At 11:30am, 11 November 1918, the Bells of Rochester Cathedral rung-out to announce Peace.

News of the Armistice reaches Medway

The Armistice with Germany had been anticipated for some weeks. The Turks had surrendered and Austria had applied to Italy for an armistice – leaving Germany fighting on alone. When peace arrived there was great excitement mixed with relief, but for many across Medway who would have been laden with grief, expressing joy would have been beyond their capacity. The flu epidemic was also still taking lives and the future was far from certain. Despite these circumstances people across Medway did celebrate and give thanks.

Continue reading “At 11:30am, 11 November 1918, the Bells of Rochester Cathedral rung-out to announce Peace.”


Spymaster of Rochester from 1908-1913

This is an account of Frederick Adolphus Gould / Schroeder, landlord of the Queen Charlotte public house in Rochester, and “special intelligence officer” for the German Army.

Gould took on the Queen Charlotte in 1908 and managed it until December 1913 when he went to London – perhaps sensing the authorities were onto him. As the landlord of the Queen Charlotte, that was frequented by people with military connections, Gould was in a position to groom and cultivate relationships with soldiers, sailors and defence workers – through whom he obtained documents and information that he passed onto Germany.

Continue reading “Spymaster of Rochester from 1908-1913”

Spanish Flu – arrives in Rochester

Every national event is made up of a myriad of individual causative or consequential experiences. In this blog I hope to give a sense of how Spanish Flu affected the people of Rochester / Medway in the autumn of 1918.

The flu pandemic of 1918 was referred to as the Spanish Flu as a consequence of it being reported extensively in the free-press of neutral Spain. Although this pandemic was not caused by the war, the mass movement of people and overcrowded public transport and housing, enabled its rapid spread – particularly within populations run down by stress and poor diet. When one considers that the population of the Medway Town had quadrupled by October 1915, and quality food was in short supply by 1918, it’s easy to see how the conditions were created that would enable the rapid spread of any contagious disease. Continue reading “Spanish Flu – arrives in Rochester”

La Providence – an account of the Huguenot’s arrival in Rochester

La Providence – The French Hospital

The tranquillity of the picturesque French Hospital situated off Rochester High Street, belies a distant history of brutality that required French protestants to escape persecution, and the deprivations their infirm members would have experienced as they tried to make a new life in England

The French Hospital / La Providence, that provides accommodation for people of Huguenot descent who are in need, arrived in Rochester in the late 1950’s. Rochester City Council encouraged the interest of the charity by providing financial assistance towards the purchase of what was then known as Theobald Square, and a nearby property. 

More recently the French Hospital acquired the Visitors Centre in which it has created the only museum in Britain that tells the Huguenot story.

The following outlines the circumstances that drove the Huguenots (French Protestants) to flee France, and how their endeavours to provided for their needy compatriots may have set up the first modern voluntary hospital in Britain.

Continue reading “La Providence – an account of the Huguenot’s arrival in Rochester”

St. Bart’s, Rochester, 1914/1918 – and its matron honoured by the King.

This blog offers some insights into how St Barts continued to grow and the demands made on it during the Great War. Such were the demands, arising from the number of military casualties, hospitals generally needed much more than money to provide its services.

Details of the running and development of St. Barts were not covered in great depth in the press during the Great War. Apart from there being more serious matters to report there were a number of other practical reporting issues such as the lack of paper and journalists.

The following also introduces – Maud Pote-Hunt  – who is probably unknown to many in Medway. However whilst she was matron of St. Barts between 1910 and 1928 she made a very significant contribution to the development of nursing and the delivery of hospital care. Her contribution was recognised with the award the Royal Red Cross (Second Class) that was presented to her by the King at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. 

Continue reading “St. Bart’s, Rochester, 1914/1918 – and its matron honoured by the King.”

A Forgotten Hero of Westerham?

