Smugglers’ Britain

Egypt Bay and Shade House, Cooling
TQ777782 7m E of Gravesend. Go east from Cooling along Britannia Road, and take the first left up Clinch Street. About 1.5 miles from the junction the road continues as a track beyond a locked gate. Follow the track N. The square brick outline and white shutters of Shade House soon come into view on the left, and Egypt Bay is a little more than a mile from the gate.

Egypt Bay on the Hoo peninsula was a typical Thames estuary landing spot, though its soft and changing outline has now been made regular and permanent by the concrete sea defences. Inland from the bay, though, there’s still a reminder of the smuggling activity that was once rife here: Shade House was built specifically to aid the landing of contraband on the southern shores of the Thames: significantly, all the windows of this peculiar box-like building face inland, to provide a good view of anyone approaching within a mile or so. The cottage is even now extremely isolated, but would have been more so in the 18th century: the marshes were malarial, and most people lived on higher ground farther inland. Local stories tell of vaulted brick tunnels leading from Shade House towards the river, but there is no visible evidence today to back up these tales. However, we do know that the North Kent gang used Shade House in their smuggling activities, driving the many marsh sheep along the trails they had followed inland so that there would be no tell-tale footprints.
High Halstow

Northward Hill is at TQ7876 5m NE of Strood. The wood is now a National Nature Reserve administered by the RSPB. Park at the end of Longfield Avenue in High Halstow and walk through the fenced alley to Forge Common. Cross the stile and bear left across the common to the wood (map 178).

One smuggling trip in this area is particularly well-documented, and especially interesting because of the insight it provides into the organization of smuggling in the early 18th century. The story is told in a deposition made in 1728 by a couple of Medway men [12]. They travelled across the Channel in February 1726, and bought tea in Ostend. It was a very small-scale operation, since in all the men brought back just 400lb, plus a few yards of calico and some silk handkerchiefs. There were seven men on the ship, the Sloweley, and the trip was organized a bit like one of today’s cross-channel shopping excursions: everyone bought tea, and paid their passage in tea, too.

Once the goods had been landed, they were carried to Northward Hill, and concealed in the woodland that you can still see on the hill. By the time the tea and fabric had been hidden it was three in the morning, and two of the group departed, leaving some of their fellows on guard — perhaps the plan was to rendezvous the following day to divide up the profits. After a long night in the cold, The three men who were left behind went into the village to get food, and when they returned to the hiding place, two more of their fellows joined them. By this time, though, the silk and calico had disappeared, and since the tea was in six bags, it proved impossible to give each man his exact share. The delay in distribution provided the preventive forces with an opportunity — there is a suggestion that one of the group was an informer — and at 5 O’Clock four customs men arrived. We’ll never know what sort of a deal took place in the gathering dusk on Northward Hill, but whatever happened, it wasn’t entirely to the benefit of the customs authorities. They took 3/4 of the tea, but the smuggling conspirators retained the remainder, and were never prosecuted. The most likely explanation is that the customs men were ‘squared’, and simply sold the tea they had seized in order to line their own pockets. The mastermind of this and many other similar trips was one Edward Roots of Chatham. Though this small trip was organized on a cooperative basis, most of the others followed more conventional business lines, with a London financier, and a ‘fence’ in Blackheath who had organized an efficient distribution system through the pubs of Deptford. It’s no coincidence that High Halstow is within sight of Shade House. In fact, the whole of the Hoo peninsula played an active part in the free-trade, aided by the area’s reputation as a malarial and mist-shrouded swamp. Smuggled goods were commonly landed on Chalk Marshes, and at Cliffe, and often stored near to Chalk Church, and at Higham.

