour.
Although all of the above supported the notion of a Harbour of Refuge at Dover some, egged on by John Fector junior, wanted the Harbour Commission abolished. This line of reasoning, however, detracted from the argument for a Harbour of Refuge but did not lead to the abolition of the Harbour Commission. Independently, a Parliament Select Committee was set up to investigate every aspect of shipwrecks and in the general election of 1837, Dover voted in favour of Edward Rice and rejected John Fector junior.
Throughout the 1836 Hearing, Wellington watched or was kept informed of the proceedings for he was heavily involved in two other parliamentary issues. The first was the South Eastern Railway Bill that was seeking approval and received Royal Assent on 21 June 1836. This Wellington backed on behalf of Dover and stating that if the problem with the harbour entrance could be solved then it could be assumed that the Railway Company’s main passage to France would be from the port of Dover.
The second issue was the Pilotage Bill. In 1833, the House of Commons had conducted an inquiry into the distress of Dover and Deal boatmen that had been displaced by the pilot cutters. Making provisions for the boatmen, the number of Cinque Ports pilots allowed by legislation had been curtailed. The Pilotage Bill took this one stage further, arguing in favour of boatmen taking over the work of pilots between the South Foreland and Dungeness. Many ship owners backed this, as boatmen were much cheaper than the professional pilots. Wellington fought hard on behalf of the Cinque Ports pilots and the Bill was not sanctioned. However, in 1835, a Royal Commission was set up to look at pilotage and this resulted in the Pilotage Act of 1836 that recommended the appointment of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, Deptford, as the central licensing body. It also called for the abolition of the Cinque Ports pilots but Wellington ensured that this was not implemented.
To celebrate 10 years as Lord Warden, on Friday 30 August 1839, the town of Dover held a large banquet in honour of the Duke of Wellington. Mayor of Dover, Edward Pett Thompson, was the chairman of the Banquet Committee and a design for a pavilion was commissioned from local architect, Mr Edmunds. The pavilion covered 20,420 square feet, required 400 loads of timber, was made waterproof by the use of tarred cartridge paper and took 100 men sixty days to build. It was erected in the Priory Meadow, on the site of the present Norman and Saxon Streets opposite the Maison Dieu and cost £12,200.
The entrance to the pavilion was decorated with, ‘Military Insignia, Painting, Tapestry and Banners and with the arms and armour from the Tower of London.’ Inside, at the centre was a 40-foot square, the sides of which the seats rose in the effect of an amphitheatre. Pink and white striped drapery covered the internal walls and coats of arms of the Lord Wardens from Earl Godwyn down to the Duke of Wellington, were hung on them. Chandeliers were hung from the rafters and the pillars were decorated with stars of bayonets, groups of muskets and ancient armour. William Burgess (1805-1861) was commissioned to make drawings, engravings and paintings recording the event.
On the morning of the banquet, six passage ships were commissioned to convey two thousand passengers from Ramsgate and Margate to watch the event. Another passage ship brought sightseers from Rye. Those invited, were due to sit down at 17.30hrs and half an hour before, Wellington, escorted by the 27th Regiment under the Command of Captain Smith – who had been at Waterloo – came into town from the direction of the Castle. The Duke was resplendent in his Lord Warden’s uniform. The streets of Dover were crowded and everyone who attended was met with loud cheers. As Wellington arrived at the venue a salute of guns were fired from the garrison on Western Heights.
The banquet cost over £3,000 and 2,250 people sat down for the meal but as always in those days, the ladies sat apart from the men. They were only given a pudding of jelly and ice cream. All were charged 1½guineas (£1.57pence) to attend but the knives had gold handles and were borrowed from a firm in London! There were twenty-six tables accommodating 25 men at each, twenty-six accommodating 23 men, one accommodating 124 and the Duke‘s table that accommodated 172 men. The menu for these men included roasted freshly killed venison provided by Francis North 6th Earl of Guilford (1772-1861), 29 quarters of lamb, 56 dishes of roast veal, 56 dishes of boiled beef, 28 dishes of roast beef, 240 roast chickens, 40 turkeys, 28 hams, 56 tongues, 240 venison pies, 20 pigeon pies, 200 lobsters, salads, puddings, fruit pies and a bottle of wine for each guest.
