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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Sandhills and the Mary Bax Stone.

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Looking towards the Chequers Inn and the Caravan Park.

To the North of Deal there is an area of low lying land which stretches to Sandwich Bay, it is known as the ‘Sandhills’ or as we called it as children ‘The Golf Links’ due to the fact that it is a golf course belonging to The Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club. A Summer treat after school when we were children was to eat our dinner early, then my Mum, brother and I would meet up with my Mums friend and her son and we would walk via the ‘Ancient Highway’  to an isolated pub known to us as ‘Dick Marsh’s’, Dick Marsh was the landlord of the pub known as The Chequers Inn. Mum and her friend would go inside for probably a much needed drink whilst us children were left outside with a bottle of coca cola and a packet of crisps (complete with the blue twist of salt) each. We loved this walk on a summers evening, and I think we probably got home quite late for us, it was a real treat.

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The pillbox

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The tarmac road only went as far as the pub back then, but the Ancient Highway continued as a track through to Sandwich Bay, it was passable by car but was not a very comfortable ride!! I think that around 2003, the remaining track from The Chequers through to Sandwich Bay was tarmaced to help the traffic flow to the The Open Golf Championship which is periodically held at The Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich. It is still a single track road but it is much easier to drive to Sandwich Bay now.

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The Chequers Inn, known to us as Dick Marsh’s.

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The barn opposite the pub, I think it looked as if it was falling down even when we were children!

The Ancient Highway was once the main route from Deal to Sandwich, and there were a number of buildings along the road, The Chequers being one of them. There was also a halfway house and a Lookers (Shepherds) Cottage between the Chequers and Sandwich Bay. I was out there at the weekend and it looks as if the Lookers cottage has either gone or has been extensively altered to make a very nice house.

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Found it, but only because I knew it was there somewhere!

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Shame it is so overgrown now.

The reason I was out that way is that for some time now I have been wanting to get some photos of the Mary Bax Stone. The stone is actually a gravestone set on the top of a bank. The grass in front of it used to be kept short and a small plaque was placed near the stone telling the sad tale, but it took me quite a while to find it yesterday as the grass has grown very long and only the top of the stone is now visible, the plaque has also now gone, which is a shame, luckily there is a record of the writing that was on the stone.

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The stone reads:

On this spot

August the 25th, 1782

MARY BAX, Spinster

aged 23 years

was murdered by

MARTIN LASH, a foreigner,

who was executed for the same.

Mary Bax was a young woman of 23, on the morning of 25th August 1782 Mary was walking from Deal to Sandwich carrying a bundle. She had just passed the halfway house when she passed a man sitting by the side of the road. He stopped Mary and asked the way to Sheerness, which is a long way from Sandwich, then he asked her for money. Mary refused, the man who was a foreigner then attacked Mary ultimately killing her (he may have slit her throat) and dumping her body in a ditch. He then made off in the direction of Sandwich carrying the bundle Mary had been carrying. The man did not know that he had been seen by the 13 year old son of the Looker, the boy was scared that he would share the same fate as Mary so he hid in a haystack until the man was out of sight, then he set off in the direction of Deal and raised the alarm. It was found that the man Martin Lash (Laas) was a deserter from a ship anchored in the Downs, he was Norwegian and aged 27. He was finally found asleep with Marys bundle next to him, in a churchyard in Folkestone which is nearly 20 miles away from Sandwich. He was tried and executed for his crime, and the stone still stands in remembrance of Mary Bax. I am glad that I found the stone, but it is a shame that the site is not looked after. I don’t think Mary was buried at this spot, but I could be wrong.

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24 comments:

  1. How interesting! I love that bit about Mary at the end there. It's so neat to find little pieces of history where you'd least expect them : ]

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog Beckie, this is one place I have wanted to visit for a long time, as stories like this tend to disappear. I hope the stone will again be cared for at some time :)

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  2. Beautiful area, very peaceful but also quite desolate, especially in winter. You had a nice day to get the pics, Val :o)

    See you in a few hours !! :o))

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    1. Yes it can be very desolate out there Pat, and it gets flooded! It was a beautiful day, so much sky out there :) Great seeing you earlier, your garden looks great, have a lovely weekend :) x

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  3. Beautiful photos as always. A very sad tale for Mary though. Glad there's some record of what's on the stone and also her story, such a shame it isn't looked after :(

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    1. I was very pleased to find the record of what was written on the stone Linda as the stone itself is now illegible :(

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  4. I was having a small walk the other day with an old friend through a village we lived in as children - it's interesting to return sometimes to see what has changed or not. The same feel is here in your wander Val and the sad story of Mary Bax (looks like she may soon be forgotten if the undergrowth gets it's way)

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    1. It can be great reliving the things that happened in your childhood isn't it Sandy? I am happy to say I had a lovely childhood :)

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  5. Thats a great story about poor Mary, not so much different to today.

    peter

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog Peter, you are right not much has changed really. I think this story has lived on because the stone is in such an isolated spot, and of course because it is a tragic story.

