England's Past for Everyone Kent

Overview

The Kent project was led by colleagues from the University of Greenwich, working with volunteers to research two histories. The first focuses on eight parishes straddling the river Medway close to Rochester. Most people in this area were farmers in 1800, but industrialisation altered the character of places like Strood, Aylesford, Snodland and Halling over the century that followed. By 1900 the valley was home to a wide range of industries: papermaking, cement, brickmaking, brewing, ship and barge building, seed crushing and engineering. The two year project was formally launched in July 2006 at the University of Greenwich (Medway), and was attended by over 100 historians and local enthusiasts.

The second project stands alongside the first; it looks at the Medway Towns from 1550-1900. The project will trace the transformation of the four separate communities of Strood, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham into the urban conurbation known as the Medway Towns. This project promotes sustainability of England’s Past for Everyone (EPE); its paperback output is not part of the original EPE paperback series.

Publications

The Medway Valley: a Kent Landscape Transformed (ISBN: 978-1-86077-600-7), authored by Dr Andrew Hann, was published by Phillimore in 2009. In addition to Dr Hann’s research this volume also included a chapter authored by Dr Sandra Dunster, material on the churches of the Medway Valley, authored by John Vigar and a chapter detailing the physical development of three of the Medway villages authored by renowned architectural historian, John Newman. This chapter was advised by a village survey, led by John Newman and John Vigar, in which a volunteer group completed survey recording forms for pre-1900 buildings and produced a photographic survey. This village survey replaced a proposed archaeological survey of the abandoned Burham cement works. Although this survey would have been extremely informative, the current landowners felt that raising awareness of the site’s historic importance may have hampered their plans for its redevelopment and refused to grant permission for the survey.

The book was launched on a celebratory paddle steamer cruise along the Medway, and was attended by over 70 guests (see gallery).   The second paperback is due to be published in 2011, post EPE.

Schools Resources

The school project was led by consultant Jessika Worrall. The project was created in partnership with Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre (MALSC), who were creating a similar project at the time, and in collaboration with Arts in Motion and the Centre for Kentish Studies. Key Stage 2 pupils (ages 9 – 10) from Holy Family School explored how the Medway Valley, through the course of the 19th century, changed from being a quiet agrarian-based society into an industrial area.

The pupils learnt about the papermaking industry in Kent, how their locality fits into the bigger picture of industrialisation in England, and about the consequences of changes to the environment in Maidstone and the Medway Valley. The pupils studied research techniques, learnt how to interpret historic and modern maps, and investigated past lives through documentary records. The pupils enjoyed making their own paper in the classroom, and a visit to a local paper mill.

The project took place during 2008, and the material received was developed and published on our Schools Learning Zone: www.EnglandsPastForEveryone.org.uk/schools .