Friday, December 31, 2010
The popular Greyhound pub in the quiet village of Sutton At Hone on the outskirts of Dartford, Kent has a very dark secret.
Exactly 125 years ago today it was the scene of a horrific double murder.....
Following his customary routine, at ten o'clock in the evening, the 64 year old landlord David Smith had locked the front door for the night.
In the dimly lit taproom, two of his lodgers, Alfred Kemp a bricklayer's labourer and James Stroude a boot maker, shared a pot of ale at a table by the window.
A third lodger, John Crowhurst had already retired upstairs to bed.
Shortly after ten, 42 year old paper mill worker John Knocker entered the taproom, ordered a pint of beer and sat near the fireplace.
About fifteen minutes later, Knocker suddenly got up and walked calmly across to Kemp.
Without uttering a single word, he placed his left arm around Kemp's neck and with his right hand drew a razor deep across his throat.
Kemp fell sideways to the floor with blood spurting from the six inch wound to his neck.
In horror, Stroude saw Knocker making towards him but managed to effect his escape through the back door of the pub.
Passing the landlord Smith in the passageway he shouted "John's gone wrong tonight!" and set off to raise the alarm.
Smith entered the taproom and was immediately set upon by Knocker.
A ferocious struggle ensued but "old man" Smith was no match for Knocker who had served 25 years in the army.
Smith was pushed to the ground and his throat slit virtually from ear to ear.
On hearing the commotion, Crowhurst rushed downstairs to find the lifeless bodies of Kemp and Smith lying in a pool of blood on the taproom floor.
Of Knocker, there was no sign.
Shortly before midnight, John Knocker was apprehended by Police Constable Benge on West Hill, Dartford.
His face, hands and clothes covered in his victim's blood, Knocker immediately confessed to his crimes and was taken into custody.
An inquest was held into the tragic events.
Knocker had been resident at The Greyhound for around five months and had previously always been on very good terms with the landlord and his fellow lodgers.
His army conduct had been exemplary and Police Constable Benge who had made the arrest confirmed that he was not drunk.
So what had gone so terribly wrong?
At the inquest Mrs Smith told how Knocker had left The Greyhound in apparent good spirits on Christmas Eve for a short holiday but had returned the following Tuesday "a different man"....
We can only speculate what it was that tipped a sane man over the edge and made him commit such crimes.
Unfortunately I have not so far been able to find out what happened to John Knocker at trial but I can confirm that he was not hanged for his crimes.
In view of the circumstances of the case I imagine he may have been declared insane and committed to a lunatic asylum.
Nowadays, he would probably be tried for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
David Smith the landlord was buried in the nearby graveyard at St John the Baptist church on 10th January 1886.
If you have any comments regarding this post, they are most gratefully received.
Further posts you may enjoy....
The Meopham Air Disaster
Kitty Gordon - Kent's Colourful Silent Movie Star
They Burned for their Beliefs
Thursday, December 02, 2010
If you would like to support Help for Heroes, you may wish to purchase a stylish Four Duck fleece - as fetchingly modelled by yours truly above (unfortunately George Clooney was not available to do the honours!).
All profits from the sale of the fleeces, priced at £ 17.99 each incl UK post & packing, will be donated to support Help for Heroes in their continuing work.
The cotton lined fleeces are brand new and come in sizes small, medium, large and extra large.
I have worn my Four Duck fleece on my walks around Kent in all weathers and can confirm that it certainly does keep you warm.
An ideal Christmas gift for any golfers, walkers, sailors etc in your family.
If you would like to purchase a fleece and support a very good cause, please follow this link to place your order now.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Visit any churchyard in Kent and you will find the neatly tended graves of service personnel, not only from Britain but Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other far flung corners of the former British Empire.
Here are the stories behind two of those many thousands, both buried in foreign fields.
The memorial at St Peter & St Paul church in Farningham includes the name of my great uncle William Wansbury.
He was born in Kent in 1919 and joined the RAF in 1938, eventually progressing to the rank of Aircraftman 1st Class (ground crew).
In February 1942 RAF personnel, including William, were sent to assist in the defence of the Dutch East Indies which were being invaded by the Japanese.
The combined Dutch, British and Australian forces on Java were not able to withstand the ferocious Japanese onslaught.
On 8th March 1942, William was taken prisoner.
In April 1943 a contingent of around 2000 "fit and healthy" British and Australian POW's were shipped in inhumane conditions to a small coral island called Haruku in the Moluccas.
Those who had not died during the long voyage from Java were immediately set to work building an airfield which the Japanese intended to use as a base for bomber missions against Australia.
Using only primitive hand tools the prisoners were forced to break coral all day long in an attempt to level the ground for the runway whilst enduring continual maltreatment from the brutal Japanese guards.
Tropical diseases including dysentery, malaria and beri beri were rife in the camp and claimed the lives of over 400 men in the space of a few short months.
William succumbed to malnutrition and disease on 14th September 1943 aged just 23.
