Gravesend

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Coordinates: 51°26′29″N 0°22′07″E / 51.4415°N 0.3685°E / 51.4415; 0.3685

Gravesend
Junction New Street & Windmill Street (geograph 1489805).jpg
Gravesend High Street in 2009
Gravesend is located in Kent
Gravesend
Gravesend
 Gravesend shown within Kent
Population 66,000 (2012 est)
OS grid reference TQ647740
District Gravesham
Shire county Kent
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Gravesend
Postcode district DA11, DA12
Dialling code 01474
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Gravesham
List of places
UK
England
Kent

Gravesend /ˌɡrvzˈɛnd/ is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role in the history and communications of this part of England. It still retains a strong link with the river. The opening of the international railway station immediately west of the town at Ebbsfleet Valley, the arrival of High Speed train services to and from Gravesend railway station itself, and the town's position in the Thames Gateway, have all added to the town's importance.

Toponymy[edit]

The town was recorded as Gravesham in Domesday Book in 1086 as belonging to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux: the name probably derived from "graaf-ham": the home of the Reeve, or Bailiff, of the Lord of the Manor. Another theory suggests that the name Gravesham may be a corruption of the words grafs-ham – a place "at the end of the grove".[1] Frank Carr[2] asserts that the name derives from the Saxon Gerevesend, the end of the authority of the Portreve, (originally Portgereve), the officer in charge of the town. The Domesday spelling is the only historical record;[clarification needed] all other spellings – in the later (c. 1100) Domesday Monarchorum and in Textus Roffensis the town is Gravesend/Gravesende. A variation, Graveshend, can be seen in a legal record of 1422, where Edmund Langeford was the parson.[3] Gravesham was however adopted in 1974 as the name of the new Borough.[4]

History[edit]

Gravesend High Street (Windmill Street) in August 2008

Stone Age implements have been found in the area since the 1900s, as has the evidence of an Iron Age settlement at nearby Springhead. Extensive Roman remains have been found nearby, at Vagniacae (Springhead); and Gravesend lies immediately to the north of the Roman road connecting London with the east Kent coast – now called Watling Street. Domesday Book recorded mills, hythes, and fisheries here.[5]

In the Fort Gardens is Milton Chantry, Gravesend's earliest extant building, dating from the late 13th century. It was refounded about 1321 on the site of a hospital founded in 1189. At the time it was supported by lands in Essex.

Gravesend has one of the oldest surviving markets in the country, its earliest charter dating from 1268. Town status was granted to the two parishes of Gravesend and Milton; the Charter of Incorporation was received in that year. The first Mayor of Gravesend was also elected in that year, although the first town hall was not built until 1573: it was replaced in 1764 and a new frontage was built in 1836. Although its use as a town hall came to an end in 1968, when the new Civic Centre was opened, it remained in use as the Magistrates' Courts. In 2004 it became disused but, following a full refurbishment paid for with lottery money and grants from Kent County Council and Gravesham Borough Council, the Old Town Hall is now a thriving venue that is used for weddings and private functions as well as community and public events.

In 1380, during the Hundred Years' War, Gravesend was sacked and burned by a Castilian fleet.

In 1401, a Royal Grant was issued, allowing the men of the town to operate boats between London and the town; these became known as the "Long Ferry". It became the preferred form of passage, because of the perils of the road journey (see below).

On the river front are the remains of a riverside fort built at the command of Henry VIII in 1543.

On March 21, 1617, John Rolfe and Rebecca (Pocahontas) with their two-year-old son, Thomas boarded a ship in London bound for Virginia; the ship had only sailed as far as Gravesend when Rebecca became gravely ill.[6] She died when her body was taken ashore. It is not known what caused her death.[7] Her funeral took place on 21 March 1617, in the parish of Saint George's Church.[8] The site of her grave is thought to be underneath the church's chancel, though since that church was destroyed in a fire in 1727 her exact location of her resting place is unknown.[9] Thomas survived, but was adopted to Sir Lewis Stukley in Plymouth and later to John's brother, Henry Rolfe in Heacham. John and Tomocomo returned to Virginia. Samuel Argall commanded the ship.

