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Celebrity Rochester

Celebrity is often thought of as a modern invention. But if we delve back into Rochester’s past, there have always been persons of prominence and renown associated with the City. We’ve attempted to cover as many of these people as possible on the site but please do get in touch if you think we’ve missed someone.

Probably the earliest of Rochester’s influential people was Bishop Gundulf.

Bishop Gundulf

Bishop Gundulf came to Rochester in 1075 at the behest of William the Conqueror (on recommendation of Lanfranc, the then Archbishop of Canterbury). With income from the lands around the almost derelict St Andrews Church, Gundulf embarked on a restoration project and established the Benedictine Priory of St Andrew which remained until the dissolution of the monastery in 1540. The building of the present Nave of Rochester Cathedral was begun by Gundulf in 1083.

Gundulf’s architectural prowess was spotted by William I and he was tasked with overseeing the construction of the White Tower – the keep of the Tower of London.

Of other significance to Rochester, Gundulf founded St Bartholomew’s Hospital on the outskirts of the City. St Bartholomew’s Chapel, built as part of the leper hospital, still retains traces of its Norman origins.

On behalf of William II, Gundulf undertook building work on Rochester Castle and he continued to find favour with Henry I, so much so that he is accepted as the first King’s Engineer and is regarded as the ‘father of the Corps of Royal Engineers’.

Gundulf died in 1108 and his statue can be seen above the west door of Rochester Cathedral.

William of Perth

Mention St William of Perth to anyone in Rochester today and they’ll probably tell you it’s a Primary School in Rochester. However, William was a 13th Century martyr venerated in Rochester. Born in Perth, Scotland sometime in the 12th Century, little is known of William’s early life although he was thought to be a baker by trade.

On a tour of Holy Places, William stayed three days in Rochester. He was robbed and murdered near the City in 1201. His body was discovered by a woman who was suffering from ‘madness’. She placed a garland on William’s head and then on her own, saying this cured her. The monks of Rochester took his body back to Rochester Cathedral and buried it. William was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1256.

The shrine of St William of Perth became a place of pilgrimage second only to Canterbury Cathedrals’ shrine of St Thomas Becket and Rochester Cathedral benefitted from Royal and Papal bequests through the 14th Century.

Walter de Merton

Walter de Merton was born in the early part of the 13th Century. He came to Rochester fairly late is his life, having served as Lord Chancellor for Henry III and Edward I. As a reward for services to the Crown, he was awarded the Bishopric of Rochester in 1274.

He had established a college in Merton, his likely place of birth, in 1264. Ten years later, he moved the college to Oxford and Merton College is the earliest example of collegiate life at Oxford. It was on a journey back from Oxford to Rochester in 1277 that he fell from his horse while fording the Medway and died. He was buried in Rochester Cathedral, and is described in the Annales monastici as “a man of liberality and great worldly learning, ever ready in his assistance to the religious orders”.

King John

The youngest son of Henry II, John was born c.1167. John’s reign began in 1199 and tensions with the French soon resulted in war with John ultimately losing his empire in Northern France. The war brought massive pressures on the Royal finances and John’s increasingly heavy handed treatment of and financial demands on the barons lead to a civil rebellion. As a settlement, in 1215 both sides agreed to the terms of the Magna Carta, which limited royal power, ensured feudal rights and restated English law. It was the first formal document stating that the monarch was as much under the rule of law as his people, and that the rights of individuals were to be upheld even against the wishes of the sovereign.

However, neither side stuck to the terms and Civil War broke out. King John had previously spent £115 on repairs to Rochester Castle. But in October 1215 on his way from Dover to London, John found his progress blocked by the Barons at Rochester castle and on 11 October began besieging it in person. He infamously ordered the undermining of the south east tower of the keep and used pig fat to burn and collapse it. The 100 rebels holding the castle were finally starved into submission and the Barnwell chronicler wrote “No one alive can remember a siege so fiercely pressed and so manfully resisted”.

John continued to lay waste to the northern counties and the Scottish border. Prince Louis of France then invaded at the barons’ request. John continued to wage war vigorously, but his death in October 1216 enabled a compromise peace and the succession of his son Henry III.

