Frindsbury started as a small agricultural community, grew into a significant industrial centre and declined into a dormitory suburb, each generation erasing the traces of the previous.
Frindsbury lies on the northwest bank of the Medway at its lowest bridging point. After a narrow but marshy coastal strip, the land rises steeply to plateau at about 100 ft. This was a sheet of chalk covered by brickearth covered with topsoil. Over the last two millennia, much of this was stripped away, or mined, so the contours have constantly changed. Through the centre of this ran a shallow valley carrying a stream draining the Hoo Peninsula behind, through Islingham to Whitewall creek where it entered the Medway. This water flow formed a river meander upstream and a build up of alluvium pushing 1,000 yds into the river. Though rarely more than 25 feet in height, the Frindsbury peninsula became the centre of many industries. At the Strood end the coastal marsh became 600 yds wide. There is evidence of Roman piling so they could build a road, Watling Street, from Strood Hill across the marsh to the Medway which they bridge. At that time Strood was part of Frindsbury. The impenetrable nature and the steepness of the hills here influenced the route of the railways.
The word Frindsbury comes from Old English, freodesburh, meaning a stronghold held by a friend or ally. Recorded names of the parish include Freondesbrei (764), Freondesberia (c975), Frandesberie (1086), Fryndesbury (1610). In the Lathe of Aylesford, in the Hundred of Shamwell. The main church, All Saints, was built on the hill. There was a chapel of ease at Strood (St Nicholas'), where Watling Street left the firm ground to run over the marshes to the Medway bridge. Strood was promoted to a full parish in 1193 by Gilbert Glanvill, Bishop of Rochester. Upnor (St Philip and St James) became an independent parish in 1884, but was reabsorbed in 1955. On 30 September 1894, the Local Government Board confirmed an order of Kent County Council, and Frindsbury civil parish was divided into Frindsbury Intra, and Frindsbury Extra. Intra joinded the minicipal borough of Rochester, while part of Frindsbury Extra joined Strood Rural District. The remaining part of Frindsbury Extra joined Rochester in 1934.
The remains of a large elephant skeleton (palaeoloxodon antiquus) were excavated in 1911 at Upnor. In 1925, evidence of a palaeolithic flint works in the quarry to the east of All Saints church was reported. The find included over 4000 stone tools dating from 100,000 BC, including hand axes, large flint flakes, core pieces, and quartzite hammer stones.
A Bronze Age sword was discovered at Upnor.
Michael Nightingale in 1953 argued that there was a Roman Villa at Frindsbury to produce food to supply the garrison at Durobrivæ (Rochester). The foundations of the road leading from this villa to the bridge were discovered in 1819 at the canal dock. Further excavation by Tingley in 1888 produced several artifacts.
In 764, King Offa of Mercia and Sigered of half Kent granted 20 sulungs of land at Aeslingham in Freodesbrei to Bishop Eardulf of Rochester. In 778, King Egbert gave more land to the Bishop. By the 10th century all of Frindsbury belonged to the Bishop of Rochester for the upkeep of his church. Domesday book records Frindsbury as having been 10 sulungs before 1066 and then (1086) 7. It supported 40 villagers and 9 slaves, a mill, a church, 31 ploughs, 40 acres of meadow and woodland for 5 pigs. Bishop Gundulf founded the Benedictine Priory of St Andrew, giving the land at Frindsbury to the priory though insisting they paid an exenium to him or his successors on St Andrews day. In 1256, the church of Frindsbury (and thus the income) was returned to the Bishop. There was a chapel dedicated to St Peter (1142) within the Manor of Islingham. Services were held 1330 to 1542 when they were discontinued. The building became an oast house.
Frindsbury Clubs. In 1291, there was an altercation between the Monks of Rochester and Newark Priory in Strood as a result of a communication difficulty. The good folk of Frindsbury soundly beat up the monks who were trespassing. However the church sided with the monks, and on Whit Monday the Frindsbury lads had to do penance by walking to abbey and craving forgiveness carrying their clubs. This continued till none of the participants was alive. In the 1700s the boys of Frindsbury and Strood met up each May Day to have a faction fight, though it is unclear whether it was between themselves or against the boys from Rochester.
The current Manor House is a tall late Georgian building, but a survey of 1623 showed substantial buildings on that site. This is also referred to as Court Lodge Farm.
The late thirteenth tithe barn is 210 feet in length and was described as the 'undoubted queen of country barns'.
A composite building of Caen Stone and flint. Probably started 1074, it was rebuilt in 1127. There was more building in the 14th century and around 1407. During the Reformation, decorations were removed or painted over. In 1672, the bells were rehung. Wall paintings of St Lawrence, St Edmund of Canterbury, and St William of Perth were discovered in 1883. The church was extensively restored in 1884, with a large donation from a Mrs Murray, wife to Rev. George Edward Murray, son of a former bishop of Rochester.
Quarry House is first mentioned in 1575. Then there was an early 17th Century brick residence, which became a fashionable place for a visit, to observe the prospect. It was demolished in 1897 so that the chalk on which it stood could be extracted. Drawings of it were made before its destruction.
The purpose of a mediaeval church was to raise revenue for the Bishop (the same man being the Rector of Frindsbury), and the lands needed to be managed. The Bishop knowing the income would appoint a clerk in Holy Orders say mass and minister to the congregation- he would become the vicar. The rector would have a Parsonage, which could be rented out if he didn't use it. There was a parsonage in Bill Street, and by 1591 it was occupied by the Watson Family. It was demolished at an unknown date.