This information has been quoted with permission from Smugglers’ Britain © Richard Platt 2009 For further details and a fascinating read click here

A Piece Of Village History

Eden Road and Harrison Drive rebuild….I remember it well! Back in the early 1980’s, an acquaintance of mine knocked on my door and introduced me to a Mr Roy Puddie and his friend from Trevale Road in Rochester. What came of this meeting was to change the face of High Halstow for ever. They informed me of what had been learnt by the government from a house fire in the Midlands, and that my house had now become blighted and unmortgage-able (basically it was almost unsaleable). The mortgage lenders had apparently pulled the rug out from under us!

It transpired that Cornish style houses in the village could have been suffering from “concrete cancer”, technically called “spalling”. This was not just peculiar to High Halstow, but also Rochester, Hoo, Grain, Higham and thousands of more properties the length and breadth of the country, all of different styles and construction. In fact, it later appeared that only one house in High Halstow had spalling, but every house was affected by the revelation. A meeting of the home owners of Eden Road and Harrison Drive was hurriedly convened in the village school where the “bomb shell” was dropped. A “Cornish Residents Association” was formed with a committee made up of several well known home owners with myself as chairman (for my sins). The government then introduced the 1984 Housing Defect Act, and as they were held accountable, gave a grant for repairs with the owners making up the short fall, providing they met the qualifying criteria. These repairs had to be carried out under licence from reputable building firms, so the committee explored every avenue on behalf of the residents, and reported back via meetings and a newsletter called “The Cornish Prison”. Word quickly spread around Medway and a meeting took place of over 800 local residents, councillors and Peggy Fenner MP, at the Central Hall, Chatham to see one of the many demonstrations by a national builder. The majority of High Halstow Cornish home owners opted for the John Laing method with a few going for Michael Dyson Associates. After numerous arguments/meetings with the local authority, much heartache and sleepless nights, work finally started in 1985 with Laing’s setting up their construction site in White Road. All the houses had to be rebuilt to a specification that rendered them completely mortgage-able with a 10 year NHBC guarantee. I remember that winter of 1985 so well, it was a particularly harsh one with knee deep snow and strong winds, and was a very traumatic time for everybody who had homes under repair (mine included). Householders had to stay in residence whilst the roof was jacked up and the walls removed / replaced from the foundations up; only sheets of thin insulation between them and the elements. It was often referred to as a “living hell”! It’s now over 25 years since that chance meeting in my house, and it’s great to see the Laing Architect’s prophesy has come true regarding the finished product. Eden Road and Harrison Drive are a fitting testament to his foresight and imagination coupled with the fortitude of every resident at the time. “Just another chapter in the history of the village”.

Malcolm Coomber October 2011

Ghost’s in High Halstow

I do not believe in ‘ghosts’ or other manifestations but for candidates we can go back to 1752 when John Grace, returning home after being thrown out of the ‘Dog’ (as the Red Dog was then called) brutally beat to death his long suffering wife Mary Her dying screams and pleas for mercy were heard by passers by who went to the local dignitary at ‘Ducks Court’ to raise the alarm. On finding the battered body of this poor, much abused woman with her young daughter ‘Lizzie’ sobbing nearby’  a hue and cry was raised and John Grace was captured before he could escape from the peninsula. After pleading guilty at the  Maidstone Assizes  he was hung and his dead body left to rot in chains on Hoo Common until the carrion fowl of the air had picked the flesh away. Poor Lizzie never married, she died in her twenties and was buried at St Margaret’s churchyard. Are these so called ghosts the spirits of John, in his misery seeking redemption for his brutal deed; Mary  re-living the agonies of her last agonising moments or poor Lizzie who was  left terrified and orphaned, still seeking her mum and the only love she ever knew.  It is believed that the Grace’s had lived in a cottage on the Street, near Christmas Lane,. Who lives on that spot now we wonder.