Simon de Montfort

Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, led the second baron’s rebellion against Henry III in 1263-4. He was born in France in 1208. Following the death of his father in 1218, Simon’s brother Amaury inherited the French estates while Henry III confiscated those in England. It wasn’t until 1229 that the brothers negotiated a settlement with King Henry and Simon took back the lands in England. De Montfort married Eleanor of England, the daughter of King John and sister of Henry III in 1238 and the manor at Sutton Valence near Maidstone came into his possession.

Relations between de Montfort and Henry III deteriorated 1239 and he fled with Eleanor to France. He soon left to go on a crusade to the Holy Lands but was pulled back into government in France at the request of Henry III. However, Henry’s poor leadership in England and unwillingness to negotiate land reforms with the Baron’s soon lead to conflict with de Montfort returning to England in 1263. He lead the Baron’s revolt and was involved in the second siege of Rochester Castle. The castle was held for the King by Constable, Roger de Leybourne.

On 17 April 1264 Gilbert de Clare marched on Rochester from his castle at Tonbridge. De Montfort attacked the city from the northern side via the medieval bridge across the River Medway.

The siege lasted some days and was a bloody affair with much killing throughout  the city, even in the Cathedral. Church valuables were stolen and monuments in the Prior’s Chapel were destroyed or damaged. On 19th April, de Montfort entered the inner bailey of the castle and battered the keep for over a week. However, repairs and improvements completed on the Castle by Henry III following the siege of 1215 meant it held fast. The siege was abandoned as the King approached with reinforcements.

Less than a month later, de Montfort captured the King and Prince Edward at the Battle of Lewes. He then established the first parliament with each borough sending elected representatives to the House, the beginnings of a representative parliamentary assembly. The victory was short lived as divisions among the Baron’s decimated de Montfort’s forces. Prince Edward escaped, captured de Montfort’s son and set an ambush for de Montfort in Evesham.

Simon de Montfort was killed in the Battle Of Evesham on 4th August, 1265 and his body was cut up and sent to various lords who had participated in his downfall.

St John Fisher

John Fisher was born in Yorkshire in 1469. He studied at Cambridge University and eventually became Vice-Chancellor and Doctor of Sacred Theology there in 1501.

In 1504, he was appointed Bishop of Rochester at the insistence of King Henry VII. He was also a tutor to Prince Henry and was held in such regard that he preached the funeral orations at Henry VII and Lady Margaret’s funerals.

When Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, Fisher became her advisor and spoke on her behalf at court, directly criticising the King and defending the marriage. Fisher further criticised the King in Parliament stating that his actions would result in the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church in England. After Fisher appealed directly to Rome, Fisher was arrested along with the Bishops of Bath and Ely. They were released on the purchase of the King’s Pardon and forced to acknowledge Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church in England.

In 1532, Fisher again preached against the divorce and was found complicit in the Elizabeth Barton Holy Maid of Kent prophecies against the marriage of the King to Anne Boleyn. In 1534, Fisher refused the First Succession Act oath that legitimised Henry and Anne’s succession to the throne and was sent to the Tower of London, at the same time losing the Bishopric of Rochester. He was then tricked into perjuring himself by Richard Rich and condemned to death. He was beheaded at the Tower on 22nd June, 1535. Parallels were draw between his death and that of John the Baptist and he remained a figure universally esteemed. He was canonised in 1935.

Nicholas Ridley

Born in Northumberland around 1500, Nicholas Ridley was educated at Cambridge University and was made Bishop of Rochester in 1547. In 1548, he helped Bishop Cranmer create the Book of Common Prayer.

Following the death of Edward VI, Ridley petitioned for Lady Jane Grey to be put on the throne. Edward’s will noted that he required Lady Jane Grey to succeed him but this was in contravention of the Third Succession Act of Henry VIII. This stated that Mary, daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon and a Roman Catholic should be crowned. Ridley preached a sermon at St Paul’s cross on 9th July 1553 where he called Mary and her sister Elizabeth bastards. But support for Lady Jane was not strong and as Mary acceded to the throne, Ridley, Jane’s father the Duke of Suffolk and other were imprisoned.

Throughout 1554, supporters of Jane and Jane herself were executed. Ridley was sent to Oxford with Hugh Latimer and they were tried for heresy in October 1555 and sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Ridley and Latimer were later martyred and along with Thomas Cranmer became known as the Oxford Martyrs.

