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7 fascinating facts about Bexleyheath

I just finished reading Bexleyheath : A History by John Mercer as part of my effort to know a little about the history of our new local area. We have been living here for the last four months and it is a wonderful area indeed. Here are seven fascinating things about Bexleyheath mentioned in the book.


1. Two hundred years ago much of Bexley Heath was an area of wide-open land largely uncultivated. It was not until 1894, that the two words were put together.

2. On 5 June 1739, George Whitfield, a prominent preacher associated with John Wesley, came to the highway and preached by the pond opposite the Golden Lion. He was welcomed to the district by Henry Piers, Vicar of St Mary's (Bexley), who was a supporter of the new evangelical movement which was to become later known as the Methodist Church. Over 300 gathered to hear Whitfield preach from his horse: travellers, labourers, gypsies and villagers from Bexley village.

3. One of the early inhabitants of Bexlyheath was the polish emigre Louis Rutovwski who had been an officer in the Polish army with the rank of Colonel. He used to live in small house close to where Gravel Hill runs down to Bexley.  The colonel had fallen in love with a royal princess in Poland, although he was married. To avoid a scandal he was put in prison and served two years before being smuggled out by a fellow officer. He was helped to flee to England where he settled on the Heath and found employment in Crayford as a designer. One day the colonel happened to be in Dartford when a coach from Dover pulled in at the The Bull. It contained strangers who could not speak English. Rutovwski recognised the polish language. To his astonishment he saw the princess. They exchanged glances of recognition and then the coach pulled away to cross the Heath to London. They never saw each other again. 

4. The oldest public house on the Heath is the Crook Log, where there was a turnpike toll. John Elcombe acquired the license in 1784 but there is some evidence of a license dated 1605. It changed its names several times: Crooked Billet, Fox and Hounds and finally to Crook Log. 

5. August Applegarth, a local entreprenuer, began his career as a printer in the Blackfriars Road in London. He entered into partnership with his brother in law to make a perfecting machine which printed both sides of paper in one process. In 1818 he made machines for the Bank of England that would print with accuracy in six colours. This was an important development, but the bank notes they produced were not forgery proof so the process was abandoned in 1821.

6. Samuel Strickland was a well known local miller who owned a windmill in Northmberland Heath in 1858. It is said that he built a wooden house by the mill, mounted on wheels, so that he did not have to pay rates on it. 

7. A baptist chapel was built on the turnpike lane in 1823, close to where the narrow entrance to former Royal Oak Road now is. The chapel was pulled down in 1956 when a new chapel was built to replace it. The old baptist chapel is now the current Grace Baptist Church Bexleyheath which is at Albion Road, having moved from its 1956 location to the present location in 1975. 


Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2017

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