Hoo Peninsula

From Academic Kids

The Hoo Peninsula is a peninsula in England separating the estuaries of the rivers Thames and Medway. It is dominated by a line of sand and clay hills surrounded by an extensive area of marshland composed of alluvial silt; the name Hoo is the Old English word for high.



The Romans have been credited with the first two attempts at building a sea wall. The subsequent draining of the marshes had a two-fold benefit in that pastureland was created which supported sheep; and the indigent malaria bearing mosquito was deprived of their breeding grounds.

The area is rich in archaeology. Bronze Age implements and Jutish cemeteries have been found on the peninsula, and Roman pottery at Cooling. It was once the point of departure across the ancient Saxon fording point over the River Thames to Essex.

Much of the Peninsula lies in one of the Saxon divisions of England called 'hundreds': here it is the 'Hundred of Hoo'. In the interests of accuracy, the Hundred comprised the parishes and churches of Hoo St Werburgh, High Halstow, St Mary's Hoo, Allhallows and part of Stoke. The Isle of Grain, then a complete island, was in the Hundred of Gillingham; the remainder of the parish of Stoke was in the Hundred of Shamel. (Notes from The Hundred of Hoo (Ralph Arnold, Constable 1947))

William the Conqueror granted his half-brother, Odo, the large estate of Hoo.


The marshlands

The marshlands are now part of two protected areas of land: the Thames Estuary and Marshlands and the Medway Estuary and Marshes. The Thames Estuary area covers the 15 miles (24 km) from Gravesend to the Isle of Grain; the Medway area 15 miles (24 km) from Rochester to the Isle of Grain: a total of 38 square miles (98 km²) of marshlands.Both are considered as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protected Areas (SPA). They include coastal grazing marsh, intertidal mudflats, saltmarsh and lagoons. On the line of hills lies the [Northwood Hill] National Nature Reserve.

The Thames and Medway Canal

The Rivers Thames and Medway were once joined by an ambitious project of construction in the form of the eight-mile long Thames & Medway Canal, the construction of which was begun in 1805. With basins providing port and access to the two rivers at Gravesend and Strood, the canal passed through a two-mile Higham tunnel, broken in the centre by a shaft to allow boats to pass. Construction was difficult and expensive and it was not completed until 1824. The route became part of the railway linking Higham with Strood. The line of this old now silted canal can be considered a convenient boundary marking the landward edge of the peninsula.

The section of the canal from Gravesend to the Highham tunnel is now in the hands of the Thames & Medway Canal Association, whose website contains a more complete history, including a map. See

Tunnel closure: Engineers and surveyors both governmental and private undertook a consultation and subsequent construction of the recently introduced Medway Towns bypass, which drove a link route directly over the old tunnel, consequently causing geological instability. New housing built along the line of that route has further impacted on its stability. As a result, the tunnel is now closed to trains for the duration of the year 2004.


The only main road is the A228, which crosses the old Roman 'London Road' (Watling Street) (A2) at Strood and then follows the high land eastwards to Grain. Within the Peninsula this road as named the "Ratcliffe Highway". Leaving the Medway Towns Northern Bypass at the bottom of Four Elms hill, it climbs to Chattenden, bypassing Hoo St Werburgh and High Halstow, before crossing to the Isle of Grain. A secondary road (B2000) goes north to Cliffe-at-Hoo, on the edge of the northern marshes.

This secondary road is much used by heavy transport serving the farms and the factory at Cliffe-at-Hoo. It passes through Cliffe Woods, to Cliffe-at-Hoo, where it becomes first Station Road, from the location of the now vanished station of the Hundred of Hoo Railway, and finally enters Church Street, which eventually leads onto the marshes themselves.

The main road is extensively rural in nature but several interesting old buildings can be seen along its route. There remains a Grade II listed red brick farmhouse dating from the 17th century and its barn, 25 yards (25 m) south of the farmhouse, also a Grade II building but timber framed and weather boarded. Another Grade II listed farmhouse is Fenn Street Farmhouse, the timber framed building is medieval in origin, with parts dated to the 15th century. Its age may be judged by the fact that, in 1760, the building was refaced.

