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How Gandy's Lane in Boughton Monchelsea near Maidstone got its name

Many towns and villages have roads named after the great and the good of years gone by.

Albert Reed Gardens in Tovil, Maidstone, is an obvious example, named after Albert Reed, the paper-manufacturer, who once owned several factories in the village and donated to the community the building that houses its working men's club.

Gandy's Lane in Boughton Monchelsea
Gandy's Lane in Boughton Monchelsea

Another example would be Courtenay Road, Maidstone, named after the 14th Century Archbishop William Courtenay who commissioned the construction of the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone.

Gandy's Lane in Boughton Monchelsea, it seems, is named after Edmund Gandy, but why remains a mystery.

Gandy is a comparatively rare surname in Maidstone.

In the 19th Century there was a Gandy family at Penenden Heath, another in Maidstone town centre. But there was only one Gandy family recorded among the 1,086 souls living in Boughton Monchelsea at the time of 1841 census.

They were Edmund and Hannah Gandy, who lived at The Green with their children Ann, then aged 10, Jane eight, Louisa six, Betsy four, Henry two, and Thomas, then a one-month-old baby.

The Green at Boughton Monchelsea, where the Gandys first lived
The Green at Boughton Monchelsea, where the Gandys first lived

Later census records show that more children were to come: Mary (born 1845), Emily (1846), Robert (1848) and Ellen (1850).

At least two other children were born but died in infancy: Elizabeth at 11 months and Arthur at five weeks.

Edmund Gandy is listed in several trade registers as a plumber and he seems also to have been in business with George Gandy as "plumbers, painters and glaziers" with premises in Week Street.

By the time of the 1861 census, Edmund Gandy was living with his family in the home at the top of Gandy Lane known today as Freedom's Hall.

It is clearly the oldest property in the lane and it would be an easy to assume that Gandy had built the house and so had the lane named after him.

Freedom Hall (or Freeman Hall) as it is today in Gandy's Lane, Boughton Monchelsea
Freedom Hall (or Freeman Hall) as it is today in Gandy's Lane, Boughton Monchelsea

Not so, an 1841 census shows the home already in existence, though confusingly it was known then as Freeman's Hall.

It was occupied by John Beeching (1757 - 1849) and his wife Ann (nee Bolton) (1780 - 1853) with his wife's occupation given as "proprietor of houses."

They lived there with son Edward, an agricultural labourer, and son William, a bricklayer, with William's wife Elizabeth.

Why the building had the pretentious name of "hall" is not known.

Then it was a simple two-up, two-down cottage. (The building was extended in the 1960s and again in recent years.)

Did St Peter's Church have some gravestones go missing?
Did St Peter's Church have some gravestones go missing?

However local legend is in no doubt where the 'Freemans' or 'Freedoms' tag came. It is said that all the materials for its construction were "acquired" free of charge.

One later occupant of the house, Ivy Shoebridge, who lived there as a child during the Second World War, said she hated taking cover from air-raids in the cellar because the builder had lined the floor with tombstones from the local church.

The current occupant, Petra Lintern, was unable to confirm that because she confessed the cellar was "really creepy" and she never went down there!

However she was able to confirm that the loft had been constructed from hop-poles.

In the 19th century, hop gardens were widespread across Kent ..... Picture: Kent Archives Service
In the 19th century, hop gardens were widespread across Kent ..... Picture: Kent Archives Service

By 1851, John Beeching had died and the home sub-divided into two. Ann Beeching, William and Elizabeth lived in one half, with 68-year-old William Sisley and his 25-year-old wife Mara in the other.

By 1861, the Gandys were in residence.

Mr Gandy was born in Chingford in 1804 and died in Boughton Monchelsea in 1882. He is buried in the churchyard at St Peter's Church.

His wife and the mother to his 12 children was born Hannah Tomkin in 1808 and died after him in 1890.

Several of their daughters made good matches: Emily married Henry Wood who was another prominent builder in Boughton Monchelsea, while Betsy married the publican William Stanton and became the landlady of The Cock Inn.

One daughter became the landlady of The Cock Inn in Heath Road, Boughton Monchelsea
One daughter became the landlady of The Cock Inn in Heath Road, Boughton Monchelsea

Sadly, son Thomas fared less well.

He grew up to become a schoolmaster, teaching at a small private school in Green Lane. But from 1867 onwards he was also assistant overseer to the poor of the parish with his chief task being the keeping of the accounts.

On September 19, 1870, Thomas Gandy wrote a letter to his boss, the overseer Frances May.

He said: "Sir, by the time you receive this letter, I shall be on the sea for America. I sail this morning on the ship Loraine.

"The parish books you will find with Mrs Gandy. I am extremely sorry to leave my wife and everything I have done, but it couldn't be helped."

Edmund Gandy's gravestone in St Peter's churchyard in Boughton Monchelsea
Edmund Gandy's gravestone in St Peter's churchyard in Boughton Monchelsea

He continued: "Poor thing, she never knew I was going. I trust you won't be hard with her."

"I assure you that as soon as it is in my power I will send you some money. I am yours truly, Thomas Gandy."

The letter was posted at Charing Cross in London.

Fearing the worst, Mr May dashed round to Thomas Gandy's house where he did indeed find the parish books - with a number of falsified entries.

Gandy has forged May's own signature on cheques and the signatures of the church wardens and others in order to syphon off funds from the funds. He had also falsified a report from the auditor to hide the losses.

Edmund Gandy ran a plumbing and decorating business in Maidstone
Edmund Gandy ran a plumbing and decorating business in Maidstone

Some of the evidence against him was found in a locked drawer in his school-desk. A warrant was issued for Gandy's arrest and Police Superintendent Overden went to London that same day to apprehend him.

There the policeman made an interesting discovery.

There was no ship Loraine leaving for America. Indeed there was no ship Loraine. Deceitful to the last, Gandy had invented that story in the hope of throwing the authorities off the scent.

But Supt Overden soon received a tip that Gandy had in fact gone to Selby in Yorkshire, where he was staying with his mother-in-law - which perhaps casts a little doubt as to whether his wife was quite as unaware of his activities as he claimed.

The policeman followed Gandy, found and arrested him.

Thomas Gandy appeared before Maidstone Court
Thomas Gandy appeared before Maidstone Court

Gandy appeared before the Maidstone justices on October 15, 1870.

Several witnesses went before the court to swear that the signatures in the paperwork were not theirs. The testimony of one, Joseph Gibson, was particularly convincing.

A farmer who doubled as the village constable, Gibson told the court it couldn't be his signature because he could neither read nor write. Sadly, Mr May, who said he had known Gandy all his life, was able to confirm that all the false entries were in Gandy's own hand.

Gandy called no witnesses and offered no evidence in his defence. Instead he pleaded guilty to stealing by forgery a total of £4 16s 8d.

He was sentenced to five years' penal servitude, which meant he was imprisoned with hard labour in a London jail.

America was the destination of hundreds of thousands of emmigrants from Britain in the 1800s, but Thomas Gandy was not among them
America was the destination of hundreds of thousands of emmigrants from Britain in the 1800s, but Thomas Gandy was not among them

His wife, nee Mary Harrop, whom he had married in 1868, had already borne him one child, Evelyn, and at the time of his disgrace was pregnant with their second, Harry. She stuck by him and moved to London to be closer to his prison.

After his release, Gandy found work as a clerk, and the couple had three more children: Miriam (1876), Edmund (1882) and Dudley (1885).

Thomas Gandy died in West Ham in 1922.

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