At Fort Gardens is the New Tavern Fort built during the 1780s and extensively rebuilt by Charles George Gordon between 1865 and 1879: it is now Chantry Heritage Centre, partly open-air, under the care of the Gravesend Local History Society.[10]

Journeys by road to Gravesend were once quite hazardous, since the main London-Dover road crossed Blackheath, notorious for its highwaymen. Stagecoaches from London to Canterbury, Dover and Faversham used Gravesend as one of their "stages" as did those coming north from Tonbridge. In 1840 there were 17 coaches picking up and setting down passengers and changing horses each way per day. There were two coaching inns in the New Road: the New Prince of Orange and the Lord Nelson. Stagecoaches had been plying the route for at least two centuries: Samuel Pepys records having stopped off at Gravesend in 1650.

A Map of Gravesend from 1946

Although a great deal of the economy of the town continued to be connected with the shipping trades, the other big employers were the cement and paper industries.

From 1932 to 1956, an airport was located to the east of the town. It began as a civilian field, but during World War II it became a Royal Air Force fighter station, RAF Gravesend, and the town was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. In 1956 the site was taken over by the town council; the large estate known as Riverview Park was built on its site.[11] At 03:35 GMT on Sunday 5 February 1939, Alex Henshaw took off from Gravesend Airport at the start of his record-breaking flight to Cape Town and back. He completed the flight in 39 hours 36 minutes over the next four days. His record still stands.

Governance[edit]

Gravesend is part of, and is the principal town of, the borough of Gravesham.[12] The borough was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by the merger of the Municipal Borough of Gravesend and Northfleet Urban District. Gravesend had been incorporated as a municipal borough in 1835 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and Northfleet was constituted an urban district in 1894 under the Local Government Act 1894. Gravesend absorbed Milton (1914), Denton, Chalk and part of Northfleet (1935)(i.e. Claphall, Singlewell and Kings Farm).

Milton Chantry

Geography[edit]

The site of Gravesend is at a point where the high land – the lowest point of the dip slope of the North Downs – reaches the river bank. To the east are the low-lying Shorne Marshes; to the west, beyond Northfleet, the Swanscombe Marshes. The settlement thus grew up because it was the only good landing place; it was also sheltered by the prominent height of what is now called Windmill Hill (see Landmarks below). Although Windmill Hill dominates the town, Gravesend's highest point is actually Marling Cross to the south adjacent to the A2.

From its origins as a landing place and first port of call for shipping, Gravesend gradually extended southwards and eastwards. The well-off people from London were coming to the town during the summer months; at first by boat, and then by railway. More extensive building began after World War I; this increased after World War II, when many of the estates around the town were built.[13]

Those built-up areas include Painters Ash, adjacent to the A2; King's Farm (most of King's Farm estate was built in the 1930s); and Christianfields housing estates. The last of these has been completely rebuilt over a 6 year project from 2007-2013. Part of the southern built-up area of the town was originally two separate rural parishes.[clarification needed]

Climate[edit]

Gravesend has an Oceanic climate similar to much of Southern England, and has a Köppen Climate Classification subtype of "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate).[14]

On 10 August 2003, Gravesend recorded one of the highest temperatures since records began in the United Kingdom, with a reading of 38.1 degrees Celsius (100.6 degrees Fahrenheit),[15] only beaten by Brogdale, near Faversham, 26 miles (42 km) to the ESE.[16] The Brogdale weather station, which is run by a volunteer, only reports its data once a month; Gravesend, which is a Met Office site, reports its data each hour.

Being inland and yet relatively close to continental Europe, Gravesend has a somewhat more continental climate than the coastal areas of Kent, Essex and East Anglia and also compared to western parts of Britain. It is therefore less cloudy, drier, and less prone to Atlantic depressions with their associated wind and rain than western parts, as well as being hotter in summer and colder in winter.

