A Virtual Museum - Your Town, the Borough and its History

1977
• The St. Andrews Arts Centre officially opened in January. Previously St. Andrews Waterside Mission Church built in 1870.
• The clock tower was refurbished on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II Silver jubilee. Various other events were held throughout the year, culminating in a firework display from a barge on the Thames watched by crowds on the Promenade.
• Singlewell Primary School completely destroyed by fire on New Years Day.
• The new pilot station became operational. The Royal Terrace Pier, where their offices were previously housed was to be renovated.
• Foundation stone laid for new Rosherville parish church centre, which was completed in October at a cost of £83,000.
• In April the new HMS Cygnet berthed at the Royal Terrace Pier for the official adoption ceremony with the Borough. (See 1943)
• The cricket pavilion at the “Bat & Ball” sports ground received a grant of £5,000 from Gravesham Council for essential repairs.
• Three Gravesham primary schools were all ravaged by fire within 24 hours of each other - Wrotham Road, St. Joseph’s in Springhead Road and Lawn Road School, Northfleet. All were suspected arson.
• Gravesham’s Mayor Councillor Len Hardy and his wife Joan were made Freemen of the City of London, the only mayor and mayoress ever to be honoured in this way, whilst still in office. They had been sponsored by two local freemen.
• A land slide following torrential rain partially blocked the railway line near Northfleet.
• The High Court ruled that British Rail could reduce the Gravesend-Tilbury Ferry service as from August.
• Two new tugs “Sun Kent” and “Sun Essex” came into service in October, each cost £1 million and were owned by the Alexandra Towing Company.
• The open air swimming pool, Ordnance Road, was converted for use as a skateboarding arena.

1978
• New market byelaws introduced (only the second set in 700 years, previous ones drawn up 1899) ensuring standards of cleanliness.
• Firemen on strike. Army troops manning “Green Goddess” fire engines.
• A £300,000 canteen opened at Bowater-Scott Paper Mill, Crete Hall Road, catering for 1,000 employees.
• Holy Trinity School new building, in Trinity Road, was officially opened in March after 2 years in construction. It accommodated 260 junior pupils. (See 1962/1963, 1992)
• “Balmoral” pleasure steamer commenced service from the Town Pier, Gravesend with trips to Ramsgate and Clacton, carrying 700-900 passengers.
• Gravesham Borough Council to spend £38,500 over a 3 year period on renovating the Victorian gates and lodges at the Gravesend Cemetery, originally built in 1838.
• Gravesend Historical Society marked its 50th anniversary with aspecial exhibition at Milton Parish Church hall in April.
• 5 inches of snow fell in Higham in April.
• A rural bus service between Meopham and Luddesdown villages began operating once a week.
• Royal Terrace Pier given a £333,000 facelift, the Grade II listed building to be restored as closely as possible to its original condition. (See 1842)
• The proposed A226 industrial link road at Northfleet caused a row and a public enquiry was called for.
• Ferry fares increased on the Gravesend to Tilbury route, a weekly season ticket going up from £2.10 to £2.30 and the cost of transporting a dog, pram or cycle from 15p to 18p.
• MP Margaret Thatcher visited the Blue Circle Cement Works at Northfleet.
• The canal basin was closed at Gravesend for six months whilst additional lock gates were fitted in connection with flood defences.
• A byelaw banning skateboarding on roads and pavements in the Borough of Gravesham was confirmed by the Home Office.
• During a national bread strike the local non-union shops and bakeries coped well.

