"Discover Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh" of Folkestone has a total of 2 reviews with an average score of 5
21st, Mar 2018
Discover Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh
Childhood Memories of Encombe as it was in 1955
My father was a branch manager in the Abbey National Building Society and I was told at the time that his employers had repossessed Encombe House because the owners had defaulted on their repayments because of the severe subsidence problems. There was even talk of the whole place sliding inexorably towards the cliff edge although that was probably an exaggeration.
The Abbey was then left with an investment that was literally on borrowed time so they opted to use it for a few years as a hotel for employees and their families. I imagine that dad was offered some sort of discount because we never stayed in hotels at that time at all. These are just some of the memories of an 11 year old lad that stayed there on two separate occasions.
We had no car in those days so we travelled down by train from Guildford with a cabin trunk of our stuff sent on ahead, the first visit would have been in 1955 I think.
I remember being amazed at the Italian style of the building not to mention the size of it. Our room was a south facing one and had a wonderful view of the sea. I say our room because all 5 of us, mum, dad, my two brothers and myself all shared the same room which was probably a good indication of post war austerity! I used to wake up in the morning to the sound of the sea on a shingle beach accompanied by the cooing of wood pigeons in the pine trees outside our window and that is still an evocative sound for me.
We boys loved the freedom that we had to roam around the building and its extensive grounds which we soon explored. For us it was almost as if we were the first people to see these things even though we knew that was clearly impossible.
I loved to enter the library that always seemed to be unoccupied and to settle down in a club armchair and select one of the leather bound books for a quiet read – I remember reading the Last of the Mohicans in that way.
Whenever we walked into Encombe there was always a massive incomplete jigsaw in progress, set up on a large table in the hall area and almost everyone stopped to place a piece or two as they passed through.
I recollect that on at least two occasions the guests initiated a “Doing the Lambeth Walk” routine through this and adjacent rooms which, coming from a rather strait laced home, really seemed like letting one’s hair down to me. It was also something of a revelation for me to see the bonhomie and back slapping between dad and his less restrained colleagues, some of whom also knew mum when she used to work at The National building Society before the war.
One of the best finds was to discover a games room that was accessed via an external staircase on the northeast corner of the building where there was a table tennis table etc. I do not remember ever seeing any other guests there.
Another feature that we appreciated was what we called the cloisters where we could play when the weather was more inclement.
One evening we made one of the family’s almost unheard of visits to “The Pictures” in Folkestone to see ‘Reach for the Sky’ a film telling the story of Douglas Bader the WW2 air ace who lost his legs and continued operational flying against all the odds. In fact my younger brother Brian, who would have been 7 at the time, was so enamoured of the whole story that he was heard to wish that he had tin legs as well!
Brian also came out one morning with the priceless – ‘ Tell the maid that I would like Rice Krispies every morning please’ which quickly became enshrined in folklore.
Whilst we were in Folkestone dad had bought 5 tinplate kazoos. I remember the feeling of slight embarrassment as the whole family including mum, who looked as if she would like the floor to swallow her up, marched up and down the cloisters loudly playing ‘Colonel Bogie’ and the theme tune from the film.
It did not take us lads long to discover some of the delights in the grounds of Encombe. The shell grotto was enchanting and would have been an intensive labour of love for someone to build.
We discovered a donkey’s grave after we had cleared some of the vegetation away from it and this was near the wooded area above Encombe House which I think was largely Scots Pine.
The best thing that we ‘discovered’ however was the walled water-garden. We found that this was in a slightly neglected condition as we pushed open the creaking door in the wall. There was only water in the two highest pools and the remaining 5 were dried out muddy pits. Our investigation revealed that with a bit of unblocking with sticks we could persuade the spring water to start topping up the top pool. It must have taken us about 2 days of fairly determined work to unblock all of the pipes until all 7 pools were full of water but the sense of achievement was well worth it, especially seeing a grass snake. I shudder to think what the state of our clothes was at the end of this exercise.
During one of our trips to Folkestone we brothers spent our pocket money on some ‘pop guns’ that really looked like proper rifles to my childhood eyes. I recollect that we ‘held up’ guests driving past the entrance lodge area and we were suitably impressed when one driver let go of the wheel and held his hands up in mock surrender.
I am afraid that at the time the beach at Sandgate did not hold the same appeal for me as the delights of Encombe itself. The lack of sand for kids was certainly an initial disappointment but I clearly recall sitting on the shingle in a stiff breeze taking it in turns to throw pebbles at a spade mounted vertically a few yards in front of us. Even at that age the shingle was quite challenging to walk to and from the water’s edge when the tide was out. I do recall attending the water carnival on the Hythe and Dymchurch Ca*** and I was definitely very impressed with the funicular cliff railway at Folkestone. Of course as an adult I appreciate the beach more but my final regret is for the demise of Encombe – perhaps it was the knowledge of the subsidence problems that made its fate more poignant but at least I still have those memories.
10th, Feb 2016
Discover Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh
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