The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
It is called in Domesday, GRAVESHAM, and in the Textus Roffensis, GRAVESÆNDE. Lambarde, as well as Leland, derive the name of this place from the Saxon word Gerefa, a ruler, or portreve. In German, Greve; hence Gravesend signifies the limit or bound of such a rule or office, in Latin, Limes Prætorius. Leland, in his Itinerary, calls it GREVA.
THE PARISH OF GRAVESEND lies on the north side of the London road, which runs along the southern side of it at the distance of about one mile from the town, which is situated twenty-two miles from London and eight from Rochester, the soil towards the west is chalk, and towards the south-east much inclined to gravel; in which part of this parish, at a small distance from the London road southward is Mount Pleasant, the property and residence of Mr. Joynes, of Gravesend. Round the town, in great part owing to the manure from it, there are some rich and fertile grounds. The town of Gravesend, having the church on the west side of it, lies on a descent towards the river Thames, to which it bounds northward, opposite to Tilbury-fort, in Essex; the western part of it lies in the parish of Gravesend, and the eastern in that of Milton. The east street, and the east side of the High-street of this town being in the parish of Milton, and the west street and the west side of the High-street in that of Gravesend. The town-hall, and market-yard, the free-school, and the ferry across the Thames to Tilbury, parcel of the manor of Paddock, alias Parrocks, in Milton, were purchased in 1695, with that manor, by the corporation of Gravesend, in which they continue now vested. It is large and populous, but the houses, about seven hundred in number, are most of them unsightly, and the streets narrow, and until within these few years, illpaved and covered with fifth; the inconveniences of which the inhabitants themselves were so sensible of, that anno 13 king George III. they procured an act for the better lighting, paving and otherwise improving this town, in consequence of which great improvements have already been made in it, and in all probability it will before long put on a far different appearance even from what it wears at present. Proper machines have lately been established here, with every requisite accommodation for sea bathing.
Queen Elizabeth, by her letters patent, in her 10th year, confirmed to the parishes of Gravesend and Milton, the antient privileges granted to them in the reign of king Henry IV. and further incorporated those parishes by the name of, The portreve, (which is now changed into that of mayor,) jurats, and inhabitants, of the parishes of Gravesend and Milton, having justices who have jurisdiction within the limits of the corporation. There are twelve jurats and twenty-four common-councilmen, a recorder, high-steward, chamberlain, town-clerk, and sergeant at mace. The mayor and deputy mayor are chosen from the jurats yearly, on the Monday after St. Michael, and the eldest jurat is usually elected a justice of the peace. The arms of the corporation are: A boat, or, with one mast, lying at anchor, on the hills beyond a porcupine, sable.
King Richard II. in 1377, directed his writs to the sheriffs of Kent and Essex, commanding them to erect certain beacons on each side the river Thames, opposite to each other, which were to be kept prepared, and to be fired on the first approach of the enemies vessels, so that notice might thereby be given of any sudden attempt, in consequence of which one beacon was erected here at Gravesend, and the opposite one at Farnedon, in Essex; notwithstanding which precaution, this town was soon afterwards plundered and burnt by the French, who sailed up the Thames hither in their gallies, and carried away most of the inhabitants prisoners. (fn. 1) To enable the town to recover this loss, king Richard II. granted to the abbot and convent of St. Mary Graces, that the inhabitants of Gravesend and Milton should have the sole privilege of carrying passengers by water from hence to London, on condition that they should provide boats for that purpose, and carry all passengers either at two-pence per head with their bundle, or let the hire of the whole boat at four shillings. This charter was confirmed several times afterwards by succeeding kings, and under proper regulations by the legislature, they still enjoy this advantageous privilege. The fare now taken for this passage, which is called, The Long Ferry, is nine-pence each passenger, and the hire of the whole boat ten shillings and six-pence.
These boats are usually called The Tilt Boats, and are large and commodious for the purpose, being much improved within these few years. The signal for their departure is the ringing of a bell, which continues a quarter of an hour, during which they are obliged to depart. They go to London every flood, and return from Billingsgate, on the like signal, with every ebb.
