The village upon which this site is centred is located between New Romney and Dymchurch on the bay of the same name.
There were three notable features of this village, two of which are no longer present: the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway station, the Holiday Camp (or School Journey Centre) and the Sands Holiday Motel.
This page contains information on the village itself. Other pages in this section relate to the Motel and the Holiday Camp.
The village grew up in the early 20th century and for a time was known as Jesson. The south-easterly extent is bounded by Dymchurch Road and the sea, and the north-westerly by the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, although there is now further development on the other side of the railway. Jefferstone Lane runs from the Dymchurch Road to the station, and then on to St Mary in the Marsh.
Along Jefferstone lane were situated a small church, a number of shops and the local public house, the Bailiff’s Sergeant. This pub was named after the company entrusted by Henry III by charter to take responsibility for the drainage and embankments in Romney Marsh. The church, pub and shops remain much the same to this day.
In times gone by, the southern side of Jefferstone Lane was bounded by St Mary’s Bay Holiday Camp (School Journey Centre), which was demolished in the 1980s and is now a housing estate. There is a separate page for the Holiday Camp. There was also a wonderful corner shop on the southern corner of Jefferstone Lane and the Dymchurch Road, which sold all sorts of beach entertainments from buckets and spades, to beach balls, to kites, fishing lines etc. I remember that this shop was approached down a number of steps, which showed just how much below sea level the marsh actually was. The shop was demolished around the same time as the camp.
Between Dymchurch Road and the sea, opposite the Holiday Camp, was Sands Holiday Motel, built in the early 70s and where many families spent their summer holidays throughout the 70s and 80s. As with the Holiday Camp, there is a separate page for the Motel.
The aerial photograph above shows the size of the Holiday Camp site. It extended from Jefferstone Lane in the northeast, to New Sewer in the south, and from the RHDR line in the northwest to the Dymchurch Road in the southeast.
Further inland is the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway station, now recently renamed “St Mary’s Bay” having spend much of the 1980s and 1990s as “Jefferstone Lane”. Much earlier, it was simply “Holiday Camp”. It was one of the original stations on the line when it first opened in the late 1920s.
Much of the village northeast of Jefferstone Lane has remained the same since this map was drawn, although the dwellings have become more densely packed since then. The map shows the location of the original hotel that was demolished in the early 70s to make way for Sands Holiday Motel.
Memories of St Mary’s Bay
Here are some memories of St Mary’s Bay sent in by kind readers. Stories such as these and photographs of the area are always welcome and gratefully received!
Julie writes of her memories in the 1970s:
“I have many fond memories of St Mary’s Bay. My sister, I and mum & dad first rented a large bungalow just down a road opposite the sea front. I cannot remember the name of the road, but it had a large black & white fish and chip shop on the corner, which was reached via a long gangplank (it was on the first floor I believe!). Then we bought a camper van (a Comma) and dad used to drive from Dagenham in Essex to Coopers farm, which was a large campsite near Dymchurch Town Centre. The RHD railway ran through a potato field at the back and my sister and I used to wait by the track (very dangerous now!) and wave to the driver and all the passengers. My dad made us a swing ball (we did not have enough money to buy the proper thing!) and we used to play for hours with our Wimbledon Tennis rackets in the field outside our camp site.
I remember the many hot summers on the beach at St Mary’s Bay during the years from 1973 to 1977 and of the ladybird epidemic (one of those years) when you could not put a cup of tea down without 4 flying/landing in the full cup – that was a weird year.
I remember playing lots and lots of bingo at the Funfair and trying desperately to get enough winning tickets to buy a huge big Tiger, but I never made it! The ghost train was my favourite ride there.
I remember the shops and of my mum buying my sister and I our first bras from a shop on the corner of the High Street, what a laugh we were only about 9 and 10!!
Day trips to Folkestone were always fun and we would watch in wonderment at the rock shop employees making real rock in front of our eyes and of the long steep road to the top of the rock shop.
My sister, Ann, and I made a weekend visit there on our own a few years back and stayed at The Ship pub. The old place still had that seaside charm, but it had become a bit dirty and neglected, we thought!
One last memory is of the huge Martello Towers that dominated the Coast Line around the area.”