THE MYSTERY OF HISTORY
|Landmarks like the Ebbsfleet cross could be in the wrong
If history was never your favourite subject at school,
find out why what we believe to be fact may turn out to be fiction.
Join Inside Out South East as we uncover the historical half truths which may
have changed the course of local history.
History is defined as 'a chronological
record of events', but how do we know that these records are accurate?
hundreds of years these hand-me-down stories have been taken as fact, but how
can we be sure that they really happened?
Inside Out investigates the historical
bloopers littered across the region, and reveals the truth behind the stories.
Our journey begins in Ebbsfleet, at a 15-foot cross erected
by the local people to mark the spot where Saint Augustine was supposed to have
landed from France in the year 597.
Legend has it that Saint Augustine was
on a pilgrimage to spread the word of Christianity.
And now, centuries later,
schoolchildren are still taught that Ebbsfleet was the site of his landing in
The memorial cross is now a local landmark and tourist hot spot
- but all may not be as it seems.
|Dr Alan Kay believes that history is not always correct|
Historian Dr Alan Kay has used geological maps to shed some light on
the matter - and his findings are very revealing.
It seems that St Augustine
would have had to sail over dry land to step ashore at the site where the cross
Alan explains, "The only coast that could be available
in the 6th Century was an area between Stonar and Sandwich.
time Ebbsfleet was a mile and a half from the sea.
"I see people taking
photographs of the cross and all over the world they're saying, 'this is where
St Augustine and his monks landed' - of course the geological facts disprove it."
And the real explanation for the cross is very different to the history books.
turns out that an over zealous Victorian aristocrat was the man behind the mistake,
having concocted the story to try and draw the crowds to his newly-opened tea
Alan says, "The Earl of Granville owned some lavender fields
at Ebbsfleet and had a tea room there.
"In 1884 he wanted to publicise
his tea gardens and this was just a publicity stunt."
Hundreds of years
later the cross is now a blot on the landscape for one disgruntled local - the
Captain of St Augustine's Golf Club, which features the memorial landmark in its
John Williams explains, "It's general knowledge here that
it's in the wrong place.
"We'd like to send it up to where it belongs
- in Stonar.
"It would make life easier if we didn't have an ancient
monument right on our doorstep."
A load of hot air
|Marcial Boo is trying to make people aware of the old Canterbury
So with one mystery solved, it's on to historical half
truth number two - the story of how Kent may have been cheated out of its railway
Picture the scene - it's the 19th Century, the golden age of steam
and mid-way in the race to launch the first passenger railway.
In 1825 the
race was won by renowned engineer Robert Stevenson.
He opened the Stockton
and Darlington Railroad and transported the first railway locomotive in September
the same year.
What the history books fail to mention is that Kent was
the real winner of the race.
The Canterbury to Whitstable line had been
up and running months before Stevenson's locomotive set off for the first time.
historian Brian Hart explains, "It was the first railway in Southern England
and the first steam passenger railway in the UK, if not the world.
it's been overshadowed and largely forgotten about - so we need to start blowing
our trumpet down here."
The remains of the railway are now covered
by undergrowth in the grounds of the Archbishop School, where a group of enthusiasts
are hoping to restore the line as a public cycle path.
Marcial Boo, Chairman
of the Crab and Winkle Line Trust, says, "At the moment we've only got about
two or three miles of the route open and it's a six mile route all together.
the local people here in the South East will come to appreciate this line - not
as a railway but as a very pleasant off road way."
|Tina Pullinger is adamant that the Tudor House is authentic|
Having solved the mysteries of the misplaced cross and the misjudged
rail race, our journey takes us to Margate, a place littered with historical lies.
the Tudor House, for example. Having been restored, or as some would say, rebuilt,
after the second world war, the house's authenticity is the subject of much debate.
house is a popular tourist attraction, thanks to its reputation as a fine example
of period architecture, but it may not be as impressive as it seems.
Kay explains, "It is a Tudor site but in no way does it correspond with the
house that we see today.
"I was reading a book on Tudor architecture
and Margate's Tudor house never featured in it."
Dr Kay's analysis
has angered the local tourist board, as Tina Pullinger, from Margate Town Partnership
"It's not a fraud, it is not a rebuild, it's a caring restoration
and it's worth seeing.
"It was done very sympathetically and I get
annoyed when people such as Dr Alan Kay say it is a rebuild."
it's not only the Tudor House's reputation that is under question - we've discovered
that Dr Kay himself has been responsible for some of the region's historical bloopers.
a former history teacher, Dr Kay is also guilty of creating his own historical
half-truth in order to add excitement to lessons.
Dr Kay told his students
that Traphams Lane was so-called because it was where unlucky locals were trapped
by passing navy men looking to enlist new sailors.
Wrong. Traphams Lane
was actually named after a man named William Trapham, a wealthy farmer and landowner
who owned the land on which the lane was eventually built.
So despite inaccurate
records, it's the historians past and present who are responsible for distorting
the course of local history.
|Sarah Vickery thinks her shell grotto has spiritual origins|
Now, in the last phase of our journey, we have to travel deep underground
to a mysterious shell grotto rumoured to be over 2,000 years old.
grotto is another of Margate's popular tourist spots, but its origins are the
subject of much disagreement.
Its owner, Sarah Vickery, bought the grotto
after falling in love with its spiritual atmosphere, and believes that it was
built and used for holy purposes.
But many people believe those cheeky Victorians
have been up to their old tricks, suggesting that the grotto, which is made up
of over five million shells, was sheer folly.
Sarah says, "It was found
by accident underneath a farmer's field in 1835 and we're pretty sure of that."
difficult to imagine a farmer being down here building his great folly - he would
have been upstairs making his living!"
Mick Twyman of Margate Historical
Society agrees. He believes that the grotto has pagan roots, and dates back to
around 300 B.C.
And he's putting his money where his mouth is, by contacting
archaeologists and trying to obtain recognition for the site. He explains:
are making approaches to try and overcome the damage that's been done by the shout
of 'fake', for so many years."
|"If this proves to be what we think it is, it could
be as important in the country's history as Stonehenge."|
But Dr Kay thinks it could be a wild goose chase.
He explains, "It is a very attractive shell cave and well worth seeing
but no national antiquarian or historical people would touch it - there's not
"The present owner of the shell grotto is very fair,
in that she regards it as a lovely example of shell work and gives the two theories
so you can make your choice."
While Sarah may appear objective, she
still believes that her grotto has a mystical history.
She says, "I've
tried to let the argument rage around me, to be honest.
I love about it is that nobody really knows how old it is, people can make arguments
for either side.
"The only thing I don't believe is that it's folly
- I think it was built for some sort of devotional purpose."
the explanation, there's no doubting that the historical half-truths in the South
East make for an interesting path through local history.