In our family album, my father and grandparents visited Kent and Sussex for a holiday in 1948. This was a time of great change and transformation in those counties as they, and the rest of the country, recovered from the devastation of World War II.
Canterbury, the historic cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site underwent a significant transformation post-war. The city had suffered considerable damage during the conflict, particularly during the infamous Baedeker raids in 1942, which targeted culturally significant cities. As a result, 1948 was a year of rebuilding and renewal for Canterbury, with efforts focused on restoring its historic buildings and infrastructure.
One of the most significant changes was the construction of new housing estates, designed to provide homes for those who had been displaced. This was a key part of the Atlee government’s wider “Homes for Heroes” campaign, which aimed to improve living conditions for the British people post-war. Additionally, the city’s infrastructure was improved, with new roads and bridges being built to replace those that had been destroyed during the conflict.
As one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England, Canterbury Cathedral was a symbol of hope and resilience in 1948. The cathedral had suffered damage during the war, with the cathedral library being destroyed in the Baedeker raids. However, the iconic Bell Harry Tower, which stands at an impressive 235 feet, remained largely intact and became a symbol of the city’s enduring spirit.
Pictured from the south my grandparents captured three of the 525ft long cathedral’s towers, with the Harry Bell Tower to the right. Because of the narrow streets of three and four-story buildings nearby, the photograph must have been taken within the cathedral precinct on a piece of greenery since flattened for the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. You can have a look around here.
The Bell Harry Tower was designed by John Wastell and completed in 1498. This central tower is also known as Angel Tower. The original bell, given in 1288, is called Bell Harry and is situated on the tower’s roof. Made of nearly half a million bricks and covered in Caen stone, the tower stands 235 feet tall with 120-foot pinnacles. Although public access is limited, special visits through a small door and 277 narrow steps are sometimes allowed.
Archbishop John Morton was instrumental in organizing the tower’s construction, and his rebus can be seen in the exterior stonework. The tower features a hamster wheel and winding gear, used for lifting bricks, stone, and tools to the ceiling until the 1970s. The present bell weighs 1 cwt and is housed in a metal cage on the roof, operated by an electromechanical hammer.
Apart from Bell Harry, Canterbury Cathedral has over 20 bells located at the top of the tower and in the North West Tower. The tower offers impressive views both within and outside the cathedral.
In 1948, restoration work was ongoing at the cathedral, with a focus on preserving its historical and architectural integrity. The cathedral’s famous stained glass windows, some dating back to the 12th century, were carefully cleaned and restored, ensuring that they could continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
As for the rest of Canterbury in the modern day, frens who live there report it’s full of tramps and boarded-up shops.
Heading east from Canterbury after 18 miles we reach the seaside at Ramsgate.
The town played a crucial role during World War II as it was the primary embarkation point for the evacuation of British and Allied troops from Dunkirk in 1940. Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour, which was designated a Royal Harbour by King George IV in 1821, was a key strategic location throughout the war.
Beneath the headline ‘They Went to Dunkirk – Presentation to Ramsgate Lifeboat Crew’, the 2nd September 1941 edition of the Thanet Advertiser and Echo reported of the RNLI’s role in the evacuation from Dunkirk,
‘Two of the institution’s 19 lifeboats which took part, those of Ramsgate and Margate went straight to Dunkirk manned by their own crews, the Ramsgate boat was in service for 40 hours and helped bring off 2,800 men.
The Margate boat was out for over 21 hours and remained until up and down the beach the coxswain could not see a boat left afloat. She eventually returned to her station, having borough off 600 men. Both the Ramsgate and Margate coxswains received the Distinguished Service Medal.’
The Ramsgate crew were subsequently honoured at a presentation at the town’s Mockridge restaurant. Each of the nine men was awarded a specially engraved plaque, after which Coxswain Howard Knight DSM summed up the feelings of the crew when he said, ‘There is only one thing I can say – we just did our duty.’
Puffins can draw their own comparison with the Institute’s current role in the Channel.
Captioned ‘The Bounty, Ramsgate,’ the above photograph isn’t HMS Bounty, or a replica, but a sailing ship called Bounty.
