Will also be available to see at
Farmers Market Saturday 3rd November 9.30-11.30am
Kings Kitchen Tuesday 6th November 10.00-1.00pm
Christmas Market Saturday 10th November 12.00-3.00pm
Kings Kitchen Tuesday 13th November 10.00-1.00pm
Further to the request for memories of High Halstow, I would like to offer some of my memories. I lived in Harrison Drive from 1956 to 1967, when we moved to West Sussex, when I was 12 years old.
I loved my childhood in the village, and have lots of good memories. One that stands out for me is when a few of us were using some straw bales to make a camp (We didn’t damage any I hasten to add). We were just finishing when a Jaguar Mark 10 appeared over the crest of the field containing assorted Osentons, who were not best pleased with us! They took names and addresses and sent us away with a flea in our ears. They reported us to PC Bob Haskins, who paid the parents of the “offenders” a visit. We were terrified, needless to say!
I also remember “hordes” of helpers hanging off or sitting in the milkman’s van – no such thing as Health & Safety then of course, mind you he used to get the round done much quicker
Other memories are attending ‘Jock” Lacey’s club in the Memorial Hall (neither he or we ever knew why he was referred to as Jock, but he didn’t like it), “newting” in Dead Man’s Pond, which was said to be bottomless. Us kids believed this to be true, even though you could clearly see the bottom!
Scrumping from the orchard, sadly all gone apart from a few cherry trees. We also “raided” Bill Rayner’s orchard and strawberry field at the top of Town Hill.
We also built countless camps and “created” new paths in the woods – much to the annoyance of Mr Hudson and Mr Fletcher the RSPB wardens. Strangely enough I am a Volunteer Warden at Northward Hill now.
I have to say that it was a fantastic place for kids and we never had “nothing to do and nowhere to go”. The village looks bigger every time I go there but I suppose that’s called “progress”
Mark Owen February 2012
Egypt Bay and Shade House, Cooling
TQ777782 7m E of Gravesend. Go east from Cooling along Britannia Road, and take the first left up Clinch Street. About 1.5 miles from the junction the road continues as a track beyond a locked gate. Follow the track N. The square brick outline and white shutters of Shade House soon come into view on the left, and Egypt Bay is a little more than a mile from the gate.
Egypt Bay on the Hoo peninsula was a typical Thames estuary landing spot, though its soft and changing outline has now been made regular and permanent by the concrete sea defences. Inland from the bay, though, there’s still a reminder of the smuggling activity that was once rife here: Shade House was built specifically to aid the landing of contraband on the southern shores of the Thames: significantly, all the windows of this peculiar box-like building face inland, to provide a good view of anyone approaching within a mile or so. The cottage is even now extremely isolated, but would have been more so in the 18th century: the marshes were malarial, and most people lived on higher ground farther inland. Local stories tell of vaulted brick tunnels leading from Shade House towards the river, but there is no visible evidence today to back up these tales. However, we do know that the North Kent gang used Shade House in their smuggling activities, driving the many marsh sheep along the trails they had followed inland so that there would be no tell-tale footprints.
Northward Hill is at TQ7876 5m NE of Strood. The wood is now a National Nature Reserve administered by the RSPB. Park at the end of Longfield Avenue in High Halstow and walk through the fenced alley to Forge Common. Cross the stile and bear left across the common to the wood (map 178).
One smuggling trip in this area is particularly well-documented, and especially interesting because of the insight it provides into the organization of smuggling in the early 18th century. The story is told in a deposition made in 1728 by a couple of Medway men . They travelled across the Channel in February 1726, and bought tea in Ostend. It was a very small-scale operation, since in all the men brought back just 400lb, plus a few yards of calico and some silk handkerchiefs. There were seven men on the ship, the Sloweley, and the trip was organized a bit like one of today’s cross-channel shopping excursions: everyone bought tea, and paid their passage in tea, too.