A plaque to Ridley can be found on the wall of Rochester Baptist Church in Crow Lane. In addition to Ridley, the names of martyrs burnt in Rochester are listed. These are Nicholas Hall of Dartford, burnt at Rochester July 19th 1555, John Harpole of St Nicholas Parish, Rochester and Joan Beach of Tonbridge both burnt at Rochester April 1st 1556. In total 57 protestant martyrs died at the stake in Kent (from John Foxe’s ‘Acts and Monuments – 1563 .

Sir Peter Buck

Sir Peter Buck is best known as the man responsible in 1590/1 for the construction of Eastgate House, one of the finest Elizabethan town houses in England. Buck was born in 1550 and the Visitation of Kent, 1592, indicates that he was “Clarke of the Checks to the Queenes Majesties Navye” ie. he was in charge of finances for the navy at the Dockyard in Chatham. The Visitation of Kent, 1619, shows that Sir Peter Buck, Knight, was an Alderman for the “Cittie of Rochester” and previously, he had “borne the office of Major”.

Sir Peter Buck first marriage was to Margaret Haviland, probably about 1576. He then married Mary Creswell about three years later.

According to Samuel Pepys “Sir Peter Buck of Rochester in Kent, was knighted by James I in 1603. He was Secretary to Algernon Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Lord High Admiral”. He was also a governor of the Sir John Hawkins Hospital in Chatham.

The family crest of the Buck family can be found above the main entrance to Eastgate and on some of the amazing plaster ceilings on the upper floors. The left side of the coat of arms is that of Sir Peter and the right hand side is his wife Mary Cresswell’s. Although the Buck family lived in Eastgate for five generations, we have no idea what Sir Peter looked like as no paintings are known to exist. Buck died in 1624.

The Aveling family

Stephen Aveling is the first of the family to be noted in Rochester. It’s not certain when he came to Rochester but he was listed in Taylor’s Directory as an engine builder. His son Stephen Aveling II is probably best remembered as a local historian and owner of Restoration House from 1875. He served on the board of Aveling and Porter, more of which later.

The first Thomas Aveling of interest to Rochester was born in Cambridgeshire in 1824. He first came to Rochester in about 1830 with his family, likely following his uncle Stephen to the area. His father Thomas Aveling III died in 1835 and his mother shortly married Rev John D’Urban, the Vicar of Hoo St Werburgh.

Thomas Aveling III was apprenticed to Edward Lake, a farmer in the Hoo Hundred. When Lake purchased a portable engine and threshing machine, Thomas soon showed an aptitude for engineering. After he acquired his own farm in the 1850’s, he became one of the first farmers to buy and hire agricultural machinery and eventually moved away from farming and into mechanised farming design. He took on premises at 24 High Street Rochester and shortly after bought a small foundry based in Strood on the site of what was to become the famous Invicta Works.

Thomas Aveling entered into partnership with Richard Thomas Porter in 1862 and Aveling and Porter (A&P) was born. They developed a steam engine three years later in 1865 and the company became the largest manufacturers of steam rollers in the world.

As the business grew, Thomas became a very prominent local figure and was Mayor of Rochester from 1869-70. He was also on the board of trustees for Watts Charity and a governor of Sir Joseph Williamsons Mathematical School.

Thomas Lake Aveling V was born at the family farm in Ruckinge in 1856. He took control of Aveling and Porter from his father in 1891, the year before his father died. When A&P became a limited liability company in 1895, Thomas V became its chairman and managing director, a role he retained until he retired in 1928. Like his father, he was involved with a wide range of local civic matters including as a JP, chairman of the Medway Conservancy and on the board of Rochester Bridge Wardens. Thomas V oversaw A&P at its peak and the depression that followed WW1 irreparably damaged A&P.

Thomas Lake Aveling had a son Thomas Aveling VI in 1892. Thomas VI joined the army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. After the war, he joined the board of A&P with his brother Arthur Aveling and took over the company following his father’s retirement in 1928. He was on the board of Agricultural and General Engineers, a combined company formed in 1919 to ride out the depression. AGE was not a success as the smaller less profitable companies in the combine swallowed up the resources of the larger companies. AGE went into receivership in 1932 and shortly afterwards, A&P combined with Barford-Perkins and moved its manufacturing to Grantham.