The lords of the manor of Gravesend have a right to hold a court for the regulation of the boats and water carriage between Gravesend and London. This court is called in an old roll, anno 33 queen Elizabeth, (now in the possession of the earl of Darnley) Curia Cursus Aquæ, in which year it appears to have been held by William Lambarde, gent. steward to William lord Cobham, lord of this manor. This court has not been held for a great number of years; notwithstanding which, in the several acts passed for regulating the navigation of the river Thames, there is in general a reservation of the rights of the heirs of the duke of Richmond and Lenox, which clause was added in respect to this water-court at Gravesend.
In the iter of J. de Berewick, and his associates, in the 21st year of king Edward I. a complaint was made, that the bridge, and chalk causeway leading to the water here, were much out of repair, and that the watermen took extraordinary fare-money on that account, to the great injury of passengers; and that one half of the causeway and bridge ought to be repaired by Henry de Cramaville, then lord of this manor, and the other half next the town by the men of Milton; and it was accordingly fo repaired. (fn. 2)
The city of London at present assumes the regulation of this water passage, and it is almost incredible what numbers of people pass every tide, as well by night as by day, between this town and London.
King Henry VIII. built two bulwarks or platforms, one at this town and the other somewhat lower down on the river at Milton, and mounted them with cannon, as a defence to the mouth of the Thames, and so late as 1782 an act passed for the better securing the river Thames at Gravesend and Tilbury.
AMONG THE GOVERNORS of the fort of Gravesend,
and that of West Tilbury, on the opposite side the
Thames, I find the following:
1672. Sir Francis Leake, knight.
1702. Lieutenant-General George Cholmondeley, afterwards earl Cholmondeley, resig. 1725.
1725. Major-General Tatton, ob. 1736.
1736. Sir Multon Lambard, knight.
1737. Major-General James Tyrrill.
1737. General Williamson, ob. 1737.
1747. Lieutenant-General John, earl Delawar.
1752. Charles, lord Cadogan, ob. 1776.
1776. Brigadier-General William Fawcitt.
1796. Major-General Thomas Musgrave, the present governor.
Queen Elizabeth, consulting the honour and grandeur of the nation, and of the city of London in particular, ordered the mayor, aldermen and companies of it, to receive all eminent strangers and ambassadors at this place, in their formalities, and so to attend them to London in their barges if they came by water, and if by land, then they were ordered to meet them on Blackheath.
The assizes for this county were held in that part of this town, within the parish of Milton, several times in the reigns of king James and king Charles I. (fn. 3)
The port of London ending just below this town, at the place called Gravesend bridge, at the boundary of this hundred, there are two principal searchers and an office of the customs established here, and all outwardbound ships are obliged to anchor in the road before the town, until they have been visited by the proper officers; but the homeward bound ships all pass by without notice, unless to receive tide-waiters on board, if they have not been supplied with them before.
Most of the outward-bound ships complete their cargoes and take in provisions here, so that the town is generally full of seamen, and here are several good inns, taverns, and other such houses for their accommodation, and that of travellers.
Most of the Dutch turbot-vessels lie at this place, from whence they supply the London market as they think fit. There is likewise a well frequented ferry for passengers, horses, cattle, and carriages from hence across the Thames into Essex. All which cause much bustle and a continued hurry of business, and besides bring great profit to this town.
For many years past there have been great improvements made in the lands near the town, by converting them into gardens, of which there are about seventy acres, with the produce of which, not only the shipping, the town itself, and the neighbouring country is supplied for several miles round, but the London markets too, their asparagus in particular, which is called by the name of Gravesend grass, is esteemed the finest in England, being mostly preferred to that of Battersea, and yet this place is said to have been formerly noted for want of garden stuff in it. (fn. 4)
The market is held weekly in the town of Gravesend on a Wednesday and Saturday, and there are two annual fairs here, on April 23 and Oct. 24, for horses, black cattle, cloaths, toys, and other sorts of goods, which continue for a week, and were granted by patent anno 30 king Edward III. the profits of them belong to the lord of the manor.
