If you are Travelling downstream on the river Medway, along the tidal reach from Allington Lock to the
impressive concrete span of the M2 bridge at Rochester, the only village actually to reach down to the water
on the Men of Kent's eastern bank is Wouldham.
It is worthwhile for any river traveller to disembark to see the village (which has all the casual dishevelment
of many waterside communities), if only to visit the church.
Well, the churchyard, really, for it is here that the searcher will find the grave of local man Walter Burke, who
had the distinction of being the purser aboard Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and of having cradled Lord
Nelson himself in his arms as the great man died.
The near deification of Nelson that followed his death was enough to reflect such glory upon the Wouldham
purser that, ever since, local school children have trooped down from the school to the grave in the
churchyard and reverently placed posies of flowers there each Trafalgar Day. (21st October)
The transcript on the stone reads "Sacred to the Memory of Walter Burke, Esq, of this Parish, who died on the
12th September 1815 in the 70th year of his age. He was Purser on His Majesty's Ship Victory in the glorious
Battle of Trafalgar, and in his arms the immortal Nelson died."
Walter Burke left the Navy and came home to Wouldham where he owned both Purser Place and Burke
House. Both were removed to Maresfield in East Sussex in 1937 and materials from both were used to build
one new house called Purser Place.
For centuries there was a ferry crossing the river whenever hired to do so from Wouldham to Halling and it
may be that there was, before that, a ford across the river at this point, possibly where Romans and Britons
fought for the way to London. In 1843 workmen found what, at the time, was thought to have been a Mithraic
temple at Wouldham, though later experts decided it was more likely to have been an old farmhouse cellar.
They can't be sure now because no details of it's location have survived so no-one now knows where it was
The ferry service ended in 1963, when the Stevens family, who had operated it for many years, gave it up.
Nowadays, it is assumed that anyone who wants to cross the river will have the means to travel the few miles
north or south to the nearest bridges at Aylesford or Rochester, but there will also be a new bridge at the site
of the new Peters village development.
The churchyard grave of Walter Burke may soon no longer be the main attraction the Wouldham has to offer
it's visitors. Out on Wouldham marshes, north of the village, the 14th century remains of the house called
Starkey castle have been brought back to life by it's new owner, retired barrister Gerald Davies.
The house was original built for Sir Humphrey Starkey, Recorder of the City of London in 1471 and later Chief
Baron of the Exchequer in 1483. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments described Starkey Castle as
a monument of national importance, and one of the few medieval manor houses to have survived more or
less in it's original condition.
It had been converted into three cottages before Mr Davies bought it and began the long job of restoring it to
it's former glories, with the intention of opening it for exhibitions and conferences eventually.
I am always looking for new information about Wouldham, if you have
anything of interest that you care to share please Email me, the link is at the
bottom of the page
After the whale drama of the Thames, 56 years ago, the River Medway had a whale drama of its own. The
whale involved was of a much rarer species than the northern bottlenose whale in the Thames. In October
1949, records author Bob Ogley in 'Kent - A Chronicle of the Century Vol 11', "...there was great excitement
at Rectory Wharf, Wouldham, when the body of a narwhal arrived on the shore via the Medway." "It is only
the second example of the species to be washed ashore in this country in 500 years."
The whale's body was taken to the Natural History Museum, in London. So, what is a narwhal? Narwhals are
usually found in Arctic seas and rivers where they feed on cuttlefish, crustaceans and fish. The most unusual
feature of the narwhal is that it has only two teeth in its upper jaw.
Many thanks to Jane Denham for the picture. The gentleman leaning over towards the whale is her uncle,
I would like to say a big thank you to Suzanne Emery for the following historical tidbits.
"With reference to the ferry across to Halling, my mother who is 89 years old and was a Stevens has told me
there were two ferries operating when she was a little girl one to Halling and the other to Snodland.
There was also a tunnel from the church to Starkey Castle and another one in the centre of the village that
people used during the war."
A big thank you to for some further information regarding tunnels from Robert Mallard formally of 11, Ravens
"A tunnel ran from the Ravens Knowle chalk pit ,it started beneath the large overhang of chalk,that still exists
and exited alongside the recreation ground to enable the mined chalk to be moved to the waiting barges.
As a schoolboy during the war I remember running to the tunnel which was used as a village air raid shelter.
Lighting was provided by generators, access from the Ravens Knowle end of the tunnel was via steps cut into
the side of the pit,(not too safe in the rain).
We quite enjoyed our times in the tunnel, after each raid was over PC Hall the village policeman would
notify us where any bombs had fallen, even the one that fell on the tunnel did no damage.
There was almost a party atmosphere, always a singsong going on and Claude Cornwall always did his best
to liven thing up. I well remember him dressed in an old fashion black swimsuit, a Union Jack attached,
having us in stitches, a fine man.
Cornwall Crescent was named after him.
After the war ,we boys used the tunnel as our play area ,we would use it as our "camp".
Of course now, it would be considered dangerous, (perhaps it was then, but no one got hurt) ,and it was
decided to close the entrances."
A big thank you to for some further information regarding tunnels from David Jones formally of Wouldham
and now living in Australia.