Once the goods had been landed, they were carried to Northward Hill, and concealed in the woodland that you can still see on the hill. By the time the tea and fabric had been hidden it was three in the morning, and two of the group departed, leaving some of their fellows on guard — perhaps the plan was to rendezvous the following day to divide up the profits. After a long night in the cold, The three men who were left behind went into the village to get food, and when they returned to the hiding place, two more of their fellows joined them. By this time, though, the silk and calico had disappeared, and since the tea was in six bags, it proved impossible to give each man his exact share. The delay in distribution provided the preventive forces with an opportunity — there is a suggestion that one of the group was an informer — and at 5 O’Clock four customs men arrived. We’ll never know what sort of a deal took place in the gathering dusk on Northward Hill, but whatever happened, it wasn’t entirely to the benefit of the customs authorities. They took 3/4 of the tea, but the smuggling conspirators retained the remainder, and were never prosecuted. The most likely explanation is that the customs men were ‘squared’, and simply sold the tea they had seized in order to line their own pockets. The mastermind of this and many other similar trips was one Edward Roots of Chatham. Though this small trip was organized on a cooperative basis, most of the others followed more conventional business lines, with a London financier, and a ‘fence’ in Blackheath who had organized an efficient distribution system through the pubs of Deptford. It’s no coincidence that High Halstow is within sight of Shade House. In fact, the whole of the Hoo peninsula played an active part in the free-trade, aided by the area’s reputation as a malarial and mist-shrouded swamp. Smuggled goods were commonly landed on Chalk Marshes, and at Cliffe, and often stored near to Chalk Church, and at Higham.
This information has been quoted with permission from Smugglers’ Britain © Richard Platt 2009 For further details and a fascinating read click here
Eden Road and Harrison Drive rebuild….I remember it well! Back in the early 1980’s, an acquaintance of mine knocked on my door and introduced me to a Mr Roy Puddie and his friend from Trevale Road in Rochester. What came of this meeting was to change the face of High Halstow for ever. They informed me of what had been learnt by the government from a house fire in the Midlands, and that my house had now become blighted and unmortgage-able (basically it was almost unsaleable). The mortgage lenders had apparently pulled the rug out from under us!
It transpired that Cornish style houses in the village could have been suffering from “concrete cancer”, technically called “spalling”. This was not just peculiar to High Halstow, but also Rochester, Hoo, Grain, Higham and thousands of more properties the length and breadth of the country, all of different styles and construction. In fact, it later appeared that only one house in High Halstow had spalling, but every house was affected by the revelation. A meeting of the home owners of Eden Road and Harrison Drive was hurriedly convened in the village school where the “bomb shell” was dropped. A “Cornish Residents Association” was formed with a committee made up of several well known home owners with myself as chairman (for my sins). The government then introduced the 1984 Housing Defect Act, and as they were held accountable, gave a grant for repairs with the owners making up the short fall, providing they met the qualifying criteria. These repairs had to be carried out under licence from reputable building firms, so the committee explored every avenue on behalf of the residents, and reported back via meetings and a newsletter called “The Cornish Prison”. Word quickly spread around Medway and a meeting took place of over 800 local residents, councillors and Peggy Fenner MP, at the Central Hall, Chatham to see one of the many demonstrations by a national builder. The majority of High Halstow Cornish home owners opted for the John Laing method with a few going for Michael Dyson Associates. After numerous arguments/meetings with the local authority, much heartache and sleepless nights, work finally started in 1985 with Laing’s setting up their construction site in White Road. All the houses had to be rebuilt to a specification that rendered them completely mortgage-able with a 10 year NHBC guarantee. I remember that winter of 1985 so well, it was a particularly harsh one with knee deep snow and strong winds, and was a very traumatic time for everybody who had homes under repair (mine included). Householders had to stay in residence whilst the roof was jacked up and the walls removed / replaced from the foundations up; only sheets of thin insulation between them and the elements. It was often referred to as a “living hell”! It’s now over 25 years since that chance meeting in my house, and it’s great to see the Laing Architect’s prophesy has come true regarding the finished product. Eden Road and Harrison Drive are a fitting testament to his foresight and imagination coupled with the fortitude of every resident at the time. “Just another chapter in the history of the village”.
Malcolm Coomber October 2011
Please find below information re High Halstow Halt, a disused railway station
Thanks for the contributions from Nick Catford and others from www.disused-stations.org.uk for allowing this to be published here
Date opened: 7.1906
Location: On the east side of the level crossing on Wybournes Lane
Company on opening: South Eastern & Chatham Railway
Date closed to passengers: 4.12.1961
Date closed completely: 4.12.1961
Company on closing: British Railways (Southern Region)
Present state: Although the platform has been demolished, the concrete base for the waiting room, which stood behind the platform, is still extant.
OS Grid Ref: TQ774751
Date of visit: 23.4.2005
Notes: Wybourne siding was on the west side of the level crossing with High Halstow Halt on the east side. Wybourne siding predated the halt.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUNDRED OF HOO RAILWAY
In 1865 the North Kent Extension Railway was granted authority to build a line from the SER track at Gravesend across the marshes to a pier on the west bank of the Medway opposite Sheerness. However since neither of the rival companies, the LCDR nor the SER, liked the idea, it failed to materialise.
