Tag Archives: Pilgrimage

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury contd. – Faversham to Canterbury

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot – at least from the hospital of St Nicholas in Harbledown – in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries.  Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

Watling Street

From Faversham,  the old Roman road of Watling Street continues to run ESE  along the northern edge of the North Downs to Canterbury (and beyond).

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From this point on, it is known as Canterbury Road.

Boughton-under-Blean

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Boughton would appear to have been founded in the Medieval period, and a number of buildings from this time still stand on The Street.

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Broughton Church (St Peter and St Paul) dates to the thirteenth century.

Boughton Hill  to the east commands fine views towards Canterbury.

Harbledown

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Harbledown would also appear to have been founded in the Medieval period.

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The  hospital of St Nicholas was originally built in the eleventh century, around 1084, by Archbishop Lanfranc, as a leper hospital.  In the later Middle Ages, it became an important stopping-off point for  pilgrims on their way to St Thomas’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral, as it housed  a purported relic of the saint,  in the form of a slipper he had worn. The site is now occupied by Victorian alms-houses.

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The parish church of St Michael and All Angels was originally built in the twelfth century, around 1160, and extended in the thirteenth.

St Dunstan’s

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The church of St Dunstan, immediately outside the city walls of Canterbury, dates back to the eleventh century.

Canterbury

Canterbury would appear to have been founded in pre-Roman times, by the Celtic Cantiaci.   In Roman times it was known as Durovernum Cantiacorum, and was evidently sufficiently large and important to have had its own amphitheatre, built in the first century, city walls, built in the third century (as a defence against Saxon raids), and places of Christian worship, built in the fourth century (the Roman Empire became Christianised under the Emperorship of Constantine in 312).  In Saxon/Jutish times it became known as Cantwarabyrig, and was the power base of the Kings of Kent, including, in the late sixth to early seventh centuries, Ethelbert.  Ethelbert was the first of the Kentish Kings to be converted to Christianity, by Augustine, the emissary of Pope Gregory the Great, in 597.  It was he who built the first Cathedral and Abbey here.

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It was the first Norman King, William I who began work on the Castle, in around 1070, and his successor Henry I who completed it, between 1100-35.

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The West Gate was built by the Master Mason Henry Yevele in 1380 (i.e., at the same time that the Cathedral was rebuilt: see below).  Yevele was the Master Mason to three successive kings, Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV, between c. 1360-1400, during which time he either built or rebuilt large parts  of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower) in London

Canterbury Cathedral

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The first Canterbury Cathedral was built by Ethelbert in 602.  It was sacked by the Vikings in 1011, during the course of a raid that cost 8000 Saxon lives, and then destroyed by fire in 1067.  A new Cathedral was built for Lanfranc between 1070-77, although aside from the crypt little of this building survives.  The quire was rebuilt between 1175-84.  The nave was rebuilt between 1377-1405, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, the Great Cloister between 1397-1414, and the south-west and Bell Henry towers in 1424-59 and 1498 respectively (Lanfranc’s old north-west tower was replaced by a new one, mirroring that to the south-west, in 1832-40).  The nave  is strongly reminiscent of that of Southwark Cathedral, built at around the same time, following a fire in 1390.

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Canterbury  Cathedral first became a place of pilgrimage after the murder – by the Vikings – of the then Archbishop, Alfege, in 1012, becoming even more important as such after the murder of then then Archbishop, Thomas Becket in 1170.  The shrine to St Thomas, as he became, was despoiled on the orders of Henry VIII in 1538, and there was further iconoclasm by the Puritans in 1642-48 (i.e., during the Civil War).

Other Places of Interest in Canterbury

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Eastbridge Pilgrims’ Hospital on the High Street was originally founded, to provide hospitality to pilgrims, in 1190.

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The Greyfriars Chapel, the only surviving part of the former Franciscan  Friary, in Greyfriars Gardens, dates to 1267.

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Canterbury  Abbey was originally built – just outside the city walls to the east – by Ethelbert in the seventh century, i.e., at the same time as the Cathedral.  It was rededicated to St Augustine by Archbishop Dunstan in the tenth century (having previously been dedicated to SS Peter and Paul).  It was damaged by an earthquake in 1382, and repaired, only to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538.  Though now largely in ruins, it remains an impressive site.  It is also an important one, being the burial place of Augustine, Ethelbert and a number of other Saxon Kings and Bishops (including Mellitus, who founded St Paul’s in London).

