Posted by: madkentdragon | April 23, 2011

Eccles, Wouldham & The Purser from the Victory. Quirky Kent 16

Welcome to Eccles, it’s not even a parish in its own right, but part of Aylesford, however it is definitely worth a mention. There’s the remains of Roman villa and estate here and a Roman Temple was found nearby on the route from Maidstone to Rochester. The name of the village or hamlet “Eccles” comes from the Latin “Ecclesia” meaning church, which is quite ironic because there is no church here now. Iron Age remains have been found and six Christian burials in a cemetery dating from the Saxon times, all had indications of battle injuries and date from about the time of the Saxon invasion (Hengist & Horsa).

The manor was owned by Ethelbert in 751, it was given to the Church of St Andrew, Rochester (latterly the Cathedral, however it was taken back and owned by the crown until the manor was sold to Aelsstan Heahstanine who left it to his son, Aelfege who on his death left Eccles and Wouldham to the Cathedral in Rochester, in 970. Other properties went to Canterbury and a third of all his possessions went to his widow. The manor of Eccles contributed to the fourth pier of the Rochester Bridge.

The Manor was, as is usual in these parts, held by Odo until he lost it, it was then leased out by the crown and eventually John Sedley of Aylesford purchased part of it, the rest being split and sold separately. The actual site of the manor house was lost to public knowledge by the 18th Century. However the village remained a small farming community until the cement industry was started here in the 19th Century, and like many other villages round here it grew quite quickly and in 1880 a daughter church (St Marks) was built here, thanks to public donations and a large donation from the Brassey family; the curate of Aylesford took on the responsibility. However it was quite short lived, as in the mid 19th century it was no longer being used and the 90 year old building was demolished. The parishioners now either attend the Methodist Chapel or travel the one and a half miles to Aylesford.

Now on to Wouldham, a village on the banks of the Medway, next stop would be Rochester and that Bridge! But there is another bridge here, the M2 motorway crosses the Medway here and it dominates the skyline.

Wouldham, like Eccles has Roman and Iron Age finds here and there was supposed to have been another temple here by the banks of the Medway, but as the details have been lost, and it was excavated some two hundred years ago, it is now believed to have been a Roman cellar to a store house!

The ownership of this parish followed the same path as Eccles, but Gundulph gave it to the monastery in Rochester and they benefitted from the income until the reformation. However the Church at Wouldham was reclaimed from the monks in 1185 by Bishop Gilbert de Glanvill. The monks were granted all the warrens (rabbits) by Edward I, no one was allowed to hunt or take anything from the warrens without the monks’ licence – the fine was £10.

After the reformation, Henry VIII gave the village to the newly formed Dean & Chapter of Rochester Cathedral. Over the years, various small “parcels of land” were granted as favours to various noblemen. Lord Romney (Charles Marsham) owned one of these small manors in the 18th
Century, his main seat at the time was Mote Park and he was the MP for Kent and Maidstone.

On Wouldham Marshes there is an old medieval house named Starkeys which has suffered several ups and downs during its long life; named
after Sir Humphrey Starkey who had it built in the 14th Century, the house has recently been bought and is now fully repaired and restored to the original “Starkey Castle”.

In the churchyard of All Saints, originally a Saxon Church, now enlarged is the grave of Walter Burke, the purser of the Victory and the oldest British Sailor at the Battle of Trafalgar. His gravestone reads:

“Sacred to the Memory of Walter Burke, Esq., of this Parish, who
died on the 12th September 1815 in the 70th year of his age. He was Purser on His Majesty’s
Ship Victory in the glorious Battle of Trafalgar, and in his arms the immortal Nelson died.”

He settled in Wouldham after that battle and bought two houses, Purser Place and Burke House, but in 1937, these houses were moved to
Mayfield in Sussex. There was enough material left behind to build a new Pursers Place and the house remains in the village.

A ferry crossed the Medway to Halling until 1963; it had been running since medieval times and possibly since the Romans. It is known
that the Romans forded the river here, but as it is wider here than Aylesford it is thought that a ferry would probably have been established.

Cement works near here expanded the village and a tramway ran from the cement works to the ferry, but was shut down when it was found to
be more economical to build the works near the railway when it was built; the line passed through Halling on the other side of the Medway.

Whilst the tramway was running, it was said that every house on the route sold home brewed ale from their front rooms, to dampen the dust
from the works; it was quite a profitable enterprise! The road it used is stillcalled the tramway by the locals.

A tunnel ran from the chalk pit to what is now the recreation ground, to allow the chalk to move to the barges more easily, it was used as an air raid shelter during WWII, the entrances were closed soon after the end of the war.

Now I’m going to try and find out about Rochester Bridge!



  1. That is fab. Very remiss of Odo to lose the Manor!

  2. True! Odo was very ambitious and, in an attempt to “buy” into being the next Pope, he grabbed all the manors he could and sent all the revenues to Rome! When Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury realised this he complained to the king who set up a court on Penenden Heath and the judges stripped him of all his possessions in England & he went back to Bayeux with his tail between his legs! It was the first ever civil court – have written about it.

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