History of The PWSTS Building

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Prince of Wales House, Dover

The Prince of Wales House

(formerly named prospect House) is on the western side of York Street standing between the Battle of Britain and York House block of flats. The property is bounded on three sides by Princes Street, Cowgate Hill and Durham Hill.

For some time during its life and until at least 1938 there were three front doors facing Princes Street. At some date these three houses plus adjoining cottages on Durham Hill and one on Cowgate Hill became one internally. The joins are quite obvious with different floor levels both across the building and from front to back. Some of the front bedrooms have steps down to their floor level as soon as you enter the bedrooms from the landing - most unusual. The roof line of the Durham Hill cottages is still distinctive. The property includes the large hall at the rear fronting Durham Hill.

The cellars have thick chalk walls and possibly the start of a tunnel heading down the hill in the direction of The Cause is Altered - possibly used by smugglers and possibly predating the mansion. No documentary evidence has been found to indicate there being a tunnel under this building.

A good idea of the extent of the building can be gained from the estate agent's literature when the premises were put on the market in 1994 viz. Ground floor :- reception area and office, common room, kitchen, utility room, private sitting room, lobby, staff flat (sitting room, conservatory, bedroom, hall, kitchen and bathroom), laundry room, linen room, toilet, store room, cellar (boiler room): first floor :- flat (entrance hall, dining room, sitting room, 2 bedrooms, cloakroom with toilet, kitchen/breakfast room, bathroom and hall), 7 bedrooms, bathroom: first floor annexe :- rear hall, gymnasium/hall (6 pillars, vaulted ceiling and woodblock floor) plus 2 storage rooms, showers and toilets, 3 bedrooms; second floor : 14 bedrooms, bathrooms and toilet, communal bathroom with 3 toilets and 4 wash hand basins, landing, outside :- internal courtyard, front drive, car park and garden with double wrought iron gates.

According to Bavington Jones, John Hartley was a Freeman of Dover and owned property in 1794 which was known as Hartley's Meadow and around 1800 he built his mansion on it. In this building he started a school for young gentlemen. John Hartley was a schoolmaster and so was his son John. Henry Crow was a schoolmaster living in Castle Street who ran a boys school in St James's Street. In 1838 he apparently took over the premises from Mr Hartley. Prospect House School was the oldest established secondary school in the Dover district founded by Henry Crow in 1838 and remaining virtually in the same family until it closed. The 1851 census tells us that Henry Crow was running Prospect Academy with 23 scholars from various parts of the country. In addition to his school teaching duties he gave occasional lectures to the Dover Philosophical Society. His son another Henry Crow took over when his father died in 1864 and was followed by his son in law Mr Hutchinson in 1866. Mr Hutchinson apparently kept 'fully abreast of advanced and progressive requirements of modern times'. Special provision was made for the comfort and education of foreign pupils and boys whose parents lived in India or elsewhere at a distance. Special arrangements were made for these boys to stay at school during vacations.

An unusual article in the Library dating from the turn of the century describes the school : 'Prospect House occupies a healthy site on elevated ground commanding fine views of Dover and castle within a few minutes walk of the sea, promenades, piers, public gardens and parks. Buildings are well constructed and perfect sanitary arrangements exist throughout - in the past 30 years only 2 cases of infectious illness were known at the school and those were slight attacks which were immediately isolated. Classrooms are well ventilated and dormitory accommodation is exceptionally good. Any boy desiring it can have a private bedroom on payments of a small additional fee. Domestic arrangements were under the special direction of Mrs Huthchinson' There was a 'sound comprehensive modern English education with preparation for various public examinations and instruction in music, drawing, commercial education, modern languages, shorthand etc'. In 1896 Master Walter Hutchinson carried off high honours for writing Pitmans shorthand by winning the Lord Warden's silver challenge for all boys at school in East Kent. The Marquis of Salisbury was Lord Warden at the time. The school was attracting increasing numbers of pupils from all parts. There were 'exceptional facilities for cricket, football and all other outdoor sports recreation with sea bathing and swimming regularly in the summer'.

This school continued until at least 1905 then for some reason, probably the retirement or death of Mr Hutchinson - the school closes.

