The village has a long and interesting history, with evidence of constant occupation since the Iron Age. Being so close to the water, Lower Halstow has (until recently) been a village that has made its living from the water. Whether it be ancient pottery making, ancient fishing, barge building, or in the 19th- and 20th-century brick-making, the water has been the lifeblood of the village.
According to Edward Hasted in 1798, two large hospital ships, commonly called lazarettos, (which were the surviving hulks of forty-four gun ships) were moored in Halstow Creek. The lazarettos monitored ships coming to England which were forced to stay in the creek under quarantine, to protect the country from infectious diseases.
In 1563, Queen Elizabeth ordered a survey, and Halstow Key (a wharf on the creek), was made up of 24 people in houses and 14 living on boats. There were two hamlets, one beside the wharf and the other around Halstow Green on Lower Street. The rest of the northern lands were salt marsh. Lands heading southwards (measuring 1200 acres) were heavy clay. All the lands were under the control of the manor of Milton Regis.
In 2011, the population of the village was 1,180.
The name of the village has developed gradually over the years: Holy Place (Halig stow) Pronounced "ail-stoo", with a long "oo" as in "through" c. 1100; Halgastaw, 1160; Halgastow, 1199; Halegestowe, 1226; Halgesto, 1576; Halstowe, 1610; Halstoe, c. 1790; Halstow, 1810 – Lower Halstow.
On the banks of the Medway Estuary is the church of St Margaret of Antioch. This Grade II listed church has a long history that can be traced back to Saxon times. It is in the diocese of Canterbury, and deanery of Sittingbourne. The first recorded parish priest was John de London who was a nephew to St Thomas Becket.
The church has features and ancient artifacts that are still in use today. The church can trace its oldest parts back to the 7th century, making it one of the oldest churches still in use in England. Some points of interest are:
- Roman tiles built into the brickwork (taken from a Roman villa and temple in the village)
- A Saxon window built into the wall of the church
- An ancient Norman lead font – very rare and possibly the oldest in the country
- Medieval frescos and graffiti – a statement of what life was like in pre-reformation England
- A war memorial for the men of the village who died in the Great War
Other Grade II listed buildings in the village are the public house (said to have been built in 1468 and issued an ale licence in 1764), and Green Farm House.
The Edith May, an 86ft medium sized coasting barge, is moored at Lower Halstow Dock during the winter. She is spritsail rigged and constructed of Pitch Pine on Oak. Originally built in 1906 for coastal trade carrying wheat and grain products, she also had a successful racing career before falling into sad disrepair during the 1990s. After thousands of hours in renovation by the Gransden family she is now back in working order and even competing in matches during the summer months.
If anybody would like to expand this series please do. I would just ask that you let Smokeypugs know first so they can keep track of the Village Sign numbers and names to avoid duplication.