Gillingham (St. Mary Magdalene)

GILLINGHAM (St. Mary Magdalene), a parish, in the union of Medway, hundred of Chatham and Gillingham, lathe of Aylesford, W. division of Kent, 1½ mile (E. by N.) from Chatham; containing 7640 inhabitants. This ancient village, which is recorded in Domesday book by the name of Gelingeham, was much exposed to the ravages of the Danes; and it is said that 600 noblemen, who landed here in the retinue of Alfred and Edward, were murdered upon the spot, by Earl Godwin. Though now inconsiderable, it was, previously to the rapid rise of the town of Chatham, a place of note; and its harbour on the Medway was a principal station for the navy. In the reign of Elizabeth it possessed the four quays of Twydall, Midflete, Dean-Med End, and Beggar-Hyde, together with various ships and boats. Charles I. erected a fort for the protection of the royal dockyard and navy, which, proving ineffectual to resist the Dutch in their celebrated expedition up the river, in 1667, was subsequently enlarged, and distinguished by the name of Gillingham Castle. At present the entire neighbourhood is strongly fortified with outposts connected with Chatham Lines, within which, at the western extremity of the parish, is the populous village of Brompton (situated on the brow of a hill overlooking the dockyard of Chatham), partly in this parish, and partly in the adjoining parish of Chatham, and chiefly inhabited by artisans and others employed in the dockyard. The parish comprises by measurement 4500 acres, of which nearly one-half are arable, 400 pasture, 500 woodland, 200 in hop plantations and gardens, and the remainder salt-marsh. The manor of Grange or Grench, situated in it, and consisting of about 225 acres, is a member of the cinque-port of Hastings. The Living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £15. 13. 11½., and in the gift of the Principal and Fellows of Brasenose College, Oxford, as governors of the grammar school at Middleton, in Lancashire: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £522, and the great tithes for £912. 6. 6., of which £22. 6. 6. are paid to the Dean and Chapter of Rochester, £815 to the College, and £75 to an impropriator. The church was formerly remarkable for what was deemed a miraculous image of the Virgin, called "Our Lady of Gillingham," in a niche over the western door, to which frequent pilgrimages were made. It is a spacious edifice, with a private chapel on each side of the chancel, which exhibits some slight portions of Norman architecture. Memorials of the Romans may be discerned within its walls. On the south side of the churchyard are foundations of an extensive building, once the archiepiscopal palace, the hall of which has been converted into a barn. There is a chapel of ease at Lidsing. The Wesleyans have a place of worship. William of Gillingham, the historian, who flourished in the reign of Richard II.; and William Adams, the discoverer of Japan, to which island he began his voyage in 1598, were born here.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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