In 1907 William Beresford Baker bought Trust 11, Princes Street, and the adjoining cottage on Durham Hill and the (new) large hall at the rear from Thomas Lewis, the builder, and the adjoining 12, Princes Street (Matlock House) plus the adjacent cottage 1A, Cowgate Hill from Henry Hutchinson, a school master. These properties had together comprised Prospect House Academy, the private boarding school for young gentlemen.

In 1908 the Dover Directory lists Mrs Bereford Baker with a Home of Rest at 11 and 12 Princes Street (and her husband Captain Beresford Baker living separately at 25 Waterloo Crescent) The Day Star Mission Hall on Durham Hill (later to become the Sea Training Schools gymnasium) appears for the first time in the 1908 Directory.

The Directory entries are unchanged until 1921: at number 11, Christians Home Mission and Mrs Beresford Baker but with at number 12 Prospect House, Captain William Beresford Baker. This situation was unchanged until 1934 when Mrs Baker is shown both at the Christians Home Mission and at Prospect House, her husband having died in 1953.

The Day Star Mission Guest House

Captain Geary and his wife opened the premises as the Day Star Mission Guest House. A small brochure described it as 'a Christian Holiday Home and Guest House, comfortably furnished, gas fires in the bedrooms and bathrooms on each floor with hot and cold water. About five minutes walk from the sea and within easy access of station and of buses which run to the beautiful country and places of interest around Dover.

The War Years

It appears that the premises were commandeered by the Navy during the Second World War. No written evidence has been found but it has been said that the WRNS took over the house at one point.

In 1946 Stanley Geary and Leslie Philips sold the premises to The British Sailors Society. A 1945 edition of 'Chart and Compass' (BSS magazine) states that although the premises had not been officially opened they had been in the new quarters since 21st February and found them most comfortable with the Matron very happy about the new rest.

Seaman's Residential ClubOn Tuesday 18th January 1949 the premises were officially opened as the new Residential Club for Seaman by Admiral The Right Honorable Lord Mountevans. This was a result of the British Sailors Society, Dover National Sailors Home and Dover Patrol Memorial Fund pooling their resources into one club administered by the British Sailors Society. The Dover National Sailors Home had been established in 1855 by Rev RW Yates in Council House Street. The Dover Patrol Memorial Fund had enabled the Patrol Memorial Hostel to open after the First World War and The British Sailors Society had been in Dover since 1895. The Empress Club in London had raised 4,000 toward the cost of refurbishment which was acknowledged by the large hall being named Empress Hall. The premises were completely transformed and turned into a home from home for seamen putting into Dover who were able to entertain guests for social functions. It was also a refuge for shipwrecked crews. Facilities included a private chapel, lounges, reading and writing rooms, shops, restaurant, concert hall for 200 people and comfortable sleeping accommodation with the manager sleeping on the premises.

The Prince of Wales Sea Training School

This Seaman's Residential Club had a short life because in 1953 the premises became the Prince of Wales Sea Training School that most of us remember. The British Sailors Society owned Prospect House and also ran the school. About 120 boys a year aged 15 to 17 years, 40 at a time, underwent a 16 week course training for life at sea. The mast in the grounds was used for visual signalling and every boy had to scale it. After two years at sea the boys returned to Dover for a 12 week course at the College to qualify a marine mechanics.

In 1964 Commander JS Hough DSC (Captain Superintendent) moved to become Deputy General Secretary of the British Sailors Society. His wife had taught at Barton Road Primary School. He was succeeded by Captain Colin Vine.

The school closed in December 1975 killed by inflation - it was costing 35,000 per year to run - and was put up for sale with offers around 105,000 for the freehold. The old ships mast and windlass that used to stand in the grounds was donated to Dover Transport Museum and still exists.

Dover College

From then until 1994 the buildings were used by Dover College as a school boarding house. The YMCA purchased the premises in 1996 and commenced renovation work to bring the large derelict building back into use. Fund raising continues in order to renovate the premises. Hopefully this old building with such an interesting history will serve the town well for many more years.


Click here for images of how the school looks now, inside and outside taken 2002

Click here for images of The Cause is Altered PH opposite the PWSTS

The above information is courtesy of Derek Leach, an historian living in Dover. Derek has written three books on Dover's history and can be contacted on the following email address:  derek.leach@tinyworld.co.uk

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