Place:Gillingham, Kent, England

Alt namesGelingehamsource: Domesday Book (1985) p 147
Bromptonsource: settlement in parish
Brompton near Gillinghamsource: another name for above
Capstonesource: settlement in parish
Grangesource: settlement in parish
Hempsteadsource: settlement in parish
Hempstedsource: spelling variation
Hemstedsource: spelling variation
Parkwoodsource: settlement in parish
Twydallsource: settlement in parish
Wigmoresource: settlement in parish
TypeParish (ancient), Civil parish, Borough (municipal)
Coordinates51.4°N 0.55°E
Located inKent, England
See alsoChatham and Gillingham Hundred, Kent, Englandancient county division in which it was located
Gillingham District, Kent, Englandnon-metropolitan district existing 1974-1998
Medway, Kent, Englandunitary authority into which it was transferred in 1988
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog

the following text is based on an article in Wikipedia

Gillingham is now a town in the unitary authority of Medway in southeast England. Medway remains in the ceremonial county of Kent, but it is responsible for its own local government. The town included the settlements of Brompton, Capstone, Grange, Hempstead, Wigmore, Parkwood, and Twydall. In 1929 it absorbed the town of Rainham (located to the east) as well as the smaller parish of Lidsing.

Prior to the formation of Medway in 1998, Gillingham was the principal settlement of the non-metropolitan Borough of Gillingham which was formed in 1974 and included all the places listed above.

Gillingham means a homestead of Gylla's family, from Old English ham (village, homestead) and ingas (family, followers), and was first recorded in 10th century as Gyllingeham.

The town is also referred to in old texts as Jillyingham Water, hence the pronunciation being Gillingham (the G sounds as a "J" as in the girls' name "Gillian").

Gillingham became an urban district under the Local Government Act 1894, gaining municipal borough status in 1903. In 1928 Rainham was added to the Gillingham Municipal Borough. Under the Local Government Act 1972 it became a non-metropolitan district. In 1998 it merged with Rochester upon Medway, a borough made up of Rochester and Chatham and other Medway towns to the west, to become part of the Medway unitary authority.

The population of Gillingham in the UK census of 2011 was 104,157.


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The name Gillingham is recorded already in the Domesday book of 1086. It is said to have been named after a warlord, Gyllingas—from the old English gyllan, meaning "to shout". He was a notable man in Kent history as he led his warriors into battle screaming and shouting. At the time of the Norman Conquest, Gillingham was a small hamlet. It was given to his half-brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who rebuilt the parish church at Gillingham and constructed an Archbishop's Palace on land bordered by Grange Road, the ruins of which could still be seen in the last century. Gillingham itself, at the time, was a small hamlet, built around the parish church and surrounded by large farm-holdings, of which St. Mark's Parish formed part, being part of Brittain Farm.

William Adams mentioned Gillingham in his writings, saying: "... two English miles from Rochester and one mile from Chatham, where the King's ships do lie". Adams was baptised at Gillingham Parish Church on 24 September 1564.

The Strand was once owned by the Davenport family in 1635, the Davenport family included a Mayor of Gillingham, pie makers and key holders of Gillingham. The Davenport family had a road named after them in 1920. The Davenport Estate was in Ashford, Kent. The Estate comprised around 15000 acres and was called The Davenport Manor. The Davenport lost the Estate in 1889. The Davenport family was one of the Investors in the Chatham Dockyard.

In medieval times the part of Gillingham known as Grange was a limb of the Cinque Ports and the maritime importance of the area continued until the late 1940s. Indeed, a large part of Chatham Dockyard lay within Gillingham: the dockyard started in Gillingham and, until the day it was closed in 1984, two-thirds of the then modern-day dockyard lay within the boundaries of Gillingham. The dockyard was founded by Queen Elizabeth I on the site of the present gun wharf, the establishment being transferred to the present site about 1622. In 1667 a Dutch fleet sailed up the River Medway and, having landed at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey and laying siege to the fort at Sheerness, invaded Gillingham in what became known as the raid on the Medway. The Dutch eventually retreated, but the incident caused great humiliation to the Royal Navy.

