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Medieval Medway 1066 - 1485
The Norman invasion of 1066 had an almost immediate and lasting
impact on the area. William I gave Kent to his half-brother Odo,
the Bishop of Bayeux, who was to fall from grace during the reign
of William’s son, William II. A stone castle and a larger cathedral
in Rochester were two prominent new landmarks erected by the
Normans within a few years of the Conquest.
People’s lives were dominated by the church and a feudal system
which meant that each individual owed service or labour to a
superior. At the top of this system was the king, who technically
owned all the land in the country and could dispose of it as he
wished. Most ordinary people would have worked on large farms,
producing food for the profit of their lord but also for their own
survival. Increasingly, the larger landowners began to offer the
king money in place of military service and often maintained a
considerable armed following themselves.
Wars, civil and foreign, were a feature of the period and played
their part in the history of Medway. Both Cooling Castle and the
1387 version of Rochester Bridge were built from money made as a
result of the Hundred Years War with France, while the sieges at
Rochester Castle have become nationally famous.
Places like Rochester began to grow in importance as they
obtained rights and privileges from the king and held markets which
attracted people from the surrounding countryside. As the towns
grew larger, skilled workers formed guilds to protect their own
interests and men educated in the new universities gave a boost to
emerging professions such as law and medicine.
Making Sense of Rochester Castle: a Booklet for
Teachers. Available from the
Rochester Castle, Kent (An English Heritage Handbook)
by R. Allen Brown, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for
History of Rochester by Frederick Smith. John Hallewell
Publications, new edition 1976.
Rochester, the Past 2000 Years: a Chronology by the
City of Rochester Society, 1999.
A History of the Richard Watts Charity by
E.J.F.Hinkley. Richard Watts and the City of Rochester Almshouses
Temple Manor, Rochester by Stuart E. Rigold. English
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