George Matthews Arnold
George Matthews Arnold was born 4 July 1826. After leaving school Arnold was articled to George Essell, solicitor of Rochester whose third daughter, Elizabeth Cotton Essell, he married in1847, a marriage that lasted 59 years. George and Elizabeth lived at Milton next Gravesend.
Arnold was a founder member of Christchurch (then in Parrock Road) and recorded as honorary church warden elect. However, in 1858 with his wife Elizabeth, Cardinal Manning at St Charles Church, London, received Arnold into the Catholic Church. Arnold became deeply involved with St John’s church and Arnold became the first school secretary, remaining in this position for 40 years seeing in this time the School grow.
George Matthews Arnold is noted locally as being Mayor of Gravesend eight times. Arnold established a museum of antiquities in which were housed objects of local interest including prehistoric flint implements (excavated from local chalk quarries), fossils, Roman remains from Springhead and Higham and various articles with local historical association. These, after Arnold's death in 1908, were dispersed some finding a place in Maidstone Museum and others in Gravesend Library, in whose reference library some of the documents are housed. Arnold was the donor of two statues of Queen Victoria to the town and of land near the river for the extension of Gravesend Promenade and the Gordon Memorial Gardens.
Arnold is also noted for his philanthropic works and was responsible for the renovation of several of the town’s buildings including St Mary’s Church at Denton, Dode Church at Luddesdown and the Kings Head Public House in King Street. In the back garden of what is now 30 Pine Avenue are the columns of the old Gravesend Market, presented to Arnold in 1898 when the present market hall was erected. At the time this was part of Milton Hall where Arnold lived from xxxx until his death in 1908.
One of Arnold’s last good works was to set up a shilling fund to raise funds for an obelisk for another of the town’s philanthropists, William Tingey. Tingey, who died on 22 August 1907, is regarded as the real founder of Gravesend Hospital. The obelisk was placed in Windmill Gardens and unveiled by Mayor Thomas Sandford on 30 September 1908.