Kent, 25 July – 2 August 2013

Trip Start Feb 25, 2013
Trip End Sep 21, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, July 25, 2013

After our visit to Budapest, we returned to Graveney in Kent and will be staying here for a few more weeks.   

Since our last blog we've visited Walmer Castle which is another of the castles built by Henry V111 to protect England from invasion by the French and Spanish.  Later it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

There is an Australian connection Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, was a Lord Warden and used to stay at Walmer when visiting England. Other famous Lords Warden include the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Unlike Deal Castle, Walmer was furnished and so was much more interesting. We visited on a lovely summer’s day and you could imagine how pleasant it must be to live there in fine weather – it must also be quite bleak in the winter as it’s right on the coastline facing the North Sea!  Wellington died at Walmer Castle and, among the exhibits, is the armchair in which he died!! There’s also an original pair of 'Wellington boots' which were designed by the Duke.  

Another visit was to Chartwell House, Winston Churchill’s family home from 1924 until the end of his life.  He bought the property because of its fabulous views over the countryside and spent a lot of money renovating and modernising it.  The rooms remain much as they were when he lived here, with pictures, books and personal mementoes.  He’s most famous as the wartime Prime Minister but was a very talented man – a soldier, statesman, a writer, a painter. 

Amongst the many awards he received were the Nobel Prize for Literature, Order of the Garter, Honorary Citizen of the United States (awarded by John Kennedy) and numerous honorary degrees from Universities all over the world.  He was also a practical man and landscaped much of the garden himself – there are photos of him building walls and he created its lakes and waterfalls himself. He and his wife obviously had a good marriage, there are notes and letters he and Clementine wrote to each other – very loving but also very funny!   It’s definitely a place to visit!    

Winston Churchill loved Chartwell, but by 1946 realised that they couldn’t afford to run the property.  So, a consortium of wealthy businessmen purchased the estate and, for a nominal rent allowed Sir Winston and Lady Churchill to live there until they both died, at which point the property would be given to the National Trust. We thought that was a lovely sign of the high esteem in which Churchill was held!

Another visit was to Battle Abbey and the Battle of Hastings Battlefield.  Despite its name, the Battle of Hastings was fought 9 miles away at Battle – the original name was "Senlac Ridge" It was called Battle by the Conqueror after he won – obviously not an imaginative man!!!!.

 The Battle of Hastings is where William, Duke of Normandy, defeated King Harold II to become William I in 1066 and so changed England forever.  Apparently, the Pope ordered the Normans to do penance for killing so many English people and so William built the Abbey Church.  The high altar was reputedly built on the spot where Harold died and is now marked with a plaque. The Church was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (that Henry V111 has a lot to answer!)   

The Abbey Gateway is still standing and houses a museum. The former Abbots house is still there and is used as a School. Llittle else remains from the original building. It was, however, an interesting place to visit.  There were lots of captions explaining the battle itself and what remains of the Abbey.  It was quite sobering to stand in the battlefield where such a momentous event happened!

One day, we tried to visit Dover Castle but it was so busy we abandoned it and went back to Sandwich which had impressed us so much on our last visit.  Sandwich is one of the Cinque Ports and has some lovely old buildings.  We followed the recommended walking trail along old, narrow streets full of interesting buildings and saw the Guildhall (built in 1579), St Peter’s Church (some Norman remains but mostly 14th century), St Clement’s Church (with its original Norman tower). 

The Guildhall is still used as the council offices and St Clement’s is still the parish church.  They have some quaint customs in England e.g. St Peter’s continues the medieval practice of ringing the curfew bell at 8pm. This announced the time for geese and pigs to be turned out into the streets to consume household rubbish. (There used to be a 5am goose-bell warning householders to retrieve their animals before they were impounded.)  Until 1683, the Mayor was elected in St Clement’s by common consent.  No-one declined the offer to be Mayor - it was the right of the townspeople to demolish his house if he refused the honour! 

The 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, is reputed to have invented the modern sandwich in 1762 at a gaming table in a London Gentleman’s Club.  He asked for meat to be served between slices of bread to prevent his fingers getting greasy and spoiling the playing cards.

For something different, we visited the “Curiosities” Exhibition at the Turner Contemporary Museum in Margate.  Apparently, Joseph Turner (famous English artist) went to school in Margate and the exhibition included some of his paintings – of birds rather than the usual landscapes.  There were some very “curious” exhibits e.g. pictures made from human hairs which had been split into 17 strands; a stuffed king penguin collected during one of Shackleton’s expeditions to Antarctica; a stuffed walrus (which was huge!)
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Terry McMenamin on

A very interesting blog with lots of history. It was a pity you missed Dover Castle, it is very interesting. We went on a freezing December day and so had no crowd problems!
Wed are just back from sailing from Conwy to the Isles of Scilly and back, so have done lotes of somewhat different sightseeing!

Sue McNicholl on

Have so enjoyed following your journey through so many places, some of which we have visited and some we have not. For those we have, you have rekindled memories, for those we haven't, you have inspired us. I do remember our visit to Kent, with National trust membership in hand, a holiday during which we targetted all on offer. The one porperty that made the most impact was Chartwell house, so I enjoyed revisiting it through your description. Hope all continues well and look forward to your next blog and /or your next message. S X

Steve & family Perth WA on

Wow, fascinating history Margaret & Rob, you should get the same literary award as Mr Churchill for this account, really great reading thank you. Meanwhile we visited the ancient Roundhouse in Fremantle, Perth's oldest building (18xx?) (Ho hum :-). Keep it coming. Yours jealously, Steve, Angelique and boys xxxx

Elizabeth on

My old stomping ground and in deed I still go back over and over again to these places when I'm back visiting family. I love chartwell and walmer castle. What a wonderful trip you are having.

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