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.
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.
The Chequers Inn, known to us as Dick Marsh’s.
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.
Found it, but only because I knew it was there somewhere!
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.
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.