One of Britain’s top novelists says that 'iconic’ buildings such as Folkestone’s war horse stables should be preserved as part of ‘the story of the place’.
Sir Michael Morpurgo has been a long-time supporter of the Shorncliffe Trust, which seeks to preserve the legacy of Shorncliffe Garrison, and made the comments after appearing at The Tower Theatre nearby for a memorial event last week.
The Garrison stables housed thousands of war horses before they were shipped to the Western Front, and developer Taylor Wimpey plan to demolish the 1904 building as part of a new wave of housing on the ex-Ministry of Defence land.
The War Horse author explained why features should be protected: “It’s the story of the place. This stuff happened here and it’s important it’s not wiped out.
“What proportion of it is kept is the question for local people, but I think to keep some evidence that this was here - this happened - is really important.”
He continued: “It’s difficult because housing’s important - people living here is important, particularly if it’s social housing because you’ve got to find places for people to live.
“I understand that, but I think it’s important to keep these iconic areas that we’ve got in this country which do echo our history down.
“It’s important to keep those there for us I think for future generations otherwise the story isn’t told.”
The writer appeared for free at the venue on North Road last Tuesday to remember Victorian philanthropist and champion of sailors’ safety Samuel Plimsoll.
The talk entitled ‘Sea and Sympathy’ featured the writer in conversation with Nicolette Jones, author of history book The Plimsoll Sensation, who discussed with him maritime history, his love of the sea and social justice.
The author quipped that despite many of his books being about the sea, he is a ‘hopeless’ sailor, but spent many summers on the Isles of Scilly.
He had the full-house audience laughing throughout with life advice such as ‘do not choose a partner who is honest’ and that readers bought War Horse ‘30 years too late’ following the success of the film. He described his books as ‘all his babies’ rather than having a favourite and advised budding authors to tell a story and pretend you’re not writing at all, adding “We all have stories in our heads.”
Actor Rebecca Clee performed readings from some of his books and he also spoke of his time at King’s School in Canterbury, teaching at Wickhambreaux Primary School, where he first began writing and learned to capture children’s imaginations.
The author appeared in support of the campaign for Plimsoll, whose name is associated with the line on a ship’s side which shows how low it can submerge in water safely when loaded with cargo.
Ms Jones revealed in the talk that Plimsoll shoes are also nicknamed after him because like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water goes above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.
Plimsoll is buried at St Martin’s Church, Cheriton.
Jones initiated the Folkestone Plimsoll Memorial Campaign some years ago, which commemorates the humanitarian who lived his last years in Folkestone. It is now run by a committee.
Sir Michael was knighted in March, and revealed earlier this year that he had radiotherapy in 2017 to treat cancer of the larynx. He now lives in Devon, was Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005.
Ticket sales from the event will go towards the Plimsoll campaign and maintaining the Tower Theatre.