Six days later a grand ball was held in the pavilion for which 940 guests bought tickets. Music was provided by the bands of the 27th and 90th Regiments. Attending both, besides local officials, were the aristocrats, gentry, dignitaries of the county and the country. It was reported that the Duke and his party enjoyed the dancing from 21.00hrs to after midnight and that the ball continued until the early hours. A medal was struck in honour of the celebrations; on the obverse was the head of the Duke and on the reverse, the Castle and the Arms of the Cinque Ports.
A few months later, on 10 February 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Prince had travelled to Dover four days before on the steam packet Ariel, captained by Luke Smithett and escorted by HMS Firebrand. On arrival at the harbour, Wellington, the Harbour Commissioners and local dignitaries met the Prince. In 1842, the former home of brewer Mr Walker on Biggin Street, was converted into a pub and called the Prince Albert, to mark the occasion. There is an elaborate inscription on the building to this effect.
During the Peninsula Wars, Dr William Sankey was an Army surgeon attached to the Rifle Brigade. There he distinguished himself and the Duke of Wellington mentioned him in despatches. On leaving the army, the doctor settled in Dover and in the late 1830s put forward the idea to Wellington of what became Camden Crescent. The land was reclaimed and under the Harbour Commission Charter of 1606, as such, it belonged to them. Wellington fully endorsed the scheme and the first house was built in 1840. It was Sankey who suggested that the terrace should be named after John Jeffreys Pratt, 1st Marquess Camden (1759-1840), the Lord Lieutenant of Kent and at the time, a member of the Harbour Commission and to this Wellington agreed.
The Parliament Select Committee that was set up to investigate every aspect of shipwrecks, concluded that Harbours of Refuge were needed and that one should be on the south east Kent coast. The Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel – the Tory Prime Minister – and Lloyds Insurance all favoured this to be in the vicinity of the Goodwin Sands, off Deal. The Parliamentary Whigs favoured it to be in the Folkestone/Hythe Bay. Only Whig Edward Rice in Parliament and those who backed Henshaw Latham at the Inquiry wanted it in the Dover Bay.
The Goodwin Sands plan had been put forward by civil engineer, William Bush, who suggested that the entire sandbank could be surrounded by a series of cast-iron caissons. These would be sunk 30-feet below the sands on what was believed to be chalky subterranean and then the whole area inside would be pumped dry. The floor of the area would be lined with granite surrounded by a permanent granite seawall. This would be flooded to provide a Harbour of Refuge and at the entrance would be an 86-foot high cast iron lighthouse bolted onto a caisson. The lighthouse was to be surmounted by a 40-foot lantern house, topped with a life size statue of Queen Victoria and called ‘Light of All Nations.’
Wellington’s close friends in Dover, John Iron, Daniel Peake, Thomas Pain, Luke Smithett, and James Worsfold along with Henshaw Latham tried to dissuade the Lord Warden but the Iron Duke was resolute. Further, Wellington put a lot of his own money into Bush’s project. In autumn 1841 the first caisson, built at Thorncliffe Iron Works Chapeltown near Sheffield Yorkshire, was towed in sections to Deal. The sections were bolted together and on 18 September, Wellington along with a number of engineers, dignitaries and friends including Henshaw Latham, watched the as an attempt was made to tow the gigantic caisson out to the Goodwins. The exercise failed.
A month later, an attempt was made to move it from Deal beach but the towing vessel ran aground. As a result, the caisson was taken back to Deal where it was sank off the pier. In July 1842, another attempt was made and was successful. Three months later the caisson was struck by the Nancy, a cargo ship that sank, losing all hands and over turning the caisson. Eventually, the caisson was corrected, a gigantic lighthouse was built on it and a celebration supper was held inside. What happened next, according to Sir John Henry Pelly (1777-1852), Deputy Master of Trinity House in his evidence to the June 1845 Parliamentary Committee on Lighthouses, was that the lighthouse was badly situated. It was on the Goodwin Sands where it was leading ships into danger. Trinity House ordered the project to be abandoned and the Light of All Nations to be demolished.