Thus Gravesend continues to record high temperatures in summer, sometimes being the hottest place in the country, e.g. on the warmest day of 2011, when temperatures reached 33.1 degrees.[17] Additionally, the town holds at least two records for the year 2010, of 30.9 degrees[18] and 31.7 degrees.[19] Another record was set during the Autumn 2011 United Kingdom heat wave with 29.9 degrees, the highest temperature ever recorded in October in the country.[20]

Climate data for Stanford-le-Hope (nearest climate station to Gravesend) 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.9
(46.2)
8.0
(46.4)
10.9
(51.6)
13.2
(55.8)
16.8
(62.2)
19.9
(67.8)
22.1
(71.8)
22.2
(72)
19.4
(66.9)
15.2
(59.4)
10.8
(51.4)
8.1
(46.6)
14.54
(58.18)
Average low °C (°F) 2.2
(36)
1.6
(34.9)
3.3
(37.9)
4.7
(40.5)
7.5
(45.5)
10.5
(50.9)
13.0
(55.4)
12.5
(54.5)
10.3
(50.5)
7.4
(45.3)
4.4
(39.9)
2.4
(36.3)
6.65
(43.97)
Precipitation mm (inches) 47.9
(1.886)
36.7
(1.445)
37.6
(1.48)
40.9
(1.61)
48.0
(1.89)
41.1
(1.618)
52.5
(2.067)
44.8
(1.764)
45.5
(1.791)
64.9
(2.555)
57.8
(2.276)
53.8
(2.118)
571.5
(22.5)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 60.0 77.7 113.4 161.5 194.3 198.7 208.7 195.5 151.1 117.9 74.0 48.6 1,601.4
Source: metoffice

Demography[edit]

In the past 20 years the economy of the Borough of Gravesham has changed from one based on heavy industry to being more service-based. The borough's estimated population in 2012 was 101,700: a 6000 increase in less than a decade. It has a high population density (almost 10 people per hectare) compared to nationally; it has a relatively young population (40% of the population are below 30); and 60% of the population are of working age.

Based upon figures from the 2001 Census, the second largest religious group in the Borough are Sikhs, who at that time made up 6.7% of the population. However, if the term belief is used, Christians are most numerous at more than 70%, non-religious and undeclared are second and third, with Sikhs as the fourth group[21]

The 2011 Census shows that, in the Medway area, Christians are now 57% of the population, with the non-religious at 28%. In Gravesham, specifically, the population is 61% Christians, with non-religious at 22% and Sikhs at 7.6%.

Economy[edit]

Gravesend today is a busy commercial town. It serves a large area as a shopping centre: there are several of the multiple stores here, and a good range of local shops. It has a market hall, open six days a week, and a newly established farmers' market. There are still those employed on the river as crews on the tugboats. Gravesend "watermen" were often in a family trade; and the town is the headquarters of the Port of London Authority Port Control Centre (formerly known as "Thames Navigation Service"), supplying both river and sea pilots. Today radar plays an important part in the movement of shipping on the river.

Shopping[edit]

Gravesend town centre is host to a wealth of both major and independent retail stores and shops, including Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, BHS, Mothercare, Poundland, Discount UK, and 99p Stores.

Charity shops such as Age UK, Oxfam, British Red Cross, and the Elleanor Lions's hospice are another popular feature within the area.

Its position in the Thames Gateway is an important asset: there are many commuters away from the town, but local enterprises employ as many people.[22]

Landmarks[edit]

Gravesend Town Pier[edit]

The refurbished Town Pier

The Pier is the world's oldest surviving cast iron pier, built in 1834[23] it is a unique structure with the first known iron cylinders used for its foundation. The pier was completely refurbished in 2004 and now has upon it a bar and restaurant. There is access for the public to the pier head when the premises are open. A new £2million pontoon is now in place from the pier head, into the Thames and is now open for small and medium sized craft to land at the town. On 17 September 2012, the Gravesend - Tilbury Ferry, relocated to Town Pier, from its current terminal in nearby West Street.

Royal Terrace Pier[edit]

Built in 1844 and originally named Terrace Pier, the prefix "Royal" was added in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who arrived at the pier on her way to marry Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865. River pilots have been based at this pier since the late 19th century. Today, Royal Terrace Pier is in constant 24-hour use, as part of the Port of London Authority main operations centre. However, public access is available occasionally during the year. The pier's construction was funded by the Gravesend Freehold Investment Company, at a cost of £9000. It is 'T' shaped, with a pontoon at the pier head. Like Town Pier, Royal Terrace Pier is also a Grade II listed structure.