Canon Wheatley

Canon Wheatley took his M.A. at Jesus College, Oxford, was ordained in 1894 and came into the Rochester diocese in 1899. Six years later he was appointed Vicar of St. Paul’s, Four Elms, Edenbridge, but he is best remembered for his long service as Vicar of St. Margaret’s, Rochester, a service which extended from 1915 until his retirement in 1947.

For twenty years during this period, he was editor of the Rochester Diocesan Chronicle. He lectured extensively on the antiquities of the Diocese and City and was a member of the Museums Committee of Rochester City Council. He kept a scrapbook containing newspaper articles of local interest including details of the forerunner to the City of Rochester Society – the Rochester Civic Society founded in January 1923 – and its representations to the then Rochester Corporation opposing the demolition of the Fort Clarence Arch.

Probably most importantly for our purposes as the City of Rochester Society, he contributed ‘Historical Notes’ to the parish magazine running from April 1916 to December 1947 totalling 365 notes. These are collected together in the CoRS publication ‘Canon Wheatley’s Historical Notes’. He died on the 11th of March, 1951at the age of 82.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell was a national naval hero (often mentioned by naval historians as being of the same stature of Nelson), Member of Parliament for Rochester and a great benefactor to the City.

Cloudesley was born in Norfolk in 1650 and joined the navy at the age of fourteen. His quickly learnt navigational skills, expert seamanship and bravery meant he raced up the ranks. In 1676, he led a series of attacks against Barbary pirates that earned him a gold medal from King Charles II.

Cloudesley was knighted in 1689 for his part in the Battle of Bantry Bay as Captain of HMS Edgar. He distinguished himself throughout the 1690’s and was made Admiral of the Fleet in 1696.

The year previously, Cloudesley was elected MP for Rochester and he served variously until his death. Although he was often away as sea, this didn’t stop him acting as benefactor to Rochester. Among his gifts are the incredibly plaster ceilings in the main hall and on the staircase for the Guildhall, the paving to the front of the Guildhall and the market bell, clock and decorative brick facade for the Butcher’s Market (now the Corn Exchange). Unfortunately, Cloudesley’s original clock was replaced in 1771.

Cloudesley’s career peak came in 1706 when he was made Commander-in-Chief of the British fleets. Returning from Battle of Toulon less than a year later, one of the greatest maritime disasters in British naval history saw four ships, including Cloudesley’s ship HMS Association, struck rocks off the Isles of Scilly. Over 2,000 men were lost and Cloudesley’s body was found washed up seven miles from where the Association went down. Although buried at Porthellick Cove, Queen Anne had  his body brought back to England and he was interred at Westminster Abbey in December 1707.

Richard Watts

Best known as a local philanthropist and benefactor to the City, Watts’ Charitable Trust was established by his will dated 22 August 1579.

Little is known of his early life and there are question marks over the place and date of his birth. There is a suggestion that in his youth he found employment with Bishop John Fisher. We do know that he was an established local merchant by 1550 supplying food to the army and navy. He was appointed Deputy Victualler of the Navy in 1552 and subsequently Queen Elizabeth I appointed him as Paymaster and Surveyor of Works when Upnor Castle was built starting in 1560. A further royal appointment – Surveyor of Ordnance, followed in 1562. In 1560 as well as his appointment to Upnor Castle, he became Paymaster to the Wardens of Rochester Bridge and in 1563 he was elected as MP for Rochester which seat he held until 1571

In 1573, he entertained Queen Elizabeth I at his house on Boley Hill. When he asked her how she had enjoyed her stay, she simply replied “satis”, Latin for enough. It is from this that the house took its future name ‘Satis House’.

Richard Watts died at his home on 10th September, 1579. He was 50 years old. He was buried in Rochester Cathedral, where his memorial can be seen in the South Transept.

From his will began the Charity known today as ‘Richard Watts and the City of Rochester Almshouse Charities’.  The will made provision for the upkeep of an almshouse, now known as the Poor Travellers House, to house the poor and needy of Rochester and provide overnight accommodation for six poor travellers. This house still exists in Rochester High Street next to the Visitors Information Centre. His charity captured the imagination of Charles Dickens and we can attribute much of its profile to Dickens’ writings.

It’s unlikely that Richard Watts could have foreseen the growth and influence of the Charity created by his will. Under the guidance of its providers, overseers and trustees, it has provided poor relief to the vulnerable, elderly and young for over 400 years. The Six Poor Travellers House has been a museum since 1948.

