Meopham in old picture postcards

Meopham in old picture postcards

:   J. Carley
:   Kent
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-3392-0
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Meopham in old picture postcards'

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Meopham (pronounced 'Mep-pam') is a civil parish of about 5,500 acres, situated on the North Downs astride the A.227 road from Gravesend to Wrotham. Incorporated within the parish is the formerly separate parish of Nurstead and part of Trottiscliffe. Since the 1974 Local Govemment re-organisation it forms part of the Borough of Gravesharn, of the area of which it forms 21 %. The parish is six miles from north to south, and up to three miles from east to west. It consists of a number of quite distinct settlements. In the north is Nurstead. Next, south of the railway, is Hook Green, now a largely dormitory area built up round the old green. East of this is Camer (pronounced 'Kam-rner') another old estate comprising the house and a cluster of farm cottages, along the old high road from Meopham to Cobham.

The original centre of Meopham was the church and manor house. A few early houses remain here, but most have decayed and been replaced with modem housing. Even Meopham Court itself was totally rebuilt about 1862. Next to the south is the Pitfield Green area, dominated by the large village green and the windmill. A mile or so beyond we come to Culverstone, anciently Culversole (the pond of the doves). Until recently this was just a collection of scattered farm cottages surrounding the local farm, a flint building originally known as Cooks Farm, now Owl's CastIe. The main road continu es past Culverstone to the parish boundary at the Vigo public house, whence the

Harvel road runs north-east. On the south of this road is Vigo Village, a wholly modern community built in White Horse Woods.

North-east from Vigo is Harvel, a settlement on record in Saxon times, which has grown but little. To its north is Priestwood, again of considerable antiquity, but with little modern growth. Apart from these clearly identifiable are as the rest of the parish is made up of scattered farms, several ofwhich are on record in Saxon and Norman times. At th at time most ofthe area was wooded, and remained so for a long time.

People have lived in Meopham since Iron Age times. In the field adjacent to the vicarage the Reverend L.W. Lewis made a discovery of various artefacts of the late Iron Age. A similar discovery was made close by when the new secondary school was being built in the early 1970's. Road widening south of the George gave an opportunity to pursue the previous discovery of some Roman pottery on a site between the George and the school, and this established the existence of a Roman farmstead at th at spot.

The next reference to Meopham comes in a document of AD 774. It must have been some time prior to that date that a Saxon, Meapa, came and established his home here. From then on there are documents showing continuous oecupation. A will of Byrhtric, of about AD 975, was witnessed by Wina, the parish priest, proving the establishment of our first church in Saxon times. By that will

Byrhtric left a large part of his very considerable possessions to Christ Church, Canterbury, thereby beginning the centuries-old conneetion between Meopham and the church.

Meopham and Nurstead were both mentioned in the Domesday Book. There are no records of the population of Meopham until the institution of national censuses in 1801. In that year there were 780 residents, and with the exception of just one decade (1881-1891) the population has continued to grow. The figures at the last three eensuses were: 1961: 3,779; 1971: 7,244; 1981: 8,577. Although the population will continue to increase, it is unlikely that it will do sa at the same rate, as most land allocated for building has been developed.

From its first settlement until the end of the Second World War Meopham has been a predominantly agricultural community, and it was largely self-sufficient in its needs. The majority of the residents now have their employment outside the parish. There has been virtually na industrial development, and the growth of businesses has been mainly of a service and retailing nature.

It was not until the railway was built through the parish in 1861 that the residents had any really convenient way of travelling to London, or to any other place in Kent except for Gravesend and Northfleet. Apart from passenger traffic, the railway developed a considerable traffic in market garden produce. Farmers who had hitherto to send their

produce to London by slow carts could now get it there very much more quickly by just sending it down to the station. The old goods shed was a hive of activity during the fruit season in particular.

Farmer residents of Meopham have over the centuries left their native village and made their mark in many fields of activity. One early example was Simon de Meopham, who in 1327 was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the best-known is undoubtedly John Tradescant (16081662) who, with his father John, was a royal gardener and plant collector. His famous collection of rarities became the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Meopham can boast one building of national interest, Nurstead Court, the only surviving example of a fourteenth centuryaisled hall. It also has its share of yeoman's houses, village greens (on the largest of which cricket has been played for weIl over 200 years) and lesser buildings associated with the rurallife that has been carried on here for many centuries, most important of which is the famous windmill built about 1801, and still in working order.

Acknowledgements are due to all those who have helped in the production of this baak by lending pictures with permission to reproduce them; to lan Kerr for the map; to Pat Russeli for photographic work.

