Posts Tagged ‘Gravesend’

This statue of General Gordon is located in the riverside park at Gravesend in Kent, close to Gordon Promenade and Khartoum Square.

Gordon had been born in SE London in 1833, the son of an army officer. Gordon and all of his brothers joined the army when they were old enough. His first commision was to oversee the construction of defences at Milford Haven in Wales. It was whilst stationed here that he became a Christian, although he never aligned himself with any denomination and enjoyed attending services in many different churches. He once remarked to a priest that the church was much like the army ‘one army, but many different regiments’. 

He saw service in Crimea and China before returning to the UK in 1864 and was placed in command of the defences of the River Thames and its estuary. He based himself at Gravesend. His views on the defence of the river were ignored but, under protest, he carried out the plans of the War Office. In Gravesend Gordon is not remembered for his military activities, but for his work with the poor and homeless of the town including teaching at the ‘Ragged School’, feeding and housing homeless boys and the dedication on his statue ranks this work over any of his other achievements. He spent much of his salary on his chariable projects.

He left Gravesend in 1871 to work on the Danube navigation and then as war graves inspector in the Crimea. whilst on this trip he met the Prime Minister of Eygpt and he was attached to Eygptian forces (with the consent of the British Army). He was appointed governor of Equatoria (South Sudan and Northern Uganda). He did much to suppress the slave trade in the area. Eventually he became Governor-General of the Sudan. He worked to abolish torture and public floggings and became well-known for his obstenacy. He once joked that ‘the Gordons and camels are of the same race. let them get an idea into their heads and nothing will take it out’. He did much to maintain peace in the Sudan, including on one occasion riding into the rebel camp armed only with his cane to demand the surrender of the rebel forces.

Exhausted he resigned in 1879 and returned to London. He was in much demand. the King of Belgium offered him the Governorship of the Congo and the Cape Colony approached him to become its military commander. He became private secretary to the Governor-General of India but resigned after a few weeks because he found it boring. Against the wishes of the British Government, he travelled to China to try and broker peace in the tensions between China and Russia. After predicting that the actions of the ruling elite would eventually lead to a revolution of the people he was expelled from Beijing. Under threat of discharge from the army, Gordon returned to London. He set about championing land reform in Ireland, much to the annoyance of William Gladstone, the prime minister. He was soon sent off to command the Royal engineers in Mauritius, building defences against a possible Russian attack. He was posted to the Cape province the following year and in 1882 went to Palestine, where he visited the historic sites of Christianity.

He returned to London in 1883 and he was sent to Sudan to counter the Sudanese revolt led by the Mahdi. The situation worsened and following the defeat of the Egyptian army, Gordon was sent to Khartoum to evacuate the city. However, the Egyptians had other ideas and pressed him to take control and expel the Mahdi and his forces and he soon decided to hold the city against the rebel forces. The siege of Khartoum began in March 1884. The British Government had decided to abandon Sudan, hence the evacuation plan, but Gordon had other ideas and had great public support. In August the British Government bowed to public pressure and issued the orders for a relief force to be sent to Khartoum, but it was not until November that it was ready to leave.

In January 1885, the fort at Omdurman fell to the rebels enabling them to fire with cannon on the city. The relief force defeated a rebel army on 18 January leading the Mahdi to realise that if he was going to capture the city he needed to do so before the relief force arrived. It took only an hour for them to breach the defences and thereafter killed 10000 soldiers and civilians including Gordon. The relief force arrived on 28 January, two days after the city had fallen. Under heavy fire, they turned back from the city.

The failure to rescue Gordon was a major blow to the government’s popularity and Queen Victoria sent a telegram rebuking Gladstone for his lack of action. This was leaked to the press and added to the government’s unpopularity. Stones were thrown at the windows of 10 Downing Street and Gladstone was dubbed ‘Murderer of Gordon’. But they stuck by there decision to abandon Sudan.

The Mahdi, encouraged by the lack of international action established a state which reversed many of the reforms Gordon had introduced. It is estimated that between 1885 and 1898 approx 8 million people died in the lands controlled by the Mahdi. Eventually, in 1898 a force under general Kitchener comprehensively destroyed the rebel army at Omdurman. It was subsequently revealed that the expedition had eventually been sent because the British Government was concerned that the French might try to liberate Sudan and establish control.

River Thames at Gravesend

Keith and I were in Gravesend for an RSPB meeting and so we decided to make a day of it by doing a short walk along the riverfront. Gravesend had once been a thriving port, as is witnessed by the multitude of piers that are still present, but apart from a ferry across the river to Tilbury and some pleasure boats, this is no longer the case.

