Dickens Country, our Heritage Landscape
Chalk, already known in the 8th century from a witan (a Saxon meeting) held here, is mentioned in the Domesday Book. A large Roman villa was discovered here in 1961. Of the farms in the parish, Filborough is the oldest, having historical mention as early as AD 1220. At one time it was owned by Henry VIII. Two of its manor houses were called West Court and East Court.
Chalk's major claim to fame is its connection with Charles Dickens. Here he spent his honeymoon with his new bride, Catherine Hogarth; and it was here that he wrote the early installments of Pickwick Papers. He also used the old forge in the village as a model for Joe Gargery's cottage in Great Expectations. The building still stands as a historically listed building .
In 1935 Chalk parish became part of the Municipal Borough: until then it had been a somewhat remote village. In the main street was one of the tollgates for toll road opened between Northfleet and Strood; it remained until 1871. In 1921 the new Gravesend-Rochester road was built which left the former main village street to the north. The village inn, the White Hart now stands on the main road (now converted and part of the Harvester Restaurant group); and the school closed to be replaced by the village hall The school project had been the brainchild of the Vicar of Chalk during the Victorian era, the Revd William Joynes, and was originally funded largely through Joynes' good working relationship with the Earl of Darnley; the ownership of the school became vested in the church's Diocesan Board of Education. The local church bought the site through its PCC in 1960 during the ministry of the Revd Alan Holloway. The name "Chalk Parish Hall" was formailsed at this time. The building was extensively enlarged in wood and equipped with a new but non-pitched roof in the later 1960s. After the building became significantly decayed through the rotting of the wooden structure it was totally rebuilt in brick during 2006-7 and officially reopened by HRH The Duke of Kent on 5 June 2007.
The parish church of St Mary the Virgin lies at some distance to the east of the village centre. A church building existed in this location for the Synod of Chalkhythe in 785 and was noted in the Domesday Book of 1086; the current structure dates from the 12th century. The font is Norman and the oldest bell was first hung in 1348. The tower, a prominent landmark for navigation in the Thames, dates from the 15th century.
Also within the parish was the one-time Gravesend Airport, opened as the Gravesend School of Flying in 1932, from which Amy Johnson began her record flight, and which during World War II became a Royal Air Force fighter base. Sold to developers in 1957, on much of its site is now one of the biggest post-war housing estates, known as Riverview Park Estate.
Dickens' Country Protection Society (DCPS)
If you live in or visit the area between the North Downs and the Isle of Grain you may have stood on a hill and looked out towards the Thames or the Medway. Perhaps you wished you knew more about this Dickens' countryside, and felt that the good things you see could be lost forever.That's why a small group of people started the Dickens' Country Protection Society over 35 years ago and membership has grown significantly.
Guided Walks and Talks by Christoph Bull
Christoph Bull is a tour guide and Speaker who has entertained many local groups with his illustrated talks and walks. He is also Municipal Mace Bearer for Gravesham Borough Council and historical advisor to Swanscombe & Greenhithe Town Council.
In March 2016 Christoph ran the popular Funnel the Tunnel walk of Chalk Parrish, highlighting the devastation that the proposed Lower Thames Crossing Option C would bring to north Kent.