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Swanscombe is an ancient parish consisting of 2, 142 acres (or 3.34 square miles) and it encompasses Swanscombe, Greenhithe and the former hamlets of Galley Hill, Milton Street, Knockhall and Western Cross. The north-east consists of flat marshes and the River Ebbsfleet marks much of the western boundary with its larger neighbour Northfleet. In the south is the ancientWatling Street, which marks the southern boundary with Southfleet, and Swanscombe's western neighbour is Stone. This book willlargely ignore Greenhithe and concentrate on Swanscombe and her hamlets alone.

Swanscombe's great claim to fame is the Swanscombe Skull, three fragments of a female some 400,000 years old found in 1935, 1936 and 1955. Other important people of Swanscombe, whom we shall meet in this book, include Marie Stopes, Sir Erasmus Wilson and Sir Anthony Weldon.

Swanscombe experienced a huge change in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign when in one generation it changed from an agricultural community into a cement town. The population increased by 908.3 % between 1801 and 1911 (thanks to Geoff Baker for this statistic ). The cement industry owned virtually the whole parish after 1872 and created vast pits, terraeed housing and pollution as well as employment - the tewn's reaction to this was often in very radical politics and a determination to resist the sometirnes unreasonable demands of the cement industrv's appetite for profits.

Swanscombe is now in another time of change - the industry has gone but the Swanscombe it created is still a powerful social and architectural force.,The government plans to redevelop the area ofnorth-west Kent known as 'Kent Thameside' and this will be as great a change to the existing social and physicallandscape of Swanscombe as the coming of the cement industry was after 1825.

This book attempts to capture a lost world, but one that is very much within living memory (the CementWorks only closed in 1990) .

The book also hopes to help retain the close Swanscombe identity by reminding present and future generations of the lives and landscapes of their predecessors, and help them to measure and interpret the town, which they see before them now.


The late Alf Hall, Len Stoneham, my late aunt Margaret Bull, Mrs. Hazel, Mr. jenns of Church Raad, Councillor Maleolm Dunn of Swanscombe & Greenhithe Town Council and john Oxford - all these people gave of their time and knowiedge.

Dartford Library's 'Dartford & Hundred ofAxstane Local Collection' was used extensively for sourees ofinformation and illustrations.


To my wife Heather and my daughters Catherine and Sarah who aften thought I was in Swanscombe even while being at home in Chalk, as I typed and wrote notes on the town. To my friends in Swanscombe, to the memory of old Swanscombe Branch Library in Church Road (1928-2002) and to my beloved late mother, llse Hildegard Ida Bull (nee SchuItz, 1920-2002).

About the author

Christoph Bull was born and has lived in north-west Kent all his life. He has been interested in local history since a boy and has been interested in Swanscombe for some twenty years. While working as Local Studies Librarian at Dartford Library, he organised a very weil attended series of events celebrating Swanscombe Library's 70th anniversary in 1998.

Christoph has worked as Local Studies Librarian at Gravesend 1982-1988, as Reference Librarian and later as Local Studies Librarian at Dartford 1988-1998. Since 1998 he has served on

the library management team for west Kent. Christoph Bull has twice been president of Gravesend Historical Society and is currently vice-ehairman of Dartford Historical &Antiquarian Society and president of Chalk Parish History Group. Christoph Bull was also vice-ehairman of governors at Northeourt County Primary School in Denton - where he was onee a pupil- (until its closure in 2003). Christoph and his family live in Chalk near Gravesend.


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1. Engraving: 'Swanscornbe - Northfleet' 1854. This engraving was published by Al Dunkin (printer and historian ofDartford) in 1854. The buildings shown were then recendy built - the lefi-hand building was the Black Eagle public house, which saw the huge changes to this area until its own closure in 1967. The changes included wartime bombing ofTaunton Road, massive industrialisation and redevelopment. The hill in the picture is Galley Hill and the North Kent railway line (the tunnel shown still exists) is in the background, having opened in 1849. On the right of the picture is Lower Road, now leading to the Inveresk Industrial Estate (also known as the Northfleet Industrial Estate). In 1854 this latter road would have led to the CementWorks and was always a conneetion to Swanscombe Marshes. The view marks the boundary between Swanscombe and Northfleet: the tree in the front is in Northfleet - all else in Swanscombe.