Ask for a link between Westerham and the war and I think most people will come up with Churchill and Chartwell. But there is a lesser known person associated with Westerham whose contribution significantly aided the winning of the Great War and quite probably the Second World War. He led no great battles but without him many battles could not have been fought, would have been lost and many soldiers could have died of hypothermia.

I’m referring to Lt. Colonel Peter Norman Nissen, DSO, (1871–1930) a Canadian engineer and British Army Officer, who designed the Nissen Hut. After the war he moved to Westerham in 1921 and lived on Westerham Hill until his death. He is buried in an almost anonymous and neglected grave in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin, at Westerham. 

Continue reading “A Forgotten Hero of Westerham?”

Modern St. Bart’s – Rochester – its first 50 years

St. Bartholomew’s, Rochester, 1863 – 1914 – if its walls could talk.

The requirements for the ‘modern’ St. Barts were based on the needs and knowledge of the 1850s. At this time anaesthetics were only just being tried so operations were rare and brutal. It was not until after St. Barts opened that it was accepted that germs could cause infections and antiseptics began to be used. The industrial workplace had always been a dangerous place but it became a whole lot more hazardous with the increased manufacture and use of iron and steel – and associated heavy machinery. By the 1870s Medway and the expectations placed on St. Barts were significantly different to those of the 1850s. 

The first 50 years of St. Barts provides some insight into how life and medicine changed. What has changed less is the challenge of funding health care! St. Barts was underfunded from the outset – it had to raise its own income, some of its funding was hypothecated, and much of its budget was dependent on the performance of the local economy. Further, medical advances and population growth only added to the challenge of managing a modern and much needed hospital. (150 years on the words may have changed but the tune seems very familiar!)

The following, based on newspaper reports of the time, charts some of these changes and challenges.
Continue reading “Modern St. Bart’s – Rochester – its first 50 years”

Rochester and the women’s suffrage movement

It is right in 2018, a century after some women gained the vote, to recognise the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett however their success could not have been achieved without the support of thousands of women in towns and cities up and down the country. So in this blog I wish record something of the contribution made and experiences of women in Rochester who supported the calls for women to have the vote. However as will be seen they may well have been less driven by wanting the vote out of principle but more by it being the means by which they could lives of women and infants.

It was not just women who campaigned for women to get the vote – there was a men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement. This movement was particularly keen to force Cabinet Ministers, who were ignoring the will of the House of Commons, to hear the Suffragist arguments. As many parliamentarians were unwilling to hear the arguments many women took to ‘disrupting’ political meetings with questions and challenges that the speaking politician did not wish to address.

Continue reading “Rochester and the women’s suffrage movement”

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Rochester, 1078 to 1864

The making of a ‘new model hospital’ – with ‘buried treasure’?

I have heard many people mistakingly say that St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, at Rochester, was the oldest hospital in the country. The site could be oldest that has had a hospital on it, but it needs a fair stretch of imagination to accept that there was a functioning hospital on that site prior to the ‘new model’ hospital opening on 10 October 1863. I also suspect some 150 years ago there were folk in Chatham who believed the new hospital was not built on the site of the original 1078 hospital – as that was in Chatham! Further, the ground upon which the new 1863 hospital was built was described as “garden ground on New-road, in the occupation of Mr. J. Hulkes, the whole of which was be covered by the building.”

Nevertheless there is a story to be told. I therefore offer the following as a ‘starter for 10’ in the hope that it may help someone far more able than I to pull together a history of the hospital. In this blog I offer a sequence of events that led to the building of the hospital that we know today as St. Barts. In a later blog I will tell something of its history from 1863 to the creation of the NHS.

Early history

The original St. Bartholomew’s founded by Gundulph, bishop of Rochester in 1078, was a ‘lazer-house’ or ‘lepers house’ that received leprous and other poor persons native to Kent. It would have been built on the edge of the City but close enough and on a route that would enable lepers to beg or trade. The actual design is not known but based on other sites it probably consisted of a group of small cottages close to a chapel – a news report on findings relating to the chapel at St. Barts did refer to the recent demolition of old houses. Reference was made to the removal of houses on the south side of the chapel revealing the original Norman work .

