29 June 2010

History Walk (Stoke), Saturday 26 June 2010

On Saturday morning (26 June - my birthday) I took part in a history walk around Stoke (Lower, Middle and Upper). The event was organised by Alan Marshall and, accompanying him, was Paul from the Wildlife Trust. At the start of the walk, I was given a leaflet, which was called ‘Marshes, Muddies & Hogarth’s Buddies’.

Starting in Lower Stoke, Alan went through the history of the village, which included the history of Stoke School, the Windmill, The Ship Inn, Forge House and The Nag’s Head pub – with particular reference to when William Hogarth stayed the night in May 1732 with four friends. The account of their stay suggests they had a reasonably good time. The Hogarth group went on to Grain and later boarded a boat to Sheerness.

From Lower Stoke the walk continued to Middle Stoke, where we went down Burrows Lane towards the site of Middle Stoke Halt. On crossing the railway line, we passed the airfield, which was buzzing with microlight activity. The small airfield is home to Medway Airsports Club, whose website contains good aerial photographs of the area.






The views of Stoke Saltings were excellent and Alan talked about the history of the Muddies who, from the 1850’s to the 1920’s, tirelessly dug clay from the Saltings for cement production. This is a fascinating part of our local history, so I was especially keen to hear about this.




Paul, from the Wildlife Trust, talked about different types of wildlife in the area and, particularly interesting, was his reference to the ‘marsh frog’. This frog only exists in certain parts of the Hoo Peninsula, as well as in Dungeness. Whilst on the Saltings, Paul spoke about different edible plants and I then tasted a few!


On leaving the Saltings, we passed through a boatyard and along Creek Lane into Upper Stoke. We headed for the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, where we were met by Church Warden, Ian Bett.

Ian handed out literature about the Church and, along with Alan, recounted aspects of its history. Although I have visited the Church many times, I had never been inside, so this was a real pleasure and I wasn’t disappointed. Whilst having a look around the Church, I came across a commemorative plaque with a list of local men killed during World War 1. I noticed that two of these men were ancestors of mine – William Stephen Watson and Harry Stratford (both nephews of my Great-Grandfather Herbert Watson).

Ian then led us up the narrow steps to the top of the Church tower. The views from the top stretched across Stoke and the surrounding landscape and River Medway. On our return back down, we had a look at the three bells, all of which vary in age.

Following our visit to the Church, the walk continued through Upper Stoke until we stopped at Court Lodge Farm (once occupied by Ian Bett). The house sits on the side of the road (on The Street). We then walked further along to look at a darkly coloured farmyard barn, which is said to be more than 300 years old.

The entire walk was fascinating and it was 3 hours well spent. My special thanks must go to Alan Marshall, whose knowledge and enthusiasm gave me a fantastic morning. Thanks also to Paul, from the Wildlife Trust, and to Ian Bett (Church Warden) at the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul in Upper Stoke.

Visit the website of the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul by clicking here, and visit the website of the Kent Wildlife Trust by clicking here.

Swimming, Grain Beach, Isle of Grain

With a few days off work, it was off to Grain beach yesterday afternoon (Monday) for several hours of swimming and sunshine. Luckily, the tide was in and the water wasn’t too cold, which made swimming a refreshing experience! Whilst at the beach, there were a good number of other people coming and going and some, like me, were enjoying a good swim.

23 June 2010

Susannah Watson (nee Theobald) 1837 to 1925, Lower Stoke

I don't know when or where this rather interesting photograph was taken. I believe the older woman at the back is Susannah Watson (nee Theobald), who was my Great-Great-Grandmother. I believe the other people photographed are Susannah's daughter / daughter-in-law, but I am yet to work this out. Susannah lived in Stoke from the 1850's until her death on 23 November 1925. Her death certificate says that she died at "6 Gravel Pit, Stoke". A few days before Susannah's death, Queen Alexandra (Consort of Edward VII) died on 20 November 1925.

21 June 2010

Medway Tales: Life of the Dividing River, Wilf Lower

Published last month (May), this new 160-page book includes a lively collection of articles from people connected to the River Medway, as well as many previously unpublished photographs. Written by Wilf Lower, the RRP is £14.99.

18 June 2010

Summer Fete (Hoo), Saturday 19 June 2010

The summer fete will be held on Saturday 19 June, between noon and 4pm, at the Village Hall in Pottery Road, Hoo. There will be a variety of stalls and other entertainments available, so pop along and have a great afternoon! Proceeds will go towards the refurbishment of the Village Hall.