Gravesend clock tower, Harmer Street[edit]

The town’s clock tower was built at the top of Harmer street. The foundation stone was laid on 6 September 1887. The memorial stone states that the clock tower was erected by public subscription (£700 was raised toward its construction) and it was dedicated to Queen Victoria, to commemorate the 50th year of her long reign.[24] Built with Portland and Dumfries stone, backed with hard stock brickwork, the design of the structure was based on the Elizabeth Tower, the Westminster tower that houses Big Ben. The centre of the clock itself is measured at 50 feet (15 m) above the ground and the face is 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) in diameter.

The Clock tower located top of Harmer St in Gravesend Kent
The Clock tower located top of Harmer St in Gravesend Kent

Pocahontas statue[edit]

St George's Church with the Pocahontas statue in front

An American sculptor, William Ordway Partridge, created a life-size statue of Pocahontas, which was unveiled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1922. Queen Elizabeth II viewed this statue in 1957 and again on 4 May 2007, while visiting Jamestown on the 400th anniversary of the founding, it being the first successful English colonial settlement in America. On 5 October 1958, an exact replica of the statue by Partridge was dedicated as a memorial to the 17th century Native American princess at St George's Parish Church. The Governor of Virginia presented the statue as a gift to the British people; this gesture was prompted by The Queen's visit to America the previous year.

Windmill Hill[edit]

Main article: Windmill Hill, Kent

Windmill Hill, named for its erstwhile windmills, offers extensive views across the Thames, and was a popular spot for Victorian visitors to the town, because of the Camera obscura installed in the old mill and for its tea gardens and other amusements. The hill was the site of a beacon in 1377, which was instituted by Richard II, and still in use 200 years later at the time of the Spanish Armada, although the hill was then known as "Rouge Hill". A modern beacon was erected and lit during 1988, the 300th anniversary.

It was during the reign of Elizabeth I that the first windmill was placed on top the highest point in Gravesend, 179 ft (55 m) above the high-water mark of the river. One mill burnt down in 1763 but was replaced the following year and that too demolished in 1894. The last surviving windmill was destroyed by fire during Mafeking Night celebrations in 1900.[citation needed]

During World War I A German airship passed over Windmill Hill and dropped bombs on it. Today there are three markers indicating where these bombs struck.[citation needed]

Gravesend and the Thames[edit]

The Thames has long been an important feature in Gravesend life and may well have been the deciding factor for the first settlement here. One of the town's first distinctions was in being given the sole right to transport passengers to and from London by water in the late 14th century. The "Tilt Boat" was a familiar sight on the river. The first steamboat plied its trade between Gravesend and London in the early 19th century, bringing with it a steadily increasing number of visitors to The Terrace Pier Gardens, Windmill Hill, Springhead Gardens and Rosherville Gardens. Gravesend soon became one of the first English resort towns and thrived from an early tourist trade.

Gravesend "watermen" were often in a family trade; and the town is the headquarters of the Port of London Authority Port Control Centre (formerly known as Thames Navigation Service), supplying both river and sea pilots. Today radar plays an important part in the movement of shipping on the river.

A dingy and unmodernised Gravesend was the backdrop to the 1952 thriller The Long Memory starring Sir John Mills. In the film, Mills lives in poverty on a derelict fishing boat stranded in the mud.

Gravesend also has one of the oldest regattas in England again showing its strong links to the river. Although the origins of the regatta are shrouded in mystery it dates back to at least Tudor times. The races are traditionally done with Gravesend Skiffs, 21-foot-long (6.4 m) oak-built clinker-built boats.

