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Life in the Early Days

Chatham Observer 8th November, 1873 reports:-Early Closing – A few of the grocers in the High Street Chatham have announced their intention of closing their shops for the future at 6 o’clock in the evening except on Saturdays. The movement does not seem to be general at present.

Chatham Observer 15th November, 1873 reports:-A new convict prison is to be opened in Maidstone Road Rochester near Borstal.

Chatham Observer 29th November, 1873 advertisement:-Plot of Garden Land for Sale in Gillingham Road, 20 foot Frontage and 200 feet deep. Price for Cash £30

Chatham Observer 6th November, 1873 reports:-Article about the first burning of ballot papers by the Mayor and witnessed by important dignitaries.

Chatham Observer 20th December,1873 – Notice THE ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS WAITS. Sanctioned by the Mayor of Rochester and High Constable of Chatham, Messrs. W. T. WILLIAMS & F. CLEGG beg to announce to their subscribers that they will continue their MIDNIGHT SERENADING every night up to Christmas, and will perform a first class selection of Sacred and Secular music by their Four Brass Instruments.

N.B. In answer to many inquiries, this party has no connection with the, to say the least, peculiar noises heard in the street lately.

Comment by the “Observer” 20th December, 1873. Although there may be some difference of opinion among our fellow townsmen on the matter, we think that the soft strains of the brass quartette of our old friends Messrs.Williams and Clegg, will prove generally soothing rather than disturbing to the slumbers of all lovers of harmony.

1893 “Chatham News” Almanac NO MORE WRINKLES – Wrinkles are very much under personal control. A girl or youth who indulges in perpetual knitting of the brows produces a very ugly wrinkle between the eyebrows, but this may be entirely removed by forsaking the trick.

A habit of half closing the eyes produces wrinkles at their outer corners. An ill-tempered dropping of the corners of the mouth brings wrinkles in those positions.

“Chatham Observer” Sept 5th 1874 Ludicrous Misfortunes! On Tuesday last a woman, apparently the wife of a mechanic, laden with potatoes and flour, had just entered the Lines on her way to New Brompton, when the wind was at that time, and at that particular spot, blowing a hurricane.

Her bonnet, if we may be allowed to give it that name, evidently was disposed to leave her head, which caused the poor woman naturally to put her hands up to make it secure.

In doing this she let fall the potatoes, and in stooping to pick them up, to make matters worse, the paper bag which contained the flour burst, and she became literally smothered with the contents.

Nor was this all: her misfortunes were not yet complete, her bonnet and chignon were still in peril, and the former took its departure without leave at a rapid rate across the Lines, giving her no choice but to enter the colony with head uncovered, and in the guise of a dusty miller.

“Chatham Observer” Sept 5 1874 FIRE IN ROCHESTER. The chimney of Mrs Charlicks sitting room behind the shop had not been swept for about 2 Years, and there was consequently a large accumulation of soot which somehow caught fire; most likely through a match being carelessly thrown in the fireplace.

Mr Andrews was nearby and summoned assistance. Mr Banks of the Volunteer Fire Brigade and P. C. Wakefield were soon on the spot.

They made strenuous efforts to put the fire out by throwing pails of water on it and letting off small quantities of gunpowder in the fireplace to bring down the soot. A large crowd collected outside and as the gunpowder exploded from time to time it was reported that the roof was falling in. Nothing so serious happened, though it was thought at one time it would be necessary to send for the hose to play on the fire. In throwing some of the powder on the fire Mr Andrews had one hand severely burnt.

“Chatham Observer” 26th September 1874 A sovereign for a shilling – At Messrs Wardropers entertainment, at the Lecture Hall, on Monday evening, the money-taker inadvertently gave a sovereign instead a shilling in change. If the person who received it will be so good as to send the nineteen shillings to Mr L. Whitehead, the proprietor of the Lecture Hall, the unfortunate loser will be greatly obliged.

“Chatham Observer” 2nd January 1875 A TUNNEL UNDER THE MEDWAY – Writing on the importance of creating a solid path across the Hudson River, the New York Times says: -“But the Hudson is too broad for a suspension bridge. Then why not tunnel it? In the present age of perfection in tunnel building, it would surprise those persons whose only impressions in this line have been gained from the clumsy effort called the Thames Tunnel to find how cheaply and solidly bricklined iron tunnels can be built under rivers, even when the bed is rock or sand.

If the soil be clay, the work is easy. The Thames has now a second tunnel of iron, the Medway is soon to have one completed, and Englishmen are found talking gravely of running a large, dry well-lit tunnel between Calais and Dover.”

