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Visiting Kent Rochester and Strood

Man of Kent or Kentish Man?

There is much contention as to whether or not the River of Medway is the division line as to whether or not you are a Kent Man or Man of Kent. Scouring the interest I found some fascinating information about the probability that actually Rainham Mark is the division line of East and West.

The River Medway has long been regarded as the line of division between Men of Kent and Kentish Men, but the true position of the line might be a couple of miles east, at Rainham. Along the London road at Rainham is a small hamlet, now part of the town itself, known as Rainham Mark.

Here once stood an ancient boundary stone, near the Hops and Vine pub — formerly the Belisha Beacon — and since replaced by a milestone that, traditionally, marks the division of Kent into its east and west zones.

The origins of this curious division between the inhabitants of Kent is similarly unknown, but it is thought to date from the early years following the departure of the Romans, when England was settled by various peoples from the European mainland. While much of the county, including west Kent, was settled by the Angles and Saxons, a race known as the Jutes — of similar descent from the Germanic area of Europe – had already made east Kent their home, They regarded themselves as a separate kingdom with their own laws and customs. The Jutes called themselves Kentings, believing that they were the real Men of Kent and retaining many of their customs until quite late into the Middle Ages. They were responsible for introducing the system of inheritance known as gavelkind, whereby all descendants of a deceased person shared the property and belongings equally. In Saxon law, the eldest child inherited. The Saxons and Jutes, of course, have long been integrated, but this curious division remains, albeit now held in question, to remind us of our cherished past.

It doesn't matter where you come from Rochester and Strood are heaped in history, with its Cathedral.

Rochester Cathedral

And the famous castle located by the River Medway.

Rochester Castle.

The castle is a Norman tower-keep made of Kentish ragstone which was built in 1127 by the Archbishop of Canterbury William or Corbeil. Henry I encouraged Corbeil to build the castle, which stands at 113 feet high. In 1215 the castle endured an epic siege by rebels. King John is said to have used the fat of 40 pigs to create a fire under the keep, which caused the southern corner to come crashing down. However, the rebels, held on until they were starved out after resisting for two months.

Medway Council manages the site and it is part of English Heritage. Throughout the year there are concerts and open-air films shown within the castle grounds. The castle grounds are great for a picnic with marvellous views of the River Medway.

Boats on the Medway

A bridge has spanned what is now Strood and Rochester since 43 AD and was the first bridge to cross the River Medway. In 1382 a royal commission was appointed to decide who was responsible for the repair of the now ruined Roman Bridge. The commission which included Henry Yevele, an architect, and Sir John de Cobham, an Kentish Knight and landowner, concluded that the roman bridge should be rebuilt and Sir John de Cobham along with another powerful knight Sir Robert Knolles, bore the costs of a new bridge which would be built 100 yards upstream from the remains of the Roman bridge. The bridge took just over 4 years, to build. The bridge was finished in September 1391. and was a classed as a medieval stone bridge.

Modernisation of the stone bridge was only temporary and due to increased road traffic and river traffic the medieval bridge was rebuilt again, this time I was to be constructed to be a cast iron bridge and it opened in 1856. However, its life was short-lived. And the bridge again needed to be refurbished and repairs, In April 1910 after many repairs plans were drawn up and put forward by a bridge engineer called John Robson. It was decided to raise the roadway and suspend the bridge by bowstring trusses and was opened for traffic in May 1914.

Rochester Bridge

Today the bridge still spans the River Medway and it is now used for traffic to enter Strood from Rochester. Another bridge which was orginally a disused railway, was converted to another road bridge. And it sits next to the cast iron bridge and is used to take the flow of traffic from Strood to Rochester. In 1970 the new bridge was opened by Princess Margaret.

By travelling over the bridge to the Strood side of the River Medway you have a clear view of the Cathedral and Castle.

Across the river

As well as its castle and Cathedral Rochester is renowned for its association with Charles Dickens. And during the year various festivals are help within the High Street and grounds of Rochester Castle. Primarily is the well known Dickens festival held in Summer and of course the spectacular Dickensian Christmas Festival. At one end of the High Street stands Eastgate House as well as which chalet building associated with Charles Dickens.

Eastgate House

Rochester has many festivals and one of the festivals we love to visit is the Medieval Festival. With Knights and maidens and battle enactments you are bound to have a great day out. Held over a weekend, this festival as well as the other festivals mentioned are just magical.

Medieval Merriment

If you are hungry or thirsty Rochester hosts a varied menu to its visitors. Whether it be a pub lunch in the Crown or Weatherspoons, or cup of coffee at the nearest bistro.

The views from the High Street and its cobbled street on a summer's day is a great way of viewing what the High Street has to offer. Whether it be for antiques, food and brink or a visit to the charity shop.

Rochester High Street - A place to eat.

Within feet of Rochester Cathedral there are open-air cafes, where you can sit and admire the architecture and watch the world go by. Rochester has a lot to offer its visitors and with its antiquated architecture you get a real feel for the history of Rochester.

Archway at Rochester

Should you wish to drive over the bridge, within the industrial estate of Strood, clearly signposted stands Temple Manor. A 13th century building built by the Knights Templar, a military and religious order formed during the Crusades.

Within the rooms of the Manor is the hall with its fireplace and oak beams.

Hall of Temple Manor

As well as a room, which has an leaded window and bare oak beams. Temple Manor is owned and maintained by English Heritage and is only open weekends between 11am-4pm April to October.

Room at Temple Manor

Other Places to Visit in Rochester and Strood

Within Walking Distance

  • Guildhall Museum
  • The Vines Park
  • Jackson's Fields
  • Restoration House
  • Huguenot Museum

A Short Drive

  • Upnor Castle
  • Shorne Country Park
  • Ashenbank Woods
  • Cobham
  • Cliffe Fort
  • St Marget's Church
  • Medway Little Theatre

I hope you've enjoyed reading about Rochester and Strood and have a great time visiting our little bit of history. Many thanks for reading.. have a great day!

All images used in this publication are the property of ©RyanPhotography 2012-2019 All Rights Reserved.

Created By
Bren Ryan
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RyanPhotography