This was a significant rural community of which there are few remains.
Frindsbury today is principally a dormitory suburb of Rochester with significant commercial activity on the Frindsbury Peninsula. The housing merges Frindsbury and Strood. The availability of such housing is to the part caused by the previous land usage. Until 1811, most inhabitants worked in agriculture, but by 1831, 90% worked in quarrying or manufacturing making this an industrial hot spot, well in advance of the rest of Kent. Wealth and poverty was thus dependent on the generosity of a handful of employers and the state of the national economy, boom and recession. As one industry abandoned the land it had despoiled, newer ones moved in and used the space, and finally this was turned over to housing. The streets bear the names of the previous elite.
The next four Frindsbury mills were all owned by Mr Kimmins (c1845 et seq.).
On Prospect Hill there were two mills. The first was called Manwaring's Mill, or Little Mill. It was a black tarred smock mill that drove four pairs of millstones. Next to it was the Great Mill or Rose's Mill. It was the highest in Kent with forty foot by nine foot sails. Together the two mills produced 400 sacks of flour a week. Little Mill was struck by lightning and demolished in 1886. Great Mill was demolished in 1890.
Kimmin's Mill (1819–1843), was a smock mill with no base. The land became a brick field. A man was killed by its sails.
House Mill, also known as Kimmin's Mill or Frindsbury Mill, stood on Frindsbury Hill and was a black smock mill. It was demolished in 1931.
Close by in Strood on Broom Hill were two more mills, Field Mill and Killick's Mill.
The moulding sand from below Upnor church was used to make metal castings. It was of such a high quality that it was exported.
In 1847, there were 6 brickfields in Frindsbury. Three were at Manor Farm, two were at Whitewall Creek and one at Ten Gun Field Upnor. Top soil would be removed, the brickearth was removed and the topsoil replaced and farming continued or orchards were planted. Ten Gun Field was in operation in 1800 and produced around 2.5 million bricks annually over the period. Production peaked in 1844 when it produced 14 million, 1% of the national output.
The bricks were Yellow Stock bricks, the colour produced by adding up to 17% chalk to the clay. The brick were graded as Firsts, Seconds (used for facings), Thirds (used for internals), Roughs (used for hardcore) and Chuffs that were unusable.
Other later brickfields were at Barn Meadow (today's Sholden Road) which produced reds, Wickenden Brickyard by Cooling Road, and Frindsbury Brickyard owned by the West family (closed in 1931).
The business declined when the Fletton clay at Peterborough began to be exploited. This clay contained 5% tar oil, so required less fuel to fire. The Frindsbury brickyards reverted to agriculture or were used for new housing.
Portland Cement was first manufactured in 1825. It is a mixture of chalk and clay containing alumina and silica. It was manufactured in Swanscombe in 1845, and then in Frindsbury 1st May 1851, at the Frindsbury Linseed Oil Factory which became the Crown Cement Company. William Tingley opened the Frindsbury Cement Works in 1851; it was renamed the Quarry Works. He bought out the Crown Cement works in 1867 and his family effectively had control of all the local works. In 1901, the companies merged to form the APCM (Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers). By 1907 only the Crown and the Beaver were still operating. The Crown works, then called the Crown and Quarry, was the last to close in the 1960s.
There is a rich seam of chalk beneath Frindsbury Church. Blue clay came from the Hoo marshes. For forty years, over 1000 yards alongside Limehouse Reach on the Medway, there were 7 cement works with 152 kilns and 30 chimneys. They produced 4000 tons of cement a week employing 800 men. They were:
The Formby Works (after 1858) at Whitewall Creek did not join the APCM. This produced 60 tons a week. As the chalk from Tower Hill declined, it was brought by barge from Halling. The Formby Works closed in 1911. There was another called The Frindsbury Lime Works, at Upnor run by Cole and Young.
To get under the Rochester Bridge, without losing headway, barges would approach at speed and drop their mast, using the winch at the bow, and when safely under, raise it again. To do this required extra crew, so called 'Hufflers', who were taken on at Whitewall creek. They waited offshore in their skiffs which were then tethered to the barge. They helped lower and raise the mast so the barge could shoot the bridge. They were let off at Janes Creek or Temple Creek in Strood.
This distinction is significant, Frindsbury was a ward in the City of Rochester, and in the City of Rochester-upon-Medway. Frindsbury Extra was a ward of Strood Rural District Council which was abolished in 1974. Eleven of the 16 Strood Rural parishes, joined Rochester City Council and Chatham Borough Council to become the Rochester-upon-Medway Borough Council which in 1978 became Rochester-upon-Medway City Council. The eleven parishes remained parished i.e. have an elected parish council, while former Rochester wards were not. This distinction means that the Electoral Commission will not allow any boundary change to the wards, whereby an elector loses or gains the right to vote in a parish election.
Medway Council is a unitary authority established in 1998. Frindsbury remain split in two local government level wards; Strood North and Strood Rural and are represented by the below,
The latest political composition can be found on the Medway Local Election 2007 website
William Hogarth with Samuel Scott visited Rochester in May 1732. Ebenezer Forest wrote a journal of the five day trip containing the lines "we all proceeded merrily to Frendsbury". They examined the Frindsbury Church then walked to Upnor where Hogarth made a drawing of the beautiful and ancient Upnor Castle. They then examined the Ten Gun Battery and the Birds Nest Battery before walking to Hoo.
In 1783, Samuel and Nathaniel Buck drew their prospect of Rochester from the top of All Saints Church Tower.