We are aware that the Thames has a second tunnel, and that a tunnel under the English Channel between Calais and Dover is projected with sanguine hopes of success by scientific men, but the above is the first we have heard of a tunnel proposed, much less nearly completed, under the Medway.

It is another illustration of the saying that has become almost a proverb, that one must go abroad to hear news!

Can it be that our Royal Engineers have been driving a tunnel undiscovered by the lynx-eyes of the ‘Observer’ under the bed of the river, from their works at Brompton to those at Upnor, and that, some fine morning they will invite its active representative, or rather the whole staff, to walk dry shod, under the swift flowing waters of the Medway, to partake of a luncheon in the venerable Castle of Queen Elizabeth on the other side.

“Chatham News” 5th June 1875 THE SAILS OF THE “VICTORY” – for many years past the fore top-sail and the main top-sail of the Victory (Nelson’s Ship) have been stored in the Sail Loft at this Dockyard, and have been objects of interest to visitors who have been shown them. The sails formed part of the sails of the Victory in the memorable battle of Trafalgar, and have been at Chatham since the vessel was refitted at this Dockyard after the battle; they are completely perforated with shot holes.

The Admiralty has now directed that the sails are to be forwarded to Portsmouth, where they will again be placed aboard the Victory for inspection by the general public.

“Chatham Observer” 18th December, 1875 THE WAITS – Messers. Williams and Clegg with their Quartette Band are keeping up this old custom, anticipatory of Christmas and have made the quiet hours of the night resound with the strains of instrumental and vocal harmony.

Some few have denounced them for disturbing their slumber, but the many appear to have been delighted with the soft music of anthems suited to the season.

“Chatham News” 9th October, 1875 The weather was bad, almost a hurricane, on Saturday last,2nd October, 1875 and it blew a vein off the windmill situated by Cherry Tree Hall. (Where the 7th Day Adventist Church is now – New Road)

“Chatham News” 25th September, 1875, Chatham Board of Health Meeting:- THE MUD -A Mr. Breeze stated that he and Mr. Stigant were repeatedly stopped on Wednesday by trade people who complained of MUD being swept into heaps in the High Street, and left for a long time being a nuisance. There was only one cart in use.

It was remarked that there was too much mud being swept up at a time. Mr. Gamon said he swept up the mud by the machine as the road was very dirty, he had two horses and cart at work, with four men – he could do no more; he could get no more hands.

Mr. Breeze did not wish to increase expenses but he found the men had but 2s 9d (14p) per day and went hopping in preference. The Clerk and others said – people went to the hop-gardens without reference to what they could earn.

“Chatham News 22nd January, 1876 Roof Cleaning in Pittsburgh PA is available and will be always there to clean your roofs and get it done. CLEANING OF PATHS AT ROCHESTER – Superintendent Radley has issued a notice calling the attention of the citizens of Rochester to one of the bye laws, (by) which residents are compelled to have the paths cleaned in front of their houses before ten o’clock in the morning, Sundays excepted, in default of which they render themselves liable to a penalty of ten shillings. It is intended to enforce the bye-law.

May 1876. Chatham skating rinks opened behind the St. John’s Church with access from Railway Street and New Road. A fine example with banks and mounds, decorated with shrubs etc. and a band playing most evenings, with good facilities for refreshment.

Chatham News 12th August 1876 A fine large sturgeon was caught last Sunday by a fisherman fishing for smelt above Rochester Bridge. This is a Royal fish and as such should be presented to the monarch. As the last one caught was sent to the Queen it was decided that this fine specimen, be sent to the Prince of Wales.

On Monday morning Mr. Watson the Water Bailiff, duly proceeded to Marlborough House with the fish which was 5’6″ long and weighed 56lbs.

“Chatham Observer 3rd June,1876 “Too Many Pigs & Bad Water” – Two persons residing in The Brook, named Sullivan and Neison, kept 45 Pigs upon their back premises, which Chatham Medical Officer considered dangerous to the health of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood now that the warm weather has set in. He ordered immediate steps (unspecified) to abate the nuisance. A sample of water, tested in Front Row, and Ordnance Place, discovered it to be teaming with animal life, and totally unfit for use. It appeared that this was the only water which the inhabitants could obtain. It was ordered that the owner of the property supply his tenants from the Water Company’s mains.

