Thomas cleverly chose his 1881 honeymoon venue with his new bride Frances Harriet as a fashionable seaside town with access to some of the best, most interesting and most available geology in the south east of England. This edited version of his journal for the six days shows his abiding curiosity in the world around him. Frances must have been content to enjoy a honeymoon which was hardly tranquil. For the full version of the journal entry, with many interesting details, see here.
We left London Bridge for Folkestone at 4.43 and got to Folkestone by half past six o’clock. It was raining on our arrival, but we soon got into comfortable quarters in Edinburgh Castle Temperance Hotel, situated in Tontine Street. It was a very convenient situation, being near the post office and the harbour. The night was very stormy and wet.
Friday the 14th The day was very unpleasant, as the wind blew with great power, still we rambled till noon along the sea and Sandgate Road. After luncheon we went eastward to the ‘Warren’ where we got several rare plants and land shells, and also had a fine view of the sea in its rough state. We had a fine view of the chalk cliffs, extending from the Warren to Dover. The storm of this day was terrific, all over England, and did a great deal of damage to buildings, trees, and to shipping.
Saturday the 15th We both went to Dover, where we arrived at mid day. We walked along the harbour, passing the Marine Parade, which seems a fashionable resort, with a pleasant sea view. We saw ships from various nations in the harbour, many of them being from the Baltic. We passed the Castle Jetty and got under the Castle Cliffs. Here we saw chalk cliffs rising vertically to the height of 200 to 300 feet. At the foot of the cliffs I found several rare plants, some of which were new to me I also found the Kentish snail, the striped snail and the silky snail. We got on top of the cliff by a tunnel cut through the chalk; there was a stone to say that the elevation was 75 feet above the sea.. Here we had a fair view of the French coast direct south-east. I saw many flints in the chalk, but could get no fossils. We descended again by the same route and went round the foot of the cliff until we found our way up to the Castle. We were both greatly pleased with the view from the Castle hill. Beneath us lay the town, hemmed in by a semicircle of high chalk hills and cliffs on the land side, and the sea on the other side. Far across the English Chanel we could see France. Many stately ships were going up and down the Channel.
The Castle seems a place of great strength, and is, with its outworks of great extent, 30 acres. There is a dry ditch outside the wall. The wall has round and square towers. Near the church, which stands a short way from the Citadel, I saw the Roman Pharos, which is said to be one of the finest pieces of Roman masonry in the kingdom, and probably built during the rule of the Emperor Claudius. It stands at an elevation of 550 feet above sea level. I could see that it had courses of bricks about every four or five feet, with stone work between. The top was embattled and it had several windows. It was as nearly as possible bottle-shaped. The masonry was much eaten away by the weather, but the bricks were but little weathered. I picked up a piece of brick which the storm of the previous day had dislodged. So I can say ‘It is an ill wind which blows nobody good’. There is a deeply marked fishbone impression on the brick – it was the only piece of brick to be got, so that I was very pleased to find it.
On descending from the castle we got fine views. We next went through the town until we got to the market square. Here we had luncheon in the Duchess of Kent, an old fashioned hotel, much frequented by farmers and country people. We heard the Kentish dialect spoken by the country people as we sat at luncheon. Owing to their peculiar twang, I had difficulty at first in understanding what was said, but I soon got into it. After luncheon we went into the Museum where we saw a fair general collection.. we next proceeded out of town to Hay Cliff, where we saw the works of the proposed Chanel Tunnel at its base by the side of the railway to Dover. We returned to Dover over the top of the hill known as Shakespeare Cliff, from which I brought a nodule of flint.
The shades of evening were now closing over us. On our way down the steep road into the town, we saw a battery of 18 ton guns. We wandered about till train time, seeing the Lord Warden and Imperial hotels, the Pier, the Calais Dover channel steamer, which is a twin steamer used as a railway boat to convey passengers to and from Dover and Calais. It is a curious ship, being two steamers fastened together, for the sake of steadiness on the sea.
The best street we saw was a very long one called ’Snargate’. There were elegant shops in it, and many civilians and soldiers walking up and down. Between Dover and Folkestone, in a distance of 7 miles, we went through four tunnels, two being nearly a mile each in length – that is Abbotscliff and Shakespeare Cliff tunnels. We got back to the Edinburgh Castle about 9 o’clock, highly pleased with our visit to the interesting and historical town of Dover.
Sunday the 16th We went in the morning g to Folkestone church and heard the Vicar of the church preach. During the afternoon we went along the Lower Sandgate Road until we reached the very pleasant little town of Sandgate, which is about 1 and a half miles from Folkestone. It was a most pleasant walk all the way. On our left we had a pleasant view of the sea, and on our right we had a series of little groves of the dwarf pine, brambly banks, grassy banks, thickets of tamarisk, large patches of the stinking iris, and occasional outcrops of rock in what is known as the ‘Gault’. Sandgate is a bathing resort of great beauty and pleasantly situated. The town is only a long street; the houses being on each side of the road.
From the town we went up a country road to Shorncliffe Camp, which is situated upon a plateau of moderate elevation overlooking Sandgate and the sea. On the North it is overlooked by low chalk hills.
From the camp we went down by a narrow lane, overhung part of the way with copse wood and trees, until we got to the west end of Sandgate and onto the promenade which connects Sandgate with Hythe.We had a very pleasant walk back to Folkestone where we arrived by tea time I was surprised to see standard fig trees at Sandgate as we returned.
In the evening we went to Christchurch, which is a very nice Gothic building of modern date. It seems to be a fashionable church. We had a very fine day and evening.
Monday 17th This was a most lovely day so that we took sandwiches with us to the Warren, where we spent the day botanizing, shell collecting and fossil collecting. We got several fossils out of the Gault clay, which is of a stiff, softish texture. It is easy to get plenty of fossils, but they go to pieces as easily. [An extensive list of shells and plants found follows]
It was one of the most successful botanical finds I ever made in one day.
Tuesday 18th We spent the morning between Folkestone and Sandgate where we found several interesting things. . After luncheon we went to the Warren again; at the west end of it I could see that the Gault clay is much inclined to slip, several serious landslips had occurred, some of them falling into the sea and some slipped away with over 50 yards of new road which will be most difficult to make up again.
[Further list of botanical specimens found, including an unidentified orchid which he took home with him and bloomed next year (1882) proving to be a bee orchid]
We had a nice walk along the sands by the sea which was thickly strewn with blocks of chalk , sticking to which we saw limpets, mussels and other shellfish. This was also a very fine day.
Wednesday 19th We spent the morning exploring the cliffs west of Folkestone and rambling by the sea gathering plants and shells. It was with a good deal of regret that we left our very pleasant retreat at Folkestone and got on our way back to London. We left at 2.17 pm.
[There follows a very detailed account of every stage of the journey, including every station. Here as elsewhere it is obvious that TR kept detailed ‘real time’ notes which he later transcribed.]