Woolcomber Street


Woolcomber Street today, viewed from the junction with Townwall Street, looking towards St James's Church

Woolcomber Street, connecting Eastbrook Place with Townwall Street, was once a busy street lined with shops and houses.  My great grandfather, an umbrella maker and bath chair proprietor, had his shop on the right of the picture at no. 13.  On the left would have been the gardens of the Burlington Hotel, which was one of the many properties in the area badly damaged by bombs and shells during the second World War.

In my youth, I remember the area on the right at the far end of the road as St. James' churchyard - it was taken over by the local council to make a car park when the swimming pool and leisure centre (right foreground in the picture) was built.

"The earliest known industry, in this locality, was the making of salt.  In the depression left by the old harbour, sea water collected at every tide, and salt being, at that time, a scarce and valuable commodity, salt-pans were constructed here, by which sea water was evaporated, and salt produced for domestic use.  After the salt makers, came the wool combers; and they, in turn, were succeeded by smugglers, who had the hardihood to defy the royal Customer right under the Castle walls, and to use caves in the cliff to hide their contraband goods.

Woolcomber Street boasts to-day a palatial hotel, the Burlington, which dominates the whole neighbourhood; but opposite to it is a small hostelry, much older - the Mail Packet Inn, which is a remnant of the time when the mail packets landed their passengers in the Bay.  Between Woolcomber Street and Trevanion Street are Trevanion Lane and Woolcomber Lane.  A peep into these will afford traces of the wool combers and the 'Free Traders.'  Here, too, was St. James's poorhouse in the 18th century.  On the east side of Woolcomber Street are some houses marked Exhibition Place, so named because they were built in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.  The wool combers' dwellings stood there previously.  At the bottom of Woolcomber Street is Marine House, which, some thirty years ago, was the home of our present Dover School of Art.(J.B.J. 1907)


The backs of the houses in Woolcomber Street, near the junction with St James's Street, looking South across Trevanion Street from St James's Churchyard.

"Dover Harbour, in Norman times, was under the Castle Cliff, where Woolcomber and Trevanion Streets, with the intervening space, including Trevanion Lane, and Woolcomber Lane, now are.  These streets are not ancient, as may be inferred from their names.  The one takes its name from some houses which were occupied by woolcombers, in the 18th century; and the other takes its name from the Hon. John Trevanion, M.P., who had a residence there in the 18th century.(J.B.J. 1907)


This view is looking North East across Woolcomber Street near the junction with St James's Street and Trevanion Street.

"When Woolcomber and Trevanion Streets formed the site of the harbour, a branch of the Dour, called Eastbrook, emptied itself there.  That harbour lay without the town wall, and was approached through Eastbrook Gate, at a place called Mansfield's Corner.  This place is mentioned in the Corporation records in the reign of Charles I., ...(J.B.J. 1907)


This view is taken from a little further down the street, looking North East, and shows the premises of Mr. A. J. Pierce and the Woolcomber General Stores.  There were no buildings on the opposite side of the street between here and St. James's Street.


"The widening of Woolcomber Street commenced in 1855, when the old Parsonage at its entrance was demolished, and it was continued in 1894, when the residence of Dr. Parsons was taken down, as well as the whole of the houses on the western side up to the grounds of the Burlington Hotel, and the consequent rebuilding left the street as it is to-day, except that the subsequent renovation of the big hotel has given the whole neighbourhood a smarter appearance.(J.B.J. 1907)


Old pictures courtesy of Ted Jones