Origins of the railway on the peninsula go back indirectly to the Continental Trade Agreement whereby the LCDR and SER agreed to share all receipts from Kent Coast and Continental traffic in various proportions. In 1876 the LCDR violated the terms by opening a railway pier at Queenborough with angered the SER who immediately revived the scheme for a line from Gravesend to the Medway and to achieve this end, they instigated a supposedly independent company called the Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. As the route from Charing Cross to Port Victoria (as it was to be called) was 40 miles compared to the LCDR’s 52 mile route to Queenborough, the SER were convinced the route would be successful.
Parliamentary Acts were granted by 1880 and construction work started shortly afterwards. A further Act in 1881 passed the line over to the SER. On April 1st 1882, the first section from Hoo Junction to Sharnal Street was opened with the remaining section to Port Victoria opening on September 11th 1882 by which time a wooden pier and a modest weather-boarded Port Victoria Hotel had been provided. It was soon clear that the new rout was not as popular as predicted due to the new docks that opened at Tilbury in 1886. The line was however used by the Royal Family.
Initially the Port Victoria branch had only two intermediate stations at Cliffe and Sharnal Street but in 1906 new halts were added to serve villages at High Halstow, Beluncle, Middle Stoke and Grain Crossing. Between Cliffe and the junction with the Gravesend to Higham line, a halt was provided near the British Uralite works that had opened in 1901 and was used mainly by workmen’s traffic. Three further halts were also provided on the main line at Milton Road, Denton and Milton Range. The halts were all of timber construction but were later rebuilt in prefabricated concrete. Milton Road was short lived and closed during WW1 as an economy measure. It had never been popular due to its close proximity to Gravesend Central and it never reopened.
By 1916 the pier at Port Victoria was declared unsafe and the seaward portion was barricaded off.
Passenger traffic continued to dwindle after the First World War but at the same time freight traffic was developing with the opening of the Medway Oil and Storage (later Power Petroleum Company) Company’s new depot at Grain in 1928. The pier continued to deteriorate and by 1931 no trains were allowed onto it and a temporary wooden platform was built at the landward end while a basic concrete platform was completed on safer ground.
The Southern Railway opened a single-track branch line from a new station at Stoke Junction to Allhallows on Sea in 1932 optimistic that a new resort would develop around the station. A station hotel was built but the bleak marshes did not entice the holidaymakers. Six trains a day were provided, two of these to and from London. Allhallows-on-Sea station comprised an island platform with a run-round loop plus carriage and goods sidings. Still hopeful, the Southern Railway maintained its confidence in the lines future with a second platform being added at Cliffe and Sharnal Street and the branch to Allhallows was doubled in 1935.
With the opening of the branch to Allhallows, passenger traffic to Port Victoria dwindled to almost nothing with only two trains a day, principally for the benefit of the workers at the petrol depot.
The popularity of Allhallows was improving by the late 1930’s and the Southern Railway considered doubling the whole line. The proposal was put on hold on the outbreak of war in 1939 and was eventually abandoned.
During the war the line was well used with the oil terminal being adapted as the base for PLUTO (Pipeline under the Ocean) supplying the allied forces in Europe.
After the war the long term future of freight traffic seemed assured with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the successor to Power Petroleum) building their largest refinery in Britain at Grain in 1948. Extensive rail facilities were provided and from June 19th 1951 Port Victoria (which was within the new refinery) and Grain Crossing Halt were closed while a new Grain Station was constructed 700 yards east of Grain Crossing. The new station had a long single island platform and a large brick signal box and was intended primarily for the use of workmen at the oil terminal.
Due to the increase of freight traffic there were rumours that the whole line was to be electrified but the post war popularity of the motor car led to a continued decline in passenger numbers. The resort of Allhallows did not continue to develop and despite all efforts, attempts to sell housing plots remained unsuccessful and before long the railway authorities accepted defeat and reverted to a limited local service. As the traffic continued to deteriorate the line went back to single track in 1957.
The situation lingered on until 1961 when the passenger services from Hoo Junction on the Gravesend line to Grain and the branch to Allhallows were withdrawn on December 4th.
The wooden station buildings at Cliffe and Sharnal Street were demolished in 1966 and the signal box at Cliff was demolished in 1973.