For other possibilities perhaps we can go back to 1348 and subsequent years when the Black Death hit our area particularly hard. It is estimated that some 70/80 inhabitants from the hamlets of High Halstow, might have been our death toll from this virulent pestilence. The plague knew no boundaries or class barrier. Rich and poor alike were taken. Those clergy that did not ‘run’ ( and that could not always save them) perished with the rest and there was no-one left to perform the last Christian rites. Our Bishop ran (sorry retired) to his palace at Aylesford and did survive although nearly all the priests of his household, and those left behind to manage the ‘see’ also perished. Consequently, at High Halstow, like other villages in the County , we had nobody to bury the dead or even at St. Margaret’s churchyard  room for their burial. The remedy was plague pits. All were interred in the same spot, to be blessed later with the rites of the church. But where was ours at High Halstow?. If it was communal for the village than it should be central to all our hamlets of the Street, Sharnal and Clinches etc. On common or waste land that was not good prime soil for crops .. We might have some clues from ancient deeds which for centuries now have referred to an area translated as ‘Dead Mens’ although at the present not sure of the location, it is suspected it was not too far down the road from the memorial hall.

I do not believe in ghosts, manifestations or other such silliness, but an example of how such superstitions can arise might be found in our ancient church St. Margaret’s. A couple of years ago I was chatting to an old chap I met in the churchyard who had returned to the village to visit some graves. He mentioned  to me a story he had apparently heard in his youth of the outline of a face of a ‘suffering’ man which re-appeared from time to time in various places on the wall of our church, but could only be seen by a righteous woman, never by a man, unless he was shown the same by the ‘righteous’ woman. My acquaintance had never seen the face himself  but then apparently had not been married at the time. We joked that the superstition could have something to do with St. Margaret, the patron Saint of pregnant women, so that a wife could prove to her husband her ‘righteousness’. Later, during sermons (sorry Stephen) I obviously looked around the church but never saw any such face. A few months ago I mentioned this story to my wife who sometime later, again after a morning service, said look, there is a face there, and pointed out to me marks and cracks in the plaster from which I could then clearly make out the tired or haggard face of a bearded man, with what seemed to be a Celtic type cross above. I emphasise again this was no manifestation but merely an imagined experience deduced from accidental marks found in decaying plaster. The coincidence is only that I have never been able to point this face out to a man myself, it is only, to date , their wives who have had this ability. Coincidence? it must be, and one day the superstition will be disproved, although as my own good lady Denise says, men really only see what their wives want them to!.

David Stephenson November 2007

Was High Halstow The Inspiration?

 You may recall Harry Lewis Hillier; he was one of the men who returned from the 1st World War and one of those, for whom the Memorial Hall was built. His picture and name along with the others who returned hangs on the wall inside as a reminder, lest we forget.

Harry Louis Hillier, Harry Lewis’s son recalls; “My Father who was a Doctor Banardos boy was drafted into the Fusiliers as a harness and port mento maker. He was injured in the battle Verdun where he partially lost his sight due to shrapnel lodging itself behind his eye. Latter in life his eye was removed after complications. When he left the army dad became signalman at Port Victoria station but because of his injuries he was given lighter duties and was moved to High Halstow Halt near Wybournes Farm. I was about six years old at the time. In later life Harry Lewis Hillier (Harry’s father) became the local radio expert and built many radio receivers and television sets for villagers. Harry has fond memories Mr Mayhem the local shop keeper who was extremely benevolent during the General Strike Harry said “Mr Mayhem never said no to anyone even though we were all very poor”

When Harry Hillier (born 1918) was a boy he remembers well, the forge next to ‘Forge House’ was locally known as “Pips Forge” as they thought it to be the forge that was used in Great Expectations.

The other forge, the main forge, was in the Square which is now known as Forge Lane. It was owned and operated by Alf Laudle from Cliffe. Mr Plewis the Wheel Wright would make cart wheels in the barn at the rear of Pips forge and roll them down the lane to the main forge in the square where, set in the ground, was large iron plate about inch and a half thick with a hole in the centre sufficient to take the wheel hub. Alf Laudle and his team of two would gradually heat the iron tyre in the large hot forge then pick it up with enormous tongs and hammer it tight to the rim where it would be shrunk with buckets of water binding the wheel together amid great clouds of steam and the smell of burning timber. It was much too dangerous to shrink the tyres on to the wheels in Pips forge for fear of fire as in those days Forge House was thatched.

