Your guide to the town of Gravsend, North-West Kent.
Gravesend has a population of around 66,000 and lies in the district of Gravesham, in Kent. The town sits on the south bank of the River Thames, across from the town on Tilbury, in Essex.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, the town was recorded as Gravesham, which is believed to have derived from ‘graaf-ham’, the home of the Bailiff of the Lord of the Manor. The name Gravesend is thought to be derived from the Saxon, Gerevesend. The spelling of the name has changed over the centuries from Gravesend/Gravesende, to Graveshend and back to the way we spell it today, Gravesend. In 1974, Gravesham became the name of the District/Borough.
Many historical artefacts have been discovered in the area from the Stone Age and Iron Age, plus Roman remains have been found nearby, at Springhead.
Gravesend’s oldest surviving building is Milton Chantry, which dates back to the late 13th century and is now a Grade II listed building. The Chantry was founded in 1322 and was built as a small Chapel, where people could pray for ‘the souls of the dead’.
Milton Chantry now lies within New Tavern Park and has been turned into a museum, called Chantry Heritage Centre, with exhibits on display relating to Gravesend, the nearby town of Northfleet and other neighbouring villages.
The town is home to one of the oldest surviving markets in the country, dating back to 1268. Originally, the market was only held on a Saturday, with an annual fair every June. Today, the indoor & outdoor market has around 35 stalls and opens Monday to Saturday.
Gravesend town centre features many of the big names stores, including Debenhams, Argos, Boots, Marks & Spencer and many more, plus there’s a selection of well know supermarkets, such as Morrisons and Asda. It boasts two shopping centres, Thamesgate and St. George’s, a high-street filled with a variety of independent shops, Gravesend Borough Market, which is open six days a week and located on the edge of town, is the Imperial Business and Retail Park, where you will find large household names such as B&Q, Halfords, Lidl and Carpetright.
Gravesend has a fine choice of pubs, serving a wide range of tasty food, such as traditional pub meals and snacks. There’s also plenty restaurants to choose from, where you can sit, relax and enjoy anything from Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai cuisine – something to please everyone’s taste buds. There’s also a selection of fast food takeaways/restaurants, including Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC and Subway and a number of fish & chip shops, cafés and tea rooms scattered about the town.
Gravensend has something to offer all ages when it comes to activities and if you love the outdoors, Shorne Woods Country Park is definitely worth a visit. Explore the 292 acres of woodland, browse the Visitor Centre, relax in the café, or try your hand at orienteering, horse riding or fishing, on one of the park’s beautiful lakes. There’s a number of way-marked trails running through the park, plus a cycle path route and children’s play areas.
The town has many famous landmarks, including two piers; Gravesend Town Pier was built in 1834 and is the world’s oldest surviving cast iron pier.
The pier was refurbished in 2004 and has its own bar and restaurant, plus a pontoon where small to medium sized boats can land. Royal Terrace Pier was built in 1844 and is used daily as the main operations centre for the Port of London Authority. Both piers are Grade II listed structures.
Gravesend Clock Tower is located at the top of Harmer Street and its design was based on the Westminster Tower, which houses Big Ben. It is understood to have been built to commemorate the 50 year reign of Queen Victoria and was believed to have been paid for with money raised by the public, around £700. The foundation stone was laid in September 1887.
St. George’s Church in Gravesend, is the burial ground of the legendary Pocahontas (1595-1617), a Virginia Indian, who it is believed saved the life of a British captive called John Smith in 1607, when she placed her head on his head, as her father raised up his weapon to kill him.
She was captured by the English in 1613 but chose to stay with the English upon her release and changed her name to Rebecca. On 21st March 1617, with her husband John Rolfe and their son Thomas, they set sail from London to Virginia. Pocahontas became very ill not long after departing and died in Gravesend from unknown causes.
In 1958, a bronze life-size statue of Pocahontas was unveiled at St. George’s Church gardens and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
English novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870), was born in Portsmouth but lived in Gadshill Place, near Gravesend for a period of his life and the town is mentioned in several of his novels, including David Copperfield and Great Expectations.
Gravesend has a great choice of places to stay, so you can enjoy everything the town has to offer. The Overcliffe Hotel sits right in the heart of the town centre, plus there’s a couple of Premier Inn Hotels, B&B’s, guest houses and self-catering cottages close to the town. Gravesend and the nearby area has accommodation to suit everyone’s needs and budget.
Gravesend has a number of car parking areas close to the town centre and mobility access is available at many of the car parks. By car, Gravesend is clearly signposted from the M2, M20 and M25. For the town centre, coming from the M25, take junction 2 (A2) towards Canterbury. Take the A227 turn off and the road will take you straight into the centre.
The Arriva Bus Service runs frequent buses to most of the nearby towns and there’s also taxi ranks located in the town centre.
Gravesend Railway Station has three platforms and services are operated by Southeastern. Off-peak, two trains run every hour to London St Pancras via Ebbsfleet International, London Charing Cross via Dartford and Sidcup, London Charing Cross via Dartford, Woolwich Arsenal and Lewisham, Gillingham and Faversham.