Horsewash Lane – a memory

In a little corner of Rochester in Kent there is a little unknown lane (in comparison to its well documented sister Rochester High Street), Horsewash Lane.  As you know I love a bit of local history and have been fascinated by it for ages, however the history behind Horsewash Lane has only come onto my radar recently.

When I was little my father lived in Strood, and when returning home we’d always cross Rochester bridge, going under the subway which is the start of Horsewash Lane (opposite the Crown Pub), at the time I didn’t know it by that name.  I was fascinated by that white tiled subway, as I descended the spiral stair case to it, or when I went with my mum and brother (who was in a pram at the time) down the ramp.  I can’t really explain why I had a real connection with that subway, perhaps as it book ended some great memories from days out, then we returned home with the hustle and bustle of the road above, safe in our echoey subway.

Anyway I digress, Horsewash lane, I’ve investigated the history behind the area, through Medway Council Archive Centre and CityArk online, both of which note that horse washing took place at this point at the river from around 1828, as depicted in sketches found from the Frindsbury side of the river.  The lane has been documented to have been there since 1548 (then known as St Clements Lane) when the Parish of St Clements declined following Henry the 8th’s united church policy.  The City ark document noted that in 1851 an arch from the Church of St Clements was found when the new bridge was being built.  This Lane linking to the area know as ‘The Common’ hosted many a market in its hey day including wheat, cattle, corn.  It is refreshing to see that the traditional markets of Medway are being kept alive such as the Rochester Farmers Market and Rochester Flea.

Visiting the area today, it is very run down, fenced off, with no real evidence of the interesting area that it once was, it feels unloved and neglected (apart from the graffiti and the coach park).  The old subway is now boxed in, the stairs removed, and a new pedestrian crossing now takes it’s place.  With the new Rochester Riverside housing development, I wonder whether Horsewash Lanes new residents will even know that this place ever existed.  So much of our local area is well documented, I don’t like to see those little gems not so well known, fall to the way side in our wonderful and rich local history.

The photographs I have taken show the area 2016, before further development takes place, and this area’s history is potentially forgotten.


  1. nikkipricephotography

    I’ve had a great response for my blog on Horsewash Lane. Good to see that there is so much enthusiasm from local residents who are equally passionate about the area. Barry Eldridge from Chatham, got in touch and he recalls his father taking scrap metal to a yard in that area in the 1950’s, and told me of a mortuary in the arches, to serve those who met their ill fate in the river. Chris Broderick, of local band the Singing Loins, ‘Medway Delta love song’ ( was also heavily based on the Horsewash lane area. The Medway Delta Love Song gives a real sense of the area in the past. Thanks to everyone who has been touch.

    • Annie Hall

      Hello Nikki,
      I was very interested in this comment, and wondered if you could put me in touch with Barry Eldridge please?
      I am researching the old mortuary in the railway arches at Horse Wash Lane in connection with a book being written by Frances Rowley Beaumont. The book is about the extraordinary life of John Oliver (known locally as Johnny No Hands) who lived on the river in a boat called Joliver, and whose work included retrieving bodies from the river for the police, and taking them to this mortuary for temporary storage in his tug called ‘Hobbit’

      Here is a link to Frances’ website if you would like to know more about the book:

      • nikkipricephotography

        Hi Annie

        Thanks for your message I’ll send him your email. Your research sounds very interesting and I have liked your facebook page, and look forward to reading more.

        Great to see my article continues to inspire and enthuse others in the local area of Rochester.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s