Cooling shown within Kent
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Cooling was recorded in the Domesday Book when it was held by Bishop Odo of Bayeux (half-brother of William the Conqueror). The most notable surviving feature of the village is Cooling Castle, built on the edge of the marshes during the 12th century to defend the neighbouring port of Cliffe from the threat of French raiders.
Sir John de Cobham, later 3rd Baron Cobham, inherited a 700 acre (2.8 km²) estate at Cobham from his father Henry in 1335, originally acquired by the de Cobhams in 1241. Lord Cobham later built the castle in 1381, being charged with the defence of Kent and spurred on by a relatively successful raid by the Spanish and French up the Thames to Gravesend which caught the King's notice: in 1379 French vessels appeared in the Thames, with a body of French and Spanish soldiers who 'ravaged all this part of Kent', so that almost every town and village near the river fell to them. Sir John de Cobham (aka Lord Cobham) died in the monastery at Maiden Bradley in 1408.
The castle is described as 'startling white-stone, drum-towered gatehouse and moated ruins of Cooling Castle' and has two excellent and well proportioned Grade I listed half-round towers and entrance built by Thomas Crump of Maidstone. From the road, these are the most visible parts of the castle. The castle was constructed by the stonemason Henry Yevele, who also worked extensively on the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London. In 1381, the castle began to take shape, obtaining from King Richard licence to crenellate and fortify it'.
The name of Brooke was derived from Sir Thomas Brooke, who was wed to the daughter and only surviving child of Joan Lady de Cobham, by Sir Reginald Braybrooke. It was Braybrooke who bequeathed Cooling Castle to the de Cobham estate, although that family maintained Cobham Hall even then as its main residence.
Nevertheless, Cooling Castle was stormed by Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1554 during the Kentish uprising against Queen Mary and after the failure of Lord Dudley (later Duke of Northumberland) to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne.
That Sir Thomas Wyatt stormed Cooling Castle so easily may be explained by the interesting detail that the same was a nephew of Lord Cobham. Sir Thomas Wyatt was the son of Elizabeth Brooke, Cobham's sister, so his complicity with Dudley and Grey was 'a natural expression of his intimate love of England'. Wyatt held large estates in the Hundred of Hoo apart from those of his uncle, Lord Brooke of Cobham. His principal seat was Allington Castle on the River Medway.
It was George, Lord Cobham, in the year following his release from the Tower of London, who was instructed to entertain Cardinal Pole during the Papal Legate's visit to England during a formal attempt at reconciliation with Rome. This entertainment is recorded as having taken place at Cooling Castle, in about 1555, and is the last known reference to the Cobham family using the castle as a home. It had formally been somewhat damaged by the Duke of Norfolk's cannon in the attempt to force Wyatt's surrender during that uprising against Mary I.
During the 1990s the property was owned by the Rochester Bridge Wardens. The more recent residential parts of the castle are still in use — as of 2014 the property is owned by Jools Holland, a Deputy Lieutenant for the county, where he and his wife live. Cooling Castle's Grade II listed barn is available to hire for weddings and other functions.
St James' Church
The parish church of St James, in the diocese of Rochester, dates from the late 13th century. Although it has long been classified 'redundant', and no longer used for regular worship, Jools Holland married Christabel (former Countess of Durham) there in August 2007. The church is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open to visitors daily. In the churchyard are a group of children's gravestones which are widely considered to have inspired Charles Dickens' description of the churchyard in the opening scene of the novel Great Expectations.
- Arnold, Ralph (1947). The Hundred of Hoo. ASIN B0007J0HUC.
- "Cooling Castle Gatehouse, Cooling". www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.
- "Barn 30 Yards North East of Cooling Castle Gatehouse, Cooling". www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.
- "Cooling Castle Barn".
- "St James, Cooling". Churches Conservation Trust.
- Great Expectations, notes by Charlotte Mitchell in Penguin Classics 2003 edition, ISBN 978-0-14-143956-3
Media related to Cooling, Kent at Wikimedia Commons