Kingsdown had its own lifeboat station between 1866, when it was established by private funds, until 1927 when it was closed. These were the great days of Victorian sailing ships, and when they (and their dependence on the shelter of the Downs) faded, the need for a separate station lapsed.
Now the station is a private house perched precariously on the brow of the shingle, and the only boats nearby are neatly parked behind the line of beach huts. South of the Zetland Arms the fishermen's boats that once earned the village's meagre wealth number only two, but the evocative smell of tar still lingers.The lifeboat gave Kingsdown it's greatest hero, Jarvist Arnold, who was skipper until 1889. In December 1872, he and his crew (average age 55) put to sea in a south-easterly storm towards a sinking ship, the Sorrento, and saved the lives of the 31 crew and of 14 lifeboatmen from Walmer who had become stranded on the ship. With remarkable bravery and seamanship he maneuvered the Kingsdown lifeboat, the Sabrina, alongside the Sorrento and gradually took every man off, and then passed some from his fearfully overladed boat onto the Walmer lifeboat.
Having achived this feat, he then had to navigate along the coast in the storm to Broadstairs, because the south-easterly prevented landing on the beach at Kingsdown. Jarvist Arnold is commemorated by this lovely smiling portrait in the village hall, and by having a road named after him. It does us good to remember the harsh realities of life, not so long ago.
My thanks to Marcia, related to Jarvist Arnold, for the inspiration, to the Kingsdown Guidebook for the information and to Ann for the photos.
Bird migration is continuing despite the cool and showery weather - today's new arrivals included a house martin and a willow warbler (both earlier than usual) and two singing blackcaps.
A cuckoo was reported yesterday from Dungeness, but I think that was an April Fool joke.