Sir Cloudesley Shovell - Lord of the Manor of Crayford

Article by Jean Stewart and Joan Bishop

Sir Cloudesley Shovell was born at Cockthorpe in Norfolk in 1650. He joined the navy at the age of 13 serving under Vice Admiral Christopher Myngs and later secured patronage of the Admiral Sir John Narborough, who died of fever in 1688 leaving behind wife Elizabeth, two sons, and a daughter. After rapid promotion Shovell became Rear Admiral of England, Admiral of the Fleet and Commander in Chief of the Navy. In 1689 he was knighted by King William III and the following year promoted to Admiral of the Blue. In 1702 Queen Anne made him Admiral of the White. In 1691, Sir Cloudesley married Elizabeth, widow of Sir John Narborough and subsequently had two daughters of his own. He was appointed Commissioner of Sewers responsible for flood defences along the River Thames between Deptford and Gravesend, which included the Crayford marshes. Shovell became Lord of the Manor when he purchased May Place Estate (currently the site of Barnehurst Golf Club) in Crayford and moved in with his wife, step children and his daughters in 1694. The location of May Place was convenient being mid-way between the Admiralty in London and Chatham dockyard, and also conveniently placed between Westminster and Rochester for his parliamentary duties.

Sir Cloudesley was nominated by the navy and appointed an MP in 1689 for the City of Rochester. He held this position until 1701, and he was re-elected in 1705 this time by local landowners and held the post until his untimely death in 1707. He was a great benefactor to the City of Rochester, providing at his own expense the decorative plaster ceiling in the Guild Hall, the market bell clock and the façade for the Butchers Market building (now the Corn Exchange). Although being away at sea most of the time, he seemed much attached to the neighbourhood of Crayford, then only a small village. He attended St Paulinus Church and paid for the restoration of the Chancel and Nave, which were badly in need of repair. Fortunately this was captured by a local artist William Hubbard who painted a picture of this restoration which can still be seen today in the church.

Although his tomb is in Westminster Abbey, there is a large plaque behind the lectern in St Paulinus Church making reference to a previous inscription expressing the gratitude of the parishioners for his sole contribution to the church restoration and sadness that it was later altered.

His wife Elizabeth is buried in the church, as she remained in the manor house until her death in 1732. There is a magnificent memorial to her and the family in the Lady Chapel.