People who know about such things inform me we’re looking at an iron-hulled barque (square-rigged on the fore and main masts with fore and aft sails on the mizzen mast) built in Sunderland in 1875 and originally called the Alastor.
The 21 May 1946 edition of the Thanet Advertiser and Echo informs us her presence in Ramsgate was the romantic idea of a master mariner, Capt W Lancaster. The barque had been lying at Burnham-on-Crouch before being renamed, painted black and white and converted into a floating restaurant.
During her previous life more interesting and being all of 196 feet in length and 850 tons in weight, her original Shoreham owners used he to carry emigrants to Australasia. She made at least two voyages to Auckland in the 1870s and was dismasted in a hurricane in the 1880s.
In the early 1900s she was sold to Norway, came under a Finnish flag in 1928, and from then until the war carried timber from Finland to London. Towards the end of the war, she was used a British Government store at Tollesbury before being converted into a floating restaurant which operated in Ramsgate from 1946 to about 1951. She was broken up in 1952.
Her more famous namesake, HMS Bounty was built as a collier in Hull in 1784. Originally known as the Bethia she was purchased by the Navy in 1787 and converted to Her Majestys Armed Vessel Bounty upon the addition of 4 four-pounder cannon and ten swivel guns. Her mission? To liberate breadfruit from the south sea islanders and proceed to the West Indies where the said fruit could be used as seed to feed recently arrived fruit-picking West Africans looking for a better life.
En route, there was a mutiny in 1789 led by acting lieutenant Fletcher Christian against the ship’s captain, William Bligh. The mutiny resulted in Captain Bligh and his loyal crew members being set adrift in a small boat, while the mutineers took control of the Bounty and eventually settled on Pitcairn Island. The story of the mutiny has been immortalized in several books and films, including the 1935 film ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ and the 1962 film of the same name.
For the 1962 film, which starred Marlon Brando, a replica was built. This was an enlarged reconstruction of the original ship and was built in 1960 for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio.
The ship was constructed by the Smith and Rhuland shipyard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, under the supervision of shipwrights and film producers to ensure historical accuracy and authenticity.
Larger than the original, she featured a distinctive livery, a broad black wale above the waterline, dark blue sides, and yellow strakes. This fully functional ship came with auxiliary engines and was capable of hoisting a massive spread of canvas on its three masts.
After filming, the ship became a permanent tourist attraction in St. Petersburg, Florida, until it was acquired by TV mogul Ted Turner in 1986. In 1993, Turner donated the ship to the Fall River Chamber Foundation, Massachusetts, which operated it until 2000. During its time, the ship visited different ports, participated in tall ships events, dockside sail training programmes and heritage programming.
The vessel even appeared in other films, such as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.’
Later, the HMS Bounty Organization purchased the ship for a massive restoration. Unfortunately, the ship sank during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 off the coast of North Carolina.
The US Coast Guard managed to rescue 14 of the 16 crew members, but unfortunately, one crew member, Claudene Christian, who claimed to be a descendant of Fletcher Christian, was found deceased, and the captain, Robin Walbridge, was never found.
As for the original captain, not the easiest of people to get on with, Bligh, as one would expect of a gentleman of his standing, was exonerated by the Admiralty and eventually dispatched to Australia to stop him from causing any more bother.
As the fourth Governor of New South Wales, he proved himself capable of starting a fight in an empty continent as well as an empty ocean by over-enthusiastically challenging the local illicit trade in rum. The resulting Rum Rebellion saw an armed takeover during which 400 soldiers marched on Government House and arrest the governor.
Bligh survived another court-martial (he faced a total of four during his service) and was promoted to mapping Dublin Bay.
The family album location is fairly easy to find in the modern day. If we look closely behind the Bounty restaurant we can see a building with a clock tower which is the maritime museum. To the left is a white building which must be the Royal Victoria Pavilion.
This Grade II-listed structure was designed by architect Stanley Davenport Adshead in 1903 and built in the style of a Robert Adam orangery. These days it is a giant Wetherspoons and can be viewed here. Dear God.
© Always Worth Saying 2023