The other principal route on the peninsula heads north by way of Cliffe-at-Hoo, (B2000). This is a winding country road, much used by industrial transport serving the larger farms including Mockbeggar Farm. The B2003 passes through Cliffe Woods, to Cliffe, where it becomes first Station Road, from the location of the now vanished station of the Hundred of Hoo railway, and finally enters Church Street, which leads onto the marshes themselves.

There are numerous other minor roads, all on the higher land. Some trackways do eventually reach the sea walls, however.

The Hundred of Hoo Railway

In 1878, Henry Pye with a deputation of other local farmers met with the South Eastern Railway Company with a request for a new railway to be built in the area. From this meeting a new company was established, and became known as the Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. The railway company saw it as part of the development of continental traffic, and the ferry terminal at what was named Port Victoria was built as terminus of the line. The traffic did not materialise and that section of the line closed and the line beyond Grain closed in 1951.

The first part of the line to be opened was in March 1882, from Cliffe to Sharnal Street. This was later to be extended east to the Isle of Grain. Sharnal Street was the larger of the two original twin stations and was provided with good sidings, where the local farmers were able to load their produce, to be that much more easily transported directly to the London market. It was also at Sharnal Street that telegram and mail collections were effected.

On 14 May 1932 a branch railway was opened to the Thames estuary beyond the ancient village of Allhallows. It was intended to become a riverside resort of some size, and grandiose plans were formed. The new area was given the name of Allhallows-on-Sea. Little came of the scheme, and today all signs of that branch have disappeared, save for the water tower which supplied the locomotives at the terminus (it is now a listed building). There is a holiday village on the site where the resort was intended to be.

Villages on the Hundred of Hoo

Hoo St Werburgh

Named after a Saxon princess born between 640-50 ad, the niece of Ethelrede, who succeeded her father as king of Mercia.

The first church built at Hoo dates from about 741, built by Ethlbald, a cousin of Werburgh, although a nunnery existed nearby at an earlier time. A feature found in the church considered to be unique is found in the existence of two coats of royal arms belonging to James I (1603) and the arms of Elizabeth I, both recently restored and placed on view in the church. The parish records of 1851 give the population as 1,065.

A workhouse was in use here until the 1930s; and the secondary school bears the name Hundred of Hoo School.

Broad Street appeared as Brodestrete in 1478 (Place Names of Kent: J Glover) merely indicating a wide street then existed here. Also Jacobs Lane, named after the family of Stephen Jacobe of Hoo (1480).

High Halstow

See: High-Halstow.

High Halstow, 50 metres above sea level, is one of the highest points on the Hoo Peninsula. It formed around junctions in the ancient roads from Hoo and Cliffe to the Isle of Grain.

To the north of the village lies Northwood Hill protected by the RSPB which now manages an internationally significant nature reserve with Britain's largest heronry (160 pairs), also supporting little egrets, avocets and marsh harriers. Northwood hill, or Northward ward, was once known locally as 'the Norrards'. Beyond on the marsh is a disused experimental radar station, now part of the RSPB reserve.

A heronry has been in the woods from at least 1947, when it was mentioned in a book on the Hundred of Hoo by Mr Ralph Arnold. This site was scheduled for demolition under government proposals for an international London airport. (See Thames Gateway).

High Halstow has become generally a farming area, but some of its residents gained employment outside the village, at the Royal Navy Armament Depot at Lodge Hill, Chattenden, and the Medway Oil and Storage Co at Grain. Chatham Dockyard and the Short Brothers seaplane works at Rochester were traditional employers for the whole area until they shut many years ago.

Buck Hole Farmhouse can be found next to Northward Hill RSPB reserve, and another Grade II listed farmhouse dates from the early 18th century.


The 'living' at Cliffe in the C17th was described as 'one of the prizes of the church'.

Alfred Francis (second son of Charles), with his son established the firm of Francis and Co. Establishing the Nine Elms office at Vauxhall, London the firm built the cement works at Cliffe from about 1868. Alfred Francis died in 1871, but in partnership his son continued to produce 'Portland, Roman, Medina, and Parian cement, Portland stucco and Plaster of Paris', also shipping chalk, flints and fire bricks, from the site.

