(Written by an unknown reporter on the Whitstable Times local newspaper 4th Sept 1943)
“The Whitstable Times” knows that some of the grand old men of our town have very interesting memories, so we sent long a representative to see Mr. Herbert Read, dairyman, who is eighty-four and lives in Cromwell Road.
“I was born in Argyle Road,” said Mr. Read, “but we moved out to Seasalter Cross when I was four years old. My father had a dairy farm there and I used to come into Whitstable with him at six in the morning and help to deliver the milk before I went to school. Once we were snowed up for three days – the snow was as high as the hedges in Joy Lane – so we couldn’t take the milk, and we couldn’t get any bread for ourselves either; but mother had plenty of flour and made us buns instead.
“In those days there was a tollgate between Seasalter and Whitstable, and as we used the road so much my father used to pay weekly – 1/9. When I was a bigger boy and was eight years old my father bought me a donkey and I used to ride on that. But I didn’t pay any toll. I soon found a back way in, by cutting through the fields!
In my father’s young days he used to tell me it was quite the usual thing to find that your horses and cart had been ‘borrowed’ by smugglers. They would bury the stuff, then go and dig it up in the night, and drive off to Canterbury with it. To avoid the toll-gates they would drive through the woods.
When I was a boy, Bob Trit Whorlow was the postmaster. The post office was near the Foresters’ Hall then. He used to give me 2/6 every Christmas for taking the letters back to Seasalter with me when I came out of school. I had to tap on the window and he would hand them over to me.
In those days they fired a cannon from the Seasalter Battery. The cannon balls were as big as my head. The man from the Jolly Sailor went off with his donkey and cart and retrieved the cannon balls. He got sixpence each for doing it. They used to stick up a red flag when they were firing, to warn you, and they always aimed towards the Red Sluice.
The man who kept the Sportsman fixed up a weir (thick hedge of buses) in the sea. When the tide came in shoals of fish would come with it and get caught when the tide went out gain. One day I was carting a load of second-hand tiles to Faversham, and he asked me to take a basketful of eels as well. He paid me tuppence for that! I took them, but weren’t things in a mess by the time I got there! All the eels had escaped out of the basket and got muddled up with the tiles; and the mortar on the tiles had stuck all over the eels. I never took that job on again, and all for tuppence too!
There were three gates on the road from Whitstable to Faversham that you had to get down to open. Mr. George Finn never used to bother when he came riding in, his horse jumped them in fine style.
There was no main water or main drains when I was young, just wells and cesspools. Most people had wells in their gardens, but for those who hadn’t, Mr. Amos, with two pails on a yolk used to fetch water from the pump in Essex Street and deliver it.
Of course, Whitstable was very different then. From Pantony’s Farm, which is now Barn House, to the Jolly Sailor, there was only Prospect Farm, everything else was ploughed ground. Cromwell Road was all marshes and Mr. Harlow, who had the dairy under the bridge in Canterbury Road, used to keep his cows there. There was no Gladstone Road; Joe Brown’s butcher’s shop stood at the opening to it then with a big field behind. Putwain’s coal yard was where the present post office is now: I used to cart coal for him. You could buy coal for thrashing at sixteen shillings a ton from the ship’s side! In those days a hundred yawls belonging to the dredgers would be laying in the bay.