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St Martin’s – also just outside the city walls to the east – has a claim to being the oldest surviving church in the English-speaking world.  According to the Venerable Bede, it was originally founded in late Roman times.  It was then refounded by  the Kentish King Ethelbert’s Queen, Bertha of Kent in Saxon times, in around 580 (i.e., before the main Christianisation of the Saxons under Ethelbert in 597). And extended in the later Middle Ages.

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury contd. – Rochester to Faversham

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries.  Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

Watling Street

From Rochester,  the old Roman road of Watling Street continues to run ESE  along the northern edge of the North Downs to Faversham (and beyond).    There is an alternative pedestrian route from Chatham to Sittingbourne by way of Gillingham and Upchurch.

Rainham

Rainham Church

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Rainham was evidently founded in Saxon times,  being mentioned in a charter of 811.  Rainham Church (St Margaret of Antioch) was originally built at least as long ago as Norman times, and subsequently rebuilt in the Gothic style in the later Medieval (thirteenth through fifteenth centuries).  It contains some fine Medieval wall paintings.

Newington

Newington was founded in Roman times, and refounded in Saxon times, its name translating from Old English as “new town”.

Newington Church

Newington Church (St Mary the Virgin) was originally built in the  eleventh century.

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Newington Manor dates back to the fifteenth.

Key Street

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Key Street was a small village, originally founded in the Medieval period, that has been essentially entirely lost to redevelopment.

Sittingbourne

Sittingbourne was probably originally founded in pre-Roman times, and grew considerably in size  after the Roman conquest, on account of its proximity to the main road of Watling Street, and also to an important  port  on the Swale (Milton Regis).  It then grew further in the Middle Ages, again on account of its proximity to Watling Street, which had by then become the main pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury.

Sittingbourne Church

By the thirteenth century Sittingbourne Church (St Michael) had been built, as had no fewer than thirteen hostelries on the High Street, to serve the needs of passing pilgrims.

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The surviving  Red Lion dates back in part to  the fifteenth century.

Luddenham

Luddenham was probably originally founded in Saxon times, and is mentioned – albeit as Cildresham – in the Norman Domesday Book of 1086, at which time the manor was owned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent.

Luddenham Church

Luddenham Church (St Mary) was originally built in the twelfth century.

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Luddenham Court Farm dates in part to  the fifteenth.

Stone Chapel

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Stone Chapel (also known as Our Lady of Elwarton) is a ruined Saxon to Medieval church on the outskirts of Ospringe.  Uniquely in England, it incorporates into its design an older Roman mausoleum that may originally have stood outside the Roman settlement of Durolevum.

Ospringe

Ospringe, now essentially part of Faversham, was once an entirely  separate settlement, probably dating back to the Saxon period (being mentioned in the Norman Domesday Book of 1086).

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Ospringe Church (St Peter and St Paul) dates back in part to the Norman period.

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The Maison Dieu, a religious house and charitable hospital and hostel open to  passing pilgrims, dates back to the thirteenth century (it was commissioned by Henry III in 1234).  Sir John Pulteney, who went on to become the Lord Mayor of London in 1330-1331 and 1333, was once the Lord of the Manor of Ospringe.

Faversham

Faversham is thought to have been originally  founded in pre-Roman times, and may have been the site of the “lost” settlement of Durolevum, mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary, in Roman times.  It was known as Favreshant in Saxon times.

Faversham Abbey was founded here in 1148 by King Stephen,  and it was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1538 (some of the masonry being  taken to Calais, then an English possession),  to reinforce its defences.  After the dissolution, much of the abbey property was demolished, and its lands passed to Sir Thomas Cheney, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

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Faversham Abbey Gatehouse

However, the former abbey and now parish church of St Mary of Charity, still survives, although in modified form, as does the abbey gate-house and adjoining guest-house (Arden’s House), on Abbey Street, and  some of the abbey farm buildings, dating to the fifteenth century.

Abbey Street

Abbey Street itself has been described as “the finest medieval street in southeast England”.