The youngsters of High Halstow were considered to be very well behaved by others on the Peninsula primarily because of Mr Baskin the head master of the School who was fair but very strict. Baskin only let the boys out of school to act as pall bearers at the funerals of children Harry said “We all used to do odd jobs about the village to help our parents out. I was paid 4 /3p per month to pump the organ in the Church, clean Rev Longfields boots, and cutlery and walk to Dalham farm and back to collect his milk. When we as boys visited Hoo or Stoke we were stoned out of the village. I think they thought they were after their girls”

Harry Hillier – June 2007

Killed – Answering the Call of Duty…

Towards the right of the ancient path leading up to our church of St. Margarets, you will find a grave and headstone dedicated

In Loving Memory of Mabel Ossenton.
Killed Answering the Call of Duty
at the Outbreak of War, 3rd September 1939.
” While the light lasts we will remember.”

‘Killed on way to Duty’ was also a sub headline of the story in the Chatham and Rochester News, in early September 1939, overshadowed by the main headline story, the Declaration of the 2nd. World war.

Mabel Ossenton, aged 52, died on her Wedding Anniversary, on the 3rd September, 1939, some 20 minutes or so after the 11 am broadcast of Nevil Chamberlain, declaring the 2nd World War. She may well have been our countries first casualty resulting from a call to duty, following the declaration of that terrible war. Ironic perhaps that this casualty should be a woman, in a civilian defence capacity, of our small village of High Halstow and also probably the first fatal victim of the Four Wents cross road- the junction of Bells Lane and Ratcliffe Highway (the A228).
In the Summer of 1939, war was in the air, and civilian and military defence had been organised around our village and area. Civilian casualties from German air attack were anticipated and children from the Medway towns had already been evacuated. Mabel Ossenton, the wife of farmer Frank Ossenton, of Wybournes Farm, answered her call to duty by volunteering as an ambulance driver for the A.R.P. in a post established at Hoo. Her family were well versed to ‘duty’, her dad David Harryman had been the village wheelwright, decorator and undertaker, at the old tythe barn (St. Margarets Court), and her brother, Lieutenant Sydney Harryman had died leading his troops ‘over the top’ in Flanders bloody fields during the 1914-1918 war.
Mabel Ossenton was a good, much respected lady, a practising Christian who joined loud and joyfully in the hymns sang at St Margarets Church. That fateful 3rd September, 1939, was a Sunday and George Jewell then a young choirboy recalls Mrs Anne Manning, a lady of Dutch extraction, who lived next to St Margarets, interrupting the service and, white faced and shaking, whispering the news to the Rector ‘Tommy’ Longfield that War had finally been declared. Grace Milner remembers being told by her dad George Billing, who worked for Arthur Plewis, the successor to David Harryman, how after the radio announcement the villagers came out from their homes and Church, and, including Mabel Ossenton, drifted towards the Red Dog where they anxiously congregated in ‘The Street’.

Almost within the 10 minutes following the radio broadcast an air raid warning sounded, following the report of an unidentified aircraft approaching the Kent coast. Eight minutes was then the estimated preparation time for Medway, between an air raid alert and possible attack and Mabel Ossenton, responding to her orders and duty, tried to reach her ambulance post in Hoo. She was being driven there by same Mrs Manning when at the Four Went cross they were in a head-on collision with another speeding car. Mabel Ossenton was killed outright, Mrs Manning slightly injured whilst the other driver involved, Mrs Eileen McCarthy, the eldest daughter of Bill Baskin, the feared Head master of High Halstow village school, together with her passenger, an army officer who was hurrying to his artillery battery, received more serious injuries. There was a large funeral service, conducted by the same Rev. Tommy Longfield, whose own son was later killed during the war, with a massive attendance from the village.