Midsummer Tea Party - St. James’ Church (Cooling), Saturday 19 June 2010

St. James’ Church, Main Road, Cooling will play host to a Midsummer Tea Party on Saturday 19 June, between noon and 2pm. Although admission is free, sandwiches and refreshments will be available upon the giving of a small donation. All proceeds from the event will go towards the upkeep of the Church, as well as other projects managed by the Conservation Trust. An expert will be in attendance to talk about the history of the Church.

17 June 2010

The Spencer Family, St. Mary Hoo

I was contacted by Barbara Luder last week, who told me that we are distant cousins, connected to each other through the Spencer family.

It was great to add a few more pieces to the jig-saw, as I didn’t know very much about the Spencer’s beyond my Great-Great-Grandfather (Henry Spencer). Although Henry was born in Stoke in 1851, I have now traced the family back to the early-1700s. Many of the Spencer family seem to have lived in St. Mary Hoo, where they stayed until at least the mid-1800s.

Henry Spencer moved from Stoke to Gillingham (Grange Road), working as a Cement Labourer. The family then returned to live in Stoke sometime before 1889, as this is when Henry became the licensee of The Ship Inn in Lower Stoke.

During the time they were living in Gillingham, Henry and his wife Emma had three children. These were May Gertrude (b1879), Maud Lilian (b1881) and Harry (b1888). After returning to Stoke, they had a fourth child , Hubert (b1892). Hubert went on to attend a Teacher Training College and become a School Master. Photographed below (in order of birth): Maud Lilian (my Great-Grandmother), Harry and Hubert.

I look forward to staying in touch with Barbara, my new cousin, and having the chance of doing some more Spencer family research in the coming weeks!

16 June 2010

The Horseshoe and Castle, Cooling

I popped into this pub, located on Main Road in Cooling, with my family recently. The pub is only a couple of minutes walk from St. James’s Church and, beyond the village, marshlands stretch out to the Thames Estuary. This is a great place to unwind and relax. The pub serves a fine selection of beers and has a generous menu available - seafood being a speciality! More information about The Horseshoe and Castle can be found on their website.

15 June 2010

Hoo's Who - A Century of Memories, Kathy Evans and Douglas Marsh

Published in 2008, by Running Dog Press, this book came into my collection early last year. Essentially, the book is a compilation of memories from people that either lived, or who are still living, on the Hoo Peninsula. The book contains many very detailed and personal accounts of family life on the Peninsula, but also includes interesting stories about local shops, buildings, characters and the difficulties of daily life. At 189 pages, I hoped there would be more pages to read, but I felt happy that these personal accounts, at least, will be kept for all to read and not forgotten. The ISBN for this book is '978-0-9558560-0-6'.

14 June 2010

Grain Beach, Isle of Grain

Grain Beach is located along the B2001 (Grain Road), at the far end of the High Street. At this point, there is a car park only yards from a path that leads down to the beach or, if feeling more adventurous, around the site of the old Grain Fort. Beyond that, there are long walks along sea walls, with views to Sheerness and, in the middle of River Medway, the Grain Tower Battery. Back on the beach, and depending on what the weather is like, there are some good views of Shoeburyness and Southend-on-Sea across the mouth of the Thames! The photographs below were taken on Sunday morning, when there were only a few people enjoying the mud flats (photographed below), making for a very peaceful and relaxing morning.

13 June 2010

Hoo Marina, Vicarage Lane, Hoo St. Werburgh

I thought I would take a look at Hoo Marina, which is located off Vicarage Lane - leading from the centre of Hoo St. Werburgh. Within a traditional setting, Hoo Marina appears reasonably well equipped and offers a range of facilities. However, I was keen to look at views of the River Medway and coastline. Some of the below photographs point towards the Hoo Flats, West Hoo Creek, Ford Marsh, Hoo Ness and Hoo Salt Marsh (all in the distance). More information about Hoo Marina can be obtained by visiting their website.

11 June 2010

Peninsula Round, Des Worsdale

I found this item on eBay last week and simply had to buy it! This 48-page booklet, written (and drawn) by Des Worsdale, features a collection of drawings and historical information about the Hoo Peninsula. Published in the 1980's, by Meresborough Books, this is a decent guide for anyone interested in the the area. The ISBN is '0905270 568'. Although a small publication, this booklet is packed full of history, walks, maps and drawings!

10 June 2010

Clinch Street and Decoy Hill Road

Clinch Street leads into Decoy Hill Road, both of which run from Britannia Road (between Fenn Corner on the A228 and High Halstow). Luckily, the weather was pleasant when I had a stroll along these roads, but I still have much to explore, including further exploration of Halstow Marshes to Egypt Bay – famous for its historical smuggling links and where prison hulks once anchored.