A Virtual Museum - Your Town, the Borough and its History
st-johns-church-1999.jpg
st-johns-church-1999.jpg

1999
• Gravesend recorded highest temperature in the country once again with 610f (16.10c) in January. The warmest January day on record.
• 40 horses stampeded through the streets of Denton when fencing was pulled down at the rear of the North West Kent College and the horses were set free. They were eventually rounded up and taken back to safety.
• MV “Phillip Pirrip” was launched in February at the Clifton Slipway, part of the White Horse Ferry fleet that would carry visitors to the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. (See 2000)
• Bluewater Shopping Centre near Dartford opened on 16th March. (See 1996)
• A study revealed that Tuberculosis is more than twice as prevalent in Gravesham than the rest of West Kent, due to the high population of Asian residents in the Borough.
• Gravesend was the hottest place in Britain in March - with the highest temperature for the first day of British Summer Time at 16.70c (620f)
• Refurbishment of the indoor market at a cost of £140,000 included new public toilets, with wheelchair access and a new café area. The market building was erected in 1898.
• A new Racial Equality Centre opened in Wrotham Road.
• The Mayoral chains of office (stolen in 1998) were restored. Local jeweller Ben Battershill remade the insignia and Mayor Brooks wore them for his last engagement in office.
• A new watermans skiff was launched from Gravesend Promenade in memory of a man who lost his life in a boating accident. The boat in traditional oak took 3 years to finish and was blessed at the launch by the Mayor’s chaplain.
• MV “Abel Magwich” was launched at Clifton Marine Parade, designed to serve the new London passenger ferry service.
• Strange lights seen in the night sky over Gravesend in May were described by the Meteorological office as “irridescence”. Named after the goddess of the Rainbow, Iris, it is the night equivalent of a rainbow, caused by moonlight shining through ice crystals.
• Hailstones the size of golf balls smashed through a perspex roof on the Northfleet Industrial Estate causing thousands of pounds of damage in a freak storm.
• Baldwin’s Store, Perry Street, Northfleet was re-opened in July. (See1998)
• A dragon sculpture in Shorne Wood Country Park was made from a Sweet Chestnut tree blown down during the 1987 hurricane.
• The new medical centre built just off High Street, was officially named as the Gravesend Medical Centre and as part of the ceremony a time capsule was planted in a wall cavity. (See 2000)
• Flash flooding in July - 34 emergency calls in the area and fire crews were stretched to the limit.
• The Punjab Sports Minister, Nusrat Khan was a special guest of honour at the Multi-cultural Education and Youth association and met prominent sportsmen of Gravesend and hoped to encourage links between the Punjab and Gravesend.
• On 18 July Gravesend reached 810f (27.50c) and was the hottest place in the country. Hotter even than some continental resorts including Malaga, Barcelona or Venice. The Daily Telegraph heading recorded “Sizzling Gravesend is hotter than Ibiza”. On several other days through the summer Gravesend also recorded the highest temperatures.
• The total eclipse on 11th August was observed at Gravesend.
• A new milepost at Higham, donated by the Royal Bank of Scotland, helped point the way along the National Cycle Network. A 4km stretch from the Thames & Medway Canal via Gravesend to Higham was completed by the Groundwork organisation and Sustrans.
• Gravesend Bhangra group “Four x Four” released their debut recording, an album entitled “Here & Now” which went to the top of the Asian charts.
• The ancient church at Dode saw only the second marriage service to be held there since 1349. It is now licensed for civil marriages to take place. (See 1905, 1947, 1954, 1991,1992)
• The proposed new hospital at Darenth fuelled fears for the future of the Gravesend Hospital and a campaign began to save it as a community hospital for the area. (See 2000)
• The Co-op funeral service held an open day at its premises in Milton Road and dedicated a new chapel of rest.
• The Studio Arts Centre at Holy Trinity School was officially opened. It cost £20,000 and years of hard work and fund raising. It was designed as a multi-cultural centre for the whole community and a base for the Jugnu Bhangra dance group.
• Gravesham Borough Council unveiled a Book of Remembrance, located in the foyer of the CivicCentre, on Armistice Day (11th November).
• The Bronte School moved from Parrock Road to Pelham Road after purchasing “Mayfield” from the Girls Grammar School. New buildings at the girls school meant “Mayfield” was surplus to requirements. (See 1915)
• “The White Hart” public house, Rochester Road, Chalk was demolished and a new “ Harvester” restaurant built on the site which opened in June 2000. (See 1937)
• An Albanian refugee was fatally stabbed when violence broke out between a group of refugees at Gravesend Railway Station.

