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Boating on the Medway 1949-1995
A compilation of juxtaposed extracts from silent colour films recording boat trips up the river from Tower Reach, Rochester to Tonbridge, filmed by different cameramen over the period 1949-1995, with accompanying post-compilation narration on the history of the waymarks and riverside events, buildings, places and people along the route. A large part of the film is footage from 1949 by Jim McKay.
Produced and edited by David Kay.
Filmed by Terry Benn, M. James McKay, George Morris, Alan Jenner
Narrated by Bob Holness
The film opens with views of Rochester, Rochester Castle, Rochester Cathedral and the Rochester Cruising Club moorings viewed from Tower Reach in 1949. The sequence continues with views of the Short Brothers’ G Class flying boat Golden Hind (G-AFCI), the last working flying boat to moor in the River Medway, moored in Tower Reach, with views of Strood in the background and James McKay, skippering the motor cruiser Osprey, in the foreground.
The sequence moves upstream to Wouldham with the church and village in the foregound and Wouldham Common and the North Downs in the distance.
The Lady Sheila a steam freighter operated by Thomas Watson (Shipping) Ltd. of Rochester, is seen approaching, having carried china clay and cement to Snodland Paper Mills. Peter’s Mill, Burham and Holborough Cement Works, Gas Works and Townsend Hook’s works in Snodland are glimpsed ahead. The tug Fearnought passes.
Aylesford Priory is followed by views of Aylesford Sand Company’s wharf, the motor barge Emerald, Aylesford Bridge and motor vehicles, The George public house and Aylesford village, with digression on local history by narrator.
An auxiliary motor barge or spritsail sailing barge with mast lowered passes under Aylesford Bridge. There is a brief glimpse of Aylesford Pottery.
Next we see Allington Lock, the lock keeper’s cottage and Allington Castle, with a digression on the history of the castle by the narrator. The Malta Inn, Sandling is shown, with motor cruisers alongside and the barrier and footway in the distance. The sequence ends with views of Gibraltar House, formerly a public house in Allington and a digression on its history by the narrator and glimpses of the former torpedo boat The Saint and Ford’s Wharf.
The journey continues into Maidstone with views of Springfield Mill, Sandling, the Tilling Stevens factory, Fremlin’s Brewery and the bridges over the river including Maidstone Bridge, with digression by the narrator at this point.
The journey continues with views of the Archbishop’s Palace and old dungeons, the pleasure boat Swan, the Old Ford, All Saints’ Church, Lockmeadow, the tow path near Tovil and the Cutbush Almshouses, College Road. A Broads cruiser comes into view briefly. The following views comprise Tovil Railway Bridge, Tovil Footbridge, St. Stephen’s Church, Tovil and Tovil Bridge Boatyard.
The next sequence follows the manouevrings of the motor barge Flagon, a former Admiralty lighter and landing barge, skippered by Albert Rutland. The vessel is shown low in the water at the stern with engine room flooded so as to turn around with her prow on the bank, collapsing a tent in the process.
A digression in the progress up river occurs at this point. The camera passes under Maidstone Bridge with a double decker Maidstone and District bus visible above the parapet. Maidstone Brewery is glimpsed and finally the camera passes through Allington Lock, showing the helmsman, his dog and swans.
The up river journey resumes with views of oast houses, Farleigh Bridge (East Farleigh), East Farleigh Church, giant hog weed on the river bank, and a digression by the narrator on the Civil War at East Farleigh and Maidstone. Scenes of East Farleigh conclude with the level crossing, pumping station and David Payne’s boatyard and moorings.
The next sequence opens with views of Teston Bridge, ruins of an watermill and weir, Teston Lock and the lock keeper in cap and continues with views of May’s farm land, East Farleigh Yacht Club moorings, sheep, Bill Kennett’s boatyard and moorings and cattle, closing with views of Wateringbury Railway Station, village and Bow Bridge.
The navigation upstream next takes in the Phoenix Brewery, Hampstead Lock [cf. Yalding Lock] and the Railway Inn, Hampstead. The camera points up The Cut showing factory workings, motor vehicles and youths fishing from Hampstead Lane alongside The Cut [cf. Hampstead Lane Canal] The sequence closes with views of the sluices at Yalding, Twyford Bridge, the Anchor public house, moored boats, a mother and child walking across a footbridge, rowing boat, café and Yalding Boatyard.
The camera glimpses three jets, possibly de Havilland Vampires, streaking across the sky. Subsequent views show Stoneham Lock, an oarsman, the Paddock Wood to Strood High Level Railway Bridge, Branbridge’s Bridge and Branbridge’s Lock (East Peckham), the remains of Tumbling Bay Lock, Hampstead (Yalding), Sluice Weir Lock and Beltring Hop Farm and oast houses (East Peckham).
Continuing towards Tonbridge, the journey recommences with views of the site of New Lock, a Second World War pillbox, cattle grazing, and bathers near a sluice. The camera and narration now feature the wreck of the Tonbridge barge Llandudno and nearby bathers who are named as Captain Robert Beat, Captain Robert Childs, Gillian Gray and Terrence Somerville.
The final part of the journey features the approach to Tonbridge via Golden Green, East Lock, sunken barges, a lifting bridge, lock keeper’s house, Hartlake Bridge, Porter’s Lock and Tonbridge (Town) Lock. A steam pinnace (a former Ross Fisheries vessel) and a Thorneycroft motor cruiser come into view. The lifting bridge is shown in operation and Reginald Beat is shown rowing a home made plywood rowing boat. We see Bob Childs again together with members of families aboard a vessel in the 1970s, passing under Tonbridge Bridge, including Captain Beat negotiating overhanging branches.
The film closes with scenes of the severe floods at Teston, East Farleigh and Maidstone.
Reproduced by kind permission of John Hedgeley. Copyright John Hedgeley email@example.com
To view a map of the Lower Medway or Inland Navigation on the Environment Agency web site, please click here
Sound, narration, colour
48 minutes, 49 seconds
Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre holds the records of the Medway Navigation Company 1740-1936, pertaining to the upkeep of the River Medway. The collection is highly relevant to the history and development of the length of the river as shown in the film. To view a full descriptive list of these records, please click here
Updated by Borough Archivist 16 July 2007
Quantity: 48 minutes, 49 seconds
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