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

milton-church.jpg Milton church, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is approached from the west by a long flagstone pathway with a lych gate and dates back to the 14th century. Earlier than this a church stood in Milton at least from Saxon times. What antiquarians regard as a surviving remnant of an earlier church on this site is to be seen low down at the south west corner where a filled in arch is part of the present structure. However, this cannot confidently be regarded as part of the church existing here in 1086 and noted in Domesday Book.

A wrought iron gate of handsome design, which was cast by Robert L. Priestley Limited of Albion Parade, bearing a replica of Gravesend's first coat of arms circa 1568 can be seen at a point where the churchyard wall is of different construction to that farther westward. The reason for the difference is that until the early 19th century the churchyard terminated here. In 1805 a piece of manorial waste ground was taken into the churchyard and in the following year some more land was added on the north side. Both the lych gate and the iron gate were erected in 1951.

The sundial over what was (from the 16th century until 1819) the south porch of the church has the motto: 'trifle not, your time's but short'. This remarkable sundial deserves close attention for its many interesting features. The rector, the Rev. Hilary Day, restored it in 1972. It was designed by James Giles, master of the Free School in King Street, and bears witness to his scientific knowledge and attainments. The method of telling the time by it is explained in Pocock (p.142) and The Kentish Traveller's Companion, 1779 (p.87). The porch was used as a vestry from 1819 until 1950 and is now a small chapel or shrine fitted out by the Rev. Day.

The tower is probably of a little later date than the body of the church. It contains a peal of eight bells and is topped by a crown and formerly the Prince of Wales's feathers (which were lost in a storm in 1986). When Mr. W.G. Harpum restored this vane in 1954 a strip of metal was found inside that had the words 'G. Thomas 1842' on it and he added his own name and the date. There is a story that, when the work was being done in 1842, Queen Victoria passed in her carriage with the infant Prince of Wales en route for London and, hearing the bells being tolled in her honour, authorised the addition of the Prince of Wales feathers. Five of the bells were hung in 1656, one in 1810 and the other two in 1930. The clock was added in 1875.


The base of the tower acts as a porch and in the left corner is the stairway to the ringing chamber. The doorway ahead leads into the rather narrow interior, there being no side aisles, with a gallery on the north side and a west gallery largely occupied by the organ. This was installed in 1829 as a barrel organ, was rebuilt in 1887 and renovated in 1936. A door on the left, formerly the north door, leads to the vestries, built and furnished in 1950, and also the Parish Centre added in 1992 at a cost of £240,000. The architect was David Croydon and the builders Constant and Durling. The interior of the church is an interesting example of 18th century plastering and ceiling and dates from 1790. Then the old lead roof was removed, the walls were increased by two feet and the present slated roof put on. Thomas Hall of Dartford did the work and the addition to the walls can clearly be traced on the outside.

The east window, the only stained glass in the church, was given in memory of Dr C.J. Pinching in 1852. The two outer panels were blown out by enemy action on Tuesday 2 September 1940.

There is no physical chancel but there is a sedila on the south side under the south east nave window. The corbels of a previous roof still exist with grotesque heads and other carving. The plaque in memory of General Gordon on the south wall of the interior was originally in Trinity Church and when this was pulled down a Mrs. F.M. Garrett of Milton Place rescued it. She presented it to Milton Church in 1985 and it was unveiled by the Mayor, Councillor E Gibson and dedicated by the Rector Rev. Hilary Day on 26 January 1986. On the eastern wall of the church is to be seen the outline of what seems to have been a very large window or, as has been suggested, a former chancel arch. However, the Gravesend Historical Society could find no evidence of this from an excavation in 1976.

National Sea Training College

The National Sea Training College has been located in Gravesend since early in the 20th century.  Originally in 1918, it occupied what was once part of the Commercial Hotel that in 1886 had become a Sailors' Home. Here sailors of all nations could procure lodgings between discharges from one voyage to signing on for another. The old building was demolished and the Sea School itself extended to provide facilities for training of youth for the Merchant Navy. Outside the main gates of the Sea School was the garage of the St. John Ambulance Association. Nearby, up a short flight of steps, was an office occupied in the late 19th century by the Royal Engineers that is now a residential property.

 The Sea School was moved to new premises on Chalk Marshes in 1967 and the original building was demolished in 1975. In 2003, because of a decline in the size of the Merchant Navy and therefore a reduction in student numbers, the premises on Chalk marshes became a Metropolitan Police College. This is used for practical crime fighting scenarios and the like. The Sea School was incorporated into the North West Kent College and is the home for Gravesend Sea Cadets.



John Robert Hall of St. John’s Wood, Middlesex, who owned the ground, opened the Victoria Gardens, named after Princess Victoria, on 12 August 1834. The main drawback to the success of the gardens was their position. Even the opening poster allowed that the gardens were 'about three-quarters of a mile from the town'. Day-trippers arriving by steamer found plenty to do nearer the town, and even for the townspeople it was a long way to walk with children or elderly relatives. Windmill Hill, the Tivoli Gardens, andVictoria Pleasure Gardens publicity poster the Terrace Gardens were all more accessible. During the winter of 1834 Mr. Hall had a large number of 'very expensive trees' planted in the gardens. Unfortunately these are not named but there are several large and unusual trees in the cemetery today, two magnificent copper beeches and a holm oak for example, which may be survivors of Mr. Hall's planting scheme.

In November 1837, due to the gardens being less profitable than hoped, Mr. Hall decided to turn the Victoria Gardens into a cemetery. At the time there was a boom in setting up new cemeteries owned and managed by joint-stock companies. Such a company was set up by Mr. Hall and some London speculators and called the 'Gravesend & Milton Cemetery Company'. During 1838 an architect called Stephen Geary was employed by the company to build an ornamental entrance lodge and catacombs for the new cemetery. His brief was to surround it by a high brick wall and alter the Concert Room into two chapels, one for the Anglicans and one for the Dissenters. Stephen Geary was the architect who designed the famous Highgate Cemetery in 1836-37.

