Go to navigation

Long-lost records shed light on the Jezreelites

Date: 10/03/2008           Category: Arts and Libraries

Records that were thought to be lost for ever of the Jezreelite religious sect – famous in Medway for its monumental tower that used to stand at the top of Chatham Hill – have been rediscovered and donated to the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre (MALSC). The records were salvaged from a house clearance in Gillingham some time ago and had been stored in an attic in Strood since then. They are the original headquarters records of the Jezreelite sect from the 1880s and include personal records of founders James and Esther Jezreel and other senior members. “It is very rarely that we come across such an important find,” said Medway Council’s Archivist Stephen Dixon. “It is one of the most significant archival collections in my 18 years here. “My colleagues at the Guildhall Museum and I had, until recently, assumed any records of the Jezreelites had been lost or destroyed. Some papers emerged a year or so ago, but this latest collection eclipses even that. “The new deposit is in effect not only the records of a non-conformist congregation in Gillingham, but probably also the surviving records of what was actually an international sect as well.” The Jezreels religious sect was founded by James Rowland Wright, alias James Jershom Jezreel, in 1875. The formal name of the sect is The New and Latter House of Israel. Jezreel’s Tower, which used to stand alongside Watling Street, Gillingham, was a landmark feature of the sect’s headquarters. Construction started on this large and remarkable building in 1885, but it was never finished. For many years it survived as a historical curiosity until its demolition in 1961. [more] Long-lost records shed light on the Jezreelites (2) A document was placed in a sealed bottle under the building’s foundation stone in 1885 and recovered during demolition in 1961. It is now part of the MALSC collection. Images of the tower are available on request. The Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre can be contacted on (01634) 332714, or email local.studies@medway.gov.uk. Information about the centre can be found on the Medway Council website at www.medway.gov.uk/archives. [ends]