Horrible History of Dartford Run

Sorry, it’s taken a couple of weeks but here, finally is the Horrible History Run notes and some of the photos.

STARTING AT DUNHELM Car Park

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen

I am the White Lady of the Tower, formerly known as Lady Constance Hall. I can be seen in the old part of Hall Place. I haunt the halls following the death of my husband who had his innards gored out by a stag that he was hunting. I am not alone though; the musicians can still be heard playing in the Minstrel’s Gallery from time to time and there is a weeping woman in the attic who is searching for her lost child. But the one that you don’t want to meet is The Black Prince. He was the son of Edward III and said to be one of the finest knights of his time, showing great courage and chivalry in many battles throughout the 100 years war. He died of dysentery before becoming king and it is said to be a very bad omen to see his ghost. The last owner, Lady Limerick had an agreement with the local police, that if the ghosts got too lively, she could call them for help.

Now, onwards to our next stop.

HEATH

Welcome to Dartford Heath, come closer as there are all sorts of evil in these parts including the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin. Turpin was born in Essex in 1705, he began working as a butcher like his father before turning to a life of crime, at first it was just poaching but after getting in with a gang of more serious criminals, he moved on to horse theft, burglary and assault. The gang travelled across the home counties, breaking in to houses and torturing the occupants until they handed over their riches. Most of Turpin’s gang were rounded up in 1737, they were tried and hung at Tyburn until dead, their heads were then cut off and placed on pikes along the road to discourage others from turning to crime. Turpin went to ground before resurfacing with a new accomplice who he “accidently” shot and killed, he fled North on his horse Black Bess but was later captured and tried for horse theft, he was found guilty and hanged in York. His coffin was filled with limestone to prevent the body snatchers from taking any trophies. His ghost is said to haunt the Heath and also the Dartford Crossing which a local councillor recently started a petition to have renamed Dick Turpin Way as it joins his home county with one of his old stomping grounds and as a tongue in cheek dig that the toll fees are highway robbery. Next time you do a park run here, remember to watch your valuables just in case Dick is about.

Onwards to town, please follow the guides closely, we don’t want to lose you.

Workhouse on West Hill

First built in 1729 the workhouse was rebuilt after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the act ensured that no able-bodied person could get poor relief unless they lived in the workhouse. The poor had to earn their keep. The government didn’t want to encourage idle spongers and malingerers, so they made sure that it was somewhere that was feared enough that people would do anything to stay out of it. Men, women and children had separate living areas, families were split up and punished if they even tried to speak to one another. The children were educated in the skills required to become servants and could even find themselves hired out to work in factories and mines. Upon entering the workhouse, they were stripped, bathed and made to wear a uniform, much like criminals so everyone outside knew that they lived in the workhouse. The food was the same, tasteless gruel day after day which they had to eat with their hands. Jobs included gardening, spinning and cooking but there were also some hard, unpleasant jobs usually used as a punishment for breaking the rules like breaking rocks or oakum picking.

PRIORY

I am sure you are all familiar with Henry VIII and his many wives. Henry was a spoiled brat who would never have been King if his older brother Arthur wasn’t such a sickly weed. Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon but died before his father Henry VII and allegedly before consummating the marriage. Henry VII was a miserly old git who didn’t want to let Catherine’s quite substantial dowry go home to Spain so decided that his other son would marry her as well. Henry VIII took to the throne in 1509 with Catherine as his Queen. They were married for24 years but only produced one living child, a daughter, later known as Bloody Queen Mary. Henry took a fancy to Lady Anne Boleyn who had recently returned from the French court, she refused to jump in to Henry’s bed like all the other wenches at court, if he liked it that much, he would have to put a ring on it, so Henry decided that his marriage to Catherine must be cursed or she would have given him a son and he tried to divorce her. The Pope said no so Henry left the Catholic church, declared himself head of his own Protestant Church of England, divorced Catherine, married Anne. The English Catholics were none to pleased about having to change religions, especially when Henry decide to claim all the very extensive land and property owned by the Catholic church including the two monasteries in Dartford and the Priory which housed the only order of Dominican Nuns in the country. Anyone refusing to accept Henry as head of the church or caught practicing Catholicism were tortured or burnt at the stake until they were nice and crispy. The monks and nuns were all thrown out onto the street and Henry took the land and built a new manor house.