Gundulph endowed the hospital with land that provided an annual income of £13. Its original staffing was a prior, and sisters & brethren from the priory of St. Andrews, that was part of Rochester Cathedral.

Funding has always been a challenge for St. Barts as the rental income realised from its land was insufficient to meet the cost of running the hospital. It was therefore always dependent on grants from the Crown (Henry III, Edward III and Henry IV all made grants) and other persons, and a liberal allowance from the monks of St. Andrew’s Priory.

Before the dissolution of the priory the brethren of St. Bartholomew’s received allowances from the convent, and the oblations of two alters in the cathedral. They also had the privilege of collecting alms from the persons who dined at the bishop’s table on the day of his installation. 

After the dissolution of the Priory of St Andrew the only income the brethren could expect was the rental income that it received from its land – in fact the hospital was so poor it was of no interest to Henry VIII who commandeered most of the hospitals in the kingdom, so he left it in the hands of the Dean & Chapter of Rochester Cathedral. At the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) it is said the hospital was only occupied by two “impotent persons”. 

The hospital’s financial circumstances improved somewhat when the royal dockyard at Chatham began to establish itself as the value of the land rapidly increased through the necessity of needing to provide accommodation for artisans and others involved in the development and running of the dockyard. By 1849 it was accepted that the income from the hospital land was £3,500 but still insufficient to support the hospital!

Questions were therefore raised as to where that money was going if it wasn’t being used to bring more benefit for the poor in the district. This was regarded by some as a scandalous situation made all the worse by the scandal of the minuscule allowance the Dean & Chapter paid to the poor scholars of the Kings School – but that’s a story for another blog! At the same time there were also serious concerns related to the way in which the trustees of the Watt’s Charity were administering the bequeath of Richard Watts.

In 1849 it was reported that several influential inhabitants of Rochester made a claim to the whole amount due to the hospital with a view to building and maintaining a new hospital for in-door and out-door patients.

Was St. Barts in Rochester or Chatham?

This became an important issue when consideration was being given to how the land endowed to the hospital could be divvied out. Certain deeds described the hospital as being “at or near Rochester” whilst other deeds fixed the hospital as being “in the parish of Chatham”.  In the Charter granted to the City of Rochester by Edward IV the hospital was set as one of the boundaries. Despite numerous court hearing that set St. Bartholomew’s in Rochester, the Rev. S. Arnott at the Court Leet dinner at Chatham, was still supporting, in 1863, the view that the old hospital was in Chatham.

Matters end up in Court

A complex series of events took place between 1849 and 1859 with the Court of Chancery and the Attorney General becoming involved in resolving matters relating to the management of the Watt’s charity, the Dean & Chapter’s management of the Cathedral School and the management of St. Bartholomew’s hospital. Concerns about the mismanagement of these charitable funds became a national scandal – even Dickens in his “Seven Poor Travellers” made mention of concerns about the management of the Watt’s Charity and the poor scholars of the Cathedral School. (As these matters were resolved the Government came to accept some statutory oversight was needed and the foundations were laid for what we know today as the Charity Commission.)

In 1858 the Court of Chancery ordered that St. Bartholomew’s hospital was to be restored and remodelled, and set up new trustees under the management of the Dean of Rochester. It directed that an 80 bed hospital and dispensary was to be built to receive and relieve poor persons of the parishes of Chatham, Frindsbury, Gillingham, Rochester Cathedral precincts, St. Margaret’s and St. Nicholas, in the City of Rochester, and Strood. The Court further directed that the hospital should receive patients with any kind of disease excepting, no parish pauper, no lunatics, no person with small pox, or confirmed consumption, ulcerated legs of long standing or the itch, (this could have been scabies) or any female far advanced in pregnancy except where she had had a severe accident and required surgery. The Court further directed that 30 of the 80 beds should be for the reception and treatment of women infected with a venereal disease in a ‘Lock’ ward, and that the Ministry of War and the Admiralty would share the cost of the building and running of that facility.

