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Coal for Miss Terry

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Spring 2011

John Pyper

John Pyper rediscovers a now-lost navigation on the Kent/Sussex border that still offered a coal delivery service a hundred years ago

This picture postcard of a small sailing vessel trading to a remote wharf on a branch of the Eastern Rother on the Kent/Sussex border has fascinated me for years. It is entitled “Smallhythe and Miss Ellen Terry’s Farm, Ferry”. I have at last made the effort to visit Smallhythe, and found it to be a place of extraordinary interest and atmosphere in many ways. Ellen Terry, the great actress, found and fell in love with the old Tudor house, seen in this photograph, when out driving with Henry Irving in the 1890s. She made it her favourite home until her death in 1928. Thereafter her daughter established it as a museum to commemorate Dame Ellen’s extraordinary life, and as such it is now in the careful hands of the National Trust, from whose guide book – Ellen Terry and Smallhythe Place by Joy Melville – much of this information comes. In the garden is a shed with a display to explain the remarkable maritime history of Smallhythe. In the MiddleAges it …

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