Town Pier

 The tide was falling as we reached the front. our first sighting was on a Common Redshank, feeding on the mud.

Common Redshank

We passed the mooring of Light Vessel 21, part of the National Historic Ships Collection. Built in 1963, it saw service mostly off the Kent coast and was involved in the worst collision to involve a light vessel when on 28th June 1981 LV21 was hit by the ‘Ore Meteor’ which was under tow at the time in rough weather. Observers at the time commented that the tug seemed too small to be handling such a large vessel in open water. In rough seas, the tug and its tow, past too close to LV21 and first the side and then the stern of the Meteor crashed into the bow of the Light Vessel. Thankfully all damage was above deck and the ship remained afloat and was later towed to Southampton for repairs. It was finally decommissioned in 2008. It is now used as an arts performance venue 

LV2

Across the river was Tilbury Fort, one of two built to protect the entrance to London along the Thames. Details of its counterpart in Gravesend can be found at https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2018/02/02/a-tour-of-gravesend-2/

Tilbury Fort

On the exposed river mud a group of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding.

Black-Tailed Godwit

Passing Gravesend Fort we came to Promenade Park, which has a lake and a small reed-bed.

It was very quiet today and apart from some small birds in the bushes there were only Moorhen and Mute Swan present.

It was now time to turn back to the Town centre, but on the river further downstream we could see a group of Common Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud. As we retraced our steps along the Promenade we found two Common Gulls and a single Ruddy Turnstone feeding on the mud.

Common Gull
Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

A Tour of Gravesend (2)

Posted: February 2, 2018 in Kent, UK
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Turning east and returning to the Riverfront we soon pass the Customs House and the headquarters of the Port of London Authority.

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Just east of here is New Tavern Fort, which replaced the blockhouse in the 18th century. Its well-preserved fortifications now stand in a riverside park. Originally built to defend the Thames against raiders during the American War of Independence, it was strengthened in the 19th century during The Napoleonic Wars. General Gordon, experienced in the construction of fortifications, was stationed here between 1865 and 1871 whilst he oversaw building works on the Thames forts. New Tavern Fort was decommissioned at the start of the 20th century but reused during WWII. Unfortunately, the buildings, which house a museum, were not open the day we were there.

Our final stop is what was once the canal basin of the Thames and Medway Canal. This was intended to provide a safe route to move ships from the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford in London, through the newly constructed Higham and Strood tunnels, to the River Medway and the dockyard at Chatham – thus avoiding the waters of the open estuary. Construction began in 1799 and it finally opened in October 1824, by which time the Napoleonic war was over and the need for the use of the canal by the Navy had disappeared. It was opened to commercial traffic but it was never a success. In 1845 the railway between Gravesend and Strood laid a single track through the Higham and Strood Tunnels on the path adjacent to the canal. The following year the canal company sold the tunnels to the South Eastern Railway and the canal closed. The canal was filled in and the railway company laid a double track through the tunnels. All that can be seen now is the basin at Gravesend and the entrance to the Medway at Strood, although if you travel from Gravesend to Strood you still pass through the original canal tunnels.

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A Tour of Gravesend (1)

Posted: February 1, 2018 in Kent, UK
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After we left the Sikh temple we passed the Clock Tower built in 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Inside are contained copies of newspapers and coins of the time.

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Then we walked down to the riverfront and visited the site of Gravesend Blockhouse. Built as part of the river defences in 1539. The gun platforms faced both east and west and it operated in conjunction with Tilbury Fort on the north bank of the river opposite Gravesend. It was remodelled in 1588 during the war with Spain and in 1667 during the war with the Dutch. It became obsolete in 1778 when the New Fort was built a little way to the east.

A little way further along the riverfront is moored LV21, a lightship which is now an arts performance space. Built in 1963 it saw service mostly off the Kent coast and was involved in the worst collision involving a light vessel when on 28th June 1981 LV21 was hit by the ‘Ore Meteor’ which was under tow at the time in rough weather.Observers at the time commented that the tug seemed too small to be handling such a large vessel in open water. In rough seas, the tug and its tow, past too close to LV21 and first the side and then the stern of the Meteor crashed into the bow of the Light Vessel. Thankfully all damage was above deck and the ship escaped and was later towed to Southampton for repairs. It was finally decommissioned in 2008.

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Near here is St Andrews Mission Church. Originally a mission to the dockside community it is now an arts centre. It was here that General Gordon (of Khartoum fame) taught as a Sunday school teacher whilst he was stationed in Gravesend.