The first meeting of the new trustees took place in August 1859. The building had not started –  indeed the land had not yet been acquired from Mr. J. Hulkes  – but the mayor was in receipt of a beautifully executed drawing of the exterior of the building provided by the Attorney General. The design was not very ornamental but provided for two large charity wards for males and females respectively – capable of receiving 40 patients, and some smaller wards for 10 accident patients. The design also made provision for the locked wing that was secured from the rest of the hospital. (More about Locked Wards and how they may have laid the foundations for the local feminist movement in the Towns, in a future blog.) The most prominent feature of the hospital was the tower of four floors that housed two slate water tanks that together were capable of holding 1,500 gallons.

The building cost was put at £7,000 or which £4,000 was to come from the Watt’s charity and £3,000 from the hospital’s estates. The Government supplemented this amount with a large grant for the construction of the Lock ward. It was expected that the revenue funding would come from the hospital estates, £1,000 from the Watt’s charity, £750 from the war office, and that the Admiralty would pay £25 for each bed provided for a Lock patient.

The invitation to tender was issued in January 1861 for the building, on ground near New Road in the parishes of St. Margaret’s and Chatham, a dispensary and hospital comprising wards for 80 patients, with “apartments for Officers and Servants of the establishment”. (No mention was made on any existing hospital buildings.)

By April 1861 it was reported that Mr Stump, the winning contractor, had made great progress but it was not until August that the Foundation Stone was eventually laid. It had been hoped that HRH Prince Consort would perform the ceremony but this was not possible so HRH the Prince of Wales was invited but he was unable to attend because of his military duties in Ireland. So as not to delay progress, as it was hoped to open the hospital in early 1862, it was decided to hold a private ceremony.

Laying of the Foundation Stone – celebrated by dignitaries and workers alike.

The foundation stone was placed to the right of the entrance. Beneath the commemoration stone was placed a sealed leaden box containing the inscription written on vellum, that was read out at the ceremony, and one each of the current coins of the realm.

To the glory of God, and in honour of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, this stone commemorating the building of this Hospital, and the resurrection of the Charity founded by Bishop Gundulph, 1078, was laid by Thomas Hermitage Day Esq., one of the brethren on behalf of the Patron, Brethren and Trustees of the Hospital.”

After the ceremony the trustees repaired to the Deanery where an elegant luncheon was prepared for them and other dignitaries. In the afternoon a substantial dinner was provided for about 90 workman who were employed on the building of the hospital. After their dinner they indulged in various outdoor amusements on the greensward until dusk. They then returned to the house and were regaled with punch etc. ad libitum, provided by the same liberal hands which supplied the dinner.  After enthusiastically drinking the health of the Trustees the men departed to their own home – highly gratified with the day’s proceedings.

The hospital opens

The hospital opened on the 10th October 1863 with no pomp other than it was opened for public inspection on the 9th. The Trustees wished it to be known that their funds were not in a “flourishing condition” and they had been compelled to borrow £1,500 to complete the hospital. They also believed that the hospital’s annual income would not become sufficient for some years, and not until regeneration of the Towns improved land values and in turn, rental income. Until that time the hospital trustees pressed hard to recruit more subscribers and requested gifts of old linen or cotton to be sent to the matron.

Hospital staffing

Staff on the opening of the hospital comprised of a consulting physician, consulting surgeon and an honorary dentist who provided their services gratuitously, others received an annual salary – bracketed. 

