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

1991
• Population of Gravesham Borough 90,606.
• Excavations at the Roman settlement at Springhead (Vagniacae) were carried out before the construction of Millbrook Garden centre took place. The excavations lasted until 1994 and revealed the existence of a road from Vagniacae to a temple, a small cemetery, a building and a corn drying oven.
• White Horse Ferries Ltd. acquired Gravesend-Tilbury ferry service. Passenger numbers had declined to 250,000 a year. Fares were £1.40p single, £2.40p return.
• Former “Reporter” newspaper cartoonist Mickey Durling died. He was noted for his sketches of local sports personalities.
• A £50,000 improvement scheme to the shopping area in Livingstone Road took place.
• British Rails indecision over the route of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link caused further uncertainty for local residents. The decision was postponed until June, then until the autumn. 1,500 angry residents protested against the rail link at a public meeting. The delay caused a blight on many homes and a petition was handed to the MP for Gravesham, Jacques Arnold.
• The Gravesend Reporter newspaper ran an appeal to “adopt a squaddie” in the Gulf where British troops were engaged in a war against Iraq.
• Heavy snowfalls in February preceded severe weather warnings as temperatures plummeted. There was panic buying in the local shops and other stores closed as staff were unable to get to work. 82 out of the 120 schools in the area were also closed. There were record sales of boots and wellingtons as nine inches of snow fell and temperatures fell to -80.
• The ban on traffic entering New Road and King Street was extended for at least 6 months.
• The old disused railway bridge at Pepperhill on the A2 was demolished to make way for road widening.
• A bus driver had a miraculous escape when he skidded on icy roads and partly demolished a listed building in The Terrace. The impact shifted the “Crown and Thistle” public house next door an inch.
• The Duke of Kent officially opened the refurbished Custom House.
• There was fierce opposition to plans to build a by-pass through land near Gad’s Hill, Higham and Wainscott to relieve traffic congestion in the Medway towns. (See 1992)
• The number of jobless rose to 3,338 making the Borough one of the South East’s unemployment blackspots and the fifth highest figure in the county. Later this figure rose to 4,100.
• Three prosecution cases were brought against DIY stores in Gravesend for trading on Sunday. Later in the year further stores in the town opened on Sunday for trading.
• More varied menus were introduced at Gravesend Hospital, to cater for ethnic minorities. Dishes such as curry and vegetarian meals were on the menu, which was also produced in Urdu and Punjabi.
• A Mosaic mural depicting the ancient Coat of Arms of Gravesend was placed on the rear wall of the Town Hall opposite the entrance to the market. The Arms, granted in 1562, show a unique heraldic creature, which has a porcupines head and a fish’s tail. This creature was incorporated into the new Coat of Arms for the Borough of Gravesham, granted in 1975.
• Gravesend Railway Station was refurbished.
• Plans to build a massive shopping and leisure complex at Bluewater, between Gravesend and Dartford, fuelled fears of the effect on town centre trading.
• A racist attack occurred on a family on the Riverview Park estate. The family had to leave the house while it was repaired.
• Fire at Denton library - the building was closed for repair for several weeks. (See 1993)
• Nuclear Electric laboratories in Canal Road, Gravesend were closed and staff made redundant.
• The controversial sculpture of the Queen on the Clock Tower was quietly replaced without ceremony. (See 1988)
• Gravesend vicars voted in favour of ordaining women priests - the decision was made by the Rochester Diocesan synod.
• A £200,000 project to refurbish the waterfront at Gravesend with a new car park and landscaped area in Bank Street was undertaken.
• A tombstone once erected by Charles Dickens to his dog “Bouncer” was brought back to Gad’s Hill.
• The first school in Gravesend to opt out of County Council control was St. George’s C of E Secondary School, Meadow Road.
• Gang land member Tony Lambrianou claimed in the “News of the World” that Jack “The Hat” McVitie was buried in Gravesend cemetery. McVitie was a victim of the notorious Kray gang.
• Historic ship “HMS Wellington” stopped off at Gravesend on route to Sheerness to be refitted. The vessel served in the Atlantic convoys during World War II.
