Remember Danton Pinch – the hamlet lost for the Tunnel?
WHILE it sometimes feels as though the Channel Tunnel has been there for ever, it was only 20 years ago that the fields, farms and houses around Newington were concreted over.
The Folkestone and District Local History Society led an expedition to the area before building commenced, and took many pictures of what was soon to be the passenger terminal and freight yard.
Many villagers fought the plans and many moved away when those behind the plans offered to buy their houses.
The most famous victim of the Tunnel was Danton Pinch, a hamlet based around Danton Farm, down Danton Lane.
No sign of it or its dog kennels remains, although certain names live on: the Longport security centre at the tunnel terminal, off the A20, is named after the Longport dairy farm.
My father well remembers herds of cows being marched down those lost lanes in the 1950s, when it was a pastoral setting, with streams flowing out of the chalk hills down to the Pent and the sea. Alan Taylor, of the history society, remembers roaming Biggins Hill woods and the popularity of the area among local families.
I met with Arthur Hopkins, who has lived in Newington since 1939, and Ron and Jan Fagg, who have lived in the area since the 1950s and 1960s respectively.
Mr Hopkins, 88, spent his whole working life in agriculture, and felt the impact of the changes more than most.
He said: “It was all agriculture round here then and there were five farms that went as I remember. They were Pound Farm, Home Farm, Longport Farm, Danton Farm and Stone Farm.
“Bargrove Farm was where Dollands Moor is now and I remember once coming home and seeing them steam ploughing it.
“They had one engine at one side of the field and another pulling it across at the other. It could cut four or five furrows at a time and I think it must have been in the 1930s.
“There was also a watercress bed here, although it was only small. It grew along the stream.”
Mrs Fagg added: “They still call it the watercress meadow.”
Longport Farm’s building lives on at the Wealden Downland Museum as its entrance hall, while the 16th century Stone Farm building was demolished and rebuilt elsewhere.
One permanent casualty of all the changes was The Star pub, which was on the A20 towards where the shuttle railway lines loop around the terminal.
The watercress bed would have thrived thanks to the previouslymentioned streams, and the potential for watery problems in the area could be seen when the village flooded two weeks ago.
Southern Water still has boreholes across the Downs, one of which comes up just off the A20, almost opposite the former Stone Farm.
Mr Hopkins said: “It was terrible when the Tunnel came. They [the residents] all cleared out and there were only two of us left.”
Mr Fagg said: “They agreed to buy at the current value of the properties, and they sold 29 of them, though several people wanted to come back later.
“When TML were working, all the building traffic was banned up here but some of the villagers blamed every drinks can, crisp packet and rat on them.
“They were against the Tunnel and they were against everything.”
Through the house sales inspired by those feelings, the nature of the village changed and the close-knit community was never the same. Having said that, it is thriving again, with an active village hall committee putting on plenty of events.
The actual building of the tunnels took about six years and involved bringing the level of the land up massively – by pumping Goodwin sand up the Horn Street valley in a big blue pipe.
When it opened, Mr and Mrs Fagg enjoyed several free trips on the Channel Tunnel as guinea pigs, but Mr Hopkins stood firm on his views and never took the journey.
Photographs of Frogholt, another village lost to the Tunnel – see Express Memories, page 28
Arthur Hopkins, 88, reflects on how life in Newington has changed over the years
The Firs Farm fields looking towards the A2
Jan and Ron Fagg at their home in Newington
An 18th century barn at Danton Farm. It was taken apart and rebuilt at the Elham Valley railway museum, Peene