In 1857, the trustees purchased a site on Rochester Maidstone Road and a new alms house was built to house 10 men and 10 women, 5 of who would be nurses to provide care to the residents and the poor of Rochester. The nursing service was expanded in 1858 as the Charity donated money for the construction of a new hospital at St Bartholomew’s on the New Road at Rochester. Watt’s alms houses were expanded in 1977 with the building of eleven bungalows and a block of flats in 1994. The Charity also took over the running of St Catherine’s alms houses on Star Hill Rochester in 1960 and Sir John Hayward’s Charity on Corporation Street in 1975.

Samuel Pepys

Pepys is best known for the detailed private diary he kept from 1660-9. As a naval administrator, he often had reason to visit the Dockyard and Rochester. Pepys accompanied Montague’s fleet to the Netherlands to bring Charles II back from exile. On the evening of 28th May, 1660, Charles and his entourage arrived at the home of Colonel Gibbon in Crow Lane, Rochester. The property was actually owned by Sir Francis Clerke and from then on became known as Restoration House.

Pepys was associated with Sir William Batten who was elected MP for Rochester in 1661. In April 1661, Pepys visited Rochester “where alight at Mr. Alcock’s and there drank and had good sport, with his bringing out so many sorts of cheese”. Stephen Alcock was a merchant of Rochester, long employed in the navy victualing and  Mayor of the town 1663-4. His daughter Margaret married Sir William Batten’s son William.

A few days later, Pepys visited Rochester Cathedral on his way from Chatham Dockyard. The cathedral had fallen into disrepair during the Commonwealth and Pepys observed it was “which is now fitting for use, and the organ then a-tuning. Then away thence, observing the great doors of the church, which, they say, was covered with the skins of the Danes, and also had much mirth at a tomb, on which was “Come sweet Jesu,” and I read “Come sweet Mall,” &c., at which Captain Pett and I had good laughter. So to the Salutacion tavern, where Mr. Alcock and many of the town came and entertained us with wine and oysters and other things”. However, of the cathedral he says he “had no mind to stay there, but rather to our inne, the White Hart, where we drank.” The White Hart is still in existence as the bridge end of Rochester High Street but is now called Expectations.

Pepys mentions visiting and staying at the Crown Inn near Rochester Bridge on a number of occasions. In October 1665, of one visit he says “Thence to Rochester, walked to the Crowne, and while dinner was getting ready, I did there walk to visit the old Castle ruines, which hath been a noble place, and there going up I did upon the stairs overtake three pretty mayds or women and took them up with me, and I did ‘baiser sur mouches et toucher leur mains’ and necks to my great pleasure: but, Lord! to see what a dreadfull thing it is to look down the precipices, for it did fright me mightily, and hinder me of much pleasure which I would have made to myself in the company of these three, if it had not been for that. The place hath been very noble and great and strong in former ages.”

Three little maids from Rochester are we

Pert as Rochester girls well can be

Filled to the brim with girlish glee

Three little maids on tour

That silly little man there’s a source of fun

See nobody’s safe, for we care for none

Our joke on him has just begun

Three little maids from tour

Three little maids who, all unwary

Come from Rochester Ladies’ Seminary

Freed from its genius tutelary

Three little maids on tour

Three little maids on tour

Our over-eager friend is a bit dum-dum

Girls, he just pinched me in the bum

We then brushed him off is the total sum

We three little maids know fools…

We sharp little maids know fools…

Little sir, take your hand away

Two little maids remain untouched, and they

Won’t have to wait very long, we’d say

We three little maids on tour

Three little maids with a fool

Three little maids who, though unwary

Coming from Rochester Ladies’ Seminary

Freed themselves from Pepys’ “tutelary”

We three little maids, no fools

We three little maids, no fool

Pepys diary is a great source of information about the Dutch Raid on the Medway in 1667. As Secretary of the Navy Board, he was close to the policy makers and could comment on the political and psychological impact of the raid. He wrote “In all things, in wisdom, courage, force and success, the Dutch have the best of us and do end the war with victory on their side”. The City of Rochester Society has published a superb book called the Dutch Raid that follows Pepys account.

