Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


We were on Sheppey yesterday. Sheppey is an island set about by marshes off the north coast of Kent. Eight years ago we nearly bought a house in  Sheerness- and the place still tugs at my heart. We looked in the windows of estate agents and, yes, we could still afford to live here because Sheerness is a very poor town in spite of the wonderful, arcing bridge they've recently built to connect it to the mainland.

We made a first visit to Minster in Sheppey- where there's a monastic church and a monastic gate house. The church contains a noble collection of badly battered tombs- including the very splendid tomb of Robert de Shurland, who was Lord of Sheppey in the 14th century. Next to his elegantly twisted, recumbent figure a horse's head breaks through the stone, dispersing stony ripples. Legend has it that Sir Robert did something to upset his king- who I think was Edward I- and, hearing that the king's barge was sailing past the island, rode his horse into the water and had it swim out so he could ask for royal forgiveness.  R.H. Barham embroiders the story in the Ingoldsby Legends and gives the horse a name- Grey Dolphin.

The Minster is on a hill. The view- out across the marshes-the landscape of Great Expectations- is something else.

Sheerness was developed in the 17th century as a military and naval base after the Dutch had humiliated us by sailing their warships up the Medway. Until 1960 it was home to the Royal Arsenal. It has a seasidey feel to it- only you can't see the sea because the sea wall is so high.  I love the clock tower.

sheppey 056
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