On August 24, 1727, between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, a terrible fire happened at Gravesend, which burnt down and destroyed the church and one hundred and ten houses, being the greatest part of the town; soon after which the mayor and jurats sent circular letters to the several corporations, ministers of parishes and others, imploring their assistance in their dreadful scene of distress and calamity, and in May 1731 another fire happened here, which burnt down seven houses, as did another on Nov. 9, 1748, adjoining to a warehouse, which contained a great quantity of pitch, tar, rosin, &c. which, it may be said, happily was prevented spreading further by the explosion of a considerable quantity of gunpowder contained in them. The high road from London to Dover went formerly through the town of Gravesend, and continued so till the quantity of chalk dug from the adjoining pits, which are now become many, of great depth, and of large extent between this town and Northfleet, rendered it so dangerous to passengers, that it has at different times been twice altered to its present course, about a mile further eastward from the former road, now entering the town by queen Mary's green.
On October 7, 1552, three great fishes called whirlepooles, were taken here and drawn up to Westminsterbridge, and August 30, 1718, a whale was taken just below this place, the length of which was forty feet.
The marsh land from Gravesend-bridge to the mouth of the river Medway, and up that river to Penshurst, is within the commission of sewers granted for those limits, the commissioners for which meet at Rochester to transact the business relating to it.
There was a family which took its name from this place, and were called De Gravesend, which had possessions here, as appears by the escheat rolls, as early as the reign of king Edward III. of this family, I imagine, were Richard de Gravesend, bishop of Lincoln in 1258, another of the same name, bishop of London in 1282, and Stephen de Gravesend, bishop of London in 1318. (fn. 5)
Chamæpitys mas, the male ground pine; chamæpitys fœmina, the female ground pine; chemæpitys dodon, the small ground pine; and iva muscata monspeliaca, French herb, ivy or ground pine, about the grounds of this parish.
Erica flore albo; heath with white flowers, upon the down near Gravesend. (fn. 6)
GRAVESEND, at the time of taking the general survey of Domesday, was part of the large possessions of Odo, the great bishop of Baieux and earl of Kent, half brother to the conqueror, under the general title of whose lands it is accordingly thus entered in that record.
Herbert son of Ivo holds Gravesham of the bishop (of Baieux) It was taxed at 2 sulings and 1 yoke. The arable land is 4 carucates. In demesne there is one, and 4 villeins, with 8 servants, having 2 oxen. There is a church and 1 hythe. In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth 10 pounds, when he received it as much, now 11 pounds. This manor was in 3 manors; in the time of king Edward, Leuric and Ulwin and Godwin held them, now it is in one.
On the disgrace of bishop Odo, in 1083, it most probably reverted to the crown. Soon after which it became parcel of the demesnes of the family of Cramaville, called sometimes for shortness Cremille, who had likewise very considerable possessions in the eastern part of this county. They held this place as one knight's see, parcel of the fourteen and a quarter, which made up the barony of Peverel, being part of the lands assigned to John de Fienes and his assistants, for the defence of Dover-castle, to which the tenant of Gravesend was bound to perform his ward three times in each year. (fn. 7) Henry de Cramaville possessed the manor of Gravesend at his death, in the 54th year of king Henry III. holding it of the king in capite, (fn. 8) and was succeeded in it by his son Henry de Cramaville, who died possessed of it in the 26th year of king Edward I. as did Joane his wife in the 8th year of Edward II.
After this, it by some means came to the crown, for king Edward III. in his 4th year, granted it in special tail to Robert de Ufford, in consideration of his services, and that he might the better support himself in the king's wars in Gascoigne. He was grandson of Robert de Ufford, a younger son of John de Peyton, of Suffolk, assuming his surname from the lordship of Ufford, in that county, where he had his residence. In the 11th year of that reign, he was in parliament solemnly advanced to the title and dignity of earl of Suffolk; after which he was continually employed by the king both in his wars, and the most important negociations. In the 18th year of king Edward III. he was made admiral of the king's whole fleet, from the Thames mouth northward. In the 30th year he was in the famous battle of Poictiers, where, by his valour and conduct, he gained great reputation. After which he was elected into the order of the garter, next in succession to those, who were called the founders of it. He died in the 43d year of the above reign, and was buried, according to his will, in the abbey of Campesse, in Suffolk, having married Margaret, daughter of Sir Walter Norwich, of Suffolk, leaving William, his only surviving son, whose son afterwards conveyed it by sale to king Edward III. who by his charter, in his 50th year, granted this manor, among others, to feofees, for the endowing his newly-founded Cistertian abbey, called St. Mary Graces, near the tower of London.
