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.
The start to my Brownie 127 project (Medway in the 1950’s) has been amazing. I’ve made such a connection with the people I interviewed, don’t get me wrong it has been amazing visiting the Medway archives searching through resources and reading books about local history, but it something entirely different talking to people, and listening to their stories. Here’s a taster of some of the people I have interviewed so far for the project (Don’t want to give any spoilers!), want to be involved? see here.
Barry E: a great visit to the former Horsted Farm site in Chatham where Barry’s family worked, it is now an open space with some housing, skirting the edge of Fort Horsted. Barry remembers when they planted the trees for the Orchard.
Richard B: we visited numerous places Luton arches area of Chatham. I loved hearing Richards stories especially that the proximity to living so close to the railway had inspired him to become an engineer! Richards enthusiasm for the local area and supporting its heritage hasn’t faltered as he is the Chairman of a charity working to establish a 1939 Chatham bus as an educational resource, the Medway Heritage Bus.