Fortunately, Stephen Geary seems to have left the ground plan of the Victoria Gardens more or less intact. However, circles and curved paths do not fit well with rectangular graves and in his original plans of 1838 which are preserved at the cemetery, it is clear that in places he has straightened original paths or buried across them. It seems that later still more straight paths were laid and in parts of the cemetery the original curve of a path can only be detected by the alignment of the gravestones. He designed a massive range of catacombs designed to take 500 coffins but they were costing too much money so the Board stopped the work. There are some burials in the catacombs but this was officially stopped in 1938 although there had not been burials in there for some time.

The first burial in the cemetery took place in 1839 in a common grave and a piece of London Bridge is supposed to be placed on top of this grave. The original cemetery company was declared bankrupt in 1847 but the cemetery continued in private ownership until 1905 when it was acquired by Gravesend Corporation. The cemetery was extended in 1926 into the small triangular area beyond the catacombs. In 1931 the 'B' section was created and further extensions were done in 1948. Other extensions have been carried out since.

The Lodge, Chapel and Catacombs and the original part of the cemetery are Grade 2 listed and are also included on the English Heritage Register for Parks and Gravesend CemeteryGardens of Historic Interest.

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milton-mount-college.jpg Milton Mount College stood on a high bank near the junction of Parrock Road with Echo Square until its demolition1972. It was founded as an educational institution for the daughters of Congregational ministers, although other pupils were also accepted. The foundation stone was laid in 1871. The architect was C.E. Robins of Southampton (cost £9,750). The college owed its existence to the Rev. William Guest, Minister of Princes Street Congregational Church.

The first Headmistress was Miss Selina Hadland; a pioneer of girls' education associated with Miss Beale and Miss Buss said to be the first school in the country to teach domestic science. It remained as such until the 1914 18 war when, after the first air raid it moved first to Cirencester and then to Crawley, where it continued until after the 1939 45 war. When the school left, the building was used first as a hostel for Vickers' munitions workers and later for a time as a hospital for invalid soldiers. Its use for V.D. cases was the reason for the school refusing to return.

In 1921, it was sold for an orphan school run by Roman Catholic educational authorities and opened by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark in 1926 and continued as part of the Southwark Rescue Society. In 1940, the home was evacuated to Ugbrooke Park, Chudleigh, Devon, the home of Lord and Lady Clifford. It returned to Milton Mount in September 1945 and closed in 1951, after which a number of new homes and buildings were erected on the Parrock Road and Glen View frontages as St. Mary's Homes. During the 1939 45 war it was occupied by the Auxiliary (later National) Fire Service and the Women's Voluntary Service as a canteen. After remaining empty for some time it was demolished in 1972 and the site developed for housing.


St Johns Roman Catholic ChurchThe church on the south side of Milton Road at the corner of Parrock Street has a curious history. In the 1830s, when the population of Gravesend and Milton had become double that of 30 years previous (9,445 against 4,539) and the town was a holiday resort as well as a residential and business district, the two parish churches of Gravesend and Milton were unable to accommodate the Church of England worshippers of that time. After considering an application for a grant under the Church Building Acts of 1815 and 1825, a scheme to build a 'proprietary chapel' by a group of local residents and businessmen was launched at a meeting in the Town Hall, a company being formed having a capital of £5,000 in £50 shares.

 The church was built in 1834, the architect being a Mr. William Jenkins (Junior). The builder was George Cobham, a local man. It cost £7,200, which greatly exceeded the estimate of £3,950, and the shares declined in value, being advertised within a year at a 20 per cent reduction.

The church was put up for auction at the London Auction Mart on 21 July 1842. Although the particulars stated that 'the purchaser was not restrained as to use' and that 'a residence or several houses might be built on the ornamental gardens which surrounded it' no purchaser was found. In 1843 the Rev. W.J. Blew (curate of St. Anne’s, Westminster) bought it for £4,000. Previously it had been offered to the Rochester diocesan authorities but the Archdeacon of Rochester was only prepared to pay £3,500.

The Rev. Blew ministered here until 1851, the year of the so called 'Papal Aggression' (when the Roman Catholic Church established their hierarchy in this country) when he and other High Church members of the Church of England wrote to Cardinal Wiseman regretting the way he had been received in England. This led to a complaint to the Bishop of Rochester who inhibited the Rev. Blew from performing service for six months.

In July 1851, Rev Blew sold the church to Cardinal Wiseman for £4,000, the Raphael family of Parrock Manor contributing a large part of the purchase price, and the chapel became a Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholics had formerly, from 1849, worshipped in a 'small brick edifice' in Milton Road near the site of Peacock Street, under the Rev. Riort. Roman Catholicism was introduced into Gravesend by a Polish Franciscan priest, Fr. Gregory Stazievitch, who with a handful of men of his persuasion met in 1842 in a room situated in a court on The Terrace (later at 149 Windmill Street) before building the small chapel in Milton Road dedicated to St. Gregory. The Church of England church was dedicated (although not officially) to 'St. John the Baptist' but the Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to 'St. John the Evangelist'.

A new steeple with saddleback roof was added to the church in 1873 by Goldie and Child, and, in 1840, adjoining premises were secured as a convent and school run by the Sisters of Mercy. In 1955, the convent was removed to more extensive premises at Hillside in Old Road East. Alongside the church an organisation called the Mechanics Institute had its library and lecture room in the early 19th century but this failed for lack of support.