Stories of Kemsley, the village created for stationery families
A ‘magical’ moment in life was recalled by a dig in the archives to watch events in Kemsley, the community built for stationery workers.
Here, memory writer Christine Rayner reflects on the excitement that erupted when the first baby was born there
Phyllis Apps unwittingly made history when she came into the world on January 30, 1926 – the first unborn baby in the village of Kemsley, near Sittingbourne, the community built for the families of stationery workers.
A clipping from the East Kent Gazette about Phyllis’ birth was discovered by Stephen Palmer, who posted it on the ME Sittingbourne Postcode Group Facebook page last week, asking if anyone knew more.
Several people answered the call, including Melvyn Howe, who took the story even further, not only adding a photo of the mentioned silver baptismal cup, but also revealing that Phyllis was her grandmother.
Melvyn explained that the mug was carefully kept in its original box and that Phyllis later married Alfred Howe.
It’s just the kind of connection that I steadily discovered for over 30 years writing a page of remembrances for the Sittingbourne area, proving that it is still a community with deep family roots, despite huge expansion and a subsequent influx of people.
I know Kemsley has special memories for many and this story is a great prompt to look back on some of the stories I have carried about the village over the years. I’d love to hear from more readers.
A reader who wrote anonymously on the Gazette’s memorabilia page in 2007 told me that she and her twin sister were born in Kemsley just after their parents and older sister moved there in 1928. Their father worked at the factory until his retirement and was particularly proud of the amenities offered to the residents: “The families of the mill workers had the privilege of being able to use the club house, the bowling green, the tennis courts and the grounds free of charge. cricket, ”she said.
One of the earliest memories of my correspondent was “walking up Ridham Avenue to the little wooden village school, which had two classrooms, separated by curtains, for boys and girls”.
Life was magical for the young residents of Kemsley in those early years: “We were allowed to play anywhere, although we were often criticized for playing hide and seek around the shrubs planted around the bowling alley. Said the reader.
“The Crescent was a favorite place. We were trying to make kites with canes and brown paper. We glued or sewn the edges to hold them in place and lay down a tail of heavy brown paper, with pieces of fabric attached. We even flew the kites when called in for meals, by tying a stick to the rope and pushing it into the ground.
A slightly more dangerous pastime was sitting at the electrical box, counting the Bowater trucks up and down Ridham Avenue, laden with bales of paper.
As a girl, my correspondent used to wait with her friends for the sound of the glacier shouting “Walls” or “Eldorado” as they pushed their three-wheeled bikes through the village. A man from Sheerness sold shrimp, and women from the traveling community went door to door peddling wooden stakes for the clothesline.
But my writer’s favorite caller was the muffin man, who walked through Kemsley with a long tray of muffins balanced on his head, ringing a big bell.
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