Over the last fortnight I have been researching Fort House , Broadstairs from 1801 to 1901 when it became Bleak House at a great personal cost to the then owner James Barry. As predicted all and everything points to the period when Charles Dickens spent time their.However, I have purposely tried to avoid Charles Dickens until a later date in order to remain focused at pulling together facts about Fort House. Then I came across a interesting piece quoted in a 1981 edition of Bygonne Kent that Charles Dickens wrote to his friend Frank Stone .
It reads as follows "this day fortnight a steamer laden with cattle going from Rotterdam to London, was wrecked on the Goodwin. Yesterday the shore was strewn with hundreds of oxen, sheep and pigs in every state of decay. Hovering among the carcases was every kind of plunderer pulling the horns out, getting off hides, chopping the hoofs with poleaxes, I have never beheld such a demoniacal business."
I found this account very interesting as there a very few accounts of salvaging of wreckage on the Thanet coastline in the 19th century as most salvaging was kept very quite by the poverty stricken locals as this business of salvaging was on par with smuggling. However, it did throw some light on something that I have not found a answer to in all my years of beachcombing. That being , where did all the animal teeth and crudely butchered bones found on the beach come from ?
Over the past 30 years on beach digs I have come across teeth and bones that have been subject to considerable force and I couldn't think of a explanation. The only theory I could come up with was perhaps they came to be in the sea due to coastal erosion and in the sub soil from a cliff fall. Thinking on it, I suppose it stands to reason if a dead animal is washed a shore and someone wants a piece of it they are going to hack a piece off.
This weekend looks very promising for interesting finds on the strandline with the wind hitting the North side of Thanet full on off the sea. So far this year has been a good year for finds and this weekend will definitely add to the list.
Last night was the coastal wardens annual meeting and it was a bit of a get together of wardens with a excellent talk by a representative of Vattenfall about the wind farms. Talking to Tony Sykes the Westbrook warden we have both decided that as from this weekend we are going to monitor the Velvet swimmer crab deaths on the foreshore as the water gets colder in order to collect data and be more prepared for the mass deaths we experienced last year.
Above is pictured a ox yoke that was washed up in Viking Bay in 1911 from the former Bleak House maritime collection.