Pepys visited Medway at the end of June 1667 to review the aftermath of the raid. It was during this visit that mentions Restoration House. “Then into the fields, a fine walk, and there saw Sir Francis Clerke’s house, which is a pretty seat, and then back to our inne and bespoke supper, and so back to the fields and into the Cherry garden, where we had them fresh gathered, and here met with a young, plain, silly shopkeeper, and his wife, a pretty young woman, the man’s name Hawkins, and I did kiss her, and we talked (and the woman of the house is a very talking bawdy jade), and eat cherries together, and then to walk in the fields till it was late, and did kiss her, and I believe had I had a fit time and place I might have done what I would with her.”

This encounter is often mentioned as a light hearted aside to the very real concerns over the Dutch and the threat to the English Crown. Dutch naval records later released show a more sinister and not coincidental view of this meeting.  “Gentlemen, As hoped our information proved correct and in our roles as shopkeeper and wife, Kaatje and I encountered Mr. Pepys and his associate in Rochester on their return from Chatham. As expected from his reputation, Kaatje had no trouble encouraging Mr. Pepys to converse with her alone and he divulged the following information as to the disarray in the English Naval command following our recent great victory…”

Pepys later reports his acquaintance and MP for Rochester Sir William Batten as saying  “By God, I think the Devil shits Dutchmen”.

Pepys diary finishes on 31st May, 1669. He continued in service to the Navy in increasingly important roles including Secretary of the Admiralty, survived the reigns of Charles II, James II and William III, spent a short time unemployed and was incarcerated in the Tower for a while. His house was burnt to the ground in 1673 and he saved little bar the volumes of his diary. He doubtless visited Rochester on numerous other occasions. He passed away in Clapham in 1703.

Edwin Harris

Printer and businessman, prolific writer, historian, respected antiquarian, Dickens authority (he was a founder member of the Rochester Dickens Fellowship), special constable, druid and expert Rochester City guide, Edwin Harris is often described as a man of many parts.

Born in Rochester in 1859, Harris’ print works was at No.151 Eastgate in Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe, a fifteenth century building that still retains many of its original characteristics. Now a Thai restaurant that still bears the Curiositie Shoppe sign, prior to Harris’ print works the building was an inn (Golden Lyon and then the Barley Mow), a butchers and until 1861 a bakery. Harris wrote many pamphlets and books about Rochester and although many of them mix fiction with fact, they are all nonetheless great reads.

Harris was instrumental in the creation of the City of Rochester Museum at Eastgate House and he made a number of models for the museum that can still be seen today when the house is fully open. Harris’ dedication to the City is evidenced by his work on Rochester Civic week in 1931. Although aged 73 at the time, he still conducted three tours of the City every day. Active in civic affairs until the end of his life, Harris died in 1938 aged 79.

The City of Rochester Society has published a superb book about the life of Edwin Harris ‘A Man Of Many Parts’ by Pat Salter.

Sir George Gilbert Scott

Sir George Gilbert Scott was probably the most prolific architect of his age. His works spanned the Empire and in England alone, he designed over 800 buildings and oversaw hundreds more restorations. He restored 18 of the 26 English medieval cathedrals and it is this work of Rochester Cathedral, and his restoration of St Bartholomew’s chapel that makes him worthy of note on this site.

Scott was born in 1811 at Gawcott in Buckinghamshire and studied architecture as a pupil of James Edmeston and set his own practice in 1838. Over the next ten years, Scott and his partner William Bonython Moffat designed over 40 workhouses.

Scott was inspired by Pugin to join the Gothic revival.

George Bond

Described in his obituary as ‘the most expert architect that this part of Kent has known’, George Bond certainly left an impressive legacy of buildings in the Medway Towns.

Born in July 1853, Bond moved to Medway as Clerk of Works and foreman for William Callund architects in 1883. His first major project was to oversee the building of Bernard’s Palace of Varieties in Chatham and he went on to collaborate with its architect James Nash on the rebuilding of Sir Joseph Williamsons Mathematical School in Rochester High Street.

Bond set up his own business in 1886 as George E. Bond Architect and Surveyor at Victoria Buildings, 384 High Street Rochester. His first design is believed to have been ‘Ingleside’, a house in Chatham Maidstone Road that later became the Medway Registrar’s Office. By 1904 his business had expanded to necessitate purpose built offices at Pier Chambers, now occupied by Radio Kent.

