In the 1940s, Bluetown, on the Isle-of-Sheppey, was ghetto-like: surrounded by walls, cut off by a moat, with one road in and one out. The people of Sheerness generally viewed Bluetown as a slum populated by a class of people they distrusted. It was into this area that my family brought me to live as World War Two was raging.
If Sheerness people of the 1940s had looked at Bluetown on a bad day, they might have seen many buildings collapsing, collapsed or in ruins, an abundance of pubs spewing hordes of drunken sailors, gangs of ragged children, domestic violence, poverty, and despair.
However, if those people of the 1940s had looked at Bluetown on a good day, they might have seen a small close-knit community with its own church, school, police station, theatre, railway station and pier where paddle steamers landed their passengers. They may have seen cobblers, grocers, butchers, chandlers, hairdressers, bakers, laundry, collar factory, crisp factory not to mention the Magistrates Court. If that wasn’t enough, Charles Dickens had once lived there, and Lord Nelson had stayed at Bluetown’s grand hotel, the ‘Fountain’.
Bluetown was all those things and more, for it lay in the shadow of an army garrison and Samuel Pepys’s Naval Dockyard which provided the main source of employment for the island and surrounding area.
So, as you can see, Bluetown was always a series of contradictions, not least in its architecture. On one hand were the ramshackle dwellings, whilst on the other, there were grand buildings such as the one we Bluetowners called, the Magistrates Court; more correctly, I’m assured, it was officially the County Court.