The Thames Navigation Service was first thought up between 1950 and 1952 by Captain Peter de Neumann, GM, when he was Commander of HMRC Vigilant (HM Customs & Excise), whose base was in Gravesend Reach. [It is possible that "Vigilant Way" in Gravesend is named for her.] This idea followed on from considering such incidents as the accidental ramming of HMS Truculent by the Divina in 1950, the collision with the Nore Forts by Baalbek, and the disastrous flooding of Canvey, Foulness and the East Coast in 1953. In these and other situations, rescue and intelligence gathering were severely hampered by a lack of centralised command and control, and lack of detailed "picture". De Neumann resigned his command after returning Vigilant from the Spithead Review and joined the PLA, immediately suggesting in a report to them, submitted in 1953, that a feasibility study of such a system be commenced. He then oversaw its development and ultimate installation at Gravesend.

Tugs docking the panamax coal carrier Armia Krajowa at Tilbury Power Station

Until the building of Tilbury Docks on the opposite side of the river, between 1882–86, Gravesend was the first port of entry. Thousands of emigrants, as well as large numbers of troops, embarked from here. Tilbury Docks have expanded considerably since with the closure of all the London Docks. The entrance to the Docks is somewhat awkward, situated as it is on the sharp bend of the river, and often need tugboat assistance, as do the larger ships moored at Tilbury landing stages. There have been many tug companies based at Gravesend: among them the Sun Company, the Alexandra Towing Company and, today, the Smith Howard Towing Company. East Indiaman traditionally stopped here at a point known as Long Reach to lighten their loads before sailing up the Thames to moorings at Blackwall.[25]

Passengers alighting from the Tilbury ferry

For some years after the war steamer excursions were run on the MV Royal Daffodil down the Thames from Gravesend to France, but they ceased in 1966. Cruises are now operated by the Lower Thames and Medway Passenger Boat Company up the river to Greenwich. The cross-river passenger ferry to Tilbury provides a long-established route to and from Essex. Before the Dartford Crossing came into being there was a vehicle ferry here as well.

There is an RNLI lifeboat station at Gravesend established at Royal Terrace Pier which has become one of the busiest in the country. See: www.rnli.org.uk

Thames and Medway Canal[edit]

The canal basin

The Thames and Medway Canal was opened for barge traffic in 1824. It ran from Gravesend on the Thames to Frindsbury near Strood on the Medway. Although seven miles long it had only two locks, each 94 ft by 22 ft in size, one at each end. Its most notable feature was the tunnel near Strood which was 3,946 yds long, the second longest canal tunnel ever built in the UK. The great cost of the tunnel meant that the canal was not a commercial success. After only 20 years most of the canal was closed and the canal's tunnel was converted to railway use. Initially canal and railway shared the tunnel, with the single track built on timber supports, but by 1847 canal use was abandoned and a double track laid. Today the canal basin at the Gravesend end of the canal is used for pleasure craft. Gravesend Sailing Club which was founded so that working men could participate in the sport while still having to earn a living is based here. The lock has been dredged and restoration and strengthening works have been carried out to the basin walls as part of regeneration of the area.

Transport[edit]

Roads[edit]

The main roads through the town are the west-east A226 road from Dartford and beyond to Rochester; and the A227 road to Tonbridge. The A2 road passes two miles (3 km) south of Gravesend town centre; a mile stretch of it was rerouted in the early 2000s to take the traffic away from the south end of the town.[26]

In March 2006 the first of the area’s new Fastrack bus services, which use a combination of ordinary roads and dedicated 'bus tracks', opened. The service links to Ebbsfleet International railway station, Greenhithe, Bluewater Shopping Centre and Dartford.

Rail[edit]

The remains of the West Street Pier

Gravesend railway station lies on the North Kent Line, and was opened in 1849. The Gravesend West Line, terminating by the river and for some time operating as a Continental ferry connection, closed in 1968.

Gravesend is the primary north Kent interchange for high speed and metro rail services. In December 2009, the full high-speed timetable between London and Kent came into force and passenger usage from Gravesend has exceeded expectations. High-speed services from London St Pancras International and Stratford International, are offered via Gravesend to the Medway towns, Sittingbourne and Faversham. There are also metro services to London Charing Cross both via Sidcup and Bexleyheath, and to Gillingham.

