Hoo St Werburgh Tourist Guide

Introduction

Hoo St Werburgh is one of a number of villages on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent to carry the name Hoo.

The village lies on the north bank of the lower reaches of the River Medway, which flows into the estuary of the Thames and the area of the parish is within the region of 5,000 acres.

The parish of Hoo St.Werburgh is so called from the dedication of the church. Werburgh was a devout Saxon princess - a member of the Mercian royal household and related to members of the French, Kentish and East Anglian royal families. She lived at a time when the Mercians dominated most of the southern half of England and was born sometime during 640-650 A.D. and died on the 3rd February 698 or 699. A nunnery was built at Hoo between 686 and 697 but not on the same site as the present church. The first church here was provided by Werburgh's cousin Ethelbald about 741 and he dedicated it to her memory after her elevation to sainthood .

 

The name 'Hoo' is derived from Saxon origins. Some people say it means 'a hill' while others claim it is a 'heel of land.' The latter is more likely in this case, as the land runs out into the form of a heel between the two rivers, the Thames and the Medway. The parish of St. Werburgh and some of those neighbouring are known as the 'Hundred of Hoo'. The Hundred in Saxon times contained 10 tithings or a hundred families. 'Hundreds' were grouped together into large divisions called 'lathes', the 'Hundred of Hoo' being in the 'Lathe of Ayles-ford'. There were five 'lathes' in the county of Kent.

 

The parish and village date at least from the time of King Edward the Confessor and a church was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. The whole of the 'Hundred' was initially one manor and is stated as such in the same chronicle. Just before the Conquest, the manor of Hoo belonged to Earl Godwin, who gave his name to the treacherous quicksands off the Kent coast. The Conquest gave the manor to his half brother, the Bishop of Baieux. Afterwards when he fell into disgrace it was given to the Bardolf family.

 

A feature found in the church considered to be unique is the survival of two coats of royal arms belonging to James I (1603) and the arms of Elizabeth I, both lately restored and placed on view in the church. Thomas Aveling, of Aveling and Porter (the first British manufacturer of steamrollers) is buried in the church cemetery. One of the noteworthy items of the church is the yew tree in the churchyard which is said to be anything from six hundred to a thousand years old.

 

The Dutch raid on the Medway in 1667 brought soldiers to Hoo, to man Cockham Wood Fort, but the fort was never needed and very little of it survives now. The Hoo fort, like its twin, Darnet Fort, was built in the 1860s as part of the defences against the feared Napoleonic invasion. Both were initially planned to mount twenty-five guns on two tiers, but while the forts were still being built it was evident they were going to sink into the marsh under that weight, and in the end the Hoo fort was armed with only eleven 9 inch rifled muzzle loaders, with stores and accommodation for the gunners. The fort remains in quite good condition but, although it was disarmed before WW1, it remains Ministry of Defence property and cannot be visited.

 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the village found itself in the limelight when land that had been entirely agricultural until then began to be valued more as an industrial raw material. Gravel was dug there, bricks were made there and so was pottery. The barges that carried away the merchandise busied the river frontage. This industrial life of Hoo St Werburgh lasted until the 1930s after which it declined, leaving behind the pits from which the mineral wealth was dug.

Neither the brickworks nor the pottery have survived and today farming is again the most important local industry, while most of the residents look to the Medway Towns, Thames-side or London for their work.

 

The village has supermarkets and other shops as well as a medical centre and dentists surgery. Opportunities for sports enthusiasts are exceptional and the Hoo Ness Yacht Club is nearby as is Hoo Marina.

 

Other facilities in the village include a swimming pool with squash courts, a public golf course at Deangate Ridge Golf Club in Duxecourt Road (Tel:+44 (0)1634 250537) and an indoor bowls centre. There is also a wide range of pubs including The Chequers next to the church. The South Saxon Way passes just to the south of the village and north of the Marina.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015