(*) Stephen was buried here with his consort Matilda, but their bodies were apparently later thrown into Faversham Creek!  According to local legend, they were then retrieved and reburied in an empty tomb in the church of St Mary!

 

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury contd. – Dartford to Rochester

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries. Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

Watling Street

From Dartford,  the old Roman road of Watling Street continues to run ESE along the northern edge of the North Downs directly to Rochester (and beyond).  In this area, parts  of it follow  the line of a pre-Roman track – and that of the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury  – along the ridgeway.  Also in this area, the road tends to be busy with fast-moving vehicular traffic, and unsuitable for those travelling on foot (indeed, as it approaches the M2, it becomes a dual  carriageway).

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There is, though, an alternative pedestrian route to the north of that of the road, through Stone, Greenhithe, Swanscombe, Northfleet, Perry Street, Windmill Hill, Chalk, Shorne, Higham and Strood. The departure point is at the Brent Roundabout.

Stone

The small village of Stone would appear to have been founded in Saxon times.

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Stone Church (St Mary the Virgin), originally built in around 970, and subsequently rebuilt in around 1260.  This makes it an exact contemporary of Westminster Abbey, and it is it is said that the same masons worked on both buildings.  The church forms a distinctive landmark, especially when viewed from the nearby Thames Estuary, and indeed mariners came to know it as the  “Lantern of Kent”.

Stone Castle was originally built in the mid-eleventh century.  Only parts of it are still standing.

Greenhithe

Greenhithe was first recorded as such in 1363, although it would appear to have been founded in Roman times.  In 1363, the King, Edward III, endowed the manor upon the Prioress and Abbey of the Dominican Sisters of Dartford.

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Ingress Abbey was built on the site in 1833 (in part,  it is said, with stone salvaged from the then recently demolished “old” London Bridge).  A few fragments of the old abbey still stand in the grounds of the new building, including the Grange, Monks’ Well, Lovers’ Arch and Cave of the Seven Heads.

Swanscombe

Swanscombe would also appear to have been founded in Roman times, and to have been occupied by both Saxons and Vikings at different times during the succeeding Dark Ages.  It is referred to in the Norman Domesday Book of 1086 as Suinescamp, in reference to the Viking King Sweyn Forkbeard.

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In the churchyard of  the partly Saxon Swanscombe Church (St Peter and St Paul), a memorial marks the spot  where in 1067 “the Men of Kent and Kentish Men … met the invader William, Duke of Normandy … [and] … offered peace if he would grant their ancient rights and liberties.  Their request was granted and from that day the motto of Kent has been ‘Invicta’, meaning unconquered”.

Incidentally, Swanscombe is also important as the site of discovery in 1935 of some of the oldest human remains in the country, dating from around 400000 years ago (together with prehistoric stone tools of the Clactonian and Acheulian cultures).

Chalk

Chalk would also appear to have been founded in Roman times, the remains of a villa having been  unearthed here, and was certainly well established by Saxon times.

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Chalk Church (St Mary), which stands somewhat separate  from the main village, was probably originally built in the eighth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the twelfth, and extended in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.  The prominent tower is fifteenth-century.

Shorne

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Shorne Church (St Peter and St Paul) was also built in the Saxon period, and subsequently rebuilt in the later Medieval.

The former St Katherine’s Chapel was originally built in the thirteenth century, converted into a malthouse after the Reformation of the sixteenth, and converted back into a Catholic church in the nineteenth.  Some of the original structure of the building remains.

Higham

Lower Higham  was founded in Saxon times.   The Benedictine Higham Priory, dedicated to St Mary (and St Sulpice), was founded here in the twelfth century, and dissolved in the sixteenth.

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The former priory and later parish church still stands, although it is redundant.

Strood

Strood is essentially that part of modern Rochester lying to the west rather than to the east of the River Medway.  It was originally founded alongside Watling Street in Roman times, and well established by Saxon times (when it was repeatedly pillaged by Vikings).

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Frindsbury Church  was originally built here at least as long ago as  the eleventh  century, and subsequently rebuilt in the twelfth.

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Temple Manor was originally built, by the Knights Templar, in the thirteenth century.  The order was then suppressed in the fourteenth.

