As a kid growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there wasn’t a great deal to do in my home town of Dover. Money was also low, so as kids we used to get up to all sorts – playing ball games in the street and also playing down a dis-used coal yard out the back of our houses.
The ‘Coal-tip’ used to be a storage area for moving coal to the furnaces to generate energy – built around the 1930’s / 1940’s – before then it was just a large field. Around I think the 1970’s, the furnaces were demolished and the land emptied and left.
For years as kids, we used to hang out down there – as there was a concrete path that went all the way around which we could ride our bikes, there were trees and bushes where we could create our ‘bases’ or ‘camps’ to then have fake wars with other kids. My dad even used to walk the dogs around the track as well.
The back of our house even backed onto a bit of land (a grassy area with some trees/bushes) which just came off from the coal tip – and where we also had many bases and trees to climb. Alongside was an allotment which my dad used to maintain. Often we used to cut through our back garden and through onto the coal tip – as the end of the Coal Tip would cut onto one the streets going into town. My dad used that as his route to and from work. I even used to cut through to get my copy of Commodore Format from the newsagents.
Although there was no coal any longer, there were remnants everywhere, and walking down there when it was raining would result in black puddles and staining of clothes. I used to remember some old guys who used to go and collect coal to take back for their fires. There were other things to salvage from down there – there was a cooking apple tree which we used to collect from, a Katkins tree and also a flurry of blackberries every year from one of the hedgerows.
1993 was a sad time for me, as in previous years there had been machines brought in to test the land for suitability of building on. It was decided to turn the dis-used land into a housing estate, and during the summer of 1993 – the diggers came in and cleared everything. Demolishing the camps, trees and everything we enjoyed until it was just clear chalky land – we sneaked onto the land after it it was cleared during the evening, and it was like a ghost land – hardly recognisable. Not long after, all the houses were built and the coal tip was no more.
Now almost 20 years on, I still miss the place – but have very fond memories. Unfortunately, although my parents have a few photos from the grassy land just out from the back of the house, we have none of the coal-tip in the form that we remembered. A friend of the family very kindly dug out some old photos they had of the coal tip before and after it was build – dated from around the 1930’s to 1940’s, which you can see below. The first photo shows the area before anything was built – even it seems my old school St Radigunds Primary!
The second shows more what I remember – but filled with stacks of coal and the factories in the background. It’s hard to really see how we could have played on that land, but emptied there was a large oval shaped land to run riot.
In 2015, it was flagged up that satelite pictures from 1990 were added to Google Earth, showing Dover and the Coal Tip area! So here are some photos which show exactly how it was when I was a kid! It was amazing seeing the place again, though I still wish I had some pictures from within the grounds. Mapped to the contours of the hills on Google Earth, browsing around was quite un-nerving, and felt like I was back there again – apart from the flat buildings!…