Reports of our 2019 Meetings

12 FEBRUARY 2019 - The Saintly Pull of Canterbury

It was a special occasion to welcome our speaker Dr  Janina Ramirez who is a known television history presenter. She has a special interest in Anglo-Saxon and Jutish culture that she has been researching for 20 years.

She began by explaining how the Romans had left a power vacuum when they withdrew from Britain after 410, causing the disintegration of the existing political, educational and military structure. The period in which the Angles, Saxons and Jutes invaded Britain is known as the Dark Ages but our speaker does not like the term. Academics still disagree as to whether this invasion was a blood bath or a less violent integration. However ,there is no proof since there are no burials from this early period. The Jutes settled in Canterbury but did not live among the Roman ruins. They settled in clusters of thatched wooden buildings outside the walls. They were illiterate, but brought their own Germanic culture and language. In later centuries, this became the bedrock of English language, the roots of which still remain in our place names. 

In 597, Pope Gregory sent Augustine from Rome to convert Britain peacefully to the new Roman Christianity that was based on St Peter and St. Paul. Also at this time, Kent gained significant importance because King Aethelbert was the most powerful ruler in Britain. He married Bertha, a Frankish Christian princess and under his rule a city started to form. Aethelbert rebuilt St. Martin’s church for Bertha in Canterbury using the Roman stones and it is the oldest church still in use. Aethelbert became the first British Christian king.

Dr. Ramirez gave us a lively, entertaining talk with humour and great enthusiasm for the subject. It was a pleasure to hear her speak in person.                                         

V.Dussek                 

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8 JANUARY 2019 -  Maritime Kent

Jonathan Fenner gave an illustrated talk demonstrating the geographical and historical importance of Kent with its rich and diverse history along a 140 mile shoreway. The talk included history on the Medway raid by the Dutch in 1667 - one of the worst Royal Navy defeats, the dockyards at Chatham, Sheerness and Deal and the castles at Walmer, Deal and Dover. More recent history dealt with Martello Towers - 74 along the Kent and Sussex coast and the role of Ramsgate in the Napoleonic and both World Wars. Also references to Dungeness Nuclear Power Station and the lighthouses. 

Other highlights included:

Reculver Roman Fort (43AD) near Herne Bay. During WW2, this coastline was used to test prototypes of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs.

The Cinque Ports, consisting of Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich, all of which, in defence of the realm, pledged small fishing boats and men, in return for favours from the Crown. 

Romney Marsh, which was subject to great change in 1287 when a storm destabilised the marsh's sea walls.  A Scott Tax was imposed upon residents for maintenance. Those outside the boundaries were not eligible for tax and were said to have got away 'Scott Free'.

Hythe. St. Leonard's Parish Church is famous for its ossuary containing a large collection of human bones recovered when the graveyard was cleared in 13C. Inventors John Lukin (the lifeboat) died at Hythe in 1834 and Sir Francis Pettit Smith (ship propeller) born in Hythe in 1836.

Dover.  Its frontline history includes the raid on Zeebrugge in April 1918. It was the starting point, in 1875, for the first person Captain Matthew Webb to swim the English Channel. Special mention was made of the Memorial Window, installed in 2017 at St Mary's Church, marking the 30th Anniversary of the ferry disaster involving the 'Herald of Free Enterprise'. 

Our table display, by our Archivist, included a framed, coloured map of Kent by Johannes Blau mid 17c also two letters dated 1776.          

Gillian Hogg

Copyright: Plaxtol Local History Group 2019

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