"Yes, Bob Mallard is correct in everything he wrote about the tunnel, in fact, Bob was also at the school when
I was there so know exactly what he talking about. People slept in the tunnel as well at times, and the
lighting was either by candles or paraffin lamps. No doubt Bob can also remember the Bridge that was built
across the river by the Royal Engineers from the local camp which was situated almost opposite the old
rectory. The bridge itself was a one way job with traffic lights either side, and the lads at school most days
would go down to the site and watch the barges drive the long heavy piles into the bed of the river during it's
I wonder if Bob can also remember the American troops which were 'under canvas' at the Wouldham
approach to the bridge. many pitching their tents right up against the churchyard wall. The Americans had
some very interesting vehicles for us lads and they were kept in the field next to the roadway adjacent to
thee river which stretched towards the vicarage and the army camp further along up the road. These
American troops had tanks and also amphibian craft they trained with and using the Medway River, and
occasionally they would offer us lads rides in the vehicles around the field they were camped in.,-providing
we took their empty bottles back to the Waterman's Arms where we would get a penny twopence refund on
each of them. ( A little extra pocket money too this was). I can also remember that terrible day when a
German land mine was dropped across the road and exploded right opposite the church blowing the main
leadlight window into the church, the shattered glass littering across the alter and down the Aisle as well as
causing lots of other damage to the roof and other windows, but thankfully little other damage to the main
part of the Church itself. Enough for now, regards to dear old Wouldham, there's so much to tell about the
place. I believe I am right in saying that Wouldham was mentioned in the Doomsday Book as 'Woldenham' or
something like that. David Jones
If anyone has any further information on the above or any other information please contact me using the link
I just read with interest the item on Wouldham Village. My mother was the manageress of the co-op there in
the high street in about 1954 ish and we lived in the house attached while my father was a labourer on the
Cory's Wharf at Rochester. I used to catch the no.29 bus to Maistone each day whilst I was at Maidstone
Grammar School...happy days indeed. I always thought there was the remanants of a ferry across the river at
Wouldham as there was a sort of slipway if I recall.
Another interesting fact is that prior to our move to Wouldham village, my dad was a farm worker for the Mr
Draper who was the farmer who owned the farm which included Starkey Castle. This is where I lived for a
considerable time. Imagine a farm worker's family living in a castle!!! In fact it was very basic those days with
flagstones throughout downstairs and a huge kitchen still with the old bread? ovens therein. We had only
paraffin for lighting and cooking etc and it was basic but as a youngster, I thought it was lovely. The large
front window was split across with the floor of the upstairs bedroom......never gave it much thought but would
like to know a bit of background of the property., Sadly my folks are long gone but I'm sure they would have
liked to know the history of the buiding. Sadly those days we didn't have a camera so I cannot send you
anything of those years...
Anyway, I hope the current resident is happy there and might be pleased to know that the house gave a lot of
pleasure to our family aroung 1953 ish when we lived there.......a long time ago..... Dick Richardson
I enjoy Jimmy Bellís poem about his walk in the village , Iím no poet, but my memories go back even further,
and will show how Wouldham changed .
Ravens Knowle is where I start my journey. Mrs Hill ran the little shop at No.1, she could supply the Knowlites
with most items.
PC Hall the village policeman lived with his son John in the house later to be the home of the Davis family.
Down the Knowle Road , past the Jubilee Hall, and we had The Medway Inn where Sandra Wells lived .(Her
father was the publican).
To the right, about 2 doors down was the paper shop run by Mrs Chapman and her sister Charlotte.
Opposite Castle Street was the shop run by Mr. and Mrs. Harris, they sold mainly household goods. Across
from Ferry Lane there was The Forresters Arms where Michael Ryan lived . Mrs. Denny and her sweet shop,
was next door, how she made a living with sweet rationing still in force I do not know. Max Testerís father(
the butcher) was next, in his shop by the slaughter house. The grocery shop of Mr. Booth completed that little
group of businesses .
Past the tram road to Tommy Oscathorps Post Office, he sold almost anything, then on to The Rose And
Crown, landlord Jack Starling, with his beautiful daughters Pat and Shirley. a very popular pub that one.
The Watermanís Inn was further down the street on the opposite side of the road that was run by Harry Sands
with the Petrol Pumps to one side, and then The Old Pickle Factory.
Across from the Watermans was Les Brookers fish and chip shop, and another sweet shop.
The final shop, near to Church Place was the Co Op.
Where did these shops vanish to ?, or rather, how did they make their living? . The number 29 bus was very
regular in those days, 2 an hour, yet still the villagers used their own local shops.
© Copyright 2011 WW Media
Came across this picture of me (squatting in front, curly hair) taken just in front of Ravens Knowle. The
picture is of Joe Pope and Annita: my Aunt Helen must be the one taking the picture, they lived at No 5 and
were also related to us. Mr & Mrs Brooker (my grandparents) No 9, their son Walter at the back just home
from the Navy, and relatives from London on a visit, must have been in the summer and a Sunday as
that is when any visitor came down, they all loved coming to Wouldham. Sitting on the steps Mr & Mrs Bell,
parents of James and Robert, think it is Robert on the steps. My aunt and my grandmother were sisters, the
chap on the right with glasses was my uncle Tom their brother.
Margaret Machin (Brooker)