The Grade II listed barn at Rye Farm, in Common Lane, Cliffe dates from the 1570's. It is described as a 16th century Grade II barn "with archaic details." Beneath its present asbestos roof is a timber framed three bay barn with weather boarded walls and a traditional hipped roof. It includes an ancient wagon porch.

See: Cliffe-at-Hoo.

Cliffe Woods

Cliffe Woods was once just a small hamlet and is geographically situated next to Higham. The old woods rise to meet Chattenden and the Ratcliffe highway, just before Hoo, and still retains much of its rural character, but has of late been built upon. The modern estate now situated just back from the B2000 was built on a clay subsoil, and many of the houses had to be underpinned after having been sold, because they were noticed to have moved slightly, built on a hillside.

A petrol filling station was one of the few village shops here as early as 1925, and was rebuilt in the 1960s. Even then some of the properties in the woods did not have their own water supply, and had to visit the garage to collect their water. b2000


Cooling part of the parish of Stoke, both in the Hundred of Sharnel, is the location of an ancient castle built to defend the port of Cliffe. The village church of St James has long been classified 'redundant', and is therefore no longer used for worship, but is maintained by the Church Commission. In the churchyard are the group of children's gravestones which prompted [Charles Dickens] to write the opening of the novel (later made into a film)of Great Expectations.

The remote and isolated hamlet has been described as 'the capital of English Lollardry' because of its association with sir John Oldcastle. Sir John de Cobham died at Cooling 1408.

Sir John de Cobham, third Baron Cobham inherited an 700 acre (2.8 km²) estate at Cobham from his father Henry in 1335, originally acquired by the de Cobhams in 1241. John lord Cobham later built the castle in 1381, as he was in charge of the defence of Kent but a successful raid by the Spanish and French up to Gravesend spurred the king to realize the defence was needed. For in 1379 French vessels appeared in the Thames, with a body of French and Spanish soldiers who 'ravaged all this part of Kent', so that every town and village near the river fell to them.

The castle described as 'startling white-stone, drum-towered gatehouse and moated ruins of Cooling Castle' (Arnold), is now not much more than a ruin but has too excellent and well proportioned towers and entrance built by Thomas Crump of Maidstone.

Constructed by the stonemason Henry Yeverle, who also worked extensively on the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London. 1381, the castle began to take shape, obtaining license from king Richard to 'crenellate and fortify it'.

The name of Brooke was derived from sir Thomas Brooke who was wed to the daughter, and only surviving child of the lady Joan de Cobham, by sir Reginald Braybrooke. It was Braybrooke who bequeathed Cooling castle into the de Cobham estate, although that family maintained Cobham hall even then as its main residence.

Nevertheless Cooling castle was stormed by Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1554 during the Kentish uprising against queen Mary and after the failure of lord John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland to install lady Jane Grey on the throne.

That Sir Thomas Wyatt so easily stormed Cooling Castle may be explained by the interesting detail that the same was a nephew of Lord Cobham. Sir Thomas Wyatt was the son of Elizabeth Brooke, Cobham's sister, so his complicity with Dudley and Grey was 'a natural expression of his intimate love of England'. Wyatt held large estates in the Hundred of Hoo apart from those of his uncle, Lord Brooke of Cobham. His home was at Allington Castle on the River Medway.

It was George, Lord Cobham, in the year following his release from the Tower of London, who was instructed to entertain Cardinal Pole during the papal legate's visit to England during a formal reconciliation with Rome. This entertainment is recorded as having taken place at Cooling Castle, in about 1555, and is the last known reference to the Cobham family using the castle as a home. It had formally been somewhat damaged by the Duke of Norfolk's cannon in the attempt to force Wyatt's surrender during that uprising against Mary I.

During the 1990's the property was owned by the Rochester bridge wardens, but is now a private retreat of Jules Holland.

St Mary Hoo.

The first appearance of the name is in 1240.