He is buried on the neighbouring island of Ambon with nearly 2000 further victims of the Japanese war crimes in a cemetery immaculately maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Flight Lieutenant Zdzislaw Henryk Przygodzki is buried in Watling Street Cemetery in Dartford.
He was born on 12th July 1918 and flew with 316 "City of Warsaw" Polish fighter squadron which was formed in 1941.
Several Polish squadrons were formed during the Second World War and they fought with distinction during the Battle of Britain.
On 8th September 1944, Flight Lieutenant Przygodzki took off from RAF Coltishall in his North American Mustang III fighter FB345, possibly on a mission to intercept incoming V1 rockets.
Due to bad weather he was forced to return to base and for unexplained reasons his aircraft crash landed near Bayfield Hall in Norfolk.
I have not been able to find out so far why Flight Lieutenant Przygodzki was buried in Kent and not nearer to the crash site in Norfolk.
The grave is sadly in neglected state at the moment. There is, however, a chance that this situation may be rectified.
I recently sent a copy of my photograph of Flight Lieutenant Przygodzki's grave to the founder of a web site called Polish War Graves. The web site commemorates many thousands of Polish servicemen laid to rest in the UK and other European countries.
He was in contact with a member of the Polish Government and brought up the condition of Flight Lieutenant Przygodski's grave and was given an assurance that "something would be done about it".
Only time will tell whether a Polish politician is any better than a British one, at keeping his word!
If you would like to leave a comment, please do so, they are always very welcome.
Further reading from the archives...
The White Cross of Shoreham
The Hurricane and Spitfire Memorial
Remembering "The Few" in Kent
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Now to the second part of the story - the Invicta legend.
Fast forward to 1067. The Normans under William the Conqueror have defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and are marching on London.
According to tradition, close to the village of Swanscombe, William and his men were met by the Kentishmen lead by Archbishop Stigand and Egelsine, the Abbot of St Augustines.
Each of Kentishmen carried a bough giving the appearance of a moving forest descending rapidly on the Normans. At a given signal, the boughs were cast aside revealing the Kentishmen armed and ready for battle.
However, the Archbishop and Abbot met with William and assured him of their allegiance, provided he was willing to grant certain privileges to the people of Kent and to respect their ancient rights and traditions.
Not wishing to commit his forces to another major battle so soon after Hastings, William is said to have agreed to the request.
The word invicta, meaning undefeated or unconquered, was adopted as the motto of Kent.
The monument shown in the picture above can be found in the grounds of St Peter & St Pauls in Swanscombe and was erected in 1958.
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to leave a comment. They are always welcome.
Further reading from the archives ....
They Burned for their Beliefs
The Meopham Air Disaster - 21st July 1930
Visit to West Malling
Friday, October 08, 2010
All the participants were given a list of eight random themes and asked to post up digital photographs on their respective blogs representing those themes.
As this blog is specifically about the county of Kent, England, all my photos were taken locally.
The first of the themes was concrete (well I did tell you they were random!)
This modern art sculpture entitled "Boy with a Boat" by Paula Haughney, can be found on the front at Herne Bay looking out to sea. It was commissioned by Canterbury City Council in 1993
The next random theme is power represented by preserved mainline steam locomotive 44932 thundering past Gravesend one Sunday morning on the way to Faversham.
Autumn always reminds me of harvest festival when I was a kid. Kent is not as the Garden of
Smile! My son loves baking cakes but they usually only last about five minutes after they come out of the oven.
Another random theme - confusion. Although this scene may look confused, the Kent Fire &
Finally I was asked to post something funny so I thought I'd end with this little sign I found pinned to the noticeboard at St Peter and St Paul Church in Shoreham...
If you have enjoyed my first digital scavenger hunt, please drop in and have a look what some of the other participants have posted -
Lifting Me Up
Sunday, September 19, 2010
A large crowd of on-lookers witnessed the destruction of the local landmark.
Manston Airport and the Hurricane and Spitfire Memorial
Sunday, September 05, 2010
My latest walk set off from the picturesque village of Otford. I parked my car in a free car park opposite the Bull pub close to the Otford Solar System model I wrote about in My Darent Valley Walk Part 2.
Otford is a good starting point if you are interested in walking in Kent as three long distance routes converge there - the Darent Valley Path, the North Downs Way and the Pilgrims Way.
For the first part of my walk I followed the Pilgrims Way, at this point, actually a busy main road, for a short distance passing the Horns public house and restaurant pictured above. This is a former 15th century coaching inn.
The Darent Valley Path branches off from the Pilgrims Way on the outskirts of the village and passes through a small housing estate before crossing a bridge over the railway line into open fields. At this point the Darent Valley Path branches into two. You have the option of walking to Sevenoaks via Riverhead or to Chipstead via Dunton Green, as I elected to do.
It is a fairly short walk across the fields to Dunton Green where the path eventually emerges by Donnington Manor which now constitutes part of a Best Western Hotel. The manor dates back to the 15th century.
