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    Kent Scandals – Sensational, Salacious and Sad.

    by Chris McCooey


    Thursday 20th September 2007


Chris McCooey, a journalist and author, gave us a very entertaining talk on Kent Scandals – Sensational, Salacious and Sad.

Sensational - Freda Barton (born in 1867) of West Malling was a professional photographer who was renowned, not only for the nude photographs she took of herself and her family but also for her bohemian lifestyle. She wore heavy make-up, smoked and drank and was found in a ditch after visiting the pub on more than on occasion! She was married to Fred Barton, the household completed by the lodger, Wally Chisholm. Freda subsequently had three children, all fathered by Wally…..want to read more?

Salacious - Goldenhurst Farmhouse adjoining the pub in Aldington village was the home of Noel Coward, playwright, writer and debonair – and of course gay although he never came out of the closet! “In March 1915, at his mother’s request, Coward was confirmed. The instructing vicar groped him and Coward is alleged to have purposefully removed his hand and told the vicar that there was a time and place for everything and if he ever wanted a bit of fun, he’d let him know. He despised the cloth ever since that day.

Goldenhurst Farmhouse was sold and Coward moved to Jamaica. It was recently purchased by Julian Clarey…….want to read more?

SAD - In the 18th century boys were sold to Chimney Sweepers. At the age of 7 they served 7 years apprenticeship as climbing boys, climbing and sweeping chimneys as small as 9” square. Working in horrendous conditions they suffered respiratory disease, cancer and suffocated or sometimes burnt to death. Many of them did nor live to serve their full apprenticeship. In 1776 Jonas Hanway reported on the conditions of the climbing boys but it was 102 years later that Lord Shaftsbury introduced legislation to ban the practice. Want to know more?……..

SCANDAL – Kitty Fisher the much loved courtesan was born in about 1738 and by the age of 18 was working in a milliner’s shop in London. An Army officer Ensign Martin was attracted to her and she quickly succumbed to his charms. However he was unable to afford to maintain her as his mistress. but her relationship launched Kitty into her ”horizontal” career. Courtesans, unlike common prostitutes, chose the man or men in their lives and Kitty quickly rose throughout the ranks to Field Marshal Lord Ligonier and Admiral Augustus Keppel. At 28 years old she gave up her illustrious career to marry an MP, John Norris, whose family estate was at Benenden. However just a few months after she was married she died and was buried in Benenden Church.

One obituary said ‘She wedded to live honest- but when tried
The experiment she liked not – and so died’. Want to know more?……..

Chris McCooey has published several books about Kent and Sussex, email: chris.mccooey@tiscali.co.uk

Report written by Sally Starbuck.

Last Revised: 30-Oct-2007

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