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The History of Rochester

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The ancient town of Rochester is positioned within the county of Kent, in south east England. It dates as far back in time as the Neolithic settlers who first lived here, When the Roman Legions arrived the importance of the settlement became apparent with its strategic location to both London and Canterbury , and the crossing point of the River Medway . With them they brought their knowledge and expertise in the building of the great Roman Road of Watling Street which runs through the town, together with the fortification of the Roman Wall which surrounded it, the town grew in importance and was re-named Durobrivae.

After the Romans left the Anglo Saxons constructed a Cathedral on lands that were bestowed by Ethelbert , the 7th Century dawned, and with it came Justus who was sent by Augustine the first Arch Bishop of Canterbury. Justus was given the task of setting up an Abbey, which he did, however the town was destroyed by Ethelred who ruled the ancient neighbouring kingdom of Mercia. Once again peace was shattered when the marauding Danes arrived in the 9th Century, which in turn caused devastation and the destruction of the town.

By the 11th Century William the Conqueror had landed on England's shores, fought a bloody battle at Hastings , and then he, together with his Army marched across the land conquering and entering on a massive building spree that was to change the face of the country forevermore. Rochester was certainly no different and on the arrival of the Normans the town saw the erection of a Castle which was built to guard the crossing of the Medway River, and the impressive Cathedral which was built on the site of the earlier Saxon one.

The town continued to prosper although by the time of the 13th Century it held witness to a siege which took place when King John held the cathedral from the powerful Barons of the time, and was later damaged by Simon de Montfort's Army. The 14th Century brought an unwelcome visitor in the Black Death, or Plague, Rochester was to suffer greatly with many lives lost, both rich and poor.

The Tudor King, Henry VIII declared himself to be head of the Church of England when he fell out with Rome after they refused him permission to divorce his wife in the 16th Century and with this came much reform with the dissolution of the Monasteries, and desecration of many churches. Rochester paid its price with the decline and destruction of much of the cathedral, although it was later to undergo restoration and survives today, the 15th Century also saw the 1st ever Mayor to be appointed and the bestowing of its first Royal Charter. However, the cathedral was once again to suffer at the hands Oliver Cromwell 's army with the battle fought during the Civil War which resulted in the cessation of the Monarchy and the execution of Charles I in 1649. Although Rochester was where Sir Francis Clarke met with Charles II when he stopped here on his way to reclaim his crown in 1660 at the venue known as Restoration House which still survives today and is sited on Crow lane, and featured in Dickens Great Expectations.

The 19th Century brought the opening of Borstal Prison, which was specifically opened for young criminals in 1874, and the recognition of a long literary association with the brilliant writer Charles Dickens who captured places within Rochester such as Eastgate House , which still remains today and was depicted as Westgate House in the Pick Wick Papers. Whereas the twentieth Century saw bombing raids carried out during World War II , and the loss of its historic City status which Rochester had enjoyed since it was first granted in 1211, after an administrative blunder took place in 2002.

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