As Wellington’s pet scheme started to fail he increasingly backed Rice in Parliament and eventually the Tory Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, appointed another Committee. This was under Sir Thomas Byam Martin (1873-1854), a Conservative stalwart. The Hearings started on 1 May 1844 and both Rice and Latham gave evidence. On 7 August that year, the Commission published its report and it was recommended that Dover should be the Harbour of Refuge and a national naval base.
Although that inquiry did not have subsequent results, a second in 1846 did and in 1847, approval was given for four large Harbours of Refuge – Holyhead, Portland, Alderney and Dover. By that time Latham was dead but the others who backed him including Rice, attended a celebration dinner along with Wellington at Walmer Castle. The construction of the Admiralty Pier started in April 1848 and Wellington rode over from Walmer as often as he could to watch over the progress.
Throughout this time, the South Eastern Railway line was being constructed towards Dover but from Folkestone the going was slow as Round Down cliff had to be blown out of the way and the Shakespeare Cliff and Archcliffe tunnels had to be excavated. Engineer William Cubitt superintended the tunnels but excavating for the Shakespeare Cliff tunnel was proving a problem. The chalk was not as sound as first thought. Cubitt opted for two single-line tunnels 12-feet wide, 30-feet high, 10-foot apart and 1,331 yards in length with lancet arches. During the course of construction, Wellington was equally as attentive as he was over Admiralty Pier and frequently visited. As Archcliffe tunnel was being built (now gone), Wellington was assured that changes to Archcliffe Fort were militarily advantageous. The railway line was completed by 27 January 1844 and on Tuesday 6 February, it was officially opened.
That year Wellington was again in Parliament backing the cause of the Cinque Ports Pilots against a move to replace them with boatmen. In 1844, to make way for the South Eastern Railway track, the Cheeseman’s Head pilot station was demolished and with Wellington’s full approval and financial help a highly ornate pilot’s station, built of stone and standing on a bed of concrete 10 feet thick, opened in 1848. The following year (1849), the Pilotage Bill centred once again on disbanding the Cinque Ports Pilots and their job being given to boatmen. Wellington, actively backed Rice during the Bill’s progress through the House of Commons and that part of the Bill floundered!
The works on the Pent reached fruition in 1844 and cost about £45,000. They included the construction of a new entrance from the outer tidal harbour and an entrance into the Pent through giant 60ft lock gates on Union Street. To do this, the York Hotel, two pubs, a row of high quality residential housing and the Amherst battery were all demolished. Nearly 20,000 tons of mud was removed over a three-year period to deepen the Pent. It was then lined with granite and over the lock gates, an iron bridge was built.
In 1846, Wellington retired from political life and on the 13 November that year, he formerly opened the scheme. The Pent was renamed Wellington Dock and the swing bridge, Wellington Bridge. The winch mechanism, installed in 1845, to operate the lock gates can still be seen. Once operational, the Wellington Dock proved to a financial blessing with the revenue from Passing Tolls increasing to £10,000 a year. The year following a 2-foot high marble bust of the Duke of Wellington was sculptured by Dover stonemason, James Jarvist, and much admired.
Fair progress had been made on the building of Admiralty Pier and Wellington inspected the progress frequently. John Iron, James Walker and Henry Lee – the building contractor – usually escorted him. Wellington kept them on their toes firing numerous questions and making observations. On one occasion, when the weather was particularly rough, he turned to Walker saying, ‘I don’t question your plans at all; but make it strong! Make it strong!’ On another occasion in August 1849, when about 650-feet from the shore was completed, Iron told Wellington that the construction had reached the true tide. This was not only having a calming effect on the sea on the eastward side but was permanently keeping the shingle, brought by the Eastward drift, out of the harbour mouth. Thus, the harbour entrance had been deepened by 3-feet.
