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MARKET TOWNS OF KENT (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Gravesend in 1836

Gravesend is on the south bank of the Thames, locally in the hundred of Toltingtrough, in the lathe of Aylesford, 22 miles from London Bridge through Dartford. The western part of the town is in the parish of Gravesend, the eastern in that of Milton. In the time of Richard II Gravesend was burned, and most of the inhabitants carried into captivity by a squadron of French galleys. In the reign of Henry VIII, two platforms were raised for the protection of the town, and a blockhouse at Tilbury, in Essex to guard the passage of the river.

The parish of Gravesend comprehends 630 acres with a population, in 1831 of 5,097 ; Milton contains 650 acres with a population of 4,348 : making together 1,280 acres with a population of 9,445. Gravesend has of late years become a great place of resort for visitors from the metropolis, and has been much enlarged and improved : the old town is however still mean and irregular. Two piers have been erected for landing passengers, and a convenient bathing-house for visitors. There are a library, concert room, theatre, and gardens. The country round Gravesend is pleasant, and the view from the Windmill Hill, above the town, extensive. The church, which is near the centre of the town, is a neat spacious brick building : there are a chapel of ease and several dissenting places of worship. Milton church is near the east end of the town.

Formerly vessels sailing from the port of London were obliged to stop at Gravesend to take their clearances. Outward-bound Indiamen still take in fresh provisions here ; seamen going out provide themselves with slops. There are considerable lime-works and brick-fields about the town, and a great quantity of land in the neighbourhood is occupied by market-gardeners, who raise vegetables, especially asparagus, for the supply of the London markets. Many vessels are employed in fishing ; and some rope-making and ship-building are carried on. The resort of visitors from the metropolis to Gravesend during the summer season is very great, owing to the cheapness of steam-boat conveyance and its convenient distance from London. The market is on Wednesday and Saturday, the former for corn. The canal which unites the Medway and the Thames enters the latter near Gravesend. This town is one of the polling places for West Kent. There is a fort at Gravesend mounting sixteen guns.

The living of Gravesend is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £307 ; that of Milton a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £359 ; both of them are in the diocese and archdeaconry of Rochester.

The inhabitants of the parishes of Gravesend and Milton were incorporated by Queen Elizabeth. By the Municipal Reform Act the borough was divided into two wards it has 6 jurats or aldermen and 18 councillors. There were in 1833, in the two parishes, two infant or dame schools with 74 children ; two national schools, with 180 children ; one endowed day-school, with 34 children ; seventeen other day-schools, with 449 children ; seven boarding-schools, with 165 children ; and four Sunday-schools, with 559 children.