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Mr Peter Decent

In 1870 Mr Peter Decent was living in what is now 15 Sandwich Road, Eythorne. In this year he purchased two parcels of land from the estate of the late John Ladd, landlord of the Crown Inn. These parcels of land became numbers 17 (Woodbine Cottage) and 21 (Industria, also known as Beehive Cottage) Sandwich Road in due time.
Peter was born in 1808 in Brixham and was a Cinque Ports Trinity House Pilot and, as such, a high-status seaman. The Pilots were officially licensed and self-employed. To achieve a licence, pilots had to be knowledgeable seamen, able to guide any ship through the Downs and the notorious Goodwin Sands and able to navigate to the Thames, Medway and any channel port. It was usually required that a candidate had had at least seven years at sea as a master mariner, thus most pilots were at least twenty-eight years old when licensed. Peter joined in 1837 and was hence relatively young at 26. After 1852 the rule became that all pilots had to have had at least five-years service as a master mariner, but be under the age of thirty-five.
Peter was still very active in the early 1870s and the census of 1871 shows him, aged 63, lodging in the Victory Tavern, 53 High Street, Strood along with another Dover Pilot, (transcribed as “Benj W Sackedd), aged 65, born Isle of Thanet, presumably to carry out piloting duties on the Medway and Thames, possibly concerning the Naval Dockyard at Chatham.
His wife Anne (nee Fox, born 1807 in Dover) died in 1865 and they had 13 children together. Alas, four died young. In 1879 he was the longest serving pilot in Dover. He died, aged 81, in 1889 and is buried with his wife in Cowgate Cemetery in Dover. Anne is the first name on the gravestone and beneath her name is engraved the touching phrase “The affectionate wife of Peter Decent”. The house Peter Decent was living in when he died continued to be occupied by his descendants afterwards, firstly by his daughter Caroline Decent and her husband William H Norman and then the Norman family, at least until 1914. It seemed to have been named Prospect Villas at one time during this period and The Manse later.
Vince Croud

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