The Seven Years' War began in 1756 and the government immediately gave orders for the defence of the dockyard; by 1758 the Chatham Lines of Defence were built. Over a mile long, they stretched across the neck of the dockyard peninsula, from Chatham Reach, south of the dockyard, across to Gillingham Reach on the opposite side. One of the redoubts on the Lines was at Amherst. The batteries faced away from the dockyard itself to forestall an attack from the landward side; the ships and shore-mounted guns on the river were considered sufficient to protect from that side. The lines of defence are now part of the Great Lines Heritage Park and also the Lower Lines Park (near MidKent College, Chatham Campus).

War with France began again in 1778, and once more it was necessary to strengthen the defences. Fort Amherst was the first to be improved; it was followed by work beginning in 1800 to add others at Fort Pitt, Chatham, plus Fort Delce and Fort Clarence (both in Rochester); later in the 19th century others were added, including one at Fort Darland in Gillingham. Within all these buildings a barracks was built to house the soldiers. All this work, and the expansion of the dockyard, meant that more homes were needed for the workers. The position of the Lines meant that this building could only happen beyond, and so New Brompton came into being. The population rose to 9,000 people by 1851.

Gillingham was still only a small village; eventually it, too, was swallowed up, and the name of the whole settlement changed to Gillingham. In the 1891 census its population was 27,809, and in 1901, it was 42,530.

In 1919, after World War I, a naval war memorial in the shape of a white stone obelisk was set up on the Great Lines, from where it can be seen for many miles. By 1901 Gillingham had a population in excess of 40,000. Additional structures were added in 1945 to commemorate the dead of World War II. Similar monuments stand in the dockyard towns of Portsmouth and Plymouth.


A Vision of Britain through Time provides the following description of Grange from John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales of 1870-72:

"GRANGE, an extra-parochial hamlet in Medway [registration] district, Kent; on the river Medway, adjacent to the Chatham and Dover railway, 1 mile E of New Brompton [railway] station, and 2½ ENE of Chatham. It is a member of the cinque port of Hastings; and it belonged to the families of Hastings, Philipotts, and Bamines. Acres: 415; of which 190 are water. Population: 206. Houses: 43. A small chapel, in perpendicular architecture, was built here by Sir John Philipott, in the time of Richard II.; and is now used as an outhouse."

Grange is to be found on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1900 described below. It is not far from the most built-up part of Gillingham at that time. It was absorbed into Gillingham in 1905.

Research tips

  • Kent County Council Archive, Local Studies and Museums Service. James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ. This incorporates the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone and the East Kent Archives Centre near Dover.
  • Canterbury Cathedral Archives see the Archives web pages on the Canterbury Catherdral site.
  • For information on the area around the Medway Towns, have a look at Medway Council's CityArk site.
  • Ordnance Survey Maps of England and Wales - Revised: Kent illustrates the parish boundaries of Kent when rural districts were still in existence and before Greater London came into being. The map publication year is 1931. An earlier map of 1900 may also be useful. The maps blow up to show all the parishes and many of the small villages and hamlets. Maps in this series are now downloadable for personal use.
  • Census records for Kent are available on FamilySearch, Ancestry and FindMyPast. The first site is free; the other two are pay sites but have access to microfilmed images. Steve Archer produced a very useful round-up of the available sources, but this information may not be up to date.
  • Registration Districts in Kent for the period 1837 to the present. By drilling down through the links you can follow any parish through the registration districts to which it was attached.
  • England, Kent, Parish Registers, 1538-1911 The full database from Kent Archives Office, Maidstone, has been available online from FamilySearch since June 2016.
  • Kent had five family history societies (now only four):
  • Volume 2 of the Victoria County History of Kent (published 1926) is available online through the auspices of British History Online. It includes accounts of the early history of Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals, and of several sites now within the conurbation of London.
  • Volume 3 of the Victoria County History of Kent (published 1932) This includes the text of, and the index to, the Kent Domesday survey. It has been provided by the Kent Archaeological Society.
  • In place of the other volumes of the Victoria County History, British History Online has transcriptions of the numerous volumes of The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent by Edward Hasted (originally published 1797)
  • English Jurisdictions 1851, a parish finding aid provided by FamilySearch, is particularly helpful in locating parishes in large ancient towns and cities like Canterbury.
  • Kent Probate Records Numerous links provided by Maureen Rawson
  • GENUKI lists other possible sources, however, it does not serve Kent so well as it does some other counties.
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