Chaplain (£150) 

Surgeon (£120)

Dispenser (£60) 

Steward (£50) 

Matron (£30, aged between 30 & 50, with experience in the management of a hospital for the sick)

Nurses – female x 7. (£12 / annum aged between 25 & 50 and accustomed to nursing)

Porter (£15, unmarried aged between 35 and 55)

Cook – female (£16)

Laundress (£16), 

Housemaid (£12), 

Under housemaid (£8) and a 

Scullery maid (£8).

Gaining admission to St. Bartholomew’s for treatment

As was the case with all hospitals patients who had had a recent accident were admitted at once without recommendation. In other cases the applicants had to be recommended for admission by one of the following:

A trustee, a medical officer, the Dean or Canons of Rochester, clergyman of Parish churches, Trustees of Watt’s charity, or a subscriber to the funds of the hospital. As a rule no patient was to be permitted to remain more than two months – although cases would be considered on their merit. 

Out patients could be prescribed everyday but Sunday. The Watt’s Trustees could nominate no more than 20 in-patients or outpatients. In order to recruit more regular donors and to encourage larger subscriptions, a donor could nominate one in-patient and two outpatients for every guinea they subscribed. If a Trustee wished to nominate someone for admission they were required to become a subscriber. (This probably dealt with the concern at the root of the earlier scandals that trustees in the past had managed charities for their own best interests.)

Within a week of opening seven women were admitted to the Locked wards from the Medway Union which previously provided those wards.

Weekly admission figures were published in the press:

Beginning of November: 

33 general patients, and 15 women in the Locked ward. 152 out-patients treated.

Beginning of December: 

44 general patients, and 16 women in the Locked ward. 245 out-patients treated.

To be continued …… the story of a hospital that was to become a truly modern hospital of its time.


South Eastern Gazette – 29 June 1852

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser – 4 October 1853

West Kent Guardian – Saturday 31 March 1855

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser – 8 May 1855

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser – 18 September 1855

South Eastern Gazette – 2 August 1859

South Eastern Gazette – 30 August 1859

South Eastern Gazette – 29 January 1861

South Eastern Gazette – 16 April 1861

Kentish Gazette – 27 August 1861

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser – 27 August 1861

South Eastern Gazette – 4 February 1862

South Eastern Gazette – 25 March 1862

Kentish Gazette – 30 September 1862

Chatham News – 24 January 1863.

Chatham News – 21 February 1863

Chatham News – 30 May 1863

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – 16 July 1863

Chatham News – 19 September 1863

Chatham News – 26 September 1863

Chatham News – 3 October 1863

Dover Express – 10 October 1863

Chatham News – 17 October 1863

Chatham News – 31 October 1863

Chatham News – December 1863

Chatham News – 19 December 1863

John Bull – Saturday 18 October 1873

Nature has it sorted!

A symbiotic relationship between the fallow deer and the jackdaws living in Knole Park, Sevenoaks. The following video was taken in April. Not exactly professional as it was opportunistic ‘filming’ on a small pocket camera. It however shows you what to look out for. 

The video shows jackdaws ‘helping’ the deer loose some of their winter coat by collecting it to line their nests. 

Jackdaws nest in cavities such as holes in trees and buildings. Their nests are made of twigs – not the most cosy of materials but made more comfy with a lining of fur. Around this time you can also see the Jackdaws collecting twigs. Sit quietly and see where they fly to – this may help you locate their nest but it will almost certainly be to high to reach. The following picture is of a jackdaw nest in the hollow of a tree found in Knole Park.

jackdaw nest

In the following picture of the Jackdaw note the bright blue eyes – much brighter in life. The thought is that the eyes will be very visible and scary in the dark of a hollow and will scare off any predator wanting to steal the jackdaw’s eggs or young.


Jackdaws form stable relationships – a pair can stay together for years – even if they don’t have young.

Rochester MP’s campaign ends flogging in the British Army

In 1880 the principled opposition of Arthur Otway, MP for Rochester, brings flogging in the British Army to an end.