Dunton Green is unfortunately located on the very busy A224 and in order to follow the Darent Valley Path I had to cross over to the other side - easier said than done! Approximately ten minutes later I finally managed to do so and continue on my way.
The path leads across some scrubby heathland and then under the even busier M26 motorway. This section of the walk was spoiled for me by the ever present drone of the traffic in the background.
Moan over. The path continued on through open fields again and intersected the track bed of the long disused Westerham to Dunton Green railway. The line was opened in July 1881 but fell victim to Doctor Beeching's savage rail cuts, closing in 1961.
I found a very interesting web site with lots of pictures of the old railway here.
Eventually I came to Chipstead Lake, the end of this branch of the Darent Valley Path and the first leg of the day's walk. Unfortunately the lake is privately owned and used by the fishing and sailing clubs - members only.
The lake is actually man made. It is a former clay pit. The clay was extracted over many years and used for the local brick and tile industry.
Luckily the small village green overlooks the lake and I sat on a bench, had a bite to eat and consulted my map to work out my route for the rest of the day.
I decided to navigate from Chipstead via Riverhead through to Sevenoaks where I could pick up the other branch of the Darent Valley Path back to Otford. The downside was this would involve quite a lot of walking on tarmac rather than cross country.
On the plus side though my route took me via the centre of historic Chipstead village. Here are some pictures....
These cottages were built in 1694.
The former non conformist chapel parts of which date back to the early 1600's.
Hann's Store is now an office. It is good to see that the new owners did not paint out the old advertisement as often happens nowadays.
The George and Dragon pub built in the 16th century and still going strong.
My walk continued through Chipstead until I reached Riverhead on the outskirts of Sevenoaks.
The church of St Mary overlooks a road junction and dominates the town's skyline. The church is modern by Kent standards having been built in 1831 to a Decimus Burton design. As is often the case, I was not able to have a look inside the church as it was all locked up.
I continued along my "favourite" road, the dreaded A224 as far as Sevenoaks railway station where I joined the Darent Valley Path again to head back to Otford. The path, as far as I could see, is not very well marked at this point so it is advisable to have OS Explorer map 147 handy if you wish to follow the route yourself.
The path runs parallel with the railway for a while, through a housing estate, before entering Bradbourne Lakes. The lakes are a hidden gem. I was expecting some scruffy old gravel pits but they are actually small ornamental lakes which once formed part of the 18th century Bradbourne Estate. Over the years the estate was split up and sold off for housing developments. In 1935 the Lakes passed into the ownership of Sevenoaks District Council.
It is an ideal place to take small children. The lakes are full of very tame geese and ducks such as my friend Mr Greylag above. He was angling for a bit of my leftover sandwich but went away empty beaked!
On the other side of the lakes, the Darent Valley Path joins the A25. Once again I spent another age trying to cross this road. A continuous stream of cars and trucks thundering by in both directions.
Safely across the A25 the path skirts along the edge of some more lakes which form part of the Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve.
Unfortunately the lakes are fenced off and the trees and undergrowth are so thick it's not possible to see them properly from the path.
Surely a missed trick? In my opinion it would have made this part of the walk more enjoyable if a small clearing could have been made in the trees at some point along the way. You never know, maybe someone from Kent County Council is reading this blog....
Leaving the Wildfowl Reserve the path joins a very quiet country lane (Rye Lane). I followed the lane all the way back into Otford through fields full of sheep and past some of the smartest and colourful static homes I have ever seen before.
UPDATE - for Part 4 of My Darent Valley Walk please see here
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to leave a comment. They are always welcome.
From the archives...
A Walk Around Grenham Bay
Winter Walks - Nurstead and Camer Park
The White Cross of Shoreham, Kent
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Kent was a ideal due to it's proximity both to London and to the German airfields only a few miles away across the English Channel in France.
As you travel around Kent today, you often come across poignant reminders of the events of 1940 such as at the Garden of Remembrance at Manston airport (adjacent to the Hurricane and Spitfire Memorial which I wrote about in an earlier post).
The Shoreham Aircraft Museum is erecting memorials to all the Battle of Britain pilots who died within a ten mile radius of Shoreham. I came across this one to Flight Lieutenant James Alfred Paterson M.B.E. of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Sparepenny Lane, Farningham during one of my recent Darent Valley walks.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have found this post of interest. Other posts from the archives you may like...
The Meopham Air Disaster
Visit to West Malling
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
I have traced my family tree back to the late 1700's and at that time my ancestors all worked as labourers on the local farms.
Each of the white plinths represents a different planet and the one with the chrome ball (to the right of the picture) represents the sun. Due to the scale, several of the "planets" are to be found on the other side of the village.
Although it was quite hard work getting to the top in the hot weather, the views on the way up were worth the effort. The triangulation point itself was in the middle of a newly cut grass field surrounded by trees.
UPDATE - for Part 3 of my Darent Valley Walk please see here
UPDATE - the mystery of the memorial stone has been solved... please see here
Day Trip to Rochester