1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gravesend

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GRAVESEND, a municipal and parliamentary borough, river-port and market town of Kent, England, on the right bank of the Thames opposite Tilbury Fort, 22 m. E. by S. of London by the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. (1901) 27,196. It extends about 2 m. along the river bank, occupying a slight acclivity which reaches its summit at Windmill Hill, whence extensive views are obtained of the river, with its windings and shipping. The older and lower part of the town is irregularly built, with narrow and inconvenient streets, but the upper and newer portion contains several handsome streets and terraces. Among several piers are the town pier, erected in 1832, and the terrace pier, built in 1845, at a time when local river-traffic by steamboat was specially prosperous. Gravesend is a favourite resort of the inhabitants of London, both for excursions and as a summer residence; it is also a favourite yachting centre. The principal buildings are the town-hall, the parish church of Gravesend, erected on the site of an ancient building destroyed by fire in 1727; Milton parish church, a Decorated and Perpendicular building erected in the time of Edward II.; and the county courts. Milton Mount College is a large institution for the daughters of Congregational ministers. East of the town are the earthworks designed to assist Tilbury Fort in obstructing the passage up river of an enemy’s force. They were originally constructed on Vauban’s system in the reign of Charles II. Rosherville Gardens, a popular resort, are in the western suburb of Rosherville, a residential quarter named after James Rosher, an owner of lime works. They were founded in 1843 by George Jones. Gravesend, which is within the Port of London, has some import trade in coal and timber, and fishing, especially of shrimps, is carried on extensively. The principal other industries are boat-building, ironfounding, brewing and soap-boiling. Fruit and vegetables are largely grown in the neighbourhood for the London market. Since 1867 Gravesend has returned a member to parliament, the borough including Northfleet to the west. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 1259 acres.

In the Domesday Survey “Gravesham” is entered among the bishop of Bayeux’s lands, and a “hythe” or landing-place is mentioned. In 1401 Henry IV. granted the men of Gravesend the sole right of conveying in their own vessels all persons travelling between London and Gravesend, and this right was confirmed by Edward IV. in 1462. In 1562 the town was granted a charter of incorporation by Elizabeth, which vested the government in 2 portreeves and 12 jurats, but by a later charter of 1568 one portreeve was substituted for the two. Charles I. incorporated the town anew under the title of the mayor, jurats and inhabitants of Gravesend, and a further charter of liberties was granted by James II. in 1687. A Thursday market and fair on the 13th of October were granted to the men of Gravesend by Edward III. in 1367; Elizabeth’s charters gave them a Wednesday market and fairs on the 24th of June and the 13th of October, with a court of pie-powder; by the charter of Charles I. Thursday and Saturday were made the market days, and these were changed again to Wednesday and Saturday by a charter of 1694, which also granted a fair on the 23rd of April; the fairs on these dates have died out, but the Saturday market is still held.

From the beginning of the 17th century Gravesend was the chief station for East Indiamen; most of the ships outward bound from London stopped here to victual. A customs house was built in 1782. Queen Elizabeth established Gravesend as the point where the corporation of London should welcome in state eminent foreign visitors arriving by water. State processions by water from Gravesend to London had previously taken place, as in 1522, when Henry VIII. escorted the emperor Charles V. A similar practice was maintained until modern times; as when, on the 7th of March 1863, the princess Alexandra was received here by the prince of Wales (King Edward VII.) three days before their marriage. Gravesend parish church contains memorials to “Princess” Pocahontas, who died when preparing to return home from a visit to England in 1617, and was buried in the old church. A memorial pulpit from the state of Indiana, U.S.A., made of Virginian wood, was provided in 1904, and a fund was raised for a stained-glass window by ladies of the state of Virginia.