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In Drake's Wake

Drake at Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey, Kent

Michael Turner

Some author's interpretation of Drake's character and activities leave much to be desired for the objective Drake scholar. Kelsey is such an author. However books like his are still worth reading in case they have referred to a hitherto unmentioned document. In this part of the Drake world, Sheerness was only mentioned by Corbett and only Kelsey refers to Drake at Queenborough in January 1588. Drake was here to take his portion of the fleet to prepare against the Spanish Armada. The royal ships were anchored here being the nearest ports to London. Sheerness was a deep water port and ships could also anchor in mid-channel at Queenborough at any state of tide, which was the careening site two miles south of Sheerness. At Queenborough Drake was assigned amongst others, the Revenge, the Hope, the Nonpareil, the Swiftsure and the Aid. Some of these ships Drake had sailed with before. "The names of her Majestey's shippes that went from Quinborough towarde Plymouth under the charge of Sir Francis Drake to ioyne with the rest of his forces appointed by her hinges to impeache the Spanishe forces from invading." [in Kelsey, 501] After Drake left, Howard remained at Queenborough to careen his portion of the fleet. One by one his ships were dragged through the waveless water towards the muddy shore.



Built on a slight rise of ground, Drake would have seen the castle which first saw service in 1361 but was demolished in 1650. Its stones were used to line the road at Whitehall. At the top of the rise is a capped well, which was in the centre of the castle.

The original town was built between the castle's west gate and the West Swale. The sole remaining medieval structure is the Church of the Holy Trinity which dates from 1366; however the tower is late Norman.

Before driving the 230 miles to Queenborough in January 2010, I arranged for the church to be opened for my visit at noon; when the sun would shine through the south window: creating a moody side-lit effect. There was an unexpected bonus. The warden took me to the top of the tower to photograph a view looking over the town towards the harbour. Another excellent view was through the telephoto lens looking at Queenborough across the West Swale from one kilometre to the south-west on this sunny yet icy day. To make the scene look more like winter I took pictures of the harbour after the sunset. I left Queenborough relieved since it was the last Drake place that I had not visited in England. This was due to me overlooking my note from Kelsey's book, who is the only author to mention Drake at Queenborough.

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