Rochester

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Rochester would appear to have been  founded in pre-Roman times, and to have been one of the main administrative centres of the Ancient British or Celtic tribe known as the Cantiaci.  It was also an important regional centre in the Roman times, when it was known as Durobrivae, and in Saxon times, when, like Strood, it was repeatedly pillaged by the Vikings.

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At the turn of the sixth and seventh centuries, the Kentish King Ethelbert was based here, and built the first cathedral here (he also established a legal system).  The cathedral was rebuilt in the Norman period, between 1080-1130, and extended in the later Medieval, in 1227 and 1343.

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The castle was built in the twelfth century and twice saw action in the thirteenth, in the sieges of 1215 and 1264 (i.e., during the Baron’s Wars).

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury contd. – Shooters Hill to Dartford

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries.  Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

Shrewsbury Tumulus

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On the brow of Shooters Hill, just under half a mile north of the water tower, and accessed by way of Shrewsbury Lane and Plum Lane,  is a Bronze Age burial mound known as the Shrewsbury Tumulus.  It is the only  one of a number of tumuli discovered in the 1930s to survive.

Watling Street

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From Shooters Hill, the old Roman road of Watling Street runs essentially due ESE through Welling, Bexleyheath and Crayford to Dartford (and beyond).

Lesnes Abbey

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A couple of miles north of the road as it approaches Welling, and accessed by way of the Green Chain Walk,  are the ruins of Lesnes Abbey.

Lesnes Abbey  was founded by one Richard de Luci, Chief Justiciar to Henry II, in 1178, and dedicated by him to St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr, possibly as penance for his, Richard’s – indirect – involvement in Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.  The first abbot, William, was consecrated in 1179, the by-then canon Richard de Luci dying that same year and being buried in the Chapter House.  The abbey was originally an Augustinian foundation, but under the second abbot, Fulc’s incumbency between 1187-1208 adopted the Rule of Arrouaise.  It always struggled financially to meet its running costs, which included those of maintaining its  river walls and draining its marshy  land-holdings, and, in consequence, its  buildings  began to fall into disrepair in the fourteenth century.  The abbey was eventually closed down by Cardinal Wolsey  in 1524, in other words some years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries beginning in 1536.  Most of its buildings were at least partially pulled down in the sixteenth century (some of the salvaged stone being used in the construction of Hall Place in Bexley), although the former Abbot’s Lodgings survived intact and in use until the nineteenth.  Only picturesque ruins remain today.

Welling

Welling was first recorded in 1361 as Wellyngs, alluding  either to the Willing family, who owned land here in the fourteenth century, or to the presence of springs here.

East Wickham

Around half a mile north of the road as it passes through Welling, and accessed by way of Upper Wickham Lane, is East Wickham, first recorded in 1240 as Wikam, meaning, in Old English, homestead (ham) associated with a vicus, or  earlier Romano-British settlement (wic).

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What is now the Greek Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour was formerly a chapel of ease attached to the church of St Nicholas in Plumstead.  It is believed to have been built in the thirteenth century.

Bexley

Around  a mile south of the road as it passes between Bexleyheath and Crayford, and accessed by way of the A220, is Bexley, first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 814 as Byxlea, from the  Old English byxe, meaning box tree,  and leah, meaning clearing.  From the ninth century until the Reformation of the sixteenth, it was a manor of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In the “Domesday Book” of 1086, Bexley Village was recorded as home to three (?water) mills (?on the River Cray, a tributary of the Thames), as well as a church.

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The church, St Mary, with its striking octagonal shingled  tower, was originally built at least as long ago as the eleventh  century, although “each generation since has left its visible mark on the fabric”. The present nave, chancel and west tower were built toward the  end of the twelfth century.  The north aisle was added in the thirteenth century, and extended to accommodate a Lady Chapel at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth.  The whole fabric of the church was  restored in the late nineteenth century.

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Among the many memorials in the church are them are an unusual “Hunting Horn” brass one, believed  to be to Henry Castilayn (d. 1407); another brass  one,  to John Shelley of Hall Place (d. 1441) and his wife Joan; and a highly decorated carved stone  one,   to Sir John Champneys (d. 1556) of Hall Place, a successful member of the Skinners’ Company and sometime Lord Mayor of the City of London, and his second  wife Meriell.

