Councillor Makhan Singh
Makhan Singh, the first Sikh to be elected the Mayor of Gravesham Council.
Having represented Pelham (one of the Borough's wards) for 14 years, Councillor Makhan Singh was elected as Graveshams first citizen on May 23, 1997 with his wife Surinder as Mayoress, standing proudly by his side.
'I am very exited and honoured to be elected Mayor for Gravesham. It is a unique achievement in my family and they are all very proud," Singh, now 65, had told the media when he occupied the post. 'We live in a multi-cultural society and I want to make a contribution representing all sectors of the community during my year in office.'
A Historically important Borough
There are 18 wards in the Borough; as well as those serving Gravesend town (Central, Pelham, Riverside, Singlewell, Whitehill, Woodlands) and Northfleet (2 wards, North & South), there are those for the larger estates (Coldharbour, Istead Rise, Painters Ash, Riverview, Westcourt). Outlying villages are served by the following wards: Chalk Higham Meopham: 2 wards North & South Shorne, Cobham & Luddesdowne Vigo is part of the Meopham South ward.
Gravesham is a borough in Kent, England along the south side of the Thames River. Its council meets in the principle city of Gravesend.
The city's pier is the world's oldest surviving cast iron pier. It was built in the 1830s when halfway around the world, in India, the East India Company was finding it wiser to make peace with Maharaja Ranjit Singh than to engage him in a war. Today the pier has been revamped and houses many restaurants, ect.
Infact, it was here at the point known as Long Reach, that the cargo laden ships of the East India Company would stop to lighten their loads of the ballast used to cross the seas, before sailing up the Thames to unload their Indian goods. Many of the paving stones of the old streets in London were cobbled of granite in India to be used as ballast to steady the ships in heavy seas. Often reloaded these cobble stones are still seen in the streets of many one time colonial cities, such as Charleston, SC and Savannah Georgia.
Today Sikhs have become one of the borough's largest minority groups. In 1990, the ‘’4x4 Bangra’’ dance group was formed among the area's Sikh community. Since then it has become an internationally-known group.
England's first 'Indian' visitor and its first Sikh Resident
In a strange quirk of history and a mistake by Christofer Columbus, who thinking that he had landed in India named America's indigenous people, Indians; the city of Gravesend became the burial place of England's first 'Indian' visitor, Pocahontas. She was received at court in London by Queen Anne and treated as a celebrity. It was here at the age of 22 that she died before departing for Virginia.
Years later the first Sikh to reside in England (a real Indian this time) and possibly the first permanant N.R.I., though noteably not by his choice, was the young Maharaja Duleep Singh who also sailed through the district on an ship of the East India Company. He also became a Court favorite and friend of Queen Victoria. He, true to his love of the Shikar, made his home of Elveden one of the finest hunting estates in all of England.
Elveden was on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk close to Thetford. He transformed the run-down estate into an efficient game preserve and the house into a quasi-oriental palace where he lived the life of a British aristocrat. Sold after his death, Elveden Hall is owned today by descendants of the Guinness family of brewing fame. It remains an operating farm and private hunting estate.