Amongst her other social activities, e.g., member of the High Halstow Tennis Club – does it still exist? and village organisations, Mabel Ossenton was the High Halstow representative of the Friends of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the patients of which received the many gifts of fruit and produce from the Harvest Festivals. She also organised the annual traditional gift for the poorest family in the village, which was a large well crafted loaf of bread shaped in fine detail like an ear of corn, baked by Messrs. Luckhurst, the bakers in Cliffe. This tradition which probably stopped when there were no more poor in the village!!. could have been a hang over from Mediaeval times when, as a ‘Church Light’, Richard Whitebrede of High Halstow is recorded as donating annual loaves of ‘brede’ to the poor of St. Margarets. Perhaps our own Margaret Whitebread, of Wybournes Lane, should start baking!

Charles Dickens and Great Expectations

The dramatic opening setting of ‘Great Expectations’, possibly the best loved novel by Charles Dickens, is often claimed as set in the churchyard of St James, Cooling, although some disputed that the area was Higham church. Yet to us who live in our beautiful village, are familiar with our Church – St Margarets, our countryside, and some local history, High Halstow (Home of the Heron) was the obvious inspiration.

In brief, Magwitch, who had escaped from a prison hulk, was discovered by Pip, in the churchyard, hiding by six lozenges – small, sad, tombs of children. The church had a spire, overlooked the marshes, with the blacksmiths forge, where Pip lived nearby. Charles Dickens was never asked what background he used as the setting although it is known that he researched detail and drew heavily upon his own observations and experiences. He was keen on walking and roaming our countryside from his home at Gads Hill and even journeyed by boat on the Thames to study the effects of tides in the area. Let us consider the evidence:

Cooling church has a spire. It is situated near the marshes, in those days a somewhat miserable place. There are thirteen desolate lozenges of the Comport family children in the churchyard. Although there is no record of a forge, it is claimed that the name of the pub, Horseshoes and Castle, indicates there had been a smithy

Higham church has a spire. Is close to the marshes and the Thames. Had a blacksmiths forge – Forge Lane, and was a favourite area of the great man. High Halstow Church has no spire – now. However maps of the 18th Century, and earlier, show a magnificent spire. Later struck by lightening, demolished and the tower rebuilt by the Victorians.

There was a forge nearby, about the site of our present school, and hence of course Forge Common.

Egypt Bay, the anchorage for some prison hulks from where Magwich might have escaped is in our parish of High Halstow, not Cooling.

St Margaret’s and Forge Common are on the highest point of a northern ridge way with Stephen Gwilt’s, rectory garden, amongst others offering some of the most magnificent views of the marshes, the River Thames its bays and inlets ( and in those days the prison ships). Although without evidence, either for or against, our parish with its views and history were I suggest a definite must for anyone with Charles Dickens interests.

Lastly, anyone visiting our church, St Margaret’s will see in the churchyard, near the church door, the six small lozenges, also of Comport family children . Great Expectations was published in 1860, the last Comport child to die, presumably also of the plague, was interred alongside his brothers and sisters, some two years earlier.
Read Charles Dickens wonderful book again. Visit our churchyard and the lozenges of the Comport children, perhaps pray quietly in our small, peaceful but wonderful church, and judge for yourselves.

Supersonic Air Crash Death of a Swallow

George Jewell, now a tall, sprightly 81 year old gentleman who is often seen strolling through our village, High Halstow, with his dog ‘Honey’. has lived here all his life. Among his fond memories is a photo taken in the Summer of 1946, less than a year after the end of the 2nd. World War. It shows him as a strapping 20 year old farm hand, with other farm hands, land army girls and German prisoners of war, harvesting down towards High Halstow marshes. They were all working for Hill Farm (now Hill Farm Close, Christmas Lane) the photograph being taken by their boss, Brian Rayner.