Buses[edit]

Gravesend is served by several Arriva Kent & Sussex bus services connecting the town with other areas in Kent including Dartford, Bluewater and Sevenoaks and to the Medway Towns.
Gravesend is also served by Fastrack bus services connecting the town with Bluewater, Darent Valley Hospital and Dartford

Ferry[edit]

Passenger ferry services to Tilbury, Essex, operate daily (except Sundays), from Gravesend Town Pier.

Footpaths[edit]

The Saxon Shore Way, a long distance footpath, starts at Gravesend and traces the coast as it was in Roman times as far as Hastings, East Sussex; 163 miles (262 km) in total. The Wealdway also starts at the Town Pier, and proceeds almost due south over the Weald to Eastbourne in East Sussex where it links with South Downs Way, a distance of 80 miles (128 km).

Religious buildings[edit]

Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Nov. 2007

The main Anglican church is St George's. This Georgian building is a tourist site as well as being the parish church, because of its connection with Pocahontas. There are also three other Church of England churches, Roman Catholic, Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist churches, and other smaller chapels.

Gravesend has a significant Sikh population. The first gurdwara was set up in 1956 by Bhat Sikh Santokh Singh Takk (of 10 Pelham Road South) in Edwin Street. Ten years later, a second one opened in a former Congregationalist church, but this gurdwara closed in 2010. The same year, one of the largest Sikh temples in United Kingdom opened, at a cost of £12 million.

Education[edit]

In secondary education, Gravesend has the following schools: Gravesend Grammar School; Northfleet School for Girls; Northfleet Technology College (Northfleet School for Boys, on the former sites of Northfleet Secondary School for Boys and Gravesend Technical High School for Boys); Mayfield Grammar School (formerly Gravesend Grammar School for Girls); St John's Catholic Comprehensive School; Thamesview School and St George's Church of England School. There are also primary age schools such as Wrotham Road Primary School, special schools and several independent schools.[27]

Health[edit]

Gravesend Hospital was opened in 1854, following the donation of a site by the Earl of Darnley in 1853; it had its origin on 2 December 1850, as a dispensary on the Milton road "to assist the really destitute poor of Gravesend and Milton and vicinities ... unable to pay for medical aid". By 1893, 4,699 such people had benefited by its presence. In 2004 the original building, and parts of the newer buildings were demolished to make way for a new community hospital. Gravesend Community Hospital provides a Minor Injury Unit, Dental services, Speech and Language therapy and Physiotherapy. It also has a stroke ward and offers inpatient care. The physiotherapy outpatient department provides care for much of the local area and is separate from those offered at Darent Valley Hospital. In addition, Gravesend emergency doctor's out of hours service as well as podiatry are offered.

The town also hosts a large doctor's clinic in Swan Yard, next to the Market car park and several other doctor's surgeries throughout the town

Sport[edit]

The Stonebridge Road football ground in neighbouring Northfleet is home to Ebbsfleet United F.C., who changed their name from Gravesend and Northfleet F.C. in June 2007. Ebbsfleet currently play in the Conference South, and the club won the FA Trophy in May 2008. An agreement was reached for the MyFootballClub online community to purchase a 75% stake in the club in November 2007, and the takeover was completed early in 2008.[28]

Gravesend also has two rugby teams, Gravesend RFC and Old Gravesendians, both situated next to each other and opposite Gravesend Grammar School. Established in the 1870s, Gravesend RFC have been the towns senior club since league rugby was established in the 1980s. In the 2009/10 season Gravesend RFC secured a league and cup double by winning the London 1 South title in emphatic style and the Kent Cup for just the second time. The 2010/11 season saw the club make their debut in National League 3 London & SE finishing a respectable 6th. This is the highest level attained, in their 130 year history, and only four leagues below The Aviva Premiership.They were also successful in retaining the Kent Cup, beating Tonbridge Juddians in a close fought final. Unfortunately, in the 2012/13 season, Gravesend were relegated from the National Leagues, but regained promotion the following season, 2013/14.

Old Gravesendians was traditionally the Old Boys Club for former Grammar School pupils. Old G's have had some of their best success in recent seasons reaching six Kent Plate Finals (winning two of these) and achieving promotion to London League rugby in 2009. Unfortunately this proved a step too far with relegation in 2009/10. Old G's put out three sides with the first team playing in Kent 1.

