Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Conspiracy theory in Tonbridge....

And here was another rant on Tonbridge Blog when the site was in it's infancy:

Having read the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, a few months ago and the lesser known Holy Blood and the Holy Grail a few years ago, I was struck by the possible connections with the town of Tonbridge. In the book the search for the grail took our hero and his attractive partner all over France, Italy and Britain but there was no direct mention of our fair town. Was this because there is no connection or was it a cover up?
Lets examine the flimsy evidence: the Grand Masters of the Priorie de Sion, revealed in both the Da Vinci Code and the HB&HG, included at least two members of the De Clare family. The De Clare family were given lands by the Duke of Normandy after the Conquest. They built the town's magnificent castle and thereby founded Tonbridge as an important town for at least 500 years. The De Clares also had the Priory in Tonbridge built. In the Da Vinci Code doubt is cast on the usual beliefs about Mary Magadalen; indeed it is strongly suggested that she was effectively the wife of Jesus, that they had children and that, moreover, the search for the grail is actually the search for the bloodline of Christ. The site of Tonbride Priory does not appear on modern OS maps but it does on older ones. Recently I looked at a replica of the 1895 OS map which clearly marks the site of Tonbridge Priory. I almost reeled backwards when I saw that the name of the Priory was the Priory of St. Mary Magdalen (remember I had just read Dan Brown's now infamous book, so my mind was working overtime!) There is now hardly a trace of the once important priory; there are some clues such as Priory Street, Priory Road, St. Mary Magdalen House old people's home and one or two others in South Tonbridge. But there is no plaque, not a stone of the old ruin remains for anyone to view, it's hardly mentioned in tourist guides, most people in Tonbridge don't even know (or probably care about its existence) The ruin was left neglected up until about 1842, when with the coming of the railway to Tonbridge it was unceromoniously torn down, the coffins of the priors and monks were dug up as presumably were those of some of the De Clares, who were buried there. It's hard to see how, even when the railway was King, that this was allowed to happen without any regard for conservation and history. The site is now roughly the picture above, railway tracks, waste land and a car park. Some old books say that the then Head Master of Tonbridge School stepped in to ensure that some of the stone coffins were saved and he then insisted that the rest of the work be carried on under wraps and that the workers be sworn to secrecy. For some years, maybe even until this day, a few of the coffins lay in the grounds of Somerhill House and the Porteeves House. There are no books written about the priory, only titbits of information in other books. Then there are the old tales about secret passage ways from the Castle to the Priory, which historians doubt would have been possible to construct under the river at the time. Well maybe, but the pyramids were built 3000 years before that, and the De Clares had just built a huge motte and baily castle complete with a complex moat system, so its not beyond reason to think that they could have had the capability is it?
Conspiracy theory? Very Probably....

2 comments:

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Graeme said...

There are rumours of more coffins and gargoyles from the Priory in the basement of Tonbridge castle mansion but they are not on public display.