1979
• Gravesend was “twinned” with Gravesend in New York, USA the official ceremony took place at the Civic Centre, Gravesend. Four works by local artist Tony Blackman were among the gifts taken by the Mayor of Gravesham when he flew to America for the town twinning ceremony which took place there, later in the year.
• The worst snow fall for 15 years hit North Kent early in the year
• A snowman reaching 9 feet 6 inches tall was built by 3 children at Kemsley Close, Northfleet.
• An 18th century canon, owned by Gravesham’s Kent Defence Research Group went on display in the Fort Gardens. Two members of the group built a replica gun carriage on which to place it.
• Singlewell Primary School (destroyed by fire in January 1977) re-opened on its original site.
• Argentinian training ship “Arae Libertad” moored at Gravesend on route to the West Indies Dock, London. The vessel was open to the public to visit for three days.
• A remarkable archaeological find in Gravesend town centre (the proposed site of the St. George’s Centre) of a Roman riverside site has extended the known history of the town by another 1,000 years.
• A major residential development on the site of the former Milton Barracks was approved by Gravesham Borough Council. (See 1862, 1969)
• A grant towards restoring the recently excavated Tudor Blockhouse in Royal Pier Road was given by the Council. (See 1975)
• A new book on the history of the area entitled “The Book of Gravesham” was published by Sidney Harker.
• Chalk village has its own village sign for the first time in its history. The 4 historical figures on the sign represent the “King of Prussia” after a public house that once stood in the village; Aelfega one of the first named settlers in the village in Saxon times; William of Chalk an inhabitant of the village in 1323; and Peg Leg Reader, a village character from the recent past.
• The First Gravesham Music festival took place. 150 competitors in a variety of classes took part in the festival, held at Northfleet School for Boys, Colyer Road. This has become an annual event, which continues today.
• “Gravesend - a model for racial harmony” was the title of a book launched by the Mayor at the Adult Education Centre. The book was produced by the Gravesend and District Community Relations Council.
• A barge fire at Tower Wharf Northfleet occurred when 500 gallons of diesel fuel spread over the deck and is thought to have been ignited by a flash-back from a welding gun.
• £250,000 was spent on renovating Cobham College to improve the accommodation for the residents. The last improvements were in 1956. It was feared the College might have closed if the money had not been raised for the repairs. (See 1362, 1536, 1596, 1956, 1981, 1996)
• A memorial stone was erected over the grave of Richard Austin Freeman in Gravesend cemetery, with the following inscription “Richard Austin Freeman 1862-1943 Physician and Author. Erected by the Friends of Dr. Thorndyke”.

1980
• Gravesend was “Twinned” with the German town of Neumünster.
• The lease of the Gravesend-Tilbury ferry from the Crown Commissioners expired. The freehold passed to Sealink Ltd (a subsidiary of British Rail).
• Istead Rise community hall project began.
• The development of the Kempthorne Street area as a shopping centre is approved at a cost of £10 million. (See 1964)
• One of Gravesend’s oldest established family businesses - Rainbow Stores in Windmill Street, closed at the end of July.
• The 10th Earl of Darnley died at his home in Shorne, aged 64 years.
• In July, Princess Margaret, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones arrived in Gravesend to join the royal yacht “Britannia” moored off the Royal Terrace Pier. They joined the Queen Mother on board who was returning to London from a visit to the Cinque Ports.
• 2nd Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rangers played to the residents of Edward Moore House, a newly opened old people’s home on the site of the old Milton Barracks. (The band were on their way to a dedication service at Milton Church).
• A freak hail storm brought a giant silver birch tree crashing to the ground and blocking Portland Avenue. The storm lasted 20 minutes. The tree brought down several telephone wires and scattered debris for yards.
• Blue Circle Industries, N.W. Kent’s cement giant, announced it would be slashing production at Northfleet by more than a third. 214 people would, out of a workforce of 1,000, be out of work by next February.
• Overcliffe House in The Overcliffe, Gravesend was renovated by Hyde & South Bank Housing Association in a joint project with the National Association for Autistic Children to accommodate eight young autistic adults in a home environment next to the Helen Allison School for Autistic Children.
• Show jumping personality Harvey Smith visited Gravesend as part of the official opening of the Net-Tex equestrian store in Milton Road.