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  6. Sad and interesting story about Mary Bax . Great shots it does look desolate out there. Glad you enjoyed your day , love reading your posts Val.
    Hugs Sheila x

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    1. Thanks Sheila, glad you enjoy the posts, I am always on the lookout for interesting things to blog about, and I do love getting out there with my camera, sometimes I think people think 'Oh look there is that mad woman with her camera again!' Lol x

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  7. I read the blog regarding the Lookers cottage with interest as my Chandler ancestors lived in that cottage many many years ago. I was under the impression the Lookers cottage was demolished a few years ago.. I also visited the area on a very sunny day in Maythis year and found the Mary Bax Stone. Incidentially it was a Lookers boy who witnessed the attack on Mary Bax and ran to Deal for help.

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  8. Hi Anonymous :) You are correct the Lookers cottage has gone. In the East Kent Mercury of February 2009 there is an article about the Mary Bax stone and a couple of photos, one which shows the Lookers cottage. Let me know if you would like a copy?

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  9. The stone is a memorial, not a grave marker. Mary Bax is buried somewhere in St. Peter's churchyard, Sandwich - probably in the 'new' (post-1776) section south of the path that crosses the churchyard between King Street and St. Peters Street. The pre-1776 churchyard was tiny and couldn't contain any more burials, so the new extension was purchased from the township. William Boys' History of Sandwich (1791) gives the inscriptions on the then existing gravestones and Mary's is one of those listed. However, the majority of the gravestones were removed and lost in the early 1900s, and the graveyard is now mainly grassed with a few very large trees and well-tended flower borders. Unless church records exist then finding the exact location of her grave is unlikely. There was a good article about the murder in Bygone Kent magazine, titled 'Murder Most Foul', from a few years back (sorry, I don't have a note of issue in which it appeared, but it should be easy to track down). Sandwich and Deal libraries both have fairly complete sets of Bygone Kent.

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    1. Anonymous, many thanks for your information, I know St Peters Garden as I think it is called now, very well as I work in Sandwich and walk through the churchyard regularly! I work in Sandwich Library and I will certainly be taking a look in our copy of Boys' History of Sandwich and will also go through the Bygone Kent magazines to find the article. I am very pleased that the stone is just a marker not the grave itself, but even so I would love to see the marker better looked after than it is now! Thank you again :)

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  10. My cousin and I went to a cookery class at the Chequers today and my cousin (born and bred in Deal) told me the story of Mary Bax and we found the headstone but couldn't read the inscription so I was delighted to google it and find your blog. I recently moved (from Romford, Essex) to a house on Golf Road and am slowly learning the history of Deal and surrounding areas. Is there any record of what was in Mary's bundle, I wonder?

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  11. Hi Pam, Welcome to Deal :) I have never seen anything about the contents of Mary's bundle, but will see if I can track down any information for you. I assume that maybe Martin Lash thought there would be something in the bundle of value, hence the attack, but that is just my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed your cookery class at the Chequers, and glad that you found something to help you on my blog :)

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  12. we went for a wonder along there today to show my boys the stone.
    we then came home to look it up....and found this

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151742614156142.1073741951.312509946141&type=3

    Thought it may of been some interest to you x

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    1. Hi, thank you for the link, a few more and slightly different facts there, but very interesting :) Thanks again.

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  13. Mary Bax is buried in St. Peter`s churchyard, Sandwich, according to the Records of Births, Marriages and Death held at Canterbury Cathedral archives. A couple of years ago I found the accompanying plaque to the memorial lying in the long grass and I gave it to Alan Clarke, Chairman of The Deal Society, for safe keeping. Her story is related in my book, `Deal ~ All in the Downs` Gregory Holyoake, Deal`s historian.

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  14. Thank you for the information Mr. Holyoake, I think my husband has a copy of your book, which I have to read :) I am so pleased the plaque is somewhere safe. My son and I were out that way last weekend and I wanted to show him the stone, we found it after about 5 minutes, it is easy to miss when driving!

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