Gravesend in old picture postcards

Gravesend in old picture postcards

:   Douglas W. Grierson
:   Gravesend
:   Kent
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-5747-6
:   112
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Gravesend in old picture postcards'

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Gravesend, recorded as Gravesham in the Domesday Book in 1086, is situated in Kent, 22 miles from London on the southern shore ofthe River Thames. The name Gravesend often provokes doubts as to its origin. It has nothing to do with the plague or graves, but is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon 'graafe' or 'reeve'. 'Graves ham' would be the graafe's home and another possibility is 'greave', meaning woods. The name altered to Gravesend and remained so until the new Borough of Gravesham was formed in 1974, adopting the original Domesday Book name.

Gravesend offers the first landing place or 'hythe' for passengers and shipping, travelling up the River Thames and is on the old road between London and Dover.

The population of Gravesend and Milton was 9,445 in 1831 and increased overthe next 100 years to 35,490. The largest increase was during the ten years between 1831 to 1841, when the population rose by 6,215. During the early years of the 19th century, Gravesend was a popular place for visitors. In 1815, the first steamer arrived, building up a regular traffic between Gravesend and London, which was previously carried out by tilt boats.

The Town Pier was opened in 1834, despite a riot by watermen during the construction, and an estimated 300,000 passengers travelled between Gravesend and London. The railway from London arrived in 1849, and the improving attractions of the Kent coast meant a decline in the number of visitors.

In 1900, Duncan Moul, in his handbook 'Weekends in Dicken's Land', wrote the following about Gravesend:

'The town is a busy thriving place, not very interesting or beautiful at first glance, but, like most places, it will pay for investigation, and has played its part in the history of the nation.' A statement true to this day.

Much of old Gravesend has vanished, either by vast slum c1earances or by redevelopment of sites along the river front. The countryside and agricultural land to the south and south-east of the borough has been lost through extensive residential development.

The Borough of Gravesend was incorporated by charter during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1567, and again in 1568, being renewed and extended in 1632. Several acts of Parliament in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increased the size of Gravesend. By 1935, included in the Borough were Ifield, the Parishes of Denton and Chalk, and parts of Cobham and Northfleet. The local government act of 1974 incorporated Gravesendinto the Borough of Gravesham, along with Northfleet and part of Strood Rural District Council (Higham, Shorne, Cobham and Luddesdowne, Meopham and Harvel).

The unique position of Gravesend meant that the principal industry of the town was connected with the river and shipping.

'A marine watering place, equal, if not superior, in point of attraction and economy to any other in the United Kingdom.' Tourism during the 19th century, provided the town with a substantial seasonal income and theatres, pleasure gardens, hotels and guest houses, public houses and refreshment houses blossomed for the benefit of the numerous visitors from London. By 1891, Gravesend had

over ninety hotels, inns and pub!ic houses. Attractions in and around Gravesend included the following: the Victoria Tea Gardens, Clarke's Nurseries, Rosherville Gardens, Clifton Marine Baths, Windmill Hill, Tivoli Gardens, Tulleys Bazaar, the Literary Institute, the Terrace Gardens, Springhead Gardens and the Promenade. The total number of passengers to Gravesend by river exceeded 1,000,000 per annum in the 1840's.

The military importance of the location of Gravesend is seen by the establishment of the blockhouses and the fort to proteet London and the upper reaches from invasion. Gravesend was the embarkation and arrival point for thousands of soldiers to and from the British Empire and conflicts. The emigrant ships in the River Thames meant that Gravesend was the last town they set foot on in England. This floating community was attended to by the towns clergy. The Customs and Excise Service were needed to observe and check the shipping from all over the world. Royal visitors were frequently using the Royal Terrace Pier to arrive and depart. Expeditions and explorers left from here on their way to different parts of the world. Charles Dickens visited and stayed in Gravesend, spending his honeymoon in Chalk village. Eventually he ended up living not far away, at Gads Hill, Higham, until his death.

In 'Caddells Guide to Gravesend' of 1818, the author states: 'It will be said, perhaps, that the inhabitants of Gravesend shew !ittle desire of public distinction, since they take so little pains to obtain it; and that they so entireley neglect the unequalIed capabilities of their situation.' I hope what is left of Gravesend, will remain and improve-

ments kept in sympathy. The comments refer to the appearance of the town and the lack of accommodation for visitors. They were also directed at the council for the lack of water-earts to dampen the main road and thereby reducing the amount of dust blowing about during the summer, creating a discreditable nuisance.

With much of old Gravesend now gone, I hope you will enjoy the photographs and postcard views in this book. All have come from my own collection and I have limited the area of the views to the pre-1935 borough. A special thanks must go to Robert Hiscock, for suggesting that I undertake this task, and to my parents, for saving my early postcards and supporting this hobby.

