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Gravesend is, ecclesiastically, in the diocese of Rochester, in the archdeaconry of Rochester and St. Albans. The church is named for St. Mary with registers commencing 1547.
Gravesend, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Kent. The town stands on the river Thames, on Watling Street and on the North Kent railway, opposite Tilbury fort, 22-1/2 miles east-by-south of London. The Thames here is more than 1/2 a mile wide, and has a depth, at low water, of about 48 feet; and it begins to expand below, forming there the Hope, the last of its many reaches; yet it is supposed, by some writers, for reasons of merely fancied changes of depth of channel, to have been forded at Higham, about a mile lower down, in the year 43, by Aulus Plantius, the lieutenant of Claudius. A rising-ground occupied by the town is the nearest one to the sea on the riverís bank, and, to some extent, commands the passage. Only a hythe, or landing-place, was here at Domesday; but this bore the name of Gravesham, or the town of the grave, graef, or chief magistrate Ė seemingly in allusion to its being at the extremity of the jurisdiction of the chief magistrate of London; and that name has become corrupted into the modern one, Gravesend.
The place belonged to Bishop Odo; and passed to successively the Cremilles, the Uffords, St. Maryís Abbey, and the Earls of Darnley. A town of some consequence appears to have risen soon after the Conquest. The watermen of Gravesend, so early as 1293, possessed exclusive right of ferry between this place and London. The French and Spaniards, in 1380, burned and plundered the town, and carried off most of its inhabitants; and a grant of increased privileges of ferry was given to it by Richard II, to enable it to retrieve its losses.
Outward bound ships, from about the 15th century, lay here to complete their cargoes; early voyagers, as Sebastian Cabot, in 1553, and Martin Frobisher, in 1576, assembled here their little fleets; and the magistrates and city companies of London received here all distinguished strangers arriving by water, and conducted them, hence in state up the river. William III embarked here for Holland, in 1691; and George I landed here.
The town suffered much damage by fire in 1727, and again, to the estimated amount of £100,000, in 1850. But the rebuildings which followed, and especially extensions and ornamentations consequent on great influx of visitors and residents from London, have wonderfully improved its appearance. The aspect of it, as seen from the river, is varied and pleasing; and the aspect within, after the interior has been seen, is not disappointing. The lower part, indeed, consists chiefly of narrow dirty streets; but the upper part, on Windmill Hill, has fine ranges of houses; and the exterior parts, especially in the direction of Milton, have handsome squares and terraces.
Windmill Hill takes name from a pristine mill, erected on it in the time of Edward III; and commands a magnificent and extensive view. The Terrace gardens, on the site of what was called the Blockhouse fort, and formed at a cost of about £20,000, comprise beautiful walks and shrubberies, and are a favourite promenade. The Rosherville gardens, on what was previously a barren tract of chalk pits, on the estate of an enterprising person of the name of Jeremiah Rosher, are highly picturesque grounds of about 18 acres, constantly open for a small admission fee, and possessing a rich combination of attractions, variously natural and artificial. Tea gardens, taverns, archery grounds, gipsy tents, abundant lodging houses, salubrious air, cheap living, good bathing appliances, the stir on the river, fine rambling grounds in the neighbourhood, and ready communication by steamer and by railway with London, also draw hither a great and constant concourse of visitors. The town is full of these during all the summer months, and absolutely swarms with them on Sundays.
The town hall, in High Street, was built in 1836; is a substantial Doric edifice; and has a market place beneath. The assembly rooms, in Harmer Street, were built in 1842, at a cost of £3,000; and have a fine Ionic portico. The theatre is modern, small, and plain. The Baths, a little west of the town, are an extensive range of building and contain hot, cold, and vapour baths. Three piers are at Rosherville, the town, and the Terrace; and they seem fully required to accommodate the crowded passenger traffic with the steamers.
The town pier was formed in 1834; leads up to High Street; belongs to the corporation; consists of cast-iron; and was covered in and altered, in 1854, for the uses of the Tilbury railway ferry. The terrace pier connects with Harmer Street and Windmill Hill; was erected in 1845, at a cost of £9,200, by a joint stock company; and projects, on twenty-two cast-iron columns, 250 feet into the river. Extensive docks were projected in 1849, at an estimated cost of about £2,000,000; but they belong rather to Northfleet, and will be noticed in our article on that place. A tunnel, under the bed of the Thames, to Tilbury, capacious enough for all purposes of land commerce, was projected in 1798; but did not proceed far till it was relinquished in consequence of the bursting in of water; and was again the subject of a recent project, which failed for want of requisite funds.