But the peace of their warm, happy, summer’s labour was shattered by a supersonic bang, and a startled George Jewell, looking up to the sky saw the tragic demise of a graceful swallow. For the booming explosion was the end of a Dh108 Swallow, and its pilot, Geoffrey deHavilland (Chief Test pilot for his father, aeroplane designer Sir Geoffrey deHavilland) George describes seeing pieces of this experimental jet plane disintegrating upwards and outwards like an exploding jig saw puzzle and watching horrified as one entire wing spiralled down into the estuary.

The Dh108 Swallow, which was designed with experimental swept back wings, was the first turbo jet to reach mach 1, the speed of sound, and the supersonic boom as this was reached was both the death knell of its brave young pilot and the very first time such sound was heard over Great Britain, and of course, High Halstow. There were only three of these experimental aircraft ever built, the first taking to the skies on the 15th May, 1946. The first two crashed during trials but the third was more successful for Group Captain ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham flew it to become the first pilot to break the speed of sound, in a turbo jet, and live. Our children might well blame the late Group Captain Cunningham for being made to eat carrots, as their great grandparents will no doubt explain. The Dh108 was a prototype of design for the Nimrod aircraft and the ill fated Comet.

But to George Jewell this event was but a tragic coincidence to another Geoffrey, father and son,  and another deHavilland aircraft. In 1938, as a 12 year old leaving with his school pals from High Halstow school, they saw an aircraft overhead, and an old boy of the school, stunting and mock dive bombing them in an RAF deHavilland designed aircraft. Their headmaster, Mr. Bastin, was not amused and complained bitterly to the Rector of St Margaret’s Church, the Rev Geoffrey Longfield (Longfield Close). For they all guessed that the pilot was his son, Geoffrey Longfield, a lively and energetic offspring of our village. Squadron Leader Geoffrey Phelps Longfield, 27220 RAFVR, 105 (Bomber) Squadron, Royal Air force, died 22nd February, 1943, aged 33 years, killed by enemy action whilst leading his wing on a mission. He is buried at Rennes Communal Cemetery, France. R.I.P.

George Jewell can be found at Evensong, every Sunday evening at St Margaret’s. Visit him there, perhaps say a prayer for those brave young men and women who served our country so well, and later chat about the olden times

David Stephenson 2006

Memories of Mr Plewis

The Tithe Barn had reed thatching at the back; at the front and on the ends it was straw thatching. Reed thatching was good enough to last a century; there were a couple of re-thatchings of the straw in Mr. Plewis’s time there (1921-71) The Tithe Barn’s dimensions were 70 feet by 30 feet. It was built of elm, elm lasts but cannot be “mucked about with” and so it could not be dismantled and rebuilt at Singletons or elsewhere.

Old Tithe Barn behind High Halstow Cricket Club

The last new wagon was built at the tithe barn in 1930, and repairs carried on until the end of the Second World War. Wheel wrighting was deteriorating during Mr. Plewis’s apprenticeship. He took over from Mr. Harryman who retired in 1930. Charles Bloomfield, who was also an apprentice, brought up the business. Bloomfield had two other wheel wrighting businesses elsewhere, and sold one of them to purchase the High Halstow business.

The Revd. S.G Davidson said that he hoped Mr. Plewis was not going to pass the tithe barn workshop on to his chap on his retirement, as the church wanted to sell it. Mr. Plewis felt that the Revd Davidson was under pressure from the diocese to dispose of the barn and land. Mr Plewis got rid of the “two-handed” jobs the year before and was due to retire, so that his chap would have the opportunity to look round for another position, and spent the final year finishing “single- handed” jobs and generally running things down.

The three ponds in Christmas Lane were connected with the pond in the tithe barn. Water ran from Christmas Lane in the direction of Jubilee Cottages, where it was drained away. St. Margaret’s Court was built bang on the site of the pond.

