14 Tontine Street
The house and shop were built in 1898,along with the shop next door, on a piece of land formerly used by one Henry Hyham as an abattoir and butchers shop in Dover Road. The building was built on foundations, which originally formed part of the town’s early fortifications, and these can still be seen in the cellar today.
The shop has been used as a tobacconist and sweet shop for most of its life and the house above has been taking in paying guests of one kind or another for most of that time too.
One of these was a woman called Edith Mary Grimes, a 24 year old typist, who rented a room on the top floor. On the 25th May 1917 she was killed outright by the German bomb dropped on Tontine Street during the air raid of that date. Ever since, residents and guests staying in the house have said that they find it difficult to go up to the 4th floor because there is “something” that stops them. Some say it is just a feeling that they are not welcome and others say that there is an invisible barrier across the stairs preventing them from going up. It is almost like having to lift the trap-door on an attic before you can go in – nothing physical but more like a heavy cloud that you have to pass through.
In 1932, the property was bought by Charlie Robey, and his son George ran the business from then until his death in 1994. The business was well known in the town and even to the end was a “traditional” tobacconist blending and weighing out smoking mixtures of tobacco according to customers’ individual requirements. Although George Robey never actually owned the shop until he inherited it in 1972, he always considered it as “his” shop and has refused to leave it ever since. Every business that has tried to use the house or shop since his death has failed in one way or another – including his own daughters attempt to carry on the family business. Some have said that this is entirely due to his influence.
Text by Terry Begent, Article from Go Folkestone Newsletter December 2007
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