However, there was evidence that as the Pier progressed it was giving rise to flooding in the town. As the Chairman of the Harbour Commissions, Wellington was aware of the problem and had sanctioned a protective seawall from the base of the new Pier along the sea front to the Boundary Groyne opposite Guilford Battery – where the Harbour Commissioners jurisdiction ended.
On Tuesday 8 October 1850 an intense storm, centred on Dover, severely damaged much of the works that had been undertaken on Admiralty Pier. Piles, 18-inches square were snapped and three huge diving bells were carried away to sea – two were later found. At daybreak, the bay was strewn with fragments of timber and machinery including broken cranes air-pumps and traversers. Wellington rode from Walmer to inspect the damage. Repairs were undertaken and on 14 June 1851, the steamer Father Thames, tied up at the Admiralty Pier and landed 50 passengers.
It was in the evening of Wednesday 28 August 1850 that Wellington rode to Dover from Walmer to inspect a new contraption but had been delayed, which annoyed him as he was always meticulous in his timing. Irritated, he arrived a few minutes past 21.00hrs at the South Eastern Railway Town Station, on Beach Street in the Pier District, and entered a horsebox in a siding. Inside, there was great jubilation for only minutes before the first Channel Submarine Cable telegraphed message from England to France, dictated by the Dover Mayor, Steriker Finnis, had been sent. This should have been undertaken by Wellington. Alas, he was not there to perform the honour.
The message said, ‘The Ancient Ports of Dover and Calais must be the great highway of communication with the whole Continent; in fact, the whole world!’ The epoch-making experiment had cost approximately £2,000, the news of which quickly spread. Wellington returned to the horsebox the following day to inspect the apparatus and hopefully to send a message, but during the night the cable had been cut by a fisherman close to the French coast, so once again Wellington was unable to send a message.
The following year, on 24 September 1851, the permanent cable was laid from the South Foreland, St Margaret’s to Cap Gris Nez near Wissant. By this time, the Submarine Telegraph Company had opened a temporary office under the Castle walls and Wellington had visited on several occasions. On that day in 1851, Wellington had a meeting in Harbour House and was to catch the train to London at 14.00hrs to attend a function on behalf of the Queen. It was agreed that if the connection were made before Wellington left Dover a telegraphed signal from Calais would trigger a gun of salute from Western Heights. The gun used was a 32-pounder loaded with ten pounds of powder. The telegraph connection was made just as Wellington’s train was pulling out of the station and the signal was sent. The loud retort reverberated around the town and the cannon ball landed in the Bay creating a ‘tidal wave’ that precipitated another flood! Clearly the days before ‘blanks’ were the preferred option!
On Saturday 11 September 1852, Wellington made his usual trip by horseback to check out the progress of the Admiralty Pier and returned to Walmer that same evening. Early on the following Tuesday morning of 14 September, the Duke was to due to meet one of his women friends, Priscilla Anne Fane, Countess of Westmoreland (1793-1879) in Dover. However, on waking Wellington had severe chest and stomach pains and told his valet, Mr Kendall, to call the apothecary. Mr Hulke from Deal arrived at 09.00hrs, diagnosed indigestion and prescribed dry toast and tea. Wellington’s younger son Charles (1808-1858) was at Walmer Castle and persuaded his father to postpone his trip to Dover. His eldest son, Marquess of Douro, was in Baden-Baden south-western Germany at the time. By late morning, Wellington’s condition had deteriorated and he lost consciousness. At 15.30hrs, Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington died, he was aged 83.
Wellington instructed that he should be buried at St Mary’s Church, Walmer but Parliament and public opinion thought otherwise. His body was left at Walmer Castle while arrangements were made for a State funeral. During this time, the Duke’s family and national dignitaries went to Castle and on 9 and 10 November ordinary folk were allowed to file pass the Duke’s body. On the evening of 11 November 1852, Wellington’s body was taken from Walmer Castle in a hearse drawn by four black plumed horses to the Town Station in Dover. Silent crowds lined the route. At the railway station, James Macgregor (1808-1858) chairman of South Eastern Railway Company met the cortège and the 21.15hrs train took the coffin to London.