• Jugnu Bhangra Dancers (formed 1972), from the Gravesend Punjabi community were seen on television as part of a special feature on Bhangra dance. Later in the year they celebrated their 21st anniversary at Woodville Halls, with musicians and dancers from all over the country. The group won a number of trophies and performed in festivals all over the world.
• Historic Dode Church, Luddesdowne, was sold by the Catholic church and bought by Richard Luck of Great Buckland Farm who applied to convert the building into a three bedroom house. (See 1905, 1947, 1954, 1992, 1999)
• The body of a youth was found on Denton marshes - it was believed to have lain there for 3 weeks. The post mortem revealed he had died from inhaling lighter fuel.
• A new £3 million hotel the “Manor Hotel” was opened in Singlewell in September.
• Death of Gurchan Singh Wasu who had become the first Sikh magistrate. (See 1972)
• 300 foot oil rig “Penrod 85” was moored at Northfleet Power Station jetty for essential repair work to be carried out - it was used for drilling in the English Channel.
• The high speed rail route was finally announced by the government. It was to be the eastern route into Stratford and King’s Cross, running parallel to the A2. The campaign to ensure the environmental safeguards was stepped up.
• An oil slick hit Gravesend when 1,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in the Thames estuary. The slick was 1 mile long and 60 yards wide.
• Former “Reporter” journalist Inayatullah Zaighum was appointed the new speaker of the newly formed Muslim Parliament of Great Britain - a body designed to help the Muslim community.
• The hosepipe ban was finally lifted after 18 months.
• One of the boroughs oldest houses, a Grade II listed building, Parrock Hall (Formerly Milton Manor House) in Joy Road was said to be in a dilapidated state and there were calls for it to be preserved. (See 1761)
• Two people were jailed for failing to pay their Poll Tax. They were the first in the borough to go to jail. There was uproar in the court when they were sentenced and 3,500 signatures were collected in protest.
• Wombwell Hall Nursing Home opened on land once belonging to the Colyer-Fergusson family and adjacent to the Hall, which was built in 1860. The Hall itself was put up for sale with the possibility that it would be turned into flats for the elderly. (See 1994)
• Lions Hospice, Coldharbour Road completed. The first patients moving in the following year.

1992
• M.V. “Edith” taken out of service on the Gravesend-Tilbury ferry and replaced by a catamaran named “Great Expectations”, seating 40 passengers with provision for the disabled and the carriage of bicycles and motorcycles.
• “The Albion” public house, High Street, severely damaged by fire. Re-opened in 1994 as the “Buffalo’s Head Ale House”.
• “The General Gordon” public house, Cedar Avenue, burned down. The building was unsafe and had to be demolished and the site re-developed for housing. (See 1932)
• National Power applied for planning permission to build a waste burner in Northfleet, which would burn 650,000 tons of rubbish a year at a site on Crete Hall Road. Northfleet residents campaigned against it and 7,000 people signed a petition. Kent County Council asked for an independent report before proceeding. National Power withdrew their application the following year.
• The Wainscott By-pass gained approval from the KCC Planning committee, and the following year an inquiry was set up.
• Collection of the Poll Tax ground to a halt as magistrates adjourned the 1,349 cases of non-payment after it was ruled that computer print-outs were not sufficient proof that payment had not been made. There was a delay while the Lord Chancellor’s decision was awaited.
• Plans by White Horse Ferries to turn the Town Pier into a major leisure complex were approved by the Borough Council. Ferry passenger numbers rose to 254,070 and a commuter long ferry service was proposed.
• The refurbishment of Higham Primary School, built in 1848, took place. The old school bell was restored and later three new classrooms were provided.
• Gordon Promenade was renovated with new pathways, seats and railings, litter bins, lighting and flower beds for the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Fort Gardens. (See 1932)
• The tower and spire of St. George’s Church were repaired at a cost of £78,000.
• Waterman, Alec Argent, was awarded the Royal Humane Society award for rescuing a drowning boy - which occurred during the Shrimpers Regatta. He dived into the Thames and fought against strong currents to bring the boy back to the shore. The ceremony was held at Watermans Hall in London .
• The church at Dode remained a place of worship. A private buyer did not wish to see it converted into a house. A blessing service was held at the church. (See 1905, 1947, 1954, 1991, 1999)
• A new tug boat joined the Sun fleet - “Sun Surrey” entered service for the Alexandra Towing Co. and sister vessel “Sun Sussex” came into service later in the year.
