Posted by: madkentdragon | April 21, 2011

A Holy Spring and a Modern Tragedy. Quirky Kent 15


This is Burham we’ve followed the lee of the North Downs from Trottiscliffe on the Pilgrims Way to the little village of Burham. There have been Roman artefacts found here, but it came in to being really during Saxon times and the name definitely dates from now, the ham means settlement and the Bur is an abbreviation of Burgh and in this context refers to the city of Rochester, so it was a settlement near Rochester. The village was one of those who had to pay to maintain the fourth pier of Rochester Bridge.

Before the Norman Conquest, the village was owned by the Earl Leofwine, who was the brother of Harold – he lost his life at the Battle of Hastings alongside Harold. So of course, as with all villages round Kent, it was placed into the hands of Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux who leased it out. I can’t find out if he lost this one at the court of Penenden Heath, but it did end up in the Bishop of Rochester’s holding. It eventually ended up belonging to Heneage, Earl of Aylesford.

There are archaeological works in the Margetts Pitt at the present time, the Pit along with Peter’s Pit on the outskirts of Aylesford were gravel quarries, in use before medieval times to the present day. There is a proposal to land-fill them with mill waste and use the ground to build a new “village” on it; the proposed name is Peter’s Village. These pits were originally owned by the friars at Aylesford.

The “digs” are providing evidence of shale working in the Neolithic period and the making of bronze artefacts, bracelets have been found from the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.  It seems the area was in use in Roman times right the way through to the middle ages and beyond.

An old disused church near the Medway has not been used for centuries and unfortunately the newer church built in the 13th Century in the heart of the village had structural problems and was demolished in the 1980s, the village now shares a church with the neighbouring village of
Wouldham. The original church was part of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, not to be confused with the Knights Templar, but was seized from them by pope Boniface VIII who installed a priest there.

During the 19th Century a cement works was set up not far from here in Halling and the village became a dormitory for the workers, however the main works closed in 2000 and the cement dust has finally lifted.

Two other points of interest: Halygarden Manor, no longer in existence, took its name from the spring and shrine there, otherwise called Holy Well, St Stephen’s Chapel or Pilgrims Spring, the chapel has long gone but in 1925 was described as a “spring pool surrounded by sarsens”. The ancient manor had five springs feeding the moat that enclosed it and it was believed to be a pagan site which Christianity adopted. Many of the stones have been removed (handy building material), but enough remain to give you a sense of what this once was. There are still traces of the original manor and moat, although it is much overgrown.

The other is a memorial to a tragic accident, In July, 1998, the Kent Air Ambulance helicopter, returning from an aborted emergency call back to Rochester Airport where it was then based crashed in woodland near Burham, after hitting power lines. All three crew — the pilot and two paramedics — were killed. A memorial now stands on that spot to Paramedics Tony Richardson and Mark Darby and the Pilot, Captain Graham Budden. When the accident happened, the helicopter burst into flames on impact, killing all three men.

One of these days I’ll have to find out about all the maintenance payments for Rochester Bridge!

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