Ernest William Haslehust (1866-1949), RI, RWA
Water colour painting
16.4 x 11 cm framed
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Before Allington can be reached, in ascending the Medway, the river is spanned by an ancient stone bridge, of pointed arches and triangular buttresses, at Aylesford. The ancient Norman church, and the red roofs and crowding gables of the picturesque and historic village, are set in a circle of elm trees, with a background of rising chalk downs beyond. Those who have investigated with perhaps "an excess" — as Wordsworth would say — "of scrupulosity" all the details of Pickwickian topography are inclined to believe that the wooden bridge, upon which the chaise hired by the Club to make the journey from Rochester to Dingley Dell came hopelessly to grief, was Aylesford Bridge, transmuted for the nonce from Kentish ragstone into timber. However that may be, there is a matter of genuine history which has signalized in no common way this old-world village. At this ford, the lowest on the Medway, the Jutes under Hengist and Horsa routed the British in a battle which decided the predominating strain of race in future Men of Kent and Kentish Men: natives of Kent, that is, according as they dwell on the right or left bank of the Medway. A farmhouse with the name of Horsted, at the point farther back where the Rochester to Maidstone road is joined by the road from Chatham, stands, it is believed, on the grave of Horsa. And about a mile and a half north of Aylesford, a grey old cairn, set on a green sward in the midst of a cornfield, is also closely associated with the first great victory won by English people on the soil which they were destined to make their own and distinguish with their name. In his Short History of the English People J. R. Green says of this cromlech: —
"It was from a steep knoll on which the grey weather-beaten stones of this monument are reared that the view of their first battlefield would break on the English warriors; and a lane which still leads down from it through peaceful homesteads, would guide them across the ford which has left its name in the little village of Aylesford. The Chronicle of the conquering people tells nothing of the rush that may have carried the ford, or of the fight that went straggling up through the village. It only tells that Horsa fell in the moment of victory, and the flint heap of Horsted, which has long preserved his name, and was held in after-time to mark his grave, is thus the earliest of those monuments of English valour of which Westminster is the last and noblest shrine. The victory of Aylesford did more than give East Kent to the English; it struck the keynote of the whole English conquest of Britain." [Nicklin, 34-36]
Lynch, Tony. Dickens England: An A to Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. A Traveller's Companion. London: Batsford, 2012.
Nicklin, J. A. Dickens-land. Il. E. W. Haslehust. Beautiful England series. Glasgow & London: Blackie & Son, 1911.
Last modified 4 March 2014