The Parish Council
St Mary's Bay
St Mary in the Marsh
History of the Camps at St Mary's Bay
St Mary's Bay had a number of holiday camps; they included:
The Tree Estate in St Mary's Bay is located in the area bounded by Jefferstone Lane to the north and the A259 Dymchurch Road to the east (see map). It was built in the 1970s on land that had been home since the first world war to a number of camps.
The first camp was built during WW1 as a military camp, it then became a holiday camp, followed by a boys camp and finally a holiday camp again. read on...
With the arrival of the 1914-1918 War, the War Department built a camp in what was then Jesson Lane, now Jefferstone Lane. The camp covered a large area, with Jesson Lane and the A259 as its boundaries.
The camp housed the Royal Flying Corps School of Gunnery, amalgamated with No.1 (Observers) School of Aerial Gunnery. The airfield itself was further down Jesson Lane on the right just past the railway line.. The camp was intended to accommodate 1000 men, 300 NCOs, 400 officers and 400 women.
1920s and 1930s
A few years before the First World War, the London Boys’ Brigade had held summer camps under canvas on William Body’s land behind Cobsden, just off Dunstall Lane. When the Royal Flying Corps’ Gunnery School was put up for sale in 1920, the Boy’s Brigade purchased all the accommodation on the New Romney side of Jesson Lane, excluding a couple of the homes.
After a year or two, the Boys' Brigade found the camp difficult to maintain and sold it to Joseph Allnatt, a visionary and entrepreneur who converted the old air force buildings into a residential centre for schools. During the winter months it was run a Turkey farm!
1935 and 1936
The hamlet of Jesson became the village of St. Mary's Bay in 1935 and in 1936 the name of the camp was changed to the St Mary's Bay Holiday Camp. In those days the camp was the biggest employer in the area during the summer and also kept a good gang of workmen to carry out maintenance during the closed season.
In World War Two, a number of the buildings were bombed, mainly those running alongside the A259. The Berkshire and Lancashire Kitchens never opened up after the war, all the catering being done in the Yorkshire Block in the centre of the camp.
In the post-war years of the forties, fifties and early sixties the camp thrived with fleets of coaches packed with children and their teachers arriving on changeover day.
When the children’s side of the holiday camp was scaled down, the name was changed in about 1964/5 from St. Mary’s Holiday Camp to the St. Mary's Bay School Journey Centre. Most of the buildings down from the Light Railway were taken over by Romney Marsh Poultry, who were still part of the same company that owned the Camp.
In the 1970s the bulldozers moved in and demolition of the camp began. Starting near the Light Railway line the machines worked their way up to the main road. By about 1975, the first roads had been laid and William Bray started to build the bungalows along what is now Laurel Avenue. This was the start of the Tree Estate - so named because all the roads are named after trees - as we know it today.
The Parish Council gives its grateful thanks to local author and artist Victor Haisell who has