Higham Parish Council

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Towards the River Thames from Hermitage Road, Spring 2004

The Parish of Higham nestles between the River Thames and the North Downs midway between Gravesend and the Medway towns. Higham (from the Old English, meaning 'high village') is part of Gravesham Borough within the County of Kent.

The 2011 Census recorded Higham's population as 3,938 and covered an area of 1,322.32 Hectares. The total electorate for Higham ward is 3,174. (July 2012).

Aerial view of Higham Upshire.  Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey .    Aerial view of Lower Higham.  Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey .  Aerial view of St Marys, Higham.  Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey .    Aerial views of Higham parish.

Images produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey.

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Parish of Higham - An extract from the Gravesham Borough Council Local Plan.

Higham Parish extends south-east from the River Thames across the Higham Marshes and then climbs some 250 feet to the A2 trunk road, which marks Higham's southern boundary. Close to this boundary is the head of an attractive dry valley, which runs north-east through the southern end of the Parish.

The Parish consists mainly of agricultural farmland but set within its countryside are the villages of Higham Upshire, Lower Higham and Three Crutches, the small hamlet of Church Street and Higham's several remaining great houses.

Higham Upshire. The village, lying to the east of Gravesend, is located on relatively high ground to the west of Telegraph Hill. The village, which has historic connections with Charles Dickens, lies on the north side of the Gravesend/Rochester Road (A226), enjoys a range of facilities and has attracted much residential growth in the past. The A289 Medway Towns Northern Relief Road junction is situated just to the east of the village. This has had a major impact on the character of the dry valley to the south and east of the village.


photograph of the A226 road looking east by Gads Hill School (l) and the Falstaff public house (r)photograph of Telegraph Hill by the Falstaff public house just off the A226

A226 road looking east by Gads Hill School (l) and the Falstaff public house (r)  Telegraph Hill by the Falstaff public house just off the A226

To safeguard its rural environs and the piecemeal growth of estate development, the planning intention is to contain further development within its built confines, to the north of the Gravesend/Rochester Road. As opportunities arise, further infilling may be anticipated. The generous plots, landscaping and outlook to and from Telegraph Hill are important features to protect.

Lower Higham. The village occupies the lower terrain to the north of Higham Upshire and straddles the North Kent railway line and the adjoining disused Thames and Medway Canal. It is a settlement with few facilities and a piecemeal development pattern. The availability of rail travel from this location has attracted residential growth.

photograph of the Obelisk on the Thames and Medway Canal at Higham

Further extension of this settlement is not envisaged, in order to prevent the further spread of residential development into its open agricultural surroundings and to avoid conflict with Green Belt policy. Any new development is expected to be relatively minor.

Higham is a rural community

Three Crutches. The settlement is a small residential outlier on the north side of the A2 Trunk Road and it is situated in close proximity to the Medway Towns Northern Relief Road and the A2/M2 junction. Its northern surroundings up to the line of the Relief Road are essentially agricultural. Any further development is expected to be relatively minor and no more than infilling within its built confines. (End of Extract)

Photograph of St John's Church, Upper Higham, Spring 2004  Photograph of St John's Church, Upper Higham, Spring 2004

Views of St John's Church, Upper Higham, Spring 2004

Some Key Dates in Higham History

597 -- St Augustine lands in kent on a mission of concversion from Pope Gregory.

604 -- Foundation of Rochester Cathedral.

774 -- 'Heh ham' mentioned in Charter of Offa, King of Mercia.

1066 -- Norman Conquest.

1086 -- Domesday Book: Higham listed with church (St Mary's).

1148 -- King Stephen grants manor of Lillechurch to his daughter Mary for a nunnery.

c.1205 -- Lillechurch Priory buys the manor of Hugham.  The nuns move to a new site near St Mary's Church a few years later.

1357 -- A Papal Indulgence allows the nuns to raise money for repairs to St Mary's Church.

1522 -- The Priory is dissolved.

1710 -- St Mary's Church spire is erected.

1805-24 -- Thames and Medway Canal is built through Higham.

1846 -- Canal bought by South Eastern Railway Company.

1859 -- Charles Dickens purchases Gad's Hill Place.

