Looking at the stories which made the headlines you can see straight away what a different place the world was: the Cuban Missile crisis took place, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and four lads from Liverpool released a song called Love Me Do.
In Dartmouth, the Queen and Prince Philip visited, creating a big stir in the town (as they always have done) but also a bit of an argument. The Royal couple’s itinerary only allowed 30 minutes to meet local dignitaries and the Borough Council were NOT bestpleased.
Complaints flowed from the councillors: Alderman William Row, for example, said: “It seems a very empty affair and hardly worthwhile putting on your best clothes for.” These complaints were ignored: in fact the Royal couple’s time in the town was then cut to twenty minutes.
Whatever the problems, when Her Majesty and Prince Philip arrived they were enthusiastically welcomed by the massive crowds who braved horrible, wet and windy conditions to see them.
Prince Philip was on fine form; he met the borough councillors – who included a schoolmaster, a cobbler, builder, butcher, jeweller, estate agent, lecturer, ladies outfitter, and a gas fitter – and asked drily, “Haven’t you got a candlestick maker?”
Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were very attentive on a tour of the Britannia Royal Naval College’s training facilities – and many in the town hoped it was due to their plans to send the-then 14-year-old Prince Charles on the Officer Cadet training course, which he duly did nine years later.
The country was facing economic woes in 1962, much as we are today. Inflation was over 4per cent for most of the year and the economy only grew 1.1 per cent.
But Dartmouth again managed to buck the trend and very much live up to Harold Macmillan’s assertion that Britain had ‘never had it so good’. The Easter trade in the town was off the map as far as visitors goes: the Lower, Higher and passenger ferries all reported record numbers travelling and hotels, bars and restaurants all made a killing, making the most of the good weather.
In 1959 the Dartmouth & Kingswear Society had been formed by Lt Col Richard Webb, Christopher Milne (the inspiration behind Winnie the Pooh’s owner, but who hated to be called Christopher Robin) and John Smith. The trio had been united in their horror at the uncontrolled development of Dartmouth and had formed the society to ‘protect it’ from insensitive and ill-conceived changes.
In 1962 they held a public forum to discuss the development of Dartmouth for the good of all.
It was a very interesting meeting that caused headlines after it was suggested Lake Street be demolished to make way for a car park. But away from the controversy the society came up with some interesting suggestions - banning traffic from Duke and Foss Street, building a new connecting road from Ferndale off Victoria Road to Swannaton Road and a link road from Townstal to link with the Higher Ferry.
The forum would help create the basis for their “Town Plan” a year later – which would be the first catalyst for the building of College Way in 1969.
Swimming was also a big concern of residents in 1962 – as it is today – but for rather different reasons.
Rather than a campaign for a swimming pool in Townstal, the call was for an open-air unheated pool on the site currently occupied by the Community Greenhouse.
The call was made after the town’s Swimming Club was forced out of its home of 70 years at Castle Cove. Storms caused massive rock falls and also damaged the club’s changing facilities. They had the annual ‘first dip’ in the Boatfloat instead – and no one was very happy about it. Understandably so.
The water in the Boatfloat was a big bone of contention for club member. It was full of diesel oil for one thing and the mud that filled it stank. The river was much dirtier back then. Along the banks of the beautiful and picturesque river Dart there were EIGHTEEN raw sewage outlets.
Although the views of our stunning river have been changed in the last fifty years with developments both on and off the water, and there is a lot of debate about whether these changes are for better or worse – it’s clear the water in the river is a great deal cleaner now.•
First Published December 2012 By The Dart