St Mary's Church at St Mary Hoo was the former parish church and gave its name to the village, and although it remains a grade II building, dating from the 14th century it has been reconstructed as a private house. Formally rebuilt in about 1881 of local rag stone, it has an un restored 15th century south west window that is noteworthy.

Newlands Farmhouse Nearby along the ridge track to Northward Hill is a Grade II farmhouse which was built in 1746.

The Old Rectory at St Mary Hoo A grade II house built in the late 1700s. It has a special place in scandals involving the royalty. The rectors from 1788 to 1875 were a father and son, both named R. Burt. The senior of the two, the Rev. Robert Burt, performed the illegal marriage ceremony between George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert in 1785. A plaque commemorating this event remains hidden in the old church of St Mary.

St Mary's Hall, also at St Mary Hoo, is a house built in the 1600s, but which was added to in 1830. It was the home of the Victorian farm innovator, Henry Pye, between 1845 and 1909.


Stoke is divided into Upper Stoke and Lower Stoke.

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Hoo St-Mary
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Stoke Church

The Rose and Crown The pub in Stoke Road is another Grade II building. It started life as a Georgian house in the late 18th century but has 20th century additions and alterations.

In the late C20th the Ramsgate Flat Earth Society held council at Stoke and formed the North Kent Parochial Anarchists. This was announced on the parish and village notice board, opposite what now represents the village centre, and by public proclamation on the village green in 1984.

There was a large airship base nearby at Kingsnorth from whence patrols went out covering the North Sea during WWI. It now lies beneath the Kingsnorth Power Station.

Hoo All Hallows

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In the year of 1285 the village was known as Ho All Hallows, the ‘Ho’ indicating a spur of land and in this case now commonly known as the Hoo peninsula, at the confluence of the Thames and River Medway estuaries. Template:Gbmapping.

The parish is bounded on the north side by the River Thames, the northern most part of mainland Kent, and in the east by the now much reduced Yantlet creek, once part of a navigable and fortified trade route used from Roman times.

The parish church of All Saints'dates from the 12th century. It is the only grade I listed building on the Hoo Peninsula and has recently been at risk of destruction, as a notice posted in the church announced: PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED FOR DEMOLITION UNDER PROPOSALS FOR A LONDON ORBITAL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

The church is built of flint and stone, and has a lead roof, west tower, nave with north and south porch, and chancel. The oldest part is the west end of the nave and arcade. The north arcade dates from the early 13th century, while the chancel arch is 14th century, parts of the nave date from the Wars of the Roses. Parish registers date from 1629.

The Saxon shore way passes close by these old boundaries indicating silting over many centuries.

Avery farm was in Saxon times on the tip of a promontory which was an island in it own right belonging to the Saxon Heahburh, it is thought she may have been an Abbess, given that the farmlands that was then her property were part of the lands granted to the monastery at Peterborough by Caedwalla in the C7th (Place Names of Kent: J Glover). A branch of the Pympe family lived on an estate with a mansion known as Allhallows House.

The 1841 population of Allhallows was recorded as 268 persons.

The modern holiday village of Allhallows-on-Sealies to the north of the ancient village.


Grain village, situated on the eastern extremity of the Hoo peninsula, on the Isle of Grain which, when the Yantlet Creek cut it off, was once a small island in its own right. (see also Isle of Sheppey and Isle of Thanet).

From about 1912 a sea plane station was positioned at Grain, by the Admiralty. From the beginning of the Great War in 1914 regular patrols were made along the Thames estuary from this station, as part of English channel defences. Port Victoria was established in 1914 as an RN (Royal Navy) air plane repair depot, adjacent to the station. Activities at these bases declined after 1918, until in 1924 defence cuts saw their closure. See also under Stoke: large airship base.

The area is now largely occupied by the Isle of Grain Coal and Oil reserve Power station, the construction of which was begun in 1948 with a completion and start up date scheduled for 1952, however the site was flooded in its first week when the sea wall was breached. A State of the arts Gas import depot has of late secured a station at the site.

The tunnel segments for the Channel Tunnel were constructed at Grain.


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