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A third contender

Home / History / The History of Sittingbourne / A third contender
There is one other contender, known as Sittingbourne Parva which stood by the stream on the corner of West Street and Ufton Lane where there was once a chapel and hermitage known as Schamel. The chapel was dedicated to St Thomas Becket so it’s fair to assume the chapel and its hospital were both built expressly for the benefit of passing pilgrims and other travellers. The earliest known reference to Sittingbourne Parva is contained in a document drawn up by Eleanor of Provence, the queen of Henry III, in c.1287 but Alan Abbey suggests the ‘Parva’ suffix makes this site later than Sittingbourne, post-1000 at best. Like the other two settlements it too stood on the banks of a stream or river, one that flowed down Ufton Lane, into Cockleshell Walk, now the beginning of St Michael’s Road, and on to the Creek. When pits were being dug for the underground petrol tanks for the filling station on the corner of Dover Street in 1927, a large number of disarticulated human bones, including two complete skeletons were discovered, one of which showed signs of having suffered a violent death. It was conjectured at the time they were the remains of passing pilgrims who had been attacked. Perhaps this was once part of a graveyard attached to the Schamel chapel or possibly just a roadside ditch into which the corpses were thrown; without documentary evidence it cannot be said for certain. If the skeletons had been articulated it would suggest it was a burial ground.

If a settlement did once exist here, there are no remains of it now. None of the buildings in this part of West Street are of any significant age, unlike some in the High Street so it can only be assumed Sittingbourne Parva did not develop beyond the time of Schamel’s demise. Any archaeological traces of Schamel would have been destroyed when Mr Cremer opened his brickfield on the corner of Ufton Lane and West Street in the late nineteenth century, and further by the construction in 1894 of a private residence called Schamel, the home of solicitor, Mr Gibson. The house later became a convent and boarding school for young ladies, called the Nativity School of the Convent. After its demolition the site became a small housing estate whose road names reflect its earlier usage.

Schamel has long been said to be a corruption of the name of one of its earliest priests, Samuel, but despite this, Alan Abbey has an interesting alternative hypothesis. He is more and more convinced that this was a Templars site that reverted to the Crown when that institution was outlawed. The site was most probably a hospital for Templars and their officials when travelling. Once they were gone the land was then bolted on to Sittingbourne and he thinks that the very odd boundaries go a long way to proving this. It was a large site that was almost a self-contained village. St Michaels was very powerful and had it brought under its wing where it became known as little Sittingbourne. It has to be later for that to have happened.