Hall Place, on the eastern outskirts of the village, was originally built in stone – salvaged from Lesnes Abbey – in 1537 by  the aforementioned Sir John Champneys (probably on the site of earlier, thirteenth- and fourteenth- houses respectively owned by the de Aula and Shelley families).    It was subsequently extended in brick in 1649-66 by Sir Robert Austen, who had bought  it from Sir John Champneys grand-son Richard in 1649.

Crayford

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Crayford was first recorded as Crecganford in the  Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, as the site of  a battle that took place in 457 between Germanic invaders and native Britons.  The name alludes to a crossing-point on the River Cray (a tributary of the Thames), which had been in existence since earlier  times (the “lost” Roman settlement of Noviomagus may have been here). The early settlement grew   in the Medieval period, and began to become industrialised in the post-Medieval.

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The church of St Paulinus was probably originally built in timber in the Saxon period, being mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 (”the archbishop himself holds Erhede and there is a church”).   It was subsequently rebuilt in stone in the Norman period and style at the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries (nave and chancel).  And extended in the later Medieval English Gothic style in the early thirteenth century (south aisle); in the Decorated style at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth (second nave); and in the Perpendicular style in the fifteenth (tower).

Dartford

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Dartford takes its name from a ford over the River Darent, present at least as long ago as Roman times (there was also extensive settlement along the Darent in Roman times).  The present town is thought to have been founded in Saxon times, and is mentioned in the Norman Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, as belonging to the King (though by the twelfth century it had entered the possession of the Knights Templar).

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It became an important waypoint for pilgrims en route to Canterbury and the continent in the later Middle Ages.   Pilgrims stayed in The Bell (One Bell Corner), The Bull (Royal Victoria and Bull) or  The Bull’s Head (Bull’s Head Yard) on the High Street.

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Holy Trinity Church was originally built in the ninth century, and  rebuilt in the late eleventh, around 1080, by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester.  It was then extended in the late twelfth to early thirteenth centuries, and in 1235 hosted the proxy wedding of King Henry III’s sister Isabella and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.  Later, Henry V gave thanks here for his victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

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The fine painting of St George and the Dragon dates to 1470.

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Dartford Priory, England’s only Dominican convent, was founded here in 1346.  After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the site became that of a Tudor manor house, where King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, lived for a while after her divorce, and where Queen Elizabeth I stayed twice.   The  gate-house to the manor still survives.

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Dominican and Franciscan hospitals were also founded here in the fourteenth century.

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury – London to Shooters Hill

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries.  Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

City of London

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Thomas Becket was born on Cheapside  in the City of London in circa 1120, the son of Gilbert, a merchant of Norman ancestry, and Matilda.  He was educated at Merton Priory, and later at one of the  grammar schools    in London, possibly St Paul’s, before entering the church, and eventually rising to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.

There is a chapel dedicated to him inside the Mercers’ Livery Company Hall at the corner of Cheapside and Ironmonger Lane.

London Bridge

“Old” London Bridge was rebuilt, by Peter, chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, in 1176-1209, and stood until 1831 (an alcove still survives in the grounds of Guy’s  Hospital).

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There were scores of buildings on it then, including a chapel dedicated to St Thomas (depicted in a stained glass window in the church of St Magus the Martyr).

Southwark

Southwark was first recorded as “Sudwerca” in the “Domesday Book” of 1086, taking its name from the Old English “suth”, and “weorc”, meaning defensive work or fort, in reference to the Roman defences south of the river.  It  was unaffected by the Great Fire of London in 1666, the southward progress of which across the river was halted at a gap in the buildings on London Bridge that formed a natural firebreak.  However, it suffered its own Great Fire in 1676.

Historically, Southwark was a so-called “liberty”, free of many  of the regulations governing life in the City across the river.  Over time it  became one of the poor places in which it, the rich City, attempted to locate  – and forget – some of its more “undesirable” buildings (including prisons such as the Clink, King’s Bench, Marshalsea and White Lion), industries (including tanning) and activities (including – in the numerous “stews” – prostitution, animal-baiting, and the performance of stage plays, all of which attracted large and unruly crowds).

