StGeorges Gravesend Wednesday 22 November 17

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Church History

Church History

The First St. George's

The church at Gravesham mentioned in Domesday was probably on the site near the Old Road chosen by the early Christian settlers. The earliest known parish church was dedicated to St. Mary and stood behind what is now the "White Post" inn the Pelham Road. During the succeeding centuries, while fighting to retain a foothold in France, the English made greater use of Gravesend as aport and this drew more of the town's population to the riverside. As a reprisal for English devastaton, a French and Spanish fource suprised the town in 1380, destroying it and carrying off many captives. The distress of the survivourswas mitigated by granting then the privilege of carrying all passangers by water to London. Though the parish church may not have sustained damage in that attack, its distance from the main centre of the population must have made it increasingly more difficult to keep in repair.

By 1475 a mood of confidence and a measure of royal patronage encouraged much church building. Kind edward IV commissioned the building of a new chapel at Windsor Castle, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, St. George and St. Edward. In the Court Roll of 1475-78 a petition from Gravesend is recorded, to build what "in time to come shall be a parish church" of the town of Gravesend to be dedicated in honour of God, the Blessed Virgin and St. George.

This is the first refernce to a church on the present site though there was a Royal Manor with a chapel in the vicinity, which may have lead to the choice of site. St. George's church (built infact as a Chapel-of-Ease) was licensed for worship in 1497, consecrated by Bishop Fisher in 1510 and replaced St. Mary's as parish church in 1544.

This change was brought about by the dilapidated condition at that time of the ancient parish church. In 1508, St. Mary's suffered a serious fire and was not, it seems, repaired with much effect although it was re-consecrated by the Bishop the day after the consecration of St. George's, on April "nd, 1510. However, by 1529 St. Mary's was describes as ruinous, and in the same year that St. George's became the parish church of Gravesend, King Henry VIII ordered the the ruins of St. Mary's Church should be removed. The last recored burial in St. Mary's Churchyard took place in 1598. Finally, in 1797 its foundations were allowed to be broken up, some of the remaining material being used to repair roads in 1822.

From traces uncovered, the first St. George's may have extended west of the existing churchyard, and probablly comprimised a nave, chancel and north aisle. It was bequeathed some money in 1487 and between 1532 and 1545 bequests of money for a steeple were made and St. George's is certainly shown to have a steeple in a drawing of the town in 1662. In 1710, however, the church described as "old and without steeple but pretty well adorned within-side and has a handsome Vestry Room". That year a petition was raised to obtain a grant for a new steeple but no grant was forthcoming. Of this former church, only one stone survives which can be found at the entrance to the nave.

The Oak Clergy Stalls

On the north side, the stal commemorates David Sparrow, a one-time Chorister who was killed in action with the R.A.F. in 1943. He had been articled to the Town Clerk as a solicitor.

The stall on the south side is in memory of Willaim Spencer Joynes who was Churchwarden at St. James' for 47 years and who died on the 25th October, 1947. It was fomrerly the incumbent's stall at St. James'. The Joynes family had lived in the area since the late 17th century and provided mayors and councillors in the 18th century. In the 19th century, in addition to the the two Rectors of Gravesend, They served as priests at Holy Trinity, St. James and Findsbury.

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Sunday Evening - 6PM
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