Romans, smokescreen and guns – Crayford’s fascinating past

PUBLISHED: 14:34 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:42 25 August 2010

DID you know that Crayford was once home to a Roman stronghold?

DID you know that Crayford was once home to a Roman stronghold?

That it was home to a bizarre smokescreen to baffle bombers during the Blitz?

Or that the town's first school was built on a patch of wasteland in Old Road?

Crayford, A History by E O Thomas can teach you all this and more as it is due to be released as part of Bexley council's Local Studies and Archive Centre on next Tuesday.

The illustrated book charts the area's history from the Romans, where information is a little thin on the ground - or under it - through to modern day.

Documented history begins with the Anglo Saxons, with a band of Angles landing at Ebbsfleet in 449, briefly making peace with Vortigen, King of the Britons, before defeating him at Crayford in 457.

The following medieval section contains a slightly confusing myriad of historical figures, not least Wat Tyler, whose Peasant Revolt in 1381 passed through Crayford before famously dispersing in Blackheath.

The 180-page book is separated into 12 core parts, including Medieval History, Churches, Local Politics, Transport and Sports.

For those who want to look up the history of their old school, church, business or neighbouring country house, Thomas has created comprehensive chapters on each.

If you wanted to look up a particular era beyond the medieval age, you could find yourself looking through various chapters to get a complete picture.

However this is not a problem for the casual reader as it is interesting to look up somewhere you know and find a full length history of it, including the strange quirks.

Whilst I personally found the ancient and medieval history the most fascinating, more than half of it is devoted to charting more modern history.

As mentioned, one of the most significant developments for Crayford in the modern era was the growth of the Vicars factory in WWI.

Military buffs and those who remember the constant attempts to bomb the factory in WWII will revel in the large amount of space Thomas devotes to describing the weird and awful armaments made there.

By 1939 the factory had not only become the single largest supplier of weapons to the Army, having a big impact on Crayford's population.

The book is well illustrated at every turn of the page with beautiful watercolours, sketches, photographs and old maps.

Last and not least, the extremely thorough indexing at the back is great fun if you want to just skim through with an index finger and pick a familiar name at random.

Crayford, A History, by E O Thomas, is available for £9.50 from all Bexley libraries.

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