1981
• Population of Gravesham Borough 95,976.
• Fire destroyed part of Rosherville Junior School.
• The BBC TV programme “Songs of Praise” featured Milton Road Methodist Church.
• Camer House, Camer Park went up for sale at £165,000.
• A new 2 way traffic system and roundabout in Bath Street was opened by the Mayor.
• Gravesend School for Girls ravaged by fire, twice within a year.
• The 18th century Higham Hall was sold for £125,000.
• Duke of Gloucester flew in by helicopter to re-open the modernised homes at Cobham College. (See 1979)
• A new Job Centre opened in Berkeley Crescent, replacing the Gravesend Employment Office in the Grove.
• Many street parties and other events were held to celebrate the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. A total of 44 roads were closed to traffic while street parties were held.
• The Victoria Adult Education Centre was struck by lightning.
• Gravesham’s first Summer Art Exhibition, opened by the Mayor, was held at the Fine Arts Gallery in Berkeley Crescent.
• 2,000 motorcyclists made their way through Gravesend on route from Dartford to Gillingham, protesting about the compulsory wearing of crashing helmets.
• Vigo branch library opened in the newly built village hall.
• Blue Circle Industries announced a £20 million cash boost for the Northfleet works.
• Hundreds went on the march through Gravesend to protest about high unemployment (total of 21,504 unemployed in North West Kent).
• Princess Alexandra flew into Northfleet by helicopter to visit Britannia Refined Metals. The company were celebrating their 50th anniversary.
• Lloyds Bank, New Road, Gravesend opened the first automated banking installation in the south-east. Known as “lobby banking”, customers have access to the lobby area of the bank where they then use their cashpoint cards.

1982
• “The Nelson” public house in New Road closed. (The building was converted into a McDonald’s Restaurant and opened in 1983)
• “The Crown and Thistle” public house in the Terrace re-opened after being badly damaged by fire in August 1981.
• “Focus on India” exhibition was held at the Chantry School. The exhibition highlighted the history, culture and arts of India.
• A fire at St. John’s Roman Catholic School, Rochester Road, caused damage estimated at £20,000- £30,000.
• The first ever Gravesham Festival was held, with various events, including exhibitions, displays of dancing, a regatta, concerts and a carnival. The festival ran for 4 weeks during the summer.
• Councillors agreed on the design of a Borough Flag. The design should match the coat of arms with an aquamarine background and would fly permanently outside the Civic Centre along with 3 Union Jacks, the flag of St. George and the County Flag.
• A charity cricket match at Cobham, in aid of the church restoration fund, was led out by the 11th Earl of Darnley and the new Rector of Cobham.
• Members of the Thames & Medway Canal Association saw the culmination of 6 years hard work when the Norfolk Road end of the canal was re-opened.
• Gravesend library in Windmill Street, along with other town centre libraries in Kent, had a computerised issue system installed, ending the era of cardboard tickets.
• Gravesham Museum was refurbished and opened to the public at regular times. (See 1911, 1953, 1970, 1995)
• A Royal Wedding commemorative clock costing £3,600 was installed at the St. George’s Shopping Centre. The clock has an overall diameter of 72 inches and a blue clock face with brass lettering “Charles - Diana July 1981”. (See 1996)
• Gravesend Playbus Association launched its Community Bus. This visited different parts of the borough each day offering play facilities for children and recreation for mothers and older people.
• Olympic swimmer David Wilkie visited the Co-operative store in New Road, Gravesend to promote dental hygiene and swimming. His appearance follows earlier visits by sports personalities Suzanne Dando and Brian Jacks.
• The Post Office at Echo Square was closed after 80 years.
• The first ever visit by a Pakistani Ambassador to the town took place in October.
• The tug “Sun Thames” went into service, based at the Royal Terrace Pier, with the capacity to handle vessels up to 300,000 tonnes and a full fire-fighting capability.
• May Avenue industrial site opened at Northfleet.
• Fire badly damaged “The New Falcon” public house in West Street.