Knollys Rose Ceremony

The Junior Warden, Tony Goulden, and Bridge Clerk, Mrs Sue Threader, of the Rochester Bridge Trust were honoured to be invited as guests to an ancient ceremony in the City of London.

The Knollys Rose Ceremony is held in June each year and is organised by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames. The Trust’s representatives joined the Company at the garden in Seething Lane where a single red rose was cut and placed on the altar cushion of the church of All Hallows by the Tower. The Watermen and Lightermen in their red livery with silver badges escorted the rose to the Mansion House where it was presented to the Lord Mayor of London.

The ceremony commemorates an ancient City judgement dating from 1381. Sir Robert Knolles, who was one of the founders of the Rochester Bridge Trust in 1399, owned a house on Seething Lane. He went abroad to fight the French during the Hundred Years War. While he was away, his wife is reputed to have become annoyed with the chaff dust blowing from threshing ground opposite their house, so she bought the property and turned it into a rose garden.

She also built a footbridge over the lane to avoid the mud, but without the equivalent of planning permission. The penalty was that a red rose ‘rent’ from the garden had to be paid annually to the Lord Mayor. The rose payment was no more than a peppercorn rent, a symbolic fine upon Sir Robert, a leading citizen and a successful and respected soldier. In return for this payment, permission was given “to make an haut pas of the height of 14 feet” across the lane. The footbridge has long since disappeared, but the legal requirement for the payment of this quit-rent has been established as one of the City’s traditions.

The ceremony was followed by a lunch in the Watermens’ Hall at which Mr Goulden gave a speech about the Trust’s links with Sir Robert Knolles. The Junior Warden, Tony Goulden, said “It is a great honour for the Trust to be invited to join this historic ceremony. Each year the Rochester Bridge Trust holds a private service in the Bridge Chapel to commemorate Sir Robert Knolles and his fellow benefactors of Rochester Bridge. It is delightful to find others still celebrating the memory of the same man after over 600 years.”

Notes:

1. The Rochester Bridge Trust is a charitable trust that exists to maintain the old and new bridges at Rochester and serve the travelling public. It is the only surviving bridge trust still serving its original purpose, and it has served the people of Kent since 1399. The Trust also supports numerous community and education projects across historic Kent and Medway.

2. The Trust’s assets all derive from endowments of land and money in the 14th and 15th centuries and are carefully managed in order to provide an income to fund bridge maintenance and local charitable grants. The Trust receives no external funding and is regulated by the Charity Commission.

For more information:

The Rochester Bridge Trust
5 Esplanade
Rochester
Kent ME1 1QE
Tel: 01634 846706
Fax: 01634 840125