On occasions when the village pump dried up, the parson would go with horse and cart to Lipwell and fetch barrels of water to sell to the villagers. Mains water came to High Halstow in 1909 (*see cast iron cover outside village shop for date), it wasc1915 before mains water extended to the farther cottages in the village).
Among the odds and ends in Mr. Plewis’s workshop were window sashes with mahogany bars, said to be from Bessie’s hall (Elizabeth Hall). They had very elaborate beading.
The church brasses were found tucked away in the workshop in Mr. Harryman’s time. Mr Plewis supposes that must have come in at some time to be mounted on a board, and then put to one side until they had been completely forgotten about.

Mr. Henry Victor Scales, School teacher, moved to Stoke from High Halstow. He would pick up the cane first thing in the morning, and not put it down till the end of the day. His trouser-ends were frayed from his habit of constantly flicking them with the cane. He wore a black jacket and tight trousers. He had one son – Monty _ who went to the Argentine working as an engineer for Thorney-crofts, and was killed there in an explosion. He had two daughters – Norah who married an army officer, and Katharine, who remained unmarried and moved with the family to Groombridge.

Mr. Baskin followed Mr. Scales as a teacher at High Halstow. He was Irish, but a good teacher. He would lay children across his desk and beat them. After his retirement he had a letter form a Bance, a chief of Police in the USA, thanking him for his strict discipline, which he said made him what he was.

Main crop farmers grew potatoes, corn crop, cereals, seeds (canary, radish, linseed). Only small holders grew beetroot and things. It is now cheaper to import the seed crops.
Mr. Plewis’ s father and grandfather worked locally in similar trades, mending fences etc in the winter months. Mr. Plewis thinks that one of his ancestors, a John ap Lewis, was a drover who drove sheep from Wales, using the Hoo Peninsula as a grazing area for fattening livestock before selling it in the London market. Possibly that was how the ap Lewises settled there.


“Muddies” dug for Medway blue clay. It was tidal work, so they had to work swiftly. There were four in a gang, working downwards, and it was the forth worker who actually extracted the clay. They came out as four inch cubes, which was the size of the blade. It has been said that working at full pitch as many as five or six cubes of clay could be flying through the air on to the barge at once. This work did not involve High Halstow people, who were farming people.

There was a shell causeway from Stoke to Grain now the main road. It was necessary to cross the sea wall; pass through the creek and across the other sea wall. The shell causeway was built up with crushed Kentish rag stone, and has lasted with far more strength than the modern tarmac parts of the road.

Farmers were at one time responsible for the roads that passed through their land. Picking stones and filling ruts was the winter’s job.

Henry Pye of St. Mary’s Hall died in 1909. (St. Mary’s Hall had its own wheelwright and blacksmith.) Henry Pye owned one farm and farmed twelve as a tenant farmer. It was said you travel from High Halstow to Grain without leaving Henry Pye’s land. He was well known for his late potatoes. He owned Clinch Street Farm. He drained the Peninsula. Shell drains were constructed all over the place, he would spend the winter collecting cockle shells from St. Mary’s b Bay to construct these shell drains. When the new telephone cables to Canvey Island were laid before the last world war (up Clinch Street and across the Marshes) around Clinch Street was found a shell drain, running full bore. A pump was kept running day and night to keep this drain clear. Henry Pye came from the Hollingbourne area; his wife was a daughter (so Mr. Plewis believes) of Hudson the explorer. Henry Pye was known as the saviour of the peninsula.

February 2011

“Old Forge House”

At the top of Forge Lane was Church Square. The back of Forge Lane slipped away: once it was quite flat a flat meadow with clay soil. Tobogganing took place there in the winter. Gardens are still slipping on the houses at the back of Forge Lane. A row of trees were planted to prevent further slippage.

There was a little forge attached to the “Old Forge House” The “Old Forge House” was a brick structure. Mr Plewis supplied the artificial frontage at Mr. Lacey’s request. There had been no half timber there.

Map drawn by Mr Plewis

Old High Halstow School
Opposite the Church stood Lych Cottage a half timbered building, allowed to fall to rack and ruin.

February 2011