The multi-sport facility at Gravesend Rugby Club, includes cricket, bowls, tennis, hockey, pigeon fanciers, table tennis and petanque. The latter facilities with seventeen international size pistes are some of the best in the south of England, and can with a width reduction to 3 metres accommodate 48 teams.

Rowing matches have been taking place on the river Thames at Gravesend since from at least the year of 1698,[citation needed] and the first organized Regatta was in 1715. The first Borough Regatta began in 1882,[citation needed] setting the pattern for an annual event on the Thames that is carried on to this day. The popularity of the early events have recently begun to return, thanks to much Borough Council publicity and the presence of a boathouse owned by Dartford's Cambria Sea Scouts.

To the south of Gravesend, on 43ha of land adjacent to the A2, Cyclopark, a venue for cycling events and other activities. The site features mountain bike trails, a road circuit, a BMX racetrack and family cycling paths, and opened officially in early 2012.[29]

Culture[edit]

The Gravesend Historical Society meets regularly and produces a biannual magazine on its activities.[30]

Charles Dickens lived in Gadshill Place, not far from Gravesend. Gravesend and its environs are mentioned in at least two of his novels. In David Copperfield Mr. Peggotty, Ham and the Micawbers say their goodbyes and sail away from Gravesend to begin a new life in Australia. In Great Expectations, Pip, with accomplices, rows Magwitch from London downriver in expectation of waylaying a regular steamer (whilst under way in the Lower Hope, off Gravesend) bound for Hamburg. Gravesend is briefly mentioned in two other novels: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley during Victor's travels through the United Kingdom with Clerval; ultimately culminating in Victor's residence in the Orkney Islands; and also in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

The 1952 film "The Long Memory" starring John Mills was filmed in and around Gravesend. It features many squalid streets running down towards the river that even then were being progressively cleared for redevelopment. It is also possible to hear in the background steam engines working out of the Gravesend West Line West Street terminus. Except for the skeletal remains of the pier all evidence of this station has now disappeared.

Gravesend is mentioned in Ridley Scott's 2010 film Robin Hood. Robin (Russell Crowe) and his companions intend to return to England from France by boat to Gravesend, after they flee the army of King Richard I, at whose death in battle they were present as archers.

Gravesend is also briefly mentioned in John Irving's novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, noting that the fictitious town of Gravesend, New Hampshire, is named after the original Gravesend in Kent.

Notable people[edit]

Khartoum place in Gravesend
General Charles George Gordon Statue in Gravesend
  • Pocahontas (1595–1617), the daughter of a Native American chief, was to become the first such American to visit England. After marrying a colonist in America, John Rolfe, she later sailed with him to London, with their two year old son, Thomas, where she was received at the court in London and was feted as a celebrity. On their return voyage, seven months later, she was taken ill and died ashore in Gravesend at age 21. She was then buried under the chancel of St George's parish church.
  • Charles Dickens is associated with Gravesend and villages around the borough. Although he died over 100 years ago, many of the links between him and Gravesham are still in evidence – Gravesend he visited, at Chalk he spent his honeymoon, at Higham he lived and died, and at Cobham he found inspiration for The Pickwick Papers.
  • The composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) was an officer in the Russian Navy and was posted to Gravesend in 1862, where he wrote part of his first symphony, said to be the first such style of composition attempted by a Russian composer.
  • Gravesend is associated with General Charles George Gordon (1833–1885), who lived in the town during the construction of the Thames forts. For six years he devoted himself to the welfare of the town's "poor boys", establishing a Sunday school and providing food and clothes for them from his Army wage. In command of the Royal Engineers from 1865 to 1871, he was responsible for the forts that guard the Thames downstream from Gravesend, New Tavern Fort in the town, Shornemead Fort on the south bank, and Coalhouse Fort on the north. His links with Gravesend are commemorated locally by the embankment of the Riverside Leisure Area, which is known as the Gordon Promenade, and Khartoum Place that lies just to the south. His mausoleum is in St Paul's Cathedral.
  • Thom Gunn (1929–2004), Anglo-American poet, was born in Gravesend. His most famous collection, The Man With Night Sweats (1992), is dominated by AIDS-related elegies.[31] He relocated to San Francisco, California in 1954 to teach writing at Stanford University and remain close to Mike his partner whom he met in college.
  • Gemma Arterton (born 1986), actress, was born in Gravesend and attended Gravesend Grammar School for Girls. She played MI6 agent Strawberry Fields in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
  • Edwin Arnold (1832–1904), English poet and journalist whose most prominent work as a poet was The Light of Asia (1879).[32]
  • John MacGregor (1825–1892), English writer, who designed the "Rob Roy" canoe.
  • David Rutley, born here in 1961. Conservative MP for Macclesfield and Private Parliamentary Secretary. First Mormon Member of Parliament.
  • Derek Barton (1918–1998), English chemist and Nobel Prize winner for "contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry".
  • Sir Peter Blake, artist who trained at Gravesend School of Art. The Blake Gallery has recently been opened at the Woodville Halls in the town.