2. Black Eagle public house, Galley Hili circa 1 944. Coming west from N orthfleet along the AH 6, the Black Eagle was the first building inside Swanscombe Parish.The pub dates from about 1866 and served theTaunton Raad community and the expanding industrial areas springing up on the Swanscombe/Northfleet border. As road traffic increased during the twentieth century, this corner became dangerous and saw many accidents. The Black Eagle was damaged on 30th July 1944 when a VI (flying bomb) destroyed much property in Taunton Raad and on the main raad (kiliing 13 people and injuring 91 ).ln the 1950s the pub had its saloon bar (lefthand side), jug and battle (middle doors) and the public bar through the double doors at the front. The beer was held in high esteem because the best temperature was maintained by it being stored in the cellar cut out of chalk with na brick lining inside. The Black Eagle was demolished in 1968.

3. All Saint's Church, Galley Hill, 1894. This photograph appears to show Galley Hill Church shortly after the current building was constructed in 1894: the church's fabric appears to be very crisp and new. All Saint's was originally a corrugated iron construction on the opposite side ofLondon Road and was created as a separate church parish from the original parish church ofSwanscombe (Saint's Peter and Paul) in 1883.Ihe huge growth ofthe Galley Hill area over the previous 30-40 years meant that what was a country lane to Swanscombe Street was now a busy bustling community which became the High Street we know today.Iwo county constabulary policemen are standing left ofthe entrance gate, with theAlma public house in the High Street (belonging to the Dartford Brewery Company) and the roofs ofthe houses in Orchard Street in the background. Orchard Street was completely redeveloped in the early 1950s and was one ofthe first slum clearance schemes in Swanscombe.

4. Clergy and guests at All Saint's Church, Galley Hill, This photograph was taken on 23 July 1895 when All Saint's Church had been completed and was being dedicated. The original corrugated iron building standing opposite was now used as a church house meeting room and for parish council meetings. The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Randall Thomas Davidson - bishop from 1891 till 1895, later Archbishop of Canterbury 1903-1928 - is seated with his mortarboard; mitres were seen as too papist for the Church of England at this time.To the bishop's right is Rev.Arthur F.e. Owen, vicar 1890-1900; and to his left is Canon Murray, Rural Dean and Rector ofStone. The other guests are local worthies including members of the White Family, Cement Works owners and major church benefactors. The gentleman who is fifth from the left standing is [ohn Bazley White (1848-1927), along with Leedham White (1838-1905) 7th from left, and Frederick AnthonyWhite (1842-1933) 12th from left. These men had enormous influence in Swanscombe because of their wealth and status as major employers and they saw the church as providing spiritual and moral guidance to their army of workers.

5. Interior of All Saint's, Galley Hill, circa 1935. This view shows the well-provided for church, which had sa much help in lts foundation from the White Family - owner of Swanscombe Cement Works. The architect was Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912); a stained glass window was by Christopher Whall (1849-1921), a leader in the revival of post-medieval stained glass. The church was largely built with the financlal aid given by Messrs. Leedham, John Bazley and Frederick AnthonyWhite (see picture 4). It contained several art treasures including two paintings: a crucifixion by Iacopo da Carucci (1494-155617) and a Madonna with two children by MariottoAlbertinelli (1474-1515), a litany desk made from a sixteenthcentury Spanish tabernacle and an eighteenth-century candelabrum. The treasures were removed to Saint Peter and Paul's Church when All Saint's was declared redundant by the Church of England in 1971, but some have been subsequently sold. In 1990 the empty building was tastefully converted into flats.

6. Galley Hill looking east, circa 191 O. A view towards N orthf1eet with the George & Dragon public house on the furthest distance on the right. The terraeed houses on the right dated from the 1850s and the vicarage for All Saint's Church was in the middle of this row. A large chalk pit just beyond the houses and the North Kent railway line behind severely restricted the space for housing. On the left is Galley Hill School, built in ] 858, which by 1913 could hold over six hundred children and which served the needs of the expanding cement factory population. Beyond on the left was the original 1882 iron All Saint's Church, later used as a church house and social club (called the 17th club, so named after Swanscombe's Home Guard Battalion). Virtually every building in this picture had been demolished by 1986.

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7. Galley Hilllooking west, circa 1910. The scene is looking towards the George & Dragon public house, which is clearly seen on the corner with High Streel. A Gravesend tramcar has stopped outside of the George & Dragon. Public transport has always used this as a stop as it does today - the tram conductors shouting 'Holy City' when arriving at Swanscombe. The meaning of calling Swanscombe 'holy' was probably a pun on 'holey', in that chalk pits surrounded the town. The tram system existed from 1902 to 1929, but one thing, which has had a revival in today's world, is shopping delivery. Here is the cart of a local tradesman delivering to the wealthier houses of Galley Hill.

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