These feoffees, after king Edward's death, in compliance with his will, conveyed it to the abbot and monks there, for a term of years, to the intent that it might be given by king Richard II. in mortmain, to them for ever. They afterwards granted their interest in it at a certain yearly rent, to Sir Simon de Burley, knight of the garter, and lord warden of the cinque ports, who having forfeited it, with his life, for hightreason, in the 10th year of that reign, the king by his letters patent, in his 12th year, at the petition of the abbot and convent, granted to them the rents and profits of this manor, among others, as a sufficient endowment until he should otherwise provide for them. After which, by letters patent, in his 22d year, he granted it to them, to hold in pure and perpetual alms for ever, for the performance of the religious purposes therein mentioned, and he gave licence to the surviving feoffees of king Edward III. to release these manors and lands to them. (fn. 9)
The manor of Gravesend remained part of the possessions of the above monastery till the final dissolution of it, in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. the next year after which it was, together with the lands and revenues of it, by the general words of the act then passed, given to the king for ever. King Henry VIII. in his 31st year, granted, among other premises, his manor of Gravesend, with its appurtenances, in as ample a manner as it was lately let to John Laurente, and his lands and tenements in Pykeaxelond, and others called the Ship in Gravesend and Mylton, all parcel of the possessions of that abbey, to Sir Christopher Morrice alias Morys, to hold for the term of his life, without any rent or account whatsoever. He died in the 38th year of that reign, soon after which the king granted them to his widow Elizabeth Morys, for life.
After her death, king Edward VI. in his 5th year, demised them in ferme, to his servant, Thomas Asteley, esq. for a term of years, and again, in his 7th year, to his servant, John Fowler, one of the grooms of his privy chamber, and Anne his wife, to hold during their lives, without any rent, or account whatsoever. They remained in possession of them in the 11th year of queen Elizabeth; soon after which Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, younger son of John, duke of Northumberland, possessed the fee of this manor: (fn. 10) he, in the 23d year of that reign, having obtained the queen's licence for that purpose, conveyed it by sale to Thomas Gawdye and James Morice. In the 25th year of that reign, the sole right to this manor was become vested in Sir Thomas Gawdie, who had then licence to alienate it to William Brooke, lord Cobham, whose eldest son and heir, Henry, lord Cobham, being found guilty in the 1st year of king James I. together with George his brother, and others, of conspiring to kill the king, and other acts of high treason, had judgment of death pronounced against them; upon which George, his brother, was beheaded, and both of them attainted; but the execution of the lord Cobham, and some of the others, was, through the king's clemency, superseded. (fn. 11)
The manor of Gravesend coming thus to the crown by his attainder, an act passed in the third year of king James I. by which the lands of Henry, late lord Cob. ham, and of George Brooke, esq. attainted of high treason, were established in the crown. After which this manor was granted by king James, in his 10th year, to his kinsman, Lodowick, son of Esme Stuart, duke of Lenox in Scotland, created, in the 21st year of that reign, duke of Richmond. He died that yeat without issue, and was succeeded, as duke of Lenox, and in this manor by his brother, Esme Stuart, lord d'Aubigne and earl of March, and who surviving his brother not quite twelve months, was succeeded in titles and estates by his eldest son, James duke of Lenox, who was, in 1641, created duke of Richmond; on whose death, in 1655, Esme, his only son, succeeded him in honours and in this manor, but died an infant at Paris in 1660; on which his cousin-german, Charles, only son of George Stuart, lord d'Aubigne, deceased, younger brother of James duke of Richmond, father of the said Esme, became duke of Richmond, &c. and inherited this manor among the rest of his estates; and soon afterwards. anno 13 and 14 king Charles II. an act passed for the settling the estate of James, late duke of Richmond and Lenox, according to the agreement of Charles duke of Richmond and LeLenox, Mary duchess dowager of Richmond and Lenox, and the lady Mary her daughter, and the trustees of the said lady duchess. (fn. 12) He died in 1672, leaving Catherine his only sister his next heir, married first to Henry lord Obrien, and secondly to Sir Joseph Williamson. On her making claim to the title of baroness Cliston, as sole heir to her grandmother, Catherine, daughter and heir of Gervas lord Cliston, she had the same allowed to her in 1673; her only surviving daughter and heir Catherine, by her first husband, for she had none by her second, married Edward Hyde, lord Cornbury, eldest son of the earl of Clarendon, by whom she left one son, Edward lord Cornbury, and a daughter, Theodosia, who on her brother's death, s. p. became his heir, and intitled to the barony of Clifton, which she carried in marriage to John Bligh, esq. of the kingdom of Ireland, afterwards created earl of Darnley, and grandfather of the present Right Hon. the earl of Darnley, as will be subsequently mentioned. (fn. 13)