I dedicate this book to my wife Doreen and my two sons, Simon and Ben, all bom in Gravesend.

About the author

A former Metropo!itan and Kent police officer, I married into the Salomon family, where I have been a funeral director for the past 16 years, I am a member of the Gravesend Historical Society and the Kent Archaeological Society. Family history research, coupled with the early interest in postcards, developed into a finding out more about the 10cal history of Gravesend, Northfleet and the surrounding villages. This has evolved into giving numerous lectures and displays to various local societies and organisations.


1. The earliest commercial photographs of Gravesend were probably the 'carte de visite' views of shipping off Gravesend, taken by Frederick C. Gould, photographer of 10 Harmer Street, Gravesend, established in 1855. Gould would take photographs of the ships and produce them fairly quickly forsale as souvenirs. The card shown, is of the S.S. Orient, c. 1880, and the reverse shows a number of different ship photographs available. The list contained 45 ships, including an earlier S.S. Lusitania and the S.S. Great Britain. Manyof Goulds photographic plates are in the National Maritime Museum. The 'carte' views cost 7d and the larger prints, mounted on card, 2/6 each.

2. Prolific with the visitors to and inhabitants of Gravesend were the number of photographic studios offering their services. Some photographers offered their services at Windmill Hili in order to catch the visitors. Nicholson, 'at the foot of Windmill Hili', Whateller, 'Union Street and the top ofWindmill Hili'. The established photographers in the town were Gould, Willis. Honey, Hider, Edwards and later Munns, who also produced postcards. This photograph, a cabinet print, by A. Honey & Co, 3 Windmill Street, Gravesend. is of a boy in a huge frilly shirt, wearing knickerbockers and accompanied by a dog.

3. Fletcher's wharf, looking along Clifton Marine Parade, c. 1900. The tracks are for the chalk trucks, c1early visible, with sailing barge alongside. Piles of Ilints lie to the right. Mr. Fletcher lived at 'Bycliffes' near to the wharf. The wharf was originally Ditchburn's New Wharf. He was a chain- and ropemaker and mayor of Gravesend. The wharf was then purchased by William Gladdish, who used it for providing the ballast in coal schooners, returning to the River Tyne. The building close by, is the 'Hit or Miss' public house, named either after a former bowling green nearby or after the shooting range in the chalk pits behind. In the distance are the Clifton Marine Baths.

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4. Clifton Marine Parade, c. 1910, looking out to the River Thames with the West Street railway pier to the right. A new electricity pole has been erected in the foreground. This view shows the wharves with mounds of chalk ballast. Fletcher's wharf sent lime to London for use in the gasworks. The site was cleared to become the Imperial Paper Mills until the early 1980's, when again it was cleared to now become a shopping and industrial estate. Behind this was the rope walk of J. Knee and Son, who manufactured 'Rope, Line and Twine'. They also dealt in canvas, coir fenders, oil, oakum and many other similar products.

5. The Clifton Marine Baths were built in 1837 in this unique oriental style and offered hot and cold sea bathing. The original baths, dating from the 1790's, had sea bathing machines which were brought from Margate in 1796. These were wheeled out to allow bathers to test the 'medicinal quality' of the cold water and mud of the River Thames. As many as nine were in use at one time.

6. The Royal Thames Yacht Club, built in the 1790's by MI. T. Pallister ofthe Falcon Inn as the Clifton Hotel. About 1863, it was acquired by the Union Yacht Club, which in turn was absorbed into the New Thames Yacht Club in 1869. The yacht club was a popular venue forThames sailing races and was frequented by the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII). The first event of the yachting season was known as 'The Thames Sailing Week'. One of the most famous of the yachts to be seen off Gravesend, was the 'America' , after which the America Cup is named. This was prior to being rebuilt in Northfleet, when it was known as the 'Camilla'. The yacht club became a V.A.D. hospital in the First World War, suffering a direct hit by bombs dropped from a Zeppelin, in 1915.

7. The Baltic wharf in 1900, with the West Street railway bridge and pier. The wharf handled timberfrom the Baltic Sea ports and was run by Mr. G. Willis. Both the wharf and the covered shed are full of stacked timber. This wharf passed on to Messrs. Tuffee and Hayward, coal and coke merchants, who operated the adjoining coal consumers wharf. On the railway pier can be seen a single railway carriage. The oid yacht club on the right has aflag flying from the pole opposite.

8. The Imperial Paper Mills c. 1910, looking down from the Overcliffe near Stuart Road, occupying the old chalk pits, the site of Clifton Marine Parade and associated buildings. The raised West Street railway line cuts across the site. In the distance are stacks of paper.

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