The history behind Gravesend’s origins

11:29 12 July 2012

Gravesend Market 1951

Gravesend Market 1951


In 1665 the bubonic plague spread like wildfire across the capital, killing an estimated 100,000 Londoners and leaving a dilemma of where to bury the dead.

For many misguided historians, this is the origin of Gravesend - but in fact, the name was first seen in the Domesday Book about 500 years before, in 1086, as Gravesham.

The origin of the name is disputed with some claiming it stems from Grafs-ham, meaning a place at the end of the grove.

Though the origins of Gravesend may not be as infamous as is popularised, it is still nonetheless steeped in a rich history stemming right the way back to the Stone Age.

Few implements remain as evidence of Stone Age settlers, but more concrete proof of our early ancestors can be found through an Iron Age settlement near Springhead thought to have been a hub of activity from 100BC to 300AD.

The site was excavated from 2000-2003 due to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and was soon realised to be an archaeological wonderland, offering up more than 150,000 objects ranging from axe heads to small coins.

The Romans also had a strong presence in Gravesend, with the main road from London to the Kentish coast running just to the north of the town.

The Domesday Book mentions mills, ports and fisheries along the road.

The rich history of the area is continued through its market, one of the oldest in the country that can trace its origins back to its earliest charter from 1268.


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