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Having passed the stately bridge over the river Medway, we arrive at the
CITY AND LIBERTY OF ROCHESTER.
This city is twenty-nine miles from the metropolis, and twenty-six from Canterbury. It is situated in a pleasant valley, on the banks of the river Medway, and has a salubrious air. It is said to have been called Dur-brif, from the swift currency of the river on which it stands, which the Romans converted to. Durobrivae and Durobrivis; in the Peutinger Tables it is contracted Roibis; it was denominated Hrofcester by the Saxons, which by lapse of time has been changed to its present name. The antient Durobriva", was one of the stipendiary cities, and many Roman remains have been dug up ; particularly in the Castle Gardens and the vicinity, where abundance of coins of the emperors Vespasian, Trajan, Adrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Constantius, and Constantine the Great, have been found. Within the walls of the great tower, or keep of the castle, coins of Vespasian, Trajan, and of the Lower Empire, have been discovered. Roman bricks are worked up in the present ruined walls of the cathedral precinct, it is therefore probable that the whole city stands on the Roman site. In levelling a part of a large artificial mount, called Bully Hill, which is situated at a small distance southward from the castle, other antiquities have been explored. These consisted of vessels of glazed earthen ware, as urns, jugs, paterae, &c. The largest urn was of a lead colour, in height thirteen inches; and in circumference, two feet seven inches, in the widest part: it contained ashes, and human bones. The paterae were of fine red earth, and of different sizes and shapes *. The History of Rochester is incomplete till the conversion of Ethelbert, the Saxon king of Kent, to the Christian faith, in 597; soon after which, that prince caused the church of St. Andrew to be erected, and raised the city into
* Beauties of England. 2 a bishop's a bishop's see. It was still, however, considered as a military station; and Bede styles it a "Castle of the Kentishmen." In 676, Ethelred, king of Mercia, destroyed Rochester, and the depredations and inhumanity of the Danes were often experienced in this city; particularly in 839, when they sacked the place, and committed " itnheard-of cruelties." In 885, they again attacked it, but the inhabitants being assisted by Alfred the Great, bravely withstood them, and they were driven to their ships. In 986, it was again ineffectually besieged by Ethelred, who finding himself unable to subdue the city, he desisted, and gratified his vengeance by laying waste all the lands belonging to the bishop against whom he had taken offence. In 9% the inhabitants fled with terror at the approach of the Danish fleet, and the city was once more pillaged 50 completely, that from this period no resistance was made to the invaders.
Rochester belonged to the crown in the time of Edward the Confessor. William I. granted it to Odo, bishop of Baicux; and it is recorded in the Domesday Book, that "The city of Roshestcr, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, was worth 100 shillings, and the like when the bishop received it; now it is worth 20 pounds; yet he who held it paid 40 pounds."
In the year 1083, on the disgrace of Odo, Rochester, with his other possessions, were seized by the crown. Henry I. farmed it out to the citizens, at the yearly rent of 20/. paid by the bailiff. He also granted to bishop Gtmdulph, and the church of Rochester, an annual fair, to he held on the eve and day of St Paulinus, with other rights and immunities. In the same reign, on the seventh of May, 1130, whilst the king and his court, the archbishop of Canterbury, and other prelates, were at Rochester, on account of the consecration of the cathedral church then recently finished, the city was nearly demolished by fire. Similar misfortunes befel it in 1137, andl379; in both the latter fires, the cathedral received some damage*.
* Custumale Roffense, p. 164.
Henry TI. granted to the citizens, and their heirs, "the city in fee, or perpetual ferm, for 20 pounds sterling per annum, to hold of him and his heirs for ever, with all the appurtenances, liberties, and free customs; and that they should have a guild merchant, with sundry other privileges, liberties, and immunities. Richard I. directed his writ to the bailiff, and the whole hundred of Rochester, ordaining, "that no one, except his servants, should purchase victuals in the city till the monks of St. Andrew had been first served." This was afterwards so far extended by tlie same monarch, that even his own servants were forbidden to make a prior purchase; and the monks continued to enjoy this privilege till the dissolution of their monastery.
Till the reign of Richard, the citizens had been compelled to account for a certain payment, culled Mal-tolt, which they received from all persons passing through Rochester to embark for the Holy Land; however, that monarch abolished the toll: and Henry 111. excused the city from the payment of nine shillings annually of their feeferm.
Such considerations induced the inhabitants of Rochester to continue loyal to the crown during the Barons' wars: and Henry the Third, in the fiftieth year of his reign, not only confirmed the sharter of his predecessor Henry, but, in recompence for " the faithful services of the citizens, and the damages and losses they had sustained in their obedience to him during the troubles then in the kingdom," remitted to them a part of their annual fee-ferm. The privileges granted to the city by Henry, were confirmed by Edward III. and Richard II.
Henry VI. extended the privileges of Rochester; and granted "that the bailiff, the citizens, and their heirs, sliould have the passage called the Ferry, ,below the city and the town of Stroud, aud from the town of Stroud to the city, the king's bridge on the other side of the water" boing broken; and also the space of the bridge, together with the house called the Barbican; and that they should have an annual fair on St. Duns'tan's Day, with all its privileges, &c," .'