Dungeness human footfall began in earnest with the erection of the first lighthouse in 1615, beach expansion leading to a re-siting in 1635, and again, in 1790. A redoubt/fortress was built in 1798 in response to the threat of invasion from Napoleonic forces. That was short lived, being abandoned in 1803. An enterprising family settled on the point to sell water to ships that stopped off in the mid-to-late 19th century. With fishing and coastguard families consequently moving in, a school was opened in 1876, the classroom register being swollen when, in 1883, a railway line was laid to the point and with it came the rail company employee’s families. Many of them moved into old railway carriages which they modelled into functioning homes. More beach action required a new lighthouse to be built in 1904. The site of the old redoubt was used as ground to build a row of houses for the use of the Royal Naval Signal Station around the same time. The end house was reserved for the Commanding Officer and today houses Dungeness Bird Observatory. Several hundred metres west of the coastal track shingle extraction took place in the early years of the 20th century, and much temporary infrastructure and a network of carriage lines were put in place, particularly during the 1930s and 40s.
|Remains of the school|
The beach is literally littered with reminders of the once larger fishing fleet of Dungeness. Lurking amongst the modern plastic netting and fish boxes are old boats, winches, engines and tanning coppers. As much as this abandon of tidiness could be condemned, it holds an aura. I tend to wait until the day trippers have left, and wander through and around this grotto of grot in the early evening. It is the haunt of the artist, the photographer and the soul-searcher. It says as much about the beach life of 2020 as it does of the long-lost fisherfolk.
|The site of The Hope and Anchor pub|
And there's more! The day markers for boats that are now slowly falling over are of a more modern vintage but still part of the evolving Dungeness museum. Groynes that were long buried are re-emerging after storm action, like disinterred skeletons. And you will come across many objects that defy precise categorisation - old walls, shattered bases, rusting metal objects that once were built, served their purpose but then fell out of favour and into disrepair. If only they could talk...
Loads more, and in more detail, here: