Pocahontas by (2 Stories)

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I was born on the outskirts of London in 1947. I can’t claim to be a cockney as to claim that accolade, I would have to have been born within the sound of Bow Bells. I was born in North Woolwich, which is around eight miles from Bow bells. According to tradition to be a true Cockney, you would have to be born in the city’s east end and within the sound of the bells from St Mary-Le Bow in Cheapside.

I have no memory of living in London from this time.

My first memory was of us viewing our soon to be home when my family moved back to its roots in Gravesend in Kent. I distinctly remember looking out of the front bedroom window as my mother and father looked over the property and seeing a young boy of similar age to me sitting on the side of the pavement, who would later become my friend. I think his name was Michael, but this was over seventy years ago, you understand?

But although my father purchased the house, we were not destined to live there for a few years. Instead, a family member rented the property from my parents as we were going to live above a shop a few miles away. My mother was to work in the shop while my father would return to working at his old job as a milkman.

When I was around ten years old, my brother was completing his national service and he would bring presents back from the places he was stationed at. On one occasion, he bought me back a camera, my very first camera.

The first photo I would like to share with you is one of the first shots I ever took. It is of my mum outside of our shop with some children playing around the lamppost and with my father’s car beside the road, it would have been around 1957.

The shop was situated in Church Street, so as you can see there is the church in the background. I spent many an hour playing in the churchyard, running in between the gravestones, playing hide and seek. I remember one time being caught by my older brother’s wife relieving myself up against a gravestone and being given a good old fashion dressing down, in my defence I would only have been around seven or eight years old and the niceties of the respect you should show in such a place was yet to come to me. The gravestones were removed at some time later and the area was just laid to grass.

The church was and still is St. Georges Church and, as legend, has it the last resting place of Pocahontas. I’m sure you are aware of the story of this Indian princess who saved the life of an English settler and later converted to Christianity and married an Englishman and took the name of Rebecca Rolfe. On her journey back to the Americas she became ill and was brought ashore at Gravesend and, as legend has it died and was buried at the old Church.

The original church that she would have been taken to burned down in the eighteenth century and was rebuilt as we know it today.

There have been attempts to try and locate her final resting place, but to date she has not been found.

My second photo shows an attempt that was made to locate her on 31st of May in 1914 at 6am am in the morning, which, of course, was unsuccessful. The group had obtained an official home office order to complete their search, and they were a distinguished group who included the blind Rector of St Georges Cannon Gedge.

Gravesend is situated on the banks of the river Thames and is steeped in history, going back hundreds of years. I no longer live in the town. I’m a few miles away now, nearer to Rochester. The town has a famous old clock tower that was erected in September 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The Jubilee was to celebrate the queen’s accession in 1837. Up and down the country, towns and villages were debating how to commemorate the occasion, and Gravesend chose to build a town clock tower. £679.14 shillings was raised by the town to start the project, which eventually cost just over a thousand pounds to complete. Under the foundations is a bottle containing newspapers of the time and coins minted for the occasion. My next two photos are of the clock tower at different times in its history.


I like a lot of old residents, are disappointed that the town now seems to have lost its way with lots of closed shops and I read of people that don’t want to walk in the town after dark, but perhaps that’s what happens when we get older, our memories are always of a much kinder and brighter past.

Alan Deakin



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