1. We start this book with a map of Meopham, which shows all the locations mentioned in the captions.








MEOP'.olAM (OQ: PIT~llLL.D)Gct~E..tJ PITl=ïE.LO ~ARM

PITFIE.LO ~ouse.







2. From time immemorial the village had had to rely for its domestic water supply on the few deep wells, some rainwater cisterns and the roadside ponds. This changed at the beginning of this century, when piped water was provided by the Gravesend and Milton Water Co. This service proved very popular, and to supplement the supply the company built a pumping station at Downs Road, near Nurstead. The pumps were driven by a coal-fired steam beam engine, seen here in its early days. The water was pumped to Nurstead Reservoir. After over fifty years service this magnificent piece of machinery was taken out of use and scrapped. The pumphouse, with its prominent chimney, was demolished, and the whole replaced byelectric pumps.

3. The railway through Meopham was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company in 1860, and Meopham Station was opened to traffic in May 1861. The original wooden buildings of the passenger station are seen here, and they survived in this form for about 110 years. The original train service was about four or five times a day to London, and the same number in the down direction, most of them continuing their journey along the Kent eoast line through Canterbury to Dover. The station was a point of call for the horse bus route operated by Mr. Clark from Meopham Green to Gravesend, and his bus is seen here at the station entrance. When motor buses took over about 1912 they did not make this call, and passengers had to walk down from the main road.

4. This view of Meopham Station, looking east, was taken from the road bridge, and shows a number of things of railway interest. In the foreground is the first footbridge, built in 1924. From the opening of the railway in 1861 passengers using the down platform needed to cross the lines on the level at the east end of the station. The parish council had pressed for a bridge for many years, and it was not until a fatal accident occurred in 1923 that the railway company wouJd agree. At the far end of the platform, then much shorter than now, can be seen the original semaphore signal and the signal box. Both of these went when electric signalling was installed. Near them are the cross-over and the points leading to the goods yard sidings. These too have gone, and trains can now run through the station up to 90 m.p.h. Behind the bridge is the goods shed, where farmers deJivered their produce. This too has gone.

5. In the days before motor ambulances were readily available it was essential to have an efficient local first-aid service, and here we see the St. John Ambulance men who, in 1910, collaborated with the staff of Meopham station for that purpose. They are posed on the up platform ofthe station, proudly displaying the cup they have just won, together with their stretcher. The man in the peaked cap is Mr. W.J. Kift, the stationmaster, with his signalman Mr. J.P. Rowland standing on the right. The old station name-board, a relic of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, has long since been replaced by the much smaller modern signs.

6. The farmer grocery stores that stood at the junction of Station Raad and Wratham Road were destroyed by fire in 1890. Here we see the proprietor, Mr. Herbert Johnson, ruefully surveying the debris. The only thing that seems to have survived is the fascia board, containing an advertisement for Dr. Ridge's patent medicine. Station Road is on the left, at that time containing fewer houses. Those on the left of the road were built to house railway workers, and for a long time werc called 'Railway Cottages'. Beyond them were green fields. The shop property was rebuilt after the fire, in the farm in which we now know it. This business was later taken over by Mr. V. Mackley, who moved down from his shop shown on picture 9.

Railway Approach, Meopham.

7. This view dates from the early years of this century. The public house is seen in a stage of transition. The name painted onto the front wall calls it the Railway Hotel, but careful scrutiny of the hanging sign shows the change of name to the one now in use, the Railway Tavern. The advert on the front wall is for G. Masters & Co of New Road, Gravesend, and carries the traditional picture of a pantechnicon, used, it seerns, by all removal contractors at that time. These vehicles had small wheels, could be run onto a flat railway wagon for long-distance transport, and so performed the same function as do containers today. Coming up out of the station yard is a one-horse coal cart, and a cab can be seen waiting for custom in front of the station buildings. The station and its forecourt were lit by oillamps and it was the duty of the junior member of the station staff to see that they were properly filled and trimmed.

8. This view of Wrotham Road, looking south from the Railway Tavern, shows another development of the 1920's, the haberdashery shop known until its recent closure and subsequent demolition, as Gay Cousins. It oecupied a corrugated iron hall previously used for village entertainments. On the right hand side of the road is the woeden fence taken down when the shops shown on picture 11 were built. The fairly slow growth of the telephone system can be gauged by the fact that the poles carry just ten pairs of wires. The road surface had yet to be covered with tarmacadam, and it shows wheel tracks and loose stones.

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