Ever since a Hythe or landing place was established at Gravesend in medieval times or earlier under the existing Town Pier, the River has played an important role in the town’s development and in particular its various riverside industries.
As the ancient travellers approached Gravesend it was clear that the first real piece of high land was what is now known as Windmill Hill and a sustainable community grew up and developed here. The land on the eastern side being low lying or marshes.
The river needed to be crossed and London was but only one tide away. So from a very early time ferry services were established and watermen, ferrymen and associated trades flourished. The need to control what happened on the river meant the establishment of watchers and look out men to spot any unauthorised activity, now in the hands of Customs and Excise. And the control of shipping is in the hands of the Port of London Authority.
Business flourished where the river played its part, either in the bringing in of raw materials or the exporting of finished products. Consequently paper and cement industries were prosperous and grew up alongside the extended river bank. That in turn gave employment to the increasing numbers of those involved in the River Industries, tug boat men, lightermen, captains etc.
The river is still a source of employment and huge tonnages of cargoes are moved along its course, the docks at Tilbury catering for huge container ships.
See also the pages on this website on The Town Pier, The High Street and Chapters 1 – 4 of ‘A Historical Walk through Gravesend and Northfleet’ by Gravesend Historical Society 2006. See publications page.
Links to relevant website links: