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Greenhithe is a village in Dartford District of Kentmarker, Englandmarker. It forms part of the civil parish of Swanscombe and Greenhithemarker. Although part of Greenhithe (including Bluewater Shopping Centre, Charles Street and Castle Street) are in the neighbouring parish of Stone. For confirmation check the Stone Parish Council. The Boundary for Swanscombe and Greenhithe is at the dual carriageway. Therefore the Asda supermarket would be in Stone Parish as well. To check the details regarding the boundary of Stone Parish contact www.stoneparishcouncil.com/stone_pit_2.htm .

Greenhithe, as it is spelled today, is located where it was possible to build wharves for transshipping corn, wood and other commodities; its largest cargoes were of chalk and lime which were needed for agricultural purposes. This led in turn to the development of the cement industry at nearby Swanscombemarker, although Greenhithe itself enjoyed a brief period of popularity during Victorian times as a tourist resort: Greenhithe Pier was built in 1842 but does not survive.

History

The history of Greenhithe owes a great deal to its situation between the River Thames and Watling Street (the London, Dover Road) and it being a suitable landing place for ships. In Roman times known as Gretenrsce, and by 1363 Grenehuth, it appears in the 1778 'History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent' :"Here there are several wharves for the landing and shipping of corn, wood, and other commodities, but the greatest traffic arises from the chalk and lime, from the chalk pits, the range of which continues with small intermission from Stone to Gravesend, within a very short distance of the shore. Hence not only the City of London, but the adjacent counties, and even those of Suffolk and Norfolk are supplied with this commodity".

The Ingress Estate was a seat in the hamlet of Greenhithe. In 1363 the manor was endowed upon the Prioress and Abbey of the Dominican Sisters in Dartford by Edward III (1307-1377).Legend has it that at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries the Abbess of Dartford put a curse on Henry VIII and all his male descendants, for confiscating their property (the cash was used to finance Henry's wars). This curse was to pass to all future owners of the estate, to the effect that no male heir should ever live to inherit the estate.

Henry VIII kept the site and rebuilt a country retreat for himself that he used as a stop when travelling to the coast and in 1540 made Sir Richard Long, kt., keeper of the same, with wages of 8d. a day. In 1548 the king, in consideration of the compulsory surrender of certain lands in Surrey, granted to Anne of Cleves the priory and manor of Dartford.

After Henry's death, seven of the nuns who had already been permitted by Queen Mary to re-establish the conventual observance at King's Langley, with Elizabeth Cressener as prioress, were permitted to return to Dartfordmarker. However in 1559 visitors from the Privy Council came to Dartford and tendered the oaths of supremacy and uniformity, first to the provincial prior, and then to each of the nuns separately. All refused to take it, whereupon the visitors sold the goods of the convent at a very low rate, paid the debts of the house, divided what little remained among the sisters, and ordered them to leave within twenty-four hours. The band of Dominican exiles, consisting of two priests, the prioress, four choir-nuns, and four lay sisters, and a young girl not yet professed, joined the nuns of Syon House and crossed to the Netherlands. Queen Elizabeth granted the estate to Edward Darbyshire and John Bere, who purchased much of the lands of Dartford Priory made available by the dissolution of the monasteries.

The estate then passed to Jones, then Whaley, Thomas Holloway, Shires; then in 1649 the mansion house, manor, farm, lands belonging to it, chalk cliffs, lime kiln, wharf, salt and fresh marshes passed to Captain Edward Brent of Southwark for £1122. It was sold in 1748 to William Viscount Duncannon, who on his father's death succeeded him as Earl of Besborough and Baron Ponsonby of Sysonby. He lived at Ingress with his wife Carolina, eldest daughter of William Duke of Devonshire. He greatly improved the seat and reputedly commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the grounds (though evidence for this is lacking). In 1760 Carolina died here after losing several children and it was sold to John Calcraft, MP for Rochester.

Whilst under the ownership of William Haverlock, and as a result of the war with Napoleon's France, plans were drawn up for a large dockyard to be built from Northfleet to Greenhithe, including the Ingress estate. The manor house was demolished but then the plan was dropped, leaving the estate without a house.

In 1820, wealthy barrister James Harman purchased the land and in 1833 built his Elizabethan style mansion, Ingress Abbey, on the banks of the Thames. He provided his architect, Charles Moreing, with £120,000 for the construction of follies, grottoes and hermit's caves. In the 1880s the Shah of Persia sailed up the Thames, noting: "The only thing worth mentioning was at Greenhithe where there was a mansion standing amid trees on a green carpet extending down to the water's edge."

By the early 20th century, Harman's descendants had sold off a large part of the grounds for development into the sprawling Empire Paper Mills. The rest of the gardens was left to go to seed and the house was allowed to fall into decay.

In the middle of the last century the need for pre-sea training was recognised for potential officers in the Royal and Merchant Navy. This led a group of London shipowners to found the 'Thames Nautical Training College' in 1862. The Admiralty was approached for a ship and allocated the 'two-decker' HMS Worcester. At the time the Royal Navy was starting to replace their fleet of 'wooden walls' with iron clad vessels and they had a surplus of such vessels, including the 1473 ton 50 gun 'Worcester'. She had various locations before finally moving in 1871 to what became a base forever associated with the 'Worcester' - the village of Greenhithe where successive ships remained until the 1970s.

The clipper 'Cutty Sarkmarker' was given to the College in 1938, and was used as a 'boating station' moored off the Greenhithe estate coupled with thoughts of a possible shore building to house the College. However during the war years, the College was evacuated to nearby Foots Cray Place. The 'Worcester' was used as a training base by the Royal Navy and by 1945 was in a very poor condition, had lost most of her masts and was only kept afloat by a large salvage pump. Happily, after the war, a replacement ship was found in the form of the 'Exmouth', which became the third and last 'Worcester'. She an unusual vessel, since she was built in 1904 of steel and iron especially for nautical training and had many improvements over the converted hulks previously used.

As a result of the acquisition of the fine new ship, the role of the 'Cutty Sark' diminished, and with the approval of the original donor, Mrs Dowman, she was given to the nation through the National Maritime Museummarker. After restoration, she was moved to a permanent dry-dock at Greenwich.

The College closed in 1968 and the last 'Worcester' was broken up a few years later. The village of Greenhithe has many 'Worcester' memories such as the sign at the waterside pub, and the streets named after 'Worcester' personalities.

At the end of the 20th century a new life was breathed into the area and with the agreement to build new properties on the estate Crest passed the challenge for repairing the house to PJ Livesey Group. After a £6m investment a great house sits again amidst the splendour

Greenhithe's position on the river is now of less importance. The whole area is being redeveloped as part of the Thames Gatewaymarker regeneration: its proximity to the M25 motorwaymarker, the new High Speed 1 Ebbsfleet Internationalmarker and the Bluewatermarker complex has altered that. It is anticipated that Greenhithe will attract more affluent and upwardly mobile residents because of the proximity to the enormous shopping complex. This is reflected in increased property valuations, and an increasingly "gentrified" feel to the immediate area.
However, many current residents deride Greenhithe for its lack of amenities - Bluewater, the supermarket, and Greenhithe railway stationmarker aside, there is little in the area apart from housing and it is hoped that the Thames Gateway project will address this (large housing developments - particularly Ingress Park, Waterstone Park - and industrial estates almost completely surround the former hamlet).

Gallery

Image:GreenhitheIngressPark5337.JPG|Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe seen from the riverside HMS Worcester memorial.Image:Greenhithe5322.JPG|The High Street.Image:GreenhitheIngressPark5330.JPG|Looking down River, St Clement's or Fiddler's Reach.Image:GreenhitheThames5346.JPG|Looking up river, the Dartford Crossingmarker and the Long Reach.Image:GreenhitheThames5357.JPG|New housing replaces the old wharves|

References

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