Arthur Otway was the MP for Rochester from 1878 to 1885, and before that Chatham from 1865 to 1874. He was extremely popular and fought a long and at times a seemingly hopeless battle, to abolish the use of the lash in the British army. The ending of flogging did not result in the collapse of military discipline – rather the opposite as within two years of flogging being abolished the army was able to close the Fort Clarence military prison!

What follows is perhaps a moralistic tale that demonstrates how the ‘carrot’ was more effective that the ‘stick’ (lash) when it comes to expecting and realising the best of people.

Although considerably ‘sanitised’ compared with the detail conveyed in the press at the time, some readers my find some aspects of the following upsetting.

Continue reading “Rochester MP’s campaign ends flogging in the British Army”

Rochester women knew how to deal with a sexual predator!

August 1838 saw an extraordinary riot in Rochester by a mob comprised of an estimated thousand respectable persons, principally women, intent on executing summary vengeance on the bigamist John Alexander Willmett (jnr), the son of a local solicitor of the same name.

This is a true story – the stuff of Dickens – or for writers seeking a plot for a novel concerning the ‘exploitation of an innocent maiden by a villain who gets his comeuppance’.

But this is real-life and although the villain got his comeuppance it would not have reversed the damage suffered by his victim who was had her happiness destroyed, and perhaps her life ruined.

Continue reading “Rochester women knew how to deal with a sexual predator!”

Three men with Rochester connections who ‘helped’ Britannia Rule the Waves.

And the ‘story’ of the ‘missing’ portrait.

Visit the Guildhall Museum in Rochester and you will see portraits of two of the three men, Sir Joseph Williamson and Sir Cloudesley Shovell, but not the third, Mr. John Byng – the reason for this will become clear.

Rochester until 1885 was represented in Parliament by two MPs. Owing to the proximity of Chatham dockyard and the Admiralty being the largest employer at Rochester, the Admiralty often nominated both men to represent Rochester – one of whom was always an admiral. Sir Joseph Williamson, Sir Cloudesley Shovel and John Byng were all Navy nominations. Elections at this time bore little resemblance to those of today. The ‘nominated’ men were at this time elected by an electorate of probably no more than 600 freemen of Rochester – many of whom could have had trade connections with the Navy.

The contribution made by these three men in making the British Navy so effective had little to do with their roles as MPs – their contributions, that I will be considering, were made postmortem!

Continue reading “Three men with Rochester connections who ‘helped’ Britannia Rule the Waves.”

An amazing story of a first and lasting love.

Did a Rochester marriage help reform a slave trader?

Marriage Announcement

12 February 1750 – Mr & Mrs George & Elizabeth Catlett are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Mary (Polly) Catlett, of Chatham, to Mr. John Newton – an adventurer, naval deserter, slave trader and an incurable romantic. The couple married at St. Margaret’s Church, Rochester, on February 1st. 1750.

John Newton wrote the words to the hymn Amazing Grace.

Continue reading “An amazing story of a first and lasting love.”

Early balloon flights from Rochester

Coal-gas balloon flights from Rochester!

The invention of the balloon was a technical and theatrical marvel of the 19th Century; balloons, wherever they were inflated or exhibited, drew huge crowds.

Rochester was well placed to be on the balloonist’s circuit because it had a gasworks. Early gas-filled balloons were inflated with hydrogen that was both expensive and difficult to transport, but this was soon replaced with coal/town gas that was more readily available and was, so to speak, ‘on tap’. Continue reading “Early balloon flights from Rochester”

Rochester’s ‘Chamber of Horrors’ – 1938

Exhibition of ‘Tools of Torture and Punishment’ and the barbaric execution of the Bishop of Rochester’s Cook – by boiling.