“Chatham News” 19th August,1876 VALUABLE DRESSING FOR THE HAIR – If your hair is turning grey or white, or falling off, use “The Mexican Hair Renewer” for it will positively restore in every case grey or white hair to its original colour, without leaving the disagreeable smell of restorers. It makes the hair charmingly beautiful as well as promoting the growth of hair on bald spots, where the glands are not decayed.. Ask your chemist for “Mexican Hair Restorer” prepared by Henry C. Gallup, 493 Oxford Street, London, and sold everywhere at 3/6 per bottle.

“Chatham News” 2nd September 1876 Chatham Board of Health have effected much needed improvements. The work of channelling the High Street has resumed this week recommencing at Hamond Hill and proceeding eastward on the south side of the street.. In time we hope to see all the High Street, north and south, properly “channelled” (Open surface drains?)

“Chatham News” 30th September, 1876 Another Submarine Tunnel – suggest a tunnel from Gibraltar to North Africa – cost about £4 Million.

A submarine way under the channel would allow an overland route to India without change of carriage.

“Chatham News” 14th July, 1887 St John’s Church, Chatham. New organ dedicated – details of construction.



These machines surpass any others in existence and are warranted to thoroughly Wash, Dry and Mangle everything for FAMILY USE thus doing away with unpleasant washdays at home. No rubbing, wear and tear, in the process.

Families waited upon in their residences by sending Name and Address to George Barnes, Proprietor Steam Laundry, Chatham Hill. All orders punctually attended to.

Clothing will be collected from any part of the towns and vicinity on receipt of postcard or otherwise.

“CHATHAM OBSERVER” 26th January, 1878 New Road improvements – Trees planted on the whole extent of City boundary on the New Road, which will form one of the most picturesque improvements in the city, and which is already much admired.

10th August 1878

Religious services outdoors at “The Circus” ??

“CHATHAM NEWS” SAT. 29th June, 1878 The time at which holidays should be held causes much difference of opinion since “Bank Holidays” were instituted. At Chatham, we are at 6’s and 7’s about holidays, caused by our having Government Establishments and by the adoption of “Bank Holidays” by the townspeople. Thus “Coronation Day” was formerly the universal holiday of Chatham, it has ceased to be so, but the Dockyard makes holiday on that day and when the town “keeps” a “Bank Holiday” the employees of the Dockyard are all at work.

It would be a good thing if a change could be made so that all folks could keep holiday together – but we do not expect such an alteration at Chatham – the more the pity.

“CHATHAM NEWS” SAT. 10th August, 1878 A good many people are much exercised, by the “Sunday Cries” in Chatham – we have heard complaints that the nomadic tribes of the Brook pour forth on Sunday to vend various small edibles, uttering vociferous announcements, and in localities, too, where the inbabitants are not the least likely to buy “Winkles” or “Cresses” on Sunday, and only desire the peace and rest on that day and the privilege to attend places of worship without being annoyed by the street cries.

We read that many complaints having been made to the police and the Rev. H. J. Bevis having addressed a letter on the subject of hawkers crying “Shrimps and Prawns for sale” during the hours of Divine Service, they resolved that the police be instructed to proceed against such persons offending in this respect.

“CHATHAM OBSERVER” 24th August, 1878. Local News – Provision for Public Worship in Chatham/Rochester & Gillingham

Chatham (Intra & Extra) Places of Worship Established Church 7, Other Denominations 20.

It is estimated that 42% of the population are generally detained from attendance at public worship e.g. children, aged persons, invalids, nurses, medical men, persons employed on public conveyance etc.

Above census shows a deficiency of accommodation for 52% of the entire population of the towns of 9,935 sittings. Only a small deficiency in Rochester as the Cathedral holds 1,200 people.

“CHATHAM NEWS” SAT 28th September, 1878 The Proposed Tramway:- Company will lay tramway, without cost locally, down through the High Street. At present the idea is to lay it down from Luton to Chatham Intra, and afterwards extend it to Rochester, Strood and Brompton. The matter is before the Chatham Board of Health for sanction.

“CHATHAM OBSERVER” 2nd November, 1876 The Electric Light – We may expect shortly to see a practical application of the electric light in Medway, as Messers Hayman and Sons are examining the various inventions with regard to it to see which is most fitted for the purpose of lighting vessels unloading cargoes of coals.

Electric light has been so far approved at Royal Arsenal Woolwich, that a second lamp has been fitted up and further extensions planned.

Experiments are being made to produce small, low cost, tin canisters, to hold butter, which can be hermetically sealed, with the view to preserving it without the use of more salt than is put into fresh butter. It may not be a new idea but it could have an influence on the supply of Irish Butter.

“CHATHAM OBSERVER” 22nd February, 1879 Shopping – The early Closing Movement is in full swing – it is not opposed to 8 p.m. – leave well alone