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clock-tower-colonnades-1999.jpg

2000
• Northcourt Primary School was earmarked for closure. Later the school was taken out of special measures, following a report on the schools improvement. A victory was achieved by the Denton community when the decision was finally made to keep the school open.
• Plans for a £220,000 public transport interchange at Garrick Street were unveiled, but came in for much criticism, particularly from local taxi drivers. Work began in May and the interchange was officially opened in September, linking bus, taxi and train services, in one location.
• Kent County Council lodged an appeal against the closure of Gravesend Magistrates Court. Delegates from various groups opposed to the closure put their views to Jane Kennedy MP. Gravesham’s MP led a delegation to the Lord Chancellors department. The decision was deferred for some months. Finally the closure of the court was announced by the Lord Chancellors department, its final working day was June 9th. (See 1969)
• A three year campaign to secure a full-time licence for River Radio which first broadcast in1997, was under review. Lack of FM space denied the radio station air-time.
• Towncentric (Tourist Information and Town Centre Initiative) officially opened by the Mayor. The Tourist Office was relocated from Parrock Street near to St.George’s Church.
• The Gravesend Medical Centre, situated in Swan Yard, off the High Street was opened by Junior Health Minister, Gisela Stuart MP.
• A blaze ripped through 9 trailer units at Northfleet Industrial Estate causing damage valued at £150,000. Fire crews spent 6 hours fighting the blaze.
• A £17.5 million scheme to modernise sewage treatment in Gravesend was completed and greatly improved the water quality in the River Thames.
• Proposals to develop the car park site at Parrock Street and the multi-storey site at Lord Street, totalling 7 acres, were on view for public consultation. If approved the work will begin in 2001. The area was first cleared in 1967 with the demolition of housing in Peppercroft, North and South Streets and Eden Place.
• The Sikh community raised more than £500,000 towards a new multi-million £ temple. An outline application submitted to the council will replace the existing temple in Clarence Place, which is no longer big enough for the community. Later in the year the Secretary of State for the Environment gave approval for the building, which will be sited at Milton Barracks. (See 1997)
• Gravesham Borough Council purchased the Town Pier at a cost of £70,000 with the intention of renovating the structure and providing new shops, a covered promenade and a restaurant. The renovation was delayed when asbestos was found, but it is planned to recommence work in 2001, and to be completed by 2003. (See 1998)
• The Roman Catholic Church Our Lady of the Assumption on the Hill, Northfleet, was closed after a survey found it structurally unsafe. The church will remain closed until the money can be raised to renovate the building. (See 1915)
• A water feature was erected in the courtyard of Higham library, with money donated by retired Higham GP Dr. Colin Smith.
• A plan was approved to convert the Gravesend & North Kent Hospital, Bath Street into a Community Hospital with 80 beds. The new privately financed, purpose built facility, should be completed by 2003. A petition to speed up the opening of the facility, organised the previous year, was reopened and a total of 10,000 signatures collected. The Community Hospital would relieve the pressure on the new Darent Valley Hospital, officially opened on 14th December. (See 1988)
• A replica 18th Century Frigate “The Grand Turk” was welcomed in the river off Gravesend. A mock gun battle was staged between the ship, New Tavern Fort and Tilbury Fort. The vessel was featured in the TV series “Hornblower”. Thousands of spectators lined the promenade to see the spectacle.
• A children’s street party was held in Gravesend to celebrate the Queen Mothers 100th birthday in August.
• A Campaign to prevent Chalk marshes being developed for housing and preserve the natural habitat was stepped up. Torrential rain in the autumn months flooded the area, proving the land unsuitable for housing development.
• Sainsbury’s superstore at Pepper Hill, opened in 1992, was re-developed with new departments being added, including a delicatessen, children’s clothing and a bank. It was reopened on 3rd November.
• The “Ship and Lobster” public house came under threat of closure when owners Port of London Authority, put Denton Wharf up for sale. The Gravesend Reporter joined Gravesham Council in a bid to keep the pub open. A petition was drawn up and 1,000 signatures collected. The owners were persuaded to appoint new licensees, and a new landlady took over in December.
• White Horse Ferries tourist shuttle service to Greenwich ceased to operate after the predicted crowds visiting the Dome failed to materialize. The company faced debts and job losses. (See 1999)
• 82 year old Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji of The Grove, Gravesend, was honoured by Kent County Council with the presentation of a County Crest plaque. He was one of only two Sikh pilots who took part in the Battle Of Britain in 1940.
• The Elizabeth Huggins Charity Cottages, Wrotham Road, were upgraded with double glazed doors and windows. Gravesham Borough Council contributed £39,000 towards the scheme. (See 1922)
• The ABC Cinema in King Street was sold to an Asian businessman and closed on 26th November. It was refurbished and reopened on 1st December, but under the terms of the sale could no longer show English language films, only Asian films. A campaign against this decision was begun by the Gravesend Reporter and a petition was sent to the Culture Secretary. (See 1931, 1963, 1972)
• London Road branch library, first opened in 1940, was closed on 9th December and re-located at the Hive Shopping Precinct in Northfleet. The new facility provides the community with access to computers and Adult Education courses, as well as books for adults and children.