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PRE FAC E.
Almost half a century has passed away, since the latest History of Gravesend was published; and the town has now attained an eminence, in respect of extent and population, which claims a more elaborate and circumstantial account of its origin and progress, than any that has hitherto been given. A genealogist is fain to establish for his client, the honour of an ancient descent, by showing that the founder of his family “came over with the Conqueror;" and topographical writers being no less apt to claim for the subject of their researches, an origin as ancient--Doomsday Book is usually appealed to, for both purposes.
Gravesend, under the name of “Gravesham,” is noticed in the great Norman survey; but this relates to the manor, and does not afford evidence that there was a town upon the spot at that time. There is, however, some ground for the presumption that even at that period, there was a resort to the place, for the benefit of a convenient communication by water, with London, and it is to this intercourse, that Gravesend owes its origin and advance
Being thus connected by position, the history of Gravesend cannot be satisfactorily traced, without embracing an account of the ancient and present state of that part of the Thames, that. constitutes the Port of London, within the limit of which, the Town is situated.
The period, when the great change in the primeval course of. the river was made, by the construction of Embankments, having been left unsettled, and scarcely noticed, by preceding writers ; some evidence, upon this subject, will be found in the present work.
The account given of the shipping and commerce of the Port, includes, from original sources, some particulars of the formation of the Royal Naval Establishments at Deptford and Woolwich.
Various opinions have been expressed by Charnock and others, relative to the place where the royal ship, the Harry-grace-aDieu, was built ; the question deriving an interest from the circumstance, that it is supposed to have been the first ship of the Navy Royal constructed in England. The fact, that it was built at Woolwich, appears in an official account of the cost and charges for building it; extracts from which are given in this work, for the first time.
The discovery of the power of the magnet, and the application of it to the construction of the mariner's compass, being scarcely more important to navigation, than the invention of the rudder affixed to the stern of a vessel ; an attempt has been made to show when this inestimable instrument was first used; and until farther discoveries shall disturb the conclusion arrived at, it may be supposed to have been introduced in the reign of Edward III., and certainly before the middle of the fourteenth century.
The town and neighbourhood of Gravesend, have been the