Dover Castle Inn

Dover Castle Inn1

The reason why the Book Society chose The Dover Castle Inn in Globe Lane to be the venue for the first and subsequent meetings of the Society has been lost in the mist of time.  However, when investigating the occupations of those Founders of which we are aware, many are in the Licenced Trade.  For instance the first Secretary - Clarence P Hackett worked for a Mr W Budden who was in the Trade as a "Wine and Spirit Merchant" There was a "Budden & Biggs" Brewery located in Strood. 

The Dover Castle Inn was situated at No 2 Globe Lane Chatham.  There had been an Inn on this site since at least 1841 when the first National Census took place.  The Licensee at that time was a Mr Francis Guy aged 45. Francis lived there with his wife Elizabeth and his two children and 6 staff.  By 1851 his family had increased to five children although the staff numbers remained the same and included 1 Barmaid, 1 Nurse,  1 Housemaid, 1 Cook, 1 Ostler and 1 Waiter. In 1861, the Census shows that Mr. Guy had left and had been replaced by Miss Rebecca Jell as the Licensed Victualler and the staff had been reduced to 2 Barmaids, 1 Cook and 1 Potman. By the 1871 Census, the Licensee had again changed to Mr. Walter Smith, who lived there with his wife and daughter and three staff.  It is interesting to note that at this time the Battle of Waterloo in 1814 was still in living memory.  The 1881 Census shows a Mr Thomas Ruck as the Licensed Victualler living there with his wife Ellen, and son Walter.  He employed 4 people. It must have been around this time that the Founders of the Society were beginning to think about forming a Book Society as by 1883 the Chatham Book Society is formed and meets at the Dover Castle.  The history of the Dover Castle continues with the Licence changing hands frequently. In 1891, Ellen Ruck is the Landlady until 1903 when Mrs Ada Elizabeth Ridler takes over. In 1913 Charles Lane holds the Licence and continues until Mr Charles Hobson takes the Licence.  Mr. Hobson has the Licence at the time of the fire in November 4th 1920


The following is a copy of the report in the Chatham News dated November 5th 1920 on the Disastrous Fire at the Dover Castle Hotel.

                                                          DISASTROUS FIRE AT CHATHAM

                                                     The Old Dover Castle Hotel Gutted Out

                                           LANDLORD AND FAMILY ESCAPE IN NIGHT ATTIRE

The Dover Castle Hotel in Globe Lane Chatham with all its old memories and associations, was completely destroyed by fire yesterday (Thursday) morning, and the Landlord and his family had to make their escape from the burning building under thrilling conditions without any outside assistance.

Mr. Charles Hobson, the Landlord, has only held the Licence for a few years in succession to Mr. C. Lane, and on Wednesday night the occupants of the premises were himself and wife and two daughters.  Mr. Hobson slept in the bedrrom at the front of the house, on the first floor, and Mrs. Hobson and her daughters were in an adjoining bedroom at the back of the house.  Mrs Hobson being in that room because of the slight indisposition of the youngest daughter.

At about four o'clock in the morning Mr. Hobson was aroused by his wife, who awakened by the suffocating smell of smoke, called out to him that the house was on fire.  Hastily jumping out of bed, he found that the front of the house was in flames and escape from the front window was impossible.  On opening the door at the top of the staircase, Mr Hobson was temporarily staggered by the rush of flames.  He quickly recovered and realised that he onle means of escape was by the back bedroom window.  So fierce was the fire that there was no time to dress or to think of anything else but escape.

Immediately beneath the bedroom window was a conservatory with a glass roof.  Mr Hobson was the first to get through the window  on to the conservatory and leapt to the ground in his night attire and his bare feet.  Mrs. Hobson and her daughters, who had slipped on their dressing gowns, followed, but unfortunately part of the conservatory roof collapsed with the weight of Mrs. Hobson and she was wedged in. Mr. Hobson obtained a ladder, which was standing in the back yard, and he was able to extract his wife with the assistance of his eldest daughter, but she sustained very nasty cuts on the legs through the broken glass, and had to be conveyed to St. Bartholomew's Hospital for treatment.  The back yard is enclosed by a high wall and this had to be scaled by means of the ladder, in order to reach a place of safety with access to Globe Lane.  Meanwhile, the neighbourhood was aroused and Mr. Hobson and his daughters sought refuge at the house of friends in the Military Road and were provided with clothing.  Mr. Harry Taylor Landlord of the Globe Hotel on the opposite side of the road, at the High Street end of Globe Lane, was aroused by a policeman's whistle, and by that time the fire had obtained a strong hold on the premises.

A telephone call reached the Headquarters of the Volunteer Fire Brigade at 4.20a.m. and, within ten minutes of the call four members of the Brigade were on the scene.  They were quickly followed by other members but the flames spread with such rapidity that it was at once apparent that the premises were doomed to destruction, and all that could be done was to protect the adjoining premises of Messrs. Newcomb, hosiers and outfitters.  The houses on the other side of the Dover Castle were separated by a wide yard.  There was a splendid supply of water and the Brigade with an abundance of hose, applied six streams to the burning building.  The flames were exceedingly fierce and the intense heat caused the ignition of the wooden gate at the entrance to the garage at the back of the Globe Hotel.  Mr. Taylor had prepared for this development and he extinguished the flames at the gate with his own lilliputian but effective hose, and so prevented a supply of petrol in the garage from becoming involved.  The burning Hotel was well stocked and there as a continual bursting of wine, spirit, beer and mineral water bottles while the fire was in progress and there were heavy and alarming crashes when the floors, wall and tiled roof fell in.  The Brigade worked on steadily and they succeeded to confining the fire to the premises which were completely gutted and all the contents almost completely destroyed.  The front wall overlooking Globe Lane remained standing, but as it had a leaning and dangerous appearance, all traffic along the road was stopped.

Mr. Hobson and his family lost the whole of their personal and invaluable belongings, many of the accumulation of years, and little treasure which can never be replaced.  One singular incident occurred whilst the inmates were escaping.  Miss Hobson, the eldest daughter, was carrying three pound and two 10s Treasury notes when she passed out of the window, but dropped them when she was helping her father to extradite her mother.  Singularly enough, four of the notes were found by Fireman F. Larke, saddened, but intact, and these were subsequently handed over to Mr. Hobson.

The Dover Castle is the headquarters of the Chatham Book Society - established some thirty years ago - and the annual distribution of books among the members was fixed for last (Thursday) night, the books having been sorted out and allotted.  The whole of them, to the value of about 50, were destroyed, but the Minutes books and other records of the Club were locked up in a case, and these were found intact during the morning. The business books of the hotel and the money in hand were placed in an iron safe overnight and will probably be found undamaged when a search is made.

The members of the Fire Brigade on duty were Chief Officer E.G. Maynard, Second Officers J.W. Mannington and G. Hitches and Firemen F. Williams, A. Parnell, A. Hitches, R. Nye, A. Payne, F. Larke, J. Atkinson, H. Perch, G. Lamb, H. White, H. Nickleson, E.J. Miller and A. Wallace.

The premises were the property of Watts Charity, and leased to Messrs. Owen J. Carter & Co. of Chatham.  Mr Hobson was insured in the Royal Society, as was also the Book Society