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Our next stop was the 3 Daws pub. This is a historic riverside Inn which is said to date back to around 1400. Originally a group of cottages for ship workers, it was granted a licence in 1565. During its history, it was often targetted by Naval press Gangs looking for new recruits. The 3 Daws of the name refers to 3 Jackdaws, a member of the Crow family.

At this point, we turned inland and made our way through St George’s Churchyard. There had been a Royal Chapel on this site until 1376 when a chapel of ease was built. It became the parish church in 1544. ON 24th August 1727 a fire swept through the town destroying over 100 houses and the Church. The new building was opened in 1732. The church is famous for its connection with the Indian Princess Pocahontas, who was buried in the church in 1616. A search was made in 1923 to find the burial site but nothing conclusive was found. A statue of the Princess, a replica of one in Jamestown was placed in the gardens in 1958.

For more details about the Jamestown settlement and Pocahontas see

https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2016/10/18/all-aboard-the-waverley-2-gravesend/ and https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2015/02/12/statues-and-memorials-in-london-virginia-settlers/

 

When Keith and I visited Gravesend we went to see the Sikh temple. It was opened in 2010 replacing an earlier Gurdwara in the town. It is thought that it is one of the largest Gurdwara in the UK and one of the largest complexes outside India.

We were welcomed inside and encouraged to look around at the prayer rooms which make up the major part of the temple building. It is a very peaceful place.

Keith and I spent the day in Gravesend, a town of the south bank of the Thames estuary in Kent. We visited sights of interest (see posts later this week) but also found time for a walk along the riverfront to see what was feeding on the mud exposed by the falling tide.

3 species of Gull and Mute Swans were present together with 3 Ruddy Turnstone, 15 Common Redshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 30 Mute Swans and 2 Shelduck. At the end of our walk, we explored the lake area in Fort Park where we got some excellent views of Eurasian Wren. Returning to the Railway station and moments after Keith had got his train, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk passed overhead. A good way to end the day.

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Ruddy Turnstone

Black-headed Gull (left above), Common Gull (left below) and Herring Gull (right)

Common Redshank (left), Black-tailed Godwit (upper right), Shelduck (lower right) and Mute Swan (bottom)

Eurasian Wren (top), Collared Dove (bottom left), Chaffinch (bottom centre) and Moorhen (bottom right)

 

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

PS Waverley alongside at Gravesend

PS Waverley alongside at Gravesend

Our trip on the PS Waverley starts at Gravesend, which is a town with a long and interesting history.

Royal Terrace Pier

Royal Terrace Pier

Royal Terrace Pier was built in 1842 to accomodate day trippers from London who arrived by steamer. One notable visitor in 1863 was Princess Alexandria of Denmark on her way to marry the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria.

 

St Andrews Chapel and Royal Clarendon Hotel

St Andrews Chapel and Royal Clarendon Hotel

St Andrews Chapel was built in 1871 as a mission church to the waterfornt community. It is now an arts centre. The area around the chapel was known as Bawley Bay and was a wharf for shrimp boats in the 19th century. It was also a departure point for families emigrating to Australia and New Zealand. In the gardens of the Royal Clarendon hotel is the remains of the Gravesend Artillery Blockhouse, which dates from the reign of Henry VIII. It was one of 5 built in the area to protect the river access and docks. The hotel was originally built as a house for James, Duke of York, later James II. It became quarters for the ordinance depot keepers and subsequently a hotel.

Town Pier

Town Pier

Town Pier was built in 1834 and restored in 2000. At the town end is the ‘Three Daws’ which claims to be the oldest Public House in Kent.

Mute Swans at Gravesend waterfront

Mute Swans at Gravesend waterfront

 

Princess Pocahontas, a river cruiser with St Georges church in the background

Princess Pocahontas, a river cruiser, with St Georges church in the background

The cruiser is named after the Indian princess Pocahontas who had married tobacco planter John Rolfe in Virginia in 1614. In 1616 the Rolfe’s decided to return to England and Pocahontas became something of a celebrity even attending a ball at Whitehall Palace, the prinicipal royal residence at that time. In 1617, the Rolfe’s made ready to return to Virginia, but Pocahontas had to be taken from the ship at Gravesend due to illnes. She did not recover and died. She was buried in the churchyard of St George’s church in Gravesend. Unfortunately that church was destroyed by fire about 100 years later and no record survives of the location of the grave.

 

Industrial Thames on the outskirts of Gravesend

Industrial Thames on the outskirts of Gravesend

As we leave Gravesend to make our way upstream the scenery changes and the industrial side of the river becomes evident.