Twin towns[edit]

Gravesend is twinned with:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Theroux's report that "the town bore the name of Gravesend because east of it, the dead had to be buried at sea", is unsupported (Theroux, The Kingdom by the Sea 1983:19).
  2. ^ Frank G.G. Carr (1931, 5th edition 1989 p34). Sailing Barges. Terence Dalton Ltd, Suffolk, UK. 
  3. ^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40/647; http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no647/bCP40no647dorses/IMG_0499.htm; 4th entry, as defendant;
  4. ^ Hiscock, Robert H (1976). 'A History of Gravesend. London: Phillimore & Co Ltd. 
  5. ^ The Book of Gravesham, Sydney Harker 1979 ISBN o-86023-091-0
  6. ^ Price, Love and Hate. p. 182.
  7. ^ Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Danieal "Silver Star", The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History
  8. ^ Anon. "Entry in the Gravesend St. George composite parish register recording the burial of Princess Pocahontas on 21 March 1616/1617.". Medway: City Ark Document Gallery. Medway Council. Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  9. ^ "Pocahontas". St. George's, Gravesend. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  10. ^ The New Tavern Fort gravesham.gov.uk. 18 January 2012
  11. ^ Pictures and info of Gravesend from the past and present. The new pictures were taken from as near as possible the same vantage point as in the old ones. www.about-gravesend.co.uk (5 May 2009). Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  12. ^ Borough website includes notes on the town. Gravesham.gov.uk. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  13. ^ Harker ibid
  14. ^ Climate Summary for Gravesend
  15. ^ 2003: Britain swelters in record heat. BBC.co.uk 10 August 2003. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  16. ^ 2003 weather summaries. Met Office. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Flash flood warnings for parts of England". BBC News. 27 June 2011. 
  18. ^ 27 June 2010 Britain basks, but showers due. News.uk.msn.com (28 June 2010). Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  19. ^ Attewill, Fred. (14 October 2011) Weekend hot weather saw Brits flocking to the beaches. Metro.co.uk. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ Gravesham Borough. (PDF) . Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  22. ^ Notes on Town Centre Management
  23. ^ Gravesend Town Pier. Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  24. ^ Gravesend Clock Tower www.ukattaction.com
  25. ^ The East India Docks: Historical development', Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. 1994. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  26. ^ New route of A2 trunk road. Opsi.gov.uk (4 July 2011). Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  27. ^ List of schools. Locallife.co.uk. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  28. ^ "Fans website approve Fleet deal". BBC Sport. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2008. 
  29. ^ Big new cycling centre for Kent, Bike Radar, 21 December 2010
  30. ^ Gravesham Historical Society website. Ghs.org.uk. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  31. ^ Orr, Daniel, "On Poetry" column, "Too Close to Touch", The New York Times Book Review, 12 July 2009 (published 9 July online), retrieved 12 July 2009
  32. ^ Edwin Arnold, famous people from Gravesend. Information-britain.co.uk (12 February 2007). Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  33. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 

External links[edit]