• In April the hosepipe ban was re-introduced to the area.
• A £1 million appeal was begun to restore Gad’s Hill Place, former home of author Charles Dickens. It was launched by Cedric Dickens, Great Grandson of Charles, to coincide with the circulation of the new £10 note, featuring Charles Dickens.
• The library in Windmill Street was closed for a month for refurbishment. New shelving, a new layout, enquiry desk and counter were installed.
• The “House of Mercy” in Edwin Street was opened by the Catholic community, to provide shelter for the homeless.
• A statue of General Gordon was returned to its rightful home after years of campaigning by local historians. The statue was given to the Gordon School, Ordnance Road, in 1972 and subsequently removed when the school moved in 1975. The statue was put back on display at the school, now named Chantry Primary School. (See 1996)
• Claudette Bramble was sworn in as Gravesend’s first West Indian Magistrate.
• Restoration of the window in St. Botolph’s Church, Northfleet. The window commemorates 150 years of education at St.Botolph’s Church School - children and parishioners raised £30,000.
• A World War II anti-aircraft gun was returned to Gravesend Fort and installed after restoration work took place. It had been removed in 1942 and sent to Southend.
• Sainsbury’s superstore at Pepperhill, Northfleet opened in July, despite fears that it would affect trade in the town centre. (See 2000)
• Gravesham’s last official “street sweeper” retired. The Borough Council was to refer to such employees as general operatives from now on.
• The ferry passenger service was suspended after a dispute over the rights to bring passengers from Essex to Kent. The Crown Estates Commissioners who owned the ancient rights to the service, claimed White Horse Ferries were in breach of the license. After negotiations took place the ferry service was restored. The Crown Commissioners offered a 150 year lease on the rights. Passengers appealed to the Queen and the Commissioners finally agreed to White Horse Ferries operating the route for a peppercorn rent.
• Residents in Mountbatten Avenue, Higham held a street party to celebrate the completion of a £1 million re-development of the council houses they lived in. The old houses were demolished and new ones built on their place - a project which took 2 years to complete.
• A new company called Union Railways - a subsiduary of British Rail - was formed to steer through the high speed rail link project.
• Pinnocks Charity - the foundation stone was laid for a £1 million redevelopment of the St. Thomas’s Almshouses at the junction of Old Road West and Wrotham Road. This redevelopment continued into the 21st century. (See 1624, 1730, 1838, 1897, 1937, 1951, 1960)
• Land at Ordnance Road, where the outdoor swimming pool once stood was earmarked for housing, but residents voiced their preference for the land to have a recreational use. (See 1938, 1989)
• A new Job Centre opened in New Road.
• An extension to Holy Trinity Primary School, Trinity Road, was completed allowing all the pupils to be together once more. The original school had been destroyed by fire in 1962. In 1977 a new building was completed but it could not accommodate all the pupils. The infants remained in temporary buildings to the north of Milton Barracks, off Milton Road.
• The Lord Mayor of London came to Gravesend to officially open the new riverside headquarters for the Port of London Authority. He travelled down river to be greeted by the Mayor of Gravesham.
• Three people from the Emmanuel Baptist Church chose to be baptised in the River Thames. The service was conducted by the minister and attended by 100 people, just off the Promenade.
• A children’s book entitled “A Portrait in Time” written by Priscilla Gurney, a teacher at Cobham Hall School, was published. The story was set in the historic Cobham Hall, about 350 years ago.
• A new church hall at SS Peter and Paul, Milton was opened in November. Parishioners helped to raise £240,000 needed to build it.
• A skeleton was discovered whilst a trench was being dug outside McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of New Road and Windmill Street. The skull and bones were analysed and pronounced to be over 100 years old.
• The Asian women’s group published an Asian cookbook called “Saheli Kitchen” with recipes in English and Asian languages. The book had its official launch at Gravesend Library in Windmill Street.
• The Sikh Temple, Clarence Place, had an “open day” to celebrate the birthday of the founder of Sikhism. Pupils and pensioners alike visited the temple.
• The poet, Tom Gunn, born in Gravesend in 1929 and living in the USA, won the “Forward Poetry Prize”.