Over the centuries many Upchurch residents have become well-known within the village, and a few have gained fame farther afield.

The King’s Carpenter

Hugh Herland became the first recorded Upchurch resident to gain widespread fame. Living in Upchurch from 1378 to 1391 he became chief carpenter to Richard II and designer of the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe. Considered a masterpiece, this became his greatest achievement. He also completed work at Rochester, Leeds and Winchester castles, the Tower of London, Canterbury Cathedral and the tomb of Edward III’s wife, Philippa of Hainault, in Westminster Abbey. Herland initially worked with his father William, also the king’s carpenter, but on September 28th, 1370 the king rewarded Hugh with ‘pesage of wools’ in Queenborough (which established him as a member of the merchant class) and also with a tenement in the City of London. Herland’s wife Joan also came from Upchurch but the couple eventually moved to Kingston in Surrey. Herland died in 1405 but a stained glass window featuring him exists at Winchester College Chapel.

The Crackerbarrel Actor

Actor, James Robertson Justice lived in Greylag, Ham Green during part of WW2 after getting wounded. A big man with a beard and a booming well-spoken voice, he was also highly-educated, with two doctorates. Being interested in nature and a keen ornithologist, Justice soon settled and was often accompanied by naturalist and wildlife TV presenter, Sir Peter Scott as he ventured onto the saltings for bird watching. He drank in The Crown, where he was considered an extrovert and always had an audience. He periodically walked around the peninsula dressed in a kilt playing the bagpipes, bathed naked in the river with lady friends from London and openly bathed in a tin bath in his garden. The village children called him ‘Crackerbarrel’ because he appeared in media advertising said cheese. However, he got into trouble with Sittingbourne Magistrate’s Court for breaking blackout law.

Village gossip said he was a German spy after a torch was spotted flicking on and off from the bedroom window of Greylag at night and Justice received a caution. After Upchurch, he gained fame as an actor in the popular ’Doctor in’ films. He also appeared in other films: Moby Dick, Scott of the Antarctic, The Guns of Navarone and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Justice taught Prince Charles falconry whilst living in Scotland becoming a personal friend of Prince Philip. He was also rector of Edinburgh University and stood as a Labour candidate for North Angus and Mairns in the 1950 General Election.

A blue plaque bearing his name is attached to the front wall of Greylag at Ham Green in memory of him. 

David Wood

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