But the manor of Gravesend, with Cobham-hall, and the rest of the estates of Charles duke of Richmond, in this county, were about 1695, after the death of lord Obrien, sold to pay debts, and for other purposes, at which time this manor was sold to Sir Joseph Williamson, then the second husband of the lady Catherine, widow of lord Obrien above mentioned. He died without issue in 1701, possessed of this manor, as did his wife, lady Catharine, a few months after him, upon which two thirds of it descended to Edward lord Cornbury and Catherine his wife, daughter of lady Catherine, by Henry lord Obrien; and on his death, without issue, in 1713, to his only surviving sister, afterwards married to John Bligh, esq. as above mentioned, and the other third, by Sir Jos. Williamson's will, to one Mary Hornsby, who presently afterwards commenced a suit in chancery for a partition of this manor and the other estates, of which the third part had been devised to her, which the court, in 1718, decreed, and a contract was soon afterwards entered into by the earl of Darnley for the purchase of it. He died in 1728, leaving two sons, Edward and John, successively earls of Darnley, and three daughters. After the earl's death, Hornsby brought his bill against his executors, to have the purchase completed, which the court decreed, and the same was accordingly complied with by Edward earl of Darnley, his heir and successor, who then became possessed of the entire see of this manor among the rest of these estates, and dying unmarried, in 1747, was succeeded by his surviving brother, John earl of Darnley, who died in 1781; and his eldest son, now the Right Hon. John earl of Darnley, baron Clifton, &c. residing at Cobham-hall, in this neighbourhood, is the present possessor of the manor of Gravesend, and hereditary high steward of this town and corporation. (fn. 14)
WILLIAM LORD COBHAM by his will, in 1598, gave the nomination of one poor person belonging to this parish to dwell in his new college at Cobham, according to the rules and ordinances established for that purpose, with the pension of 6s. 8d. per month, charged on his lands, now vested in and under the directions of the wardens of Rochester bridge, of the annual produce of 4l. and if this parish should fail to nominate such person the parish of Chalk should have the privilege of such presentation.
RICHARD WHITE gave by will, in 1622, to be distributed to the poor, on the market day before Christmas day, yearly, an annuity, charged on land, vested in the churchwardens, of the annual produce of 1l.
HENRY PINNOCK gave, in 1624, by will, 21 dwelling houses, for the better relief and maintenance of such poor decayed persons as should be in this parish and Milton, and a house for a master weaver to employ them; and he settled an estate for the repairs of them, as well as of the adjacent house, given for the same use by one Mr. Fry, vested in trustees, according to the directions of the will, and of the annual produce of 10l. 14s.
DAVID VARCHALL gave by his will, in 1703, houses and land, to pay 2l. per annum, to be distributed yearly, in the parish church of Gravesend, on the Sunday next before Christmas, as follows—to forty poor persons 6d. each in money, and a loaf of bread of 5d. to pay the clear sum of 20l. per annum to the master of the free school of Milton to teach twenty boys, ten of whom to be sent out of Gravesend and ten out of Milton, by the churchwardens and parishioners, in vestry assembled, and the residue to be laid out in cloathing the boys in October, and the further residue to such other poor persons of the two parishes as the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the said parishes shall think fit, vested in trustees, as appointed under the direction of a decree of the court of exchequer, made in 1739, and now of the annual produce of 67l. 8s.
ARCHDEACON PLUME gave by his will, in 1704, to be distributed among poor persons attending the lectures, money issuing out of houses and land, vested in the rector of this parish, and the rectors and vicars of other neighbouring parishes, of the annual produce of 10s.
