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    The Larkin Monument

The Larkin Monument, near Telegraph Hill, Higham

 

We often get enquiries from persons who have spotted a prominent monument when passing through Higham village on the A226 or along the A289 Wainscott Bypass road.  The following information, although mainly extracted from a publication, is a typical example of how the HVHG can assist with local research queries.

The monument near Telegraph Hill, Higham is in memory of Charles Larkin (1775-1833), a Rochester auctioneer, for his work in promoting the Parliamentary Reform of 1832. This reform gave the vote to every occupant of a house with a rental value of more than £10. It was not entirely successful for, to an existing electorate of about 435,000 in England and Wales, it added less than 250,000 new voters, and actually cut out many who had voted before.

Charles Larkin died, aged 58, on September 12th, 1833, at his home on Boley Hill, Rochester. He had been a Liberal and "one of the most prominent political characters in this country". He was interred in the family vault at Gillingham on September 20th. The hearse was drawn by six horses, after which came three mourning coaches, each drawn by four horses. These were followed by 160 gentle- men, two abreast and dressed in deep mourning; and then by several carriages. Most of the shops in the town were closed for the funeral.

It was decided to erect a monument in his honour. A subscription was opened in October, and by November had raised nearly £150 from 64 subscribers. By January, 1834, the subscription was still being added to but the erection of the monument was delayed because of the difficulty in finding a site.

At some time after January work on the monument was begun and by September, 1835, exactly two years after Larkin's death, the monument was completed. A contemporary newspaper report said: "It is a column nearly sixty feet in height, built of a composition called concrete, in imitation of stone, and the structure, by its correct and and elegant proportions, reflects great credit upon the architect, Mr. Ranger."

A few feet up from the base of the monument was a cornice and below it, facing south, was the inscription:

The Friends of Freedom in Kent erected this Monument to the Memory of
CHARLES LARKIN,
In grateful testimony to his fearless and long
Advocation of Civil and Religious Liberty
And his zealous exertions in promoting the
Ever Memorable Measure of
Parliamentary Reform
AD 1832

Unfortunately the monument was not as sturdy as Charles Larkin's friends might have hoped and by August, 1860, had fallen into such a state of disrepair that one newspaper scathingly reported: "The Larkin Monument, beyond Frindsbury, erected of concrete in a paltry manner, is found to be in peril of tumbling into a heap of rubbish. What a satire on a 'memorial'!"

It was repaired in 1869 by Benjamin Horne who added the inscription:

"This monument was repaired and re-inscribed at the cost of Benjamin Worthy Horne, Esqre, of Mereworth, Kent, and of Russell Square, London. AD 1869"

It did little good however, and by the early part of the 20th century both inscriptions had been eroded.

[Extracted from, and grateful acknowledgements to, A Mosaic History of Higham by A Rootes 1974]

 

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Last Revised: 05 January 2006

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