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resulted from the vigorous works of the Canterbury
Churches. There was no lack of enactments
by the different mayors of Sandwich on
this vital matter. So early as fourteen
hundred and sixty-seven, the dredgers of oysters
within the haven were ordered not to throw
back into the water any stones they might
draw up. Through succeeding centuries, the
complaint of the people of Sandwich was
continual respecting the loss of their harbour.
They begged of kings and queens, and even
assessed themselves in vain. The loss of
back-water, and of consequent scower to keep
deep-water, made of their former sea-port a
poor, ill-conditioned, inland town. It has
been reserved for the Corporation of London
to display the consequences of inaction, in
the other extreme: it has, in the course of
centuries, suffered the whole valley of an
estuary to be eaten up.

The scene of destruction is not forty miles
from London; and the ruin is made manifest,
to anyone who will take boat from
Sheerness to Chatham. In one part of this
river the breadth from land to land is
something like four miles. Its margins are
composed of a wilderness of islands, intersected
by tidal inlets, creeks, ditches, waterways of
indescribable kinds, all of them tidal, teeming
with rottenness. It will not surprise the
traveller to be informed that here was Stangate
Creek, the naval health establishment for
many years.

There can be no doubt that this
configuration of country is the consequence of
suffering the river to put in, or encroach on
the embanked lands. The islands on the
Admiralty charts number some two hundred,
and are almost entirely produced by the land
having been enclosed and drained; the outer
wall once breached, the very system of ditches
is sufficient to convert a piece of such land
into a series of islands; the ditches become
tidal; the severance of one block of land
from another is constantly made wider by
the action of the water; and the land
throughout a large valley, covered with this
network of corroding watercourses, wastes at
all points. Already its case is hopeless; the
whole basin of a valley about ten miles long
and five miles wide at its greatest breadth,
is, in the language of the district, "gone
to sea."

It is a pity, certainly, that there should be
such loss of land, from sheer neglect, in Kent,
the Garden of England, as we call it. It is
not well to show a stranger thousands of
acres upon which we should see golden crops
waving and cattle feeding, now dressed with
the mud of last night's tide, and bearing
nothing more than samphire, thrift, and
wormwood. The isolation of the land upon the
islands renders it all but valueless. The difficulty
of getting cattle upon such ground is
considerable, and a high water will capriciously
come every now and then, which stops
its rising only when the foot of the surrounding
hills is reached. Even the spring-tides
rise high enough to wet the grass and flavour
with salt the coarse weeds which thrive there.
Such is the desolation of the islets, that they
are mowed by people who come down from
the towns in boatsmen who are not tenants
or owners of the lands; yet openly carry
away their produce.

At either end of this slushy estuary we
have a royal dockyardChatham at the
upper, and Sheerness at the lower extremity.
The duty of conservating this royal harbour
has been suffered to repose in the hands of
the Corporation of the city of London; once
in seven years the Lord Mayor for the time
being, comes hither attended by a rout of
citizens to bump the bounds of his charge.
No other keeping has the king's highway of
Medway had from the city of London within
record. Once a-year the Lords of the Admiralty
arrive on their tour of inspection to the
dockyards, and these surveys provide matter
for such newspaper paragraphs as we began
by quoting.

Twice during the present century has the
attention of the government been drawn to
the state of the Medway, and the desperate
prospects of the dockyard of Chatham. The
reply which has been vouchsafed is the notice
of the new improvements as to the extension
of the slip-ways, and, more recently, it has
been advertised that the convicts are in
course of removal from Woolwich, and that
their labour is to be employed for the
construction of a steam-basin there.

The beginning of all conservancy in
navigable rivers is judicious embanking, and we
have not at this moment the basis of any
general measure to effect that object. The
end of skilled embanking is the production
and sustentation of deep water in the channel,
and yet we shall hear that this is in
progress on the Irawaddy, if need be, before
anything has been done to preserve Sheerness
and Chatham from extinction as water-side
towns.

Now ready, in Twenty-eight pages, stitched. Price
Fourpence, the HOUSEHOLD WORDS ALMANAC for
the Year 18057. Also, price Threepence, or stamped
Fourpence,
THE
WRECK OF THE GOLDEN MARY;
Being the CAPTAIN'S ACCOUNT of the GREAT
DELIVERANCE OF HER PEOPLE IN AN OPEN
BOAT AT SEA: forming THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER
of HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

A VOLUME of Household Words, price 5s. 6d., will
be published early in January; and the first weekly
number of the New Volume will contain a Story by
WILKIE COLLINS, called THE DEAD SECRET, which
will be continued from week to week until completed.

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