Anne only managed to produce a girl as well, later Elizabeth I, so of course Henry decided that she was a floozy who had slept with half the court, including her own brother and she had to be beheaded. As she liked French things so much, Henry sent for a French executioner who chopped off her head with a French sword. Quite dramatic but a bit harder to do so he took three chops to finish the job off, the first one went through her shoulder before he hit the target. Her head was only half way to hitting the floor when Henry was half way through his wedding vows to Jane Seymour. She did produce a son, Edwards VII but died in the process and he was a weak and sickly boy, so Henry’s advisors said he had to keep trying. They ordered up the Tinder of the day, sent portrait painters out across Europe to bring back pictures of the beauties available. He swiped right for Anne of Cleeves but she had apparently been photo shopped by the artist, Henry went through with the ceremony but then said he couldn’t sleep with her as she had a face like a horse, she was nicknamed the Flanders Mare. He divorced her and set her up very nicely in the manor house here In Dartford until her death, she got off lightly. Wife number five was Catherine Howard, another floozy swiftly despatched with a more traditional axe and finally Catherine Parr who out lived him.

When Bloody Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553 she set about getting her own back on the protestants, many were executed including Christopher Wade, a Dartford linen-weaver who was burnt at the stake on the Brent in 1555. The Martyrs’ Memorial on East Hill commemorates Wade and other Kentish Martyrs.

TV POLTERGEISTS – Stop near bottom of East Hill

In 1992 the BBC transmitted a drama that was based on a number of factual reports. It was called Ghostwatch, and it caused a national sensation. It was the story of the rise of the suburban poltergeist from the 1970s onwards, the reports showed where the real ghosts of our society had now gone to live. They are inside television itself – a strange nether world of PR-driven half-truths and synthetic personalities, the programme caused waves of apocalyptic fear. One report said that in January 1977 a poltergeist turned up at 16 Ruskin Road, Dartford in Kent. Ann and Barry Robertson who lived there were terrified and are seen fleeing the house as the programme begins. The suburban couple at the heart of the story turn it into an emotional melodrama

Ann exclaimed “I can’t even face taking the furniture with me because this thing – whatever it is – has interfered with my home. It’s touched my things. And I’m so frightened that I won’t even take the things with me now: we’re back to square one where we started. With nothing

Suddenly suburbia becomes not boring – but sinister, mysterious and epic. The film also interviews the man from Dartford Council who Ann and Barry are demanding rehouse them. He is sympathetic but can’t help – “I’m afraid the Dartford Council Transfer Points Scheme doesn’t recognise ghosts – and therefore they can’t be pointed”.

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH

Henry V marched with his troops from London to the Kent coast through Dartford in 1415 on his way to the Battle of Agincourt where he led his troops and fought in hand to hand combat alongside his men. The British were severely outnumbered 9000 English and Welsh lined up against 36000 French. Our army was made up of 7500 long bowmen and 1500 foot soldiers, the French bought 10000 knights, 1200 on horseback, 26000 infantry, crossbowmen and archers. It was a brutal battle and the French had threatened to cut off the bowmen’s fingers when they won but we were tactically superior and suffered only 600 casualties against 11000 French killed and wounded and 2200 captured. After snatching victory; the bowmen stood on the battlefield waggling their two bow fingers at their enemy in a now famous salute.

Henry remained in France in his captured lands for seven years after the battle until he died in 1422. His body was bought home for burial in England and the cortege stopped in Dartford for the funeral here at Holy Trinity before proceeding on to London for the burial.

The graveyard for Holy Trinity is on the summit or East Hill, which bought about a traditional derogatory rhyme about Dartford folk because you should never bury your dead higher than the steeple of the church. “Dirty Dartford. Filthy people; bury their dead above the steeple”

 

LIBRARY

Opened on the 1st January 1916 the libraries first visitors were convalescing soldiers of WW1 from the nearby hospital. Since then there have been reports of books falling or being pushed from shelves by an alleged spirit, unexplained noises that can be heard within the walls and staff have reported being touched or having clothes pulled in certain parts of the library, most notably the attic.

It’s Oh So Quiet. Shhhh Shhhh. Shhhh

 

BULL AND VIC

The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel is probably Dartford’s oldest Inn which belonged to the Priory, the Bull in the name is actually a Papal seal and it’s original name was the Holy Bull. It was rebuilt in 1703 with a gallery overlooking the yard for carriages to drive through. Somewhere along it’s history it has acquired a ghost who doesn’t like change. When things are rearranged, she gets rather annoyed and moves them back.

 

Shall we see if she’s in ?