IFour Winds: A Seaside Space-Age Caff in the Garden of England

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"The Four Winds restaurant on Hythe seafront in Kent doesn't have a very inspiring exterior (it's been fitted with a horrible new sign to boot), but once inside the treasure is bountiful!

It's in such good condition. I have no idea how the owners view their gorgeous interior.

It wouldn't surprise me if they thought 'let's get rid of all this dated old crap in the skip and have some nice new furniture in'.

Hopefully they realise they have a gem, otherwise I hope someone gets down there and documents it properly before it's stripped!"

"I should let you know that I found out a few days ago (June 22 2005) that the cafe is up for sale with a view to redeveloping the whole site for a new building. I thought I should let you know, in case you knew anyone who would be interested in buying any of the furniture and equipment before it ends up in a skip like the contents of Cedntrale and the Pollo... A crying shame."

(All Pix: Dan O'Leary)

Four Winds Restaurant (RIP July 2005)
West Parade
CT21 6DS
01303 266409


"Hythe, in the District of Shepway, is one of the five original Cinque Ports (pronounced 'sink', as in Norman French) on the "Garden Coast" in South Kent.

It is on a broad bay of the English Channel, four miles west of the cross- channel port of Folkestone and 16 miles south west of Dover.

A wide promenade overlooks a long stretch of beach, and over the English channel to France.

It is ideal for a summer picnic and safe bathing. From the sea-front the town is on level ground.

Most of the immediate area is residential, but a five-minute stroll along Stade Street brings you to the Royal Military canal.

This was dug during the Napoleonic era (1804-15) as a defensive measure against possible French invasion.

The Town spreads up the hillside in a pleasing jumble of little streets, containing many interesting historic buildings.

At the foot of the hill is the old and narrow High Street! It is the main shopping area and it's history dates back many centuries. This can easily be seen by looking at the variety of architectural styles of neighbouring buildings.

Half way up the hill stands the dominating figure of the 11th century parish church, with its famous crypt and ossuary (vaults containing the bones of early settlers).

The Town and immediate neighbourhood contain many first-class facilities for recreation. Golf, tennis, riding, bowls, squash, boating, wind-surfing, fresh-water and sea angling, and bathing in the local indoor heated pools or the sea are all available.

The Royal Military Canal's banks provide many delightful walks, as does the varied local countryside..."

The Ancient Cinque Ports of England

The Cinque Ports existed before the Norman Conquest, but not as a formal body. They were there in Roman and Saxon times as the natural first line of defence against invaders from the mainland of Europe who had to come by sea.

From the middle of the 11th Century south eastern ports were granted varying degrees of autonomy and ranges of privilege and honours at Court under the individual Charter from the ruling sovereign.

This was in their capacity as fortified ports, providing ships and men for the service of The Crown, both as fighting ships and transport.

In the reign of Edward the Confessor (Circ. 1050) the Ports provided twenty ships once a year for fifteen days, each with a crew of twenty-one men. King John, to curry favour, granted the Ports a series of Charters in 1205.

The first authoritative list of Cinque Ports Confederation Members was produced in 1293 when Stephen of Pencester was Warden.

Faversham hold an original of the oldest General Charter of the Ports, that of Henry 11 1260. Hythe and Hastings hold original copies of the Great Charter of the Cinque Ports granted in 1278 to each of the Ports by Edward I.

Under the term "Ship Service" the Ports provided the King's Navy to the end of the 13th Century and reached their zenith as Ports in the 14th Century.

Even in the 15th Century they continued to be used in providing transport ships.

The subsequent decline of the Ports was based on a number of factors. The politics of the 13th Century Plantagenets, the effect of the Great Plague, the growth of inland areas and Ports like London, Southampton and the western ports of Bristol and Liverpool. 15th Century changes in the coastline in the south east, a past "fictitious" prosperity, in which fishing, piracy and wrecking played a large part, but lacking a sound economic basis.

Not since 1414 have the Ports been called to provide Ship Service in full. By the time of Elizabeth I, the Ports ceased to be of any special significance, by them being absorbed in the general administration of the Realm...

"The Cinque Ports were first mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155 and, for certain privileges, maintained ships that could be called upon by the Crown in times of strife.

It seems that the ships and men from these Towns would often carry on fighting after peace had been reached and for many years got away with what amounted to open piracy around the Kent and Sussex coast.

"The Channel" by Shirley Harrison, refers to the Cinque Ports as a "legalized mafia". As there was no Navy in those days (the ships from the Cinque Ports served this function) there was usually nothing the Crown could do to control these situations.

According to the original Charter, the members of the Cinque Ports had the right to: "soc and sac, tol and team, bloowit and fledwit, pillory tumbril infangentheof, outfangentheof, mundbryce waives and strays, flotsam and jetsam and ligan".

This meant the sailors from these Ports could do what they wanted, when they wanted. This included wrecking, grounding and plundering other ships. A extremely useful foundation for the smuggling that eventually became the vocation of many of the men from around these parts of the coast.

In addition, the Towns had the rights to dispense their own justice through their own Courts and send representatives to hold the canopy over a new Monarch during the Coronation Ceremony.

The five original towns that formed the Cinque Ports were Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings.

Two more Towns, Rye and Winchelsea, were attached to Hastings as members. When Hastings' use as a port declined, they were both given special status of "Ancient Towns".

Other Towns were given the status of "limbs" because of their close association with original member Towns.

One of these "limbs" was Fordwich which, although several miles from the sea, was linked to Sandwich because the River Stour was navigable to this point in the Middle Ages.

The strength and value of the Cinque Ports began to decline in the 14th Century when many of the harbours belonging to these ports began to silt up.

The final blow to the power once held by the Cinque Ports was the eventual formation of a real and full-time Navy.

(The silting up of the ports and land in Southern Kent has been continuing for years. At the same time the land around Reculver and Herne Bay on the North Kent coast has been gradually eroding.)"

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