In 1974 a campaign was instigated by Stoke Parish Council to have the railway reopened to passenger traffic but British Rail opposed the proposal as the line was only single traffic and because of the signaling complications in introducing a passenger service onto the busy freight line.
High Halstow Halt c.1959s
Photo from John Mann collection
High Halstow Halt in about 1960
Photo by J. Aston
The site of High Halstow Halt in April 2005
Photo by Nick Catford
The site of High Halstow Halt in April 2005
Photo by Nick Catford
1949 1:2500 OS map
Kent Railways Remembered by Leslie Oppitz – Countryside Books 1988 ISBN 1 85306 016 X
Isle of Grain Railways by Adrian Gray – Oakwood Press 1974
Mr. Plewis knows of no war damage at all to the church. The nearest bombs to fall were on the marshes and beside the Britannia Inn. The Britannia Inn was near the Bungalow, but nearer the corner of the road than the bungalow. It was damaged in the war when a bomb dropped in the field opposite. Incendiaries dropped one night causing the area from Marsh Gate farm to High Halstow to look like fairy lights.
The Red Dog
Mr Topley was foreman at Lodge Hill. There was a battery in the cricket meadow at Cooling. A framework was constructed at Lodge Hill, with six rockets, their barrels filled with Mills Bombs (36 Bombs). Rangefinders were fired by pushbutton, which was operated by a pocket torch battery. The rockets exploded at a certain height, grenades bursting out which then exploded. The next time enemy aircraft appeared, they were firing twelve rockets instead of six.
Kingsnorth was the centre of airships. There was a royal Air station at Grain. The airships were used for submarine spotting. Grain Fort dates from the time of General Gordon – there was also Shorne Fort and Cliffe Fort. Admiralty oil tanks at Grain were used for refuelling battleships in the First World War. The Thames was often a mass of battleships
The North wall of the church was sinking in TW Lonfields time. There were no foundations to the local churches. Mr. Plewis uncovered an inch-deep black layer beneath the base of the walls, made of rotten flora over the centuries. Mr. Plewis’s father said that it was the growth in the topsoil which had held such a building together, and it should be left undisturbed. The wall are four feet thick, with inner and outer stone facing, the middle filled up with lime rubble, and here and there jointed up. Mr Plewis undertook the job of underpinning the North wall. The foundations given to it were six foot slabs of stone long ways.
There are no frogs (indents) in the bricks buttressing the tower, which dates them to some extent. There was a brick field at Dalham before Mr. Plewis’s time. Brickfield Cottages were opposite the brickworks, built of black tarred bricks. (The road from Cliffe to Strood passed through smoking brickfields, especially at the back of Bingham Road)
Lime mortar joints were used on the tower brickwork. Lime is live matter – cement is dead; lime mortar lasts longer, absorbs atmosphere, and is stronger than cement; in the war, the lime mortar with stood the shocks.
On Saturday a groom with a horse and cart would go to Higham Lime works for half a ton of hot (or live) lime in rock form. It was immersed in water (eggs could be boiled in it in no time) and was then left for a week, water being added as necessary. Then an old Larry (a big handled hoe) was used to maker a ton of mortar. This was left for a fortnight before used. Its consistency was like butter.
Town Hill was part of Ducks Court Road going down from High Halstow to Dux Court. The town referred to in the name is Rochester. (Going to town)
The top part of Cooling Road was known as Station Hill. Stations were at Cliffe, High Halstow Halt Sharnal Street and Beluncle. Mr. Plewis remembers seeing King George and the Kaiser go past – the Kaiser with his back to the engine and King George facing the other way. The coal on the tender was whitewashed, black coal underneath actually being used. Port Victoria boasted an hotel and a yacht club. Before the advent of Anglo- Iranian there were plans to make port Victoria a royal yacht club, similar to Cowes The ground floor of the yacht club was of Italian mosaic.
The Lane from Deangate to High Halstow
In Mr Plewis’s opinion, Cooling Road was in ancient times the riverside, the path of the road being solid ground the animals would walk along. The square ness of the shape formed by Cooling Road might have been due to the way the Romans had set things out.
Before you get to Eastborough Farm bungalow, Lipwell is down in the valley. The area from Lipwell to the marshes is known as The Moors. The tide used to come up there – Buckhole Wharf and Dalham Wharf bear witness. Could the Kentish rag used for High Halstow church come up this way? Borough Green and Plaxtol are the nearest places where Kentish rag can be obtained
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