JAMES FRY gave by his will, in 1710, to teach and instruct ten poor boys, that is, four out of Gravesend, four out of Milton, and two out of Chalk parishes, a yearly sum, charged on lands, vested in the corporation of Gravesend and Milton, of the annual produce of 14l. 10s.
The church has been twice burned down, the first calamity happened to it about the year 1509, and being rebuilt, it was solemnly consecrated and dedicated to St. Mary, by John bishop of Rochester, April 3, 1510. This was a mean building without any steeple, which was again burned to the ground in that dreadful fire which happened here in 1727. (fn. 15) In 1731, anno 4th George II. an act of parliament passed for the rebuilding this church, as one of the fifty new ones, by which act five thousand pounds was allotted to be paid for that purpose. In consequence of this the first stone of the new church was laid by Sir Roger Meredith, M. P. on the 3d of June; and when finished, it was consecrated by Joseph bishop of Rochester, and in compliment to the king's name, dedicated to St. George. This church is a very neat structure, built of brick, with stone quoins, cornices, and other ornaments; in the steeple hangs a musical peal of eight bells, purchased by subscription. In the year 1764 an organ and lost were erected in it, pursuant to the will of Mr. John Ison, of this parish, who left one hundred pounds for that purpose.
Pope Eugenius III. in 1146, confirmed these tithes to that abbey, (fn. 16) as did pope Urban III. afterwards. Hugh de Trottesclive, abbot of St. Augustine's, in the reign of king Stephen, assigned them, with the consent of his convent, to the cloathing of the monks there. (fn. 17) In the reign of king John there was a controversy between the monks of St. Augustine's and Adam, then rector of Plumsted, concerning the arrears of an annual pension of twenty-five shillings, which the monks alledged they used to receive from the rector of the church of Gravesend, and which he had forborne while rector of it. This claim was heard before the prior of St. Gregory's and others, when he acknowledged the right of the monks to it, and accordingly fully satisfied them in the arrears of it.
THE CHURCH of Gravesend, at the latter end of the reign of king Edward III. seems to have been an appendage to the manor of Gravesend, and was granted with it, by the description of the advowson of the church of the manor of Gravesend, by that king, in his 50th year, to the abbey of St. Mary Graces, as has been already mentioned; after which it passed, with the manor, in the same tract of ownership down to Henry lord Cobham, who forfeited it to the crown in the 1st year of king James I. as has been already more fully related before in the account of the manor of Gravesend. The advowson of this church thus coming to the crown, has continued there ever since, the king being the present patron of this rectory.
In an antient valuation of the churches in this diocese, taken anno 15 Edward I. this church was valued at fifteen marks. In the survey of ecclesiastical livings, taken in 1650, it was returned, that Gravesend was a parsonage, formerly in the king's presentation, worth sixty pounds per annum, Mr. Simon Dyer then incumbent. (fn. 18) This rectory is valued in the king's books at 15l. and in the yearly tenths at 1l. 15s. (fn. 19)
In the reign of king Henry VII. the parishoners of Gravesend, who dwelt at a distance from the church, having for their convenience built an oratory or chapel, for celebrating mass and other divine offices, in 1497, obtained a licence for it from the archbishop's official, and on April 2, 1510, John bishop of Rochester consecrated it, being dedicated to St. George, with a reservation, that it should not be prejudicial to the parish church, and that they should not bury or baptize, or perform any other sacred rite in it, excepting the consecration of the Lord's body. (fn. 20)
Church Of Gravesend.
|Or by whom presented.|
|Adam, in the reign of king John. (fn. 21)|
|Nicholas Gunewaye, pres. Oct. 10, 1553. (fn. 22)|
|The Crown||Frankwell, A. M. in the reign of king James I. (fn. 23)|
|Simon Dyer, in 1650. (fn. 24)|
|Sharp, ejected 1662. (fn. 25)|
|William Lester, 1677.|
|William Savage, D. D. resigned 1720. (fn. 26)|
|Samuel Dunster, D. D.|
|William Ayerst, resig. 1726. (fn. 27)|
|Thomas Harris, A. M. presented Oct. 26, obt. Dec. 27, 1762. (fn. 28)|
|William Crawley, 1763, ob. Novemb. 1780.|
|John Tucker, A. M. 1782. Present rector. (fn. 29)|