Eastgate House closed as a museum in 2004. For many years previous it fulfilled the role of the City of Rochester’s museum. Just as today, the museum put on special exhibitions. One that attracted the interest of the Press, back in 1938, was the ‘Chamber of Horrors’ that it curated in the cellar. The exhibition though was not open to the wider public as admission was restricted to “members of the council and privileged persons”. Continue reading “Rochester’s ‘Chamber of Horrors’ – 1938”

A New Year ‘Love Story’ that started in Rochester?

The less familiar ‘Love Story’ between Anne of Cleaves and Henry VIII – that began in Rochester over the New Year 1539/1540.

Fake News? Some dramatists and storytellers like to portray the relationship between Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII as a disaster. Certainly their relationship had a very rocky start – but once divorced Henry heaped gifts upon her, titled her “the King’s Beloved Sister”, used her as a confidant – and they may even have become lovers. The fact that Henry decided to have investigated one of the rumours that Anne was pregnant by him suggests Continue reading “A New Year ‘Love Story’ that started in Rochester?”

1951 – Death of 24 Cadets in Dock Road, Gillingham

Bishop of Rochester denounces the idol of speed on the road.

Hopefully reader you will understand why I decided to blog on this subject at what should be a time of happiness, when you realise that as a walking-rambler (as opposed to a verbal-rambler) I frequently have to dive into hedges to avoid speeding traffic – including buses with projecting wing mirrors.

Continue reading “1951 – Death of 24 Cadets in Dock Road, Gillingham”

Body of executed boy given to Rochester surgeons

(Detail from the image by William Hogarth – The Four stages of Cruelty : The Reward for Cruelty, 1751)
In 1831 between 8,000 and 9,000 people – mostly members of the fair sex and fashionably dressed – gathered outside Maidstone Prison to witness the hanging of 14 year old John Amy Bell. He had pleaded guilty to murdering Richard Taylor (13) just outside Rochester.

Continue reading “Body of executed boy given to Rochester surgeons”

Rochester’s House of Correction

Rochester’s lock-up for the lewd and disorderly! 

The Six Poor Travellers – ME1 1LX

The next time you walk past the Six Poor Travellers in Rochester, High Street, look to the ground and to the right of the door as you face it. You will see the ‘grill’ to a cellar. Pause a while reflect of what you may have heard had you been standing there, say, 250 years ago.  The cellar was used to house prisoners and to administer whippings to those so sentenced. 
The story of the Six Poor Travellers will be told at another time – but it was not always used to provide a night of free accommodation for travellers. Over its time it has been an orphanage and a House of Correction – it is this last function that is the subject of this blog.

Continue reading “Rochester’s House of Correction”

Pre-Raphaelites in Knole Park

The Pre-Raphaelite’s “Trip to the Forest” – Knole Park, Sevenoaks, 1850.

But where in the park did the artists position themselves?

In the autumn of 1850 William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, visited Knole Park referring to their visit as the ‘trip to the forest’. Here they painted the backgrounds of two pictures: ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus’ (Holman Hunt), and ‘The Bower Garden, with angels playing psalteries in a paradisiacal garden’ (Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Continue reading “Pre-Raphaelites in Knole Park”

Rochester’s fire service gets a motor fire engine

Just over 100 years ago – and somewhat later than its neighbours – Rochester’s fire brigade acquired its first powered fire engine – and breaks it!

On display in the Guildhall Museum is Rochester’s first fire-pump from around 1741. Prior to its acquisition Rochester, like so many other places, needed to rely on buckets of water to fight the ever-present threat of fire that destroyed lives, homes and livelihoods. Continue reading “Rochester’s fire service gets a motor fire engine”

Ghost of Rochester

OMG – he’s accidentally shot his fiancé!

This is a type of ‘West Side This story’ plot that occurred around 750 years at Rochester. It is a story of two men from warring ‘gangs’ who desired the love of one women, and that tragically ends with the death of a pretty young woman – Lady Blanche Warrene – and one of her suitors. Continue reading “Ghost of Rochester”

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