Discover thousands of years of Gravesend heritage, from the early settlements to the present day. Learn about the historic places of worship and the famous people associated with the Borough. Years of history can also be found on our Virtual Museum.
Churches and faith
Many people have contributed to Gravesham’s past. From the arrival of migrants from the Indian subcontinent from the late 1940’s onwards, the Sikh community has grown significantly to become the second largest Sikh population in the South East and is part of Gravesham heritage. Place the exploration of faith and the buildings which have been inspired by worship to the heart of your visit to Gravesham.
You will find some of the earliest Christian Churches in England with surprising collections of medieval brasses, stained glass and craftsmanship from many stages of church architectural history. Many at the centre of the communities which they continue to serve, some with associations with historic figures and important architects and others off the beaten track, but well worth a visit.
You will be amazed by the magnificent Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, the place of worship for the Sikh community who live in Gravesend. As the largest single site Gurdwara complex in Europe, it is receiving much praise for its craftsmanship, with hand crafted marble, stonework, colourful tiling and stained glass windows. The Gurdwara and its people leave a strong impression on all who visit and visitors are guaranteed a warm welcome.
People with historic links
- Charles Dickens who lived and died at Gad’s Hill Place, Higham and drew inspiration from the area, its people, its buildings and the North Kent Marshes extensively within his novels.
- Pocahontas, the native North American Indian, whose remarkable story grew out of the first English settlement at Jamestown in Virginia and is buried at St George’s Church, Gravesend.
- General Gordon, the Victorian hero and celebrity who was based in the town and left his mark on its defence and social heritage.
- Sir Herbert Baker, the celebrated Edwardian architect and associate of Sir Edwin Lutyens who lived at Owletts, now in the ownership of the National Trust at Cobham.
- The Honourable Ivo Bligh, the 8th Earl of Darnley, who in 1833 led the victorious English cricket team against Australia bringing home the ‘Ashes’ to Cobham Hall – the ‘home’ of Kent cricket, the first recorded game of cricket in England being played there in 1776.
- Some other notable local ‘heroes’ influential in the area’s history and development are – Robert Pocock, George Matthews Arnold and David Varchell; or pioneers in technological improvement in the important Thameside industries of cement and paper – William Aspdin and Karl Ekman.
Charles Dickens has strong connections with this area. In making his home at Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, Dickens drew inspiration from the locality, its people and its buildings extensively within his novels. Many of those places and the countryside he loved to walk in can be seen and experienced today.
Dickens visited Gravesend, at Chalk he spent his honeymoon, at Higham he lived and died, and at Cobham he found inspiration for the Pickwick Papers. Follow our trail of tales, history and novels still with us today.
Great strides are being taken towards the opening of Charles Dickens’ home at Gad’s Hill Place, Higham as a Dickens Visitor Centre. Acquired by Dickens in 1856, he first saw Gad’s Hill Place as a child when he went on walks in the area with his father and dreamed of one day owning it. It is at Gad’s Hill Place that Dickens spent the last years of his life, entertaining prominent guests such as the American poet Longfellow and the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. Dickens died at the house the day after being taken ill with a brain haemorrhage in the dining room, on 9 June 1870.
A Trust, the Charles Dickens Centre (Gad’s Hill) Limited, has been formed to fund raise and take forward the establishment of this centre as a focus for Dickens’ life and works. Planning permission was granted in July 2010 for the conversion of this listed property into a Dickens Visitor Centre once Gads Hill School who currently occupy the property move out and into new junior and school buildings within the grounds.