The Thames and Medway canal, or Gravesend and Rochester canal, 7-1/4 miles long, and completed in 1824, began in the Thames at Gravesend, and terminated in the Medway near Rochester bridge; was designed to shorten the navigation to the Medway, very greatly, for small craft; but proved unsuccessful, was eventually purchased by the North Kent railway company, and was in part, adopted for their line of railway, yet in part still remains open.
A battery or fort, with sixteen guns, is on the east side of the town. An addition to the Hut barracks, comprising officersí quarters, offices, an hospital, stores, and workshops, was erected near the end of 1861, at a cost of £14,493.
The parish church was twice burnt down; and the present one was built in 1731, at a cost of £5,000, and is a plain brick edifice, with stone groins.
St. Jamesí church, in London Road, is a Gothic structure of 1851. Holy Trinity church was built in 1845, at a cost of £4,539. Milton parish church is late decorated English; has a fine square tower; and contains well-designed sedilia, and interesting corbels of the original roof. Christís church, Milton, is a Gothic edifice of 1854.
The Independent chapel in Princeís Street dates from 1717, but has been restored. The Roman Catholic chapel, in Milton Road, was built in 1834, at a cost of £7,000. There are chapels also for Baptists, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Latter Day Saints.
Varchellís free school, founded previous to 1703, and endowed with £85 was rebuilt in 1835, and then united to national schools. The ragged schools were built in 1864, and are a substantial brick structure of two storeys, 55 feet long and 23 feet wide.
There is a literary institute, with a library. Pinnockís alms houses were founded in 1624, and rebuilt, in the Tudor style, in 1836; and have an endowed income of £72. Other charities have £92.
The town has a head post office with a savings banks and a money order office, a telegraph station, another banking office, and a number of hotels and inns; is a polling place, a cost guard station, and a sub-port to London, whose jurisdiction ends here; and publishes four newspapers. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and a fair on 24th October. The chief trade arises from intercourse with London by steamer and railway; but business is done also in ship building, rope making, iron founding, soap making, and brewing. Coal and timber are largely imported; and chalk lime, from neighbouring quarries, is exported. Fisheries also employ many men and vessels; and enormous quantities of shrimps are both consumed in the town and sent to London. Pilots are taken in here by vessels entering or leaving the Thames; and vessels, which have to undergo examination by the custom house officials, wait here to undergo it. The Thames, therefore, while gay and bustling everywhere between London and the sea, is especially gay and bustling at Gravesend. The town was chartered by Elizabeth; and is governed by a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councilors.
The borough boundaries include the entire parish of Gravesend, and the entire parish of Milton. Real property in 1860, £, £86,469; of which £1,000 were in quarries, and £550 in gas works. Population in 1851, 16,633; in 1861, 18,782. Houses, 3,062.
The parish comprises 568 acres of land, and 115 of water. Real property in 1860, £31,888. Population in 1851, 6,706; in 1861, 7,885. Houses, 1,220. The rural part is fertile; and is partly disposed in market gardens.
The parochial living is a rectory, and St. Jamesí is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Rochester. Value of the former, £307; of the latter, not reported. Patron of the former, the Lord Chancellor; of the latter, the Rector.
The sub-district and the district are conterminate with the borough. Poor rates in 1863, £6,335. Marriages in 1862, 176; births, 605 of which 27 were illegitimate; deaths, 466 of which 164 were at ages under 5 years and 14 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,243; births, 5,945; deaths, 4,010.
The places of worship, in 1851, were 4 of the Church of England, with 3,350 sittings; 1 of Independents with 1,101 sittings; 2 of Baptists, with 970 sittings; 1 of Wesleyans, with 860 sittings; 1 of Primitive Methodists, with 180 sittings; 1 undefined, with 50 sittings; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 21 sittings.
The schools were six public day schools, with 1,288 scholars; 41 private day schools, with 925 scholars; and 7 Sunday schools, with 1,334 scholars.
Gravesend gave name to an ancient family, one of who, Sir Stephen de Gravesend, accompanied Edward I to Scotland. The celebrated French mathematician Gravesende is commonly supposed to have been a descendant of this family, but was of Gravensand in Holland. Bishop Rich was a native.1
1John Marius Wilson, comp. The Imperial Gazatteer of England and Wales. (London, England: A. Fullerton & Co., 1870).
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