High Halstow Community Site

High Halstow Community Clubs and Organisations


The Parish of High Halstow

The name is Saxon held to signify Holy Place, first being called Hagelstowe in other records as Hagelsto and as Agelstow.

The name High Halstow was brought into being by the amalgamation of the four hamlets in the area, being Clinch Street, Fenn Street, Sharnal Street and High Halstow Street. Fenn Street being lost in a boundary change to St Mary Hoo many years later.

Although the area has been occupied by the Romans, Saxons and Normans, very little is known of its history until later years.

Although the church as it stands was known to be of the tenth century, a church at High Halstow was referred to in the Doomsday Book, being built on the highest point of the Peninsula overlooking the Thames and Medway. In its early day, with other villages on the peninsula most people, because of the disease and illness in the area, avoided it.

High Halstow came into being a lot later than the surrounding villages and did not have any significance until later years. Due to the marshes and farmland being waterlogged it was the home of the malaria mosquito. The cause of malaria was not discovered until 1890. Prior to this date it was generally supposed that the spread of disease was due to ague, marsh fever and coast fever. Poverty and malnutrition were widespread in the area. If a child reached adulthood without contracting one of the many prevalent diseases their life expectancy was still little beyond thirty years. It was this state of affairs that kept all the wealthier people out the area leaving only the poor to survive. It was during this period that the wealthier people living away from the area bought the land and let it to the poor to cultivate small areas.

In the eighteenth century and High Halstow was still an area avoided by all those who could. Its inhabitants being the poor and the convicts in the prison hulks in Egypt Bay, (the home of Mr Magwitch in Great Expectations). The prison hulks, Napoleonic War Prison Ships, were abandoned in the later part of the century. It is recorded about 1895 the number of people contracting malaria was reducing sharply and the answer for this was the drainage of the farmland and marshes. This was carried on in a small way until a farmer, Henry Pye, came into the area. He drained large areas resulting in being called The King of the Hundreds. Before the Norman Conquest the land was divided up between the noble Saxons and the areas being known as known as manors. During the Norman Conquest these manors were taken over by the Normans and formed into areas known as hundreds. The land being let to families to farm. It is thought that the hundred as an administrative unit may have resulted from a hundred families. Its main use was for collecting taxes (some things never change)

In 1878, Pye and other farmers met the South Eastern Railway Company asking for a railway to be built, resulting in a new company being set up, The Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. The first part of the line was opened in March 1882, Cliffe to Sharnal Street. This was later to be continued to the Isle of Grain. Sharnal Street was the larger of the two and had good sidings where the farms loaded their goods for the London market. It was also at Sharnal Street that telegram and mail collections were effected.

During the time between the two world wars High Halstow was mainly a farming area. Some of the people worked outside the village at the Royal Navy Armament Depot at Lodge Hill, The Medway Oil and Storage Co. at Grain, Chatham Dockyard and Shorts Brothers at Rochester.

It was just a small village with a Church, two shops, a public house, a wheelwright, undertaker and a policeman. This continued until after the Second World War when things started to change. Some old houses vanished and new house building began. Churchill Place and in the area behind the Church, which was formerly known as the Square, bungalows replaced five thatched cottages.
In 1948 the British Petroleum Oil Refinery at Grain was started with a completion and start up date in 1952. This was flooded in its first week when the sea wall was breached.

1952 saw the start of home building in the village for the refinery employees. These being Harrison Drive, Eden Road, Thames Avenue, Longfield Avenue, Northwood Avenue and a collection of houses and bungalows in Christmas Lane and Cooling Road.

In 1956 the new school, on its present site, opened and the old school building opposite the Red Dog closed and eventually demolished with Hill Farm making way for Hill Farm Close. A new estate was started called Goodwood Close to be followed in the 1970,s by houses being built in the meadow at the end of Longfield Avenue, which is now Willowbank Drive and Medway Avenue. In addition the bungalows and houses in Cooling Road started to increase as well as the building of houses and bungalows known as Marsh Crescent and additional houses in Longfield Avenue

The village then had a rest from building until the new estates of Northwood Park and Heron Fields started in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Now as we begin the twenty-first century we still have a Church, a shop and pub

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