Bond was responsible for many of the most iconic buildings in Medway. These include Chatham Town Hall in 1899 (now the Brook Theatre), the Theatre Royal Chatham, the Medway Conservancy Board Office in 1909 (now part of the Guildhall Museum), the Baptist Church in Crow Lane, the Liberal Club on Castle Hill and the Aveling & Porter building on Strood Esplanade. This list tells its own tale – many of Bond’s buildings have faired badly at the hands of respective local authorities. The last few years alone have seen Medway Council demolish the Theatre Royal and Aveling & Porter.

Bond built many private houses and villas including his own house, St Ronan’s (1909) in King Edward Road, Rochester (now part of the King’s School). His initials can still be seen embellished in the concrete corbel’s by the front door.

Liberal in politics, he was Chairman of the Rochester Liberal Club from 1904. He was a Freemason (designing their distinctly classical building at Manor Road, Chatham in 1904), a Trustee for the Chatham Savings Bank and was appointed a JP in 1908. He was also President of the Society of Architects for four years until 1913.

George Bond died at his home St Ronan’s o Wednesday 20th May, 1914 and is buried in St Margaret’s Cemetery, Rochester.

Dr Ishmael Tewfik

An Egyptian subject and Muslim, Ishmael Tewfik arrived in Britain in 1914 aged 21. He had been accepted for studies at the Royal College of Physicians at Guy’s Hospital, London. Having completed his studies, Tewfik worked in Southampton and Chester before obtaining the position of house surgeon at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Rochester around 1917. He rented a house in Boley Hill and supplemented his income by opening a private practice.

He married in 1918, moved to Gillingham and started a family, his sons joining their father in the medical profession. His second son Raymond interrupted his studies at Guy’s in 1941 to join the RAF and was attached to Coastal Command. Raymond was reported as missing in action in 1943 and in his memory, Dr Tewfik established an annual prize of £1,000 for the Medway Technical College in Gillingham (now Mid-Kent College).

In 1960, after 40 years’ service to the medical profession in Medway, Dr Tewfik retired to Cowden, East Sussex.

Charles Spencelayh

Acclaimed by one critic as ‘the modern Meissonier of British domestic life’, Charles Spencelayh was a figurative painter and portraitist in the Academic style. He was born in Rochester on 27th October, 1865 and first studied at the National Art Training Scholl in South Kensington (later renamed the Royal College of Art).

He exhibited predominantly in Britain (he did show at the Paris Salon) and from 1912 to his death in 1958, he exhibited more than 30 paintings at the Royal Academy. He was a founder member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, an honorary member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and Vice-President of the British Watercolour Society. In addition to his work hanging in many leading London venues, he showed regularly in the provinces and held a one-man show at the Sunderland Art Gallery in 1936.

Many of his subjects were of domestic scenes and were painted with an almost photographic detail – ‘The Laughing Parson’ (1935) and ‘His Daily Ration’ (1946). He also painted still life subjects including ‘Apples’ (1951).

Queen Mary was an admirer of Spencelayh’s work and in 1924, he painted a miniature of portrait of King George V to show in Queen Mary’s celebrated Doll House at the Wembley Exhibition. This is now part of the Royal collection at Windsor.

Spencelayh’s masterpiece ‘The Old Dealer’ sold in auction at Sotheby’s for over £345,000 in 2009

George Payne

George Payne, FSA, the celebrated local antiquarian was born in 1848 and was the second son of George Payne; he died in 1920. It appears that George Snr left his son to run the Brewery as by 1881 he was a Banker & Brewer whilst George Jnr was a Brewer, employing ten men. George Payne Snr died in 1890, George Jnr then retired to live on his own means at College Green in the Precincts of Rochester Cathedral, whilst the Brewery reverted to the control of the Vallances. The Guildhall Museum, Rochester confirms that George Payne was the Museum’s first curator from its opening in 1897, until his death in 1920.


More celebrity names coming soon including…

Henry Smeatham, Thomas Hellyar Foord, Sir Joseph Williamson, Magnus Simon Lazarus, Ruxton, James Hulkes, Charles Dickens, Donald Maxwell, William Coles-Finch, Evelyn Dunbar, Billy Childish, Short Bros, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Nitin Sawhney, James Taylor, Kelly Brook…

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