Southwark Cathedral

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What is now Southwark Cathedral was originally founded as a nunnery in 606, becoming the priory of St Mary Overie in 1106, the  parish church of St Saviour  following the Dissolution in 1540, and Southwark Cathedral and the Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie in 1905.  Being over  the “rie” or river, the church was undamaged in the Great Fire, and also survived the bombing of the Blitz.  Some elements of the present structure are survivors  from the  twelfth century building, although most are from the thirteenth or early fifteenth rebuilds following fires in 1212 and 1390 (the former of which, incidentally, reportedly killed 3000 people).  The interior contains  many memorials, including a wooden effigy of a knight buried in around 1275, and the tomb of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), who was responsible for the translation of the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible.

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What was St Mary’s re-established its  public infirmary as St Thomas’s Hospital in the early thirteenth century (the hospital later relocated to Lambeth).

Winchester  Palace

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On nearby Clink Street are the remains of Winchester Palace (and also the site of the Clink Prison).  The palace was originally built in the twelfth century by King Stephen’s brother Henry de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester (at this time, Southwark was in the Diocese of Winchester).  It was subsequently rebuilt in the late thirteenth to fourteenth century, and remained in use until the time of the Civil War in the seventeenth, when it was portioned off.  It was substantially destroyed by a fire in the nineteenth century, with only parts of the Great Hall surviving to this day.  The Great Hall dates to the twelfth century, circa 1144; the “Rose Window” to the fourteenth (and possibly to the Bishopric of William of Wykeham, circa 1367-98).

Borough High Street

Borough  was first recorded as “Southwarke borrow” in 1559, taking its name from the Old English  “burh”.  Borough High Street is  part of, and was once known as,  Stane Street, the Roman road to the south, and Borough Market was first established in the thirteenth century.

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Famously, there were some  fifty  inns and other drinking establishments on and around Borough High Street at the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, including the “Tabard” and  “White Hart”, which were known to and written about by Chaucer and Shakespeare.  They all survived that fire, although many were burnt down in the  Great Fire of Southwark in 1676.  The “Tabard” and the “White Hart” were later rebuilt, but  no longer stand, having been demolished in the late nineteenth century.   The “George”, originally built sometime before 1542, was also rebuilt after the Great Fire of Southwark, in 1677, as a galleried inn, and still stands.

Crossbones Graveyard

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Just off Borough High Street, at the corner of  Union Street and Redcross Way, is the unconsecrated burial ground known as the “Crossbones Graveyard”.  Here from Medieval times were interred the “Outcast Dead”, including the “Winchester Geese”, which is to say women who worked as prostitutes in brothels or “stews” licensed by the Bishops of Winchester.  An “Ordinance for the Governance of the Stews” was  issued  by King Henry II in 1161.

Tabard Street

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The church of St George the Martyr, at the corner  of Borough High Street and Tabard Street, was originally built in the twelfth century,  and rebuilt in the fourteenth (and again in the eighteenth, in the Neo-Classical style).  Henry V was met here by the Aldermen and Mayor of London upon his triumphal return from the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

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Old Kent Road

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The “Thomas a Becket” public house on the Old Kent Road stands on the site of the “St Thomas a Watering”, alluded to as follows in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”:

“And forth we rode a little more than pace

Unto the watering of St Thomas … ”

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A little further east is the former North Peckham Civic Centre, featuring a fine mosaic mural by Adam Kossowski depicting, among other things, that very scene.

Deptford

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Deptford was first recorded as “Depeford” in 1293, taking name from the Old English “deop”, meaning deep, and “ford” (across the Ravensbourne).  The church of St Nicholas was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and  subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again in the late seventeenth, in 1697, only to be badly damaged during the Blitz.  The fourteenth-century tower still stands.  Christopher Marlowe is buried in the churchyard.

Blackheath

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Extraordinarily, in the Middle Ages, no fewer than three rebel armies gathered on the high windswept at the top of  Blackheath Hill preparatory to marching on London: the first under Wat Tyler during the  “Peasants’ Revolt”, in 1381; the second under Jack Cade, in 1450; and the third under Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank  during the “Cornish Revolt”, in 1497.

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Shooters Hill

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Shooters Hill is one of the highest points in, and  at the outermost  edge of, London, and commands fine  views of the city to the west …

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… and of the open countryside of Kent to the east.