There, Wellington lay in State in the Great Hall of Chelsea Hospital until the evening prior to the funeral when his body was taken to the Audience Room of the Horse Guards. At 07.30hrs the following morning, Thursday 18 November, a long procession led by six battalions of 600-strong infantry soldiers and included the Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenant of Dover Castle together with the captains of Deal, Sandown, Sandgate and Walmer Castles, wended its way to St Paul’s Cathedral. There, after a magnificent service, Wellington was buried next to Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). The Mayors and other officials of the Cinque Ports were in attendance including Thomas Birch, who had carried the Duke on his shoulders when he landed in Dover after the Battle of Waterloo.
The last of the pilots Court of Lodemanage was held at St James’ Church on 21 October 1852 after which the church was allowed to deteriorate for want of money. On Wellington’s death, the Cinque Ports Pilots were brought under the jurisdiction of the Master and Brethren of Trinity House Deptford but remained a separate body. On that October day, the town turned out to mourn the passing of both Wellington and the Cinque Ports Pilots. A procession, headed by the senior Warden – the Master of the Court of Lodemanage – followed by all the pilots, including those who had retired from St Mary’s Church to St James Church. The pilots were wearing their ceremonial blue coats and primrose waistcoats adorned with gilt buttons.
The pilots were followed by the Mayor and all the civic dignitaries in their apparel, officers and men in full dress uniform from both the Castle and Western Heights, all those involved in the maritime aspects of Dover in their appropriate formal dress including the Harbour Commissioners. It seemed as though all the inhabitants of Dover, who were not in the procession, lined the route and all were dressed in full mourning. At St James Church, a formal service was held and then, retracing their steps, they returned to the Market Place. There, the pilots left the procession going into the nearby Antwerp Hotel, for a wake that lasted many hours and most had to be carted home! The remainder of the procession marched to the Town Hall (In the late 20th century it once again became known as the Maison Dieu) for a more formal wake.
The Duke of Wellington, as Lord Warden, had a huge impact on Dover and following his death, numerous places were named after him, from streets to pubs and hotels, from a brewery to arcades and social halls. Many have now gone but Wellington Dock can still be seen and Lord Warden House, formerly the Lord Warden Hotel was named after him. Wellington was active in promoting Dover’s first railway line and when the nearby Marine Station was due to close in 1994 the Britannia class, Iron Duke – 70014, hauled the last passenger train to use the station.
Three cannons used at the Battle of Waterloo and given to the town by former Mayor Matthew Pepper can be seen outside the Maison Dieu. Inside, the Coat of Arms of past Lord Wardens can be seen around the Stone Hall and include Wellington’s. Old St James Church, in which the Admiralty Court and the Court of Lodemanage was held, was badly damaged during World War II but the ruins can be explored. The Bench used by the Court of Lodemanage was restored following the War and can now be seen in the Museum along with the portrait of Wellington by John Lilley (active 1832-1853) paid for by public subscription in 1837. The full-length painting was reduced to a head and shoulders in 1973. This cost £70, by a council vote of 7 to 3, without any assessment being made of its value.
The elegant Waterloo Crescent on the Seafront, which includes the Dover Harbour Board headquarters, was built between 1834 and 1838 and so named in honour of the then Lord Warden – the Duke of Wellington. A painting of Wellington, bought by the Harbour Commission is displayed in Harbour House and Wellington’s chair on which the inscription reads:
Dover Harbour Board
This Chair was used by his grace
The Duke of Wellington K.G.
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports 1829-1852
When presiding at the Harbour Sessions at Council House Street, Dover.
To date, Dover Society has declined to promote a blue plaque in recognition of the Duke of Wellington’s association with Dover. By the time the cynical reporter had read the above story, he was convinced they should change their minds!
- 31 March 2015