Christmas Tree Festival 2013

Over twenty decorated trees were in the hall representing all parts of village life both young and old. The artistic levels were fantastic and it was great to see people viewing the trees working out what the tree represented. Trees entered for the first time included the school, The Responders, Deangate Golf and Matt Crozer.

Thank you all to the groups, individuals, families and businesses for putting in a tree. Many thanks to Karmann Dancers, Dramarama and the Choir for performing on the day along with all of you who came to support this event. Just under £190 was raised for this event

To view the gallery of pictures please click here

Jazz Festival 2013

Over £550 was raised from the event this year which was a terrific start to the fund raising for 2013.

The weather held off long enough to allow the performance to be played in the Rectory Garden which made it a great location for the event to be held.

Terrific performances from both Chris Irvine and Chris Buckwell entertained the audience and the refreshment area was kept steadily busy through the night

Many thanks to all the people who supported this event and again many thanks to both Chris’s who gave their time free of charge

Cricket Club

Last month, I referred to a notebook passed to me by John Durling, who had played for the club in the 1940’s and 50’s. The following notes, written no later than 1954, cover the history of the cricket club upto and including World War II. The post-war extract follows next month. In both instances there are many gaps, which I would like to fill from the direct knowledge of any reader who remembers those days or has family records of them.

In 1885 there was a small club running in the village, which had their ground on Rayner’s Meadow, now the farm’s yard. It was not until 1895, ten years later, that the Rev T.W. Longfield formed the present club backed by other members of the village. The ground was then changed to the Rectory Meadow where it is to the present day. Boundary lines have altered considerably during the years. The boundary then was between two pools, the one in the wheelwright’s yard and the one in the Rectory garden.

 It was not until 1900 that the club really found its feet. There were only 6 or 8 matches a season played at first mainly against St Marys, Stoke, Grain and, later, Higham. Since 1900 the club steadily grew and was quite good by the time Mr Kemp was headmaster at the School.

Over the years, the boundaries of the ground have gradually worked away from the Rectory Garden until 1939, when the pitch was in the middle of the field. The old, original boundaries had by this time been taken over and a flourishing tennis club was now being run.

1939 saw the beginning of World War II and for nearly 3 years the ground was neglected, But in 1943 got the club together again. Fixtures were few were mainly between local army units. The war first bought Sunday cricket to the village which has now become very popular.

Playing records for this period only begin in 1939, and show those players who scored 50 or more in a game and those who took 7 or more wickets in an innings. Many of you will recognise the names:

Name Runs Date Opponents
R. Cross 54 10 June 1939 Henley’s
G. Humphreys 58 17 June 1939 Rainbow
J. Aynes 52 n.o. 22 July 1939 Meopham
A. Corbett 60 29 July 1939 Chatham Albion
J. Hillier 58 29 July 1939 Chatham Albion
B. Munday 54 19 August 1939 Rainbow
R. Cross 65 18 May 1940 Rainbow
R. Cross 56 8 July 1940 Tower Hill Battery
A.Welch 71 9 July 1940 Fenn St Battery
R. Cross 62 23 July 1940 Battery R A
A. Corbett 58 30 July 1940 Fenn St Battery
A Corbett 65 31 July 1940 Capt Bird’s XI
R. Cross 78 7 August 1940 R.E.
R. Cross 81 n.o. 14 August 1940 235 Battery

Seven wickets in an innings by one bowler is not a frequent occurrence, however Arthur Corbett achieved the milestone 3 times in 1939 and Ron Hampton once:

Name Date Wkts Runs Overs Maidens Opponents
R. Hampton 27 May 7 17 4 1 GillinghamCongregationals
A. Corbett 8 June 7 18 7 1 Lyles XI
A. Corbett 8 July 7 27 11 5 Wanderers
A. Corbett 29 July 7 26 10 4 Chatham Albion

 Our current players will do well to reach and maintain the standards set by these stalwarts of the club. The new season starts on 13th April, weather permitting, and indoor nets are already under way. The colts (under 17 and younger) are at King’s School on every Sunday between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, whilst the adults are at Hoo School between 7 and 9 on Thursday evenings. All players, and prospective players are urged to attend. We have recently secured significant sponsorship from a major international company, which will help with necessary equipment supplies and maintenance. Further opportunities of support, particularly from local companies and individuals, are readily available to those interested in keeping cricket alive in the village.

David Lapthorn Life President

First Published in February 2013 High Halstow Times

As promised in the last edition of High Halstow Times, the following notes, covering the immediate post-World War II years, are drawn from a book of club records handed to me by John Durling, who played for the club during this period.

1945 saw the Club come into its own again with a permanent fixture list, instead of relying on chance fixtures. In 1946 and 1947 much work and improvement was done do the club and ground. The pitch was improved and the boundaries were extended, and for the first time ever the complete ground was cut to the level of the table (square).

In 1946, Bert Munday hit a century against Cobham. This was the first known century by a member of the Club. In 1948, Mr B.H. Valentine, the former Kent and England cricketer, came to live in the village. 1949 was a good year for the Club and for the first time a member, Arthur Corbett, took 100 wickets in a season. On 23rd September of that year, Mr Valentine invited the whole Kent XI down to the Club. The game was a great success and raised nearly £100 for the church restoration fund.

1950 again saw the Kent XI at the Club, also the Middlesex and England cricketer Denis Compton. The proceeds of the match went to Douglas Wright’s Benefit. The season was a poor one for the Club, only winning 11 out of the 41 matches played. The year had begun on a sad noted when one of the Club’s youngest and best liked players, Pilot 2 R. Hall was tragically killed when his Spitfire crashed into the jungle.

There the written word ends, but records drawn from the score books of the time cover the years to 1953. The team performance is summarised as follows:

Season Played Won Drawn Tied Lost
1949 38 23 5 0 10
1950 41 11 7 2 20
1951 26 12 2 0 12
1952 32 16 3 0 11
1953 37 10 7 0 19

In those matches, 75% of the games were played at home, and there were only 19 team totals in excess of 200 runs. In the current game, 200 is considered a par score for a 50 over innings and, when the ground is at its fastest, something nearer 230 can be difficult to defend. I suspect the grass was longer in those days, even though the boundaries may have been shorter, and bats have got better in recent years. But maybe there was more guile and cunning exercised by batsmen and bowlers in the early 1950’s, compared with the big hitting that we often see today. Certainly the bowling records of Arthur Corbett and Ron Hampton indicate they made life very difficult for the opposition.

Whilst on the subject of long grass, the first cut of the outfield for the 2013 season should have been made by now. As I write this, with snow falling, the playing area is more like wetlands, with long grass (up to 12 inches in places) hiding puddles of surface water. There seems little prospect of getting the mowers out until well into March, by which time it may be necessary to revert to sheep – the mowers of choice between the wars!

In the hope that we will be able to get games started in April as planned, thoughts are turning to later in the season when a “Six’s” competition is planned for the weekend of the August Bank Holiday. Clubs from all over Kent are to be invited to take part in teams of 6 (hence the name). As said earlier, it can be difficult to save runs on Rayner’s Meadow with teams of 11 players, so teams of 6 covering the same area leads to great excitement (and tiredness!).The whole event will be held in support of children’s diabetes charities, and we hope that other village organisations will avail themselves of the opportunity to take part with stalls and other activities at what is expected to be a major event in the calendar this year. More details next month!

David Lapthorn Life President

First Published in March 2013 High Halstow Times


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.