1862 -- The building of St John's church in Hermitage Road, upper Higham reflects shift in village centre of population.

1987 -- St Mary's Church placed in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.


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St Mary's Church, Lower Higham is remote from the village, in orchards on the edge of marshes running to the Thames. It is a church of much charm and eccentricity, with its striped walls of ragstone and knapped flint and a near-symmetrical arrangement of two naves and two chancels, surmounted by a western shingled spirelet. Originally Norman, it was remodelled and enlarged in the 14th century, perhaps when a priory of Benedictine nuns was established nearby. There is some memorable woodwork including a 15th century chancel screen in its original position, a 14th century pulpit and a particularly fine south door by the same hand, treated like a four-light window with much delicate carving and some original ironwork. A restoration of 1863 provided most of the furnishings and the glass in the chancel windows. St Mary's is now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust (was the Redundant Churches Fund). For more information, see The Friend's of St Mary's Church web site.  Gravesham Borough Council have produced a short video about the historic and special St Mary's Church, Lower Higham. View it here.

Gads Hill Place. The Grade One listed Georgian property in Higham, near Rochester is where Dickens penned classic novels such as ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.  The house was built in 1780 and purchased by Charles Dickens for £1790 in 1856. It is thought by many to be the home owned by Mrs. Haversham in 'Great Expectations' and also described in 'A Christmas Carol'. The Chalet given to Dickens in 1860 and was where he did most of his writing. It was situated on the opposite side of the Gravesend Road. This Swiss-style structure has been transferred to the 'Dickens Centre' in Rochester High Street. The tunnel built by Dickens under the Gravesend Road, giving safe access to both the Chalet and the 'Falstaff' public house still remains. Since 1924 Gads Hill Place has been a private school.  September 2013 saw the opening of new school buildings schools in the grounds of the old house, increasing public access to the historic Gad’s Hill Place. For more details, please click here.

photograph of a Higham village sign photograph of a Higham village sign photograph of a Higham village sign
Samples of the Higham village signs erected at the parish boundaries

The Sir John Falstaff Public House. Originally built about 300 years ago. Its position on the Old Dover Road (A226), halfway between Gravesend and Rochester brought it much business from travellers and passing trade.

image of Sir John Falstaff public house, by local artist Nigel Wrightphotograph of commemorative horse drinking trough on the A226 by Gads Hill

The Legend of the Three Crutches. In the 13th. Century A.D. the Order of Knights Templar maintained an establishment in Strood near the River Medway. Whilst returning by a lonely path to the Temple from a visit to Lord Cobham, one Sir Richard Braybrooke, a Knight Templar, was shot through the heart by an arrow from an unseen hand; the next morning his body was discovered with the fatal arrow still embedded in it. His brother Templars used every means to discover the murderer, but in vain. In memory of Sir Richard, they erected a triangular monument, with a cross on each side, on the spot where his body was found, a place where three roads met. From that time onward the spot was known as the 'Three Crosses'. This monument has long since disappeared and its exact position is not now known, but a small inn nearby took its name from the locality. In the course of time the 'Three Crosses' became corrupted to the 'Three Crouches'. A landlord of more recent times, seeing no meaning in the word, thought to make it more intelligible to his customer's by changing it to the 'Three Crutches'. To this day, however, the pronunciation of the word as 'Crooches' still remains locally. The Three Crutches Public House referred to in the above legend still exists today but with modern extensions.

The Sarsen Stones, Three Crutches. Situated adjacent to the roundabout at the junction of Old Watling Street and the A.2. The Plaque reads as follows:- These stones, whose form are totally natural, were found 1/2 mile west of this location in August 1997, during the construction of the Wainscott Northern Bypass.

In Prehistoric times similar stones were used as 'Standing Stones' throughout the British Isles, and so these have been used to create a traditional 'Four Poster' arrangement and marked the opening of the A289 Wainscott Northern Bypass in December 1998.

photograph of Higham in Old Photographs Vol 1

For more historical information about the Parish of Higham, please visit the Higham Village History Group's website, or for more information about the surrounding area of Gravesham, please click here or click here for Edward Hasted's The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Higham, published in 1797

The two books pictured here are available for purchase.

photograph of Higham in Old Photographs Vol 2

 

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