Chatham, Clarence, chavs and the other Jordan

Chatham is full of chavs. It always has been.  It has only been during the early years of this millennium, however, that people have been talking about them.

Chav, which has its origins in the Romany dialect, was certainly in use in the playground of my Rochester junior school 40 years ago. It wasn’t particularly insulting and was used as a synonym for mate.

So was chogger, for steal, or more particularly take — as in “Oi, chav! You’ve choggered my coat!” (Translation: “I say, old chap, you appear inadvertently to have confused my Macintosh with your own waterproof outerwear”). Chogger, I should add, is pronounced in east Kent as chore.

But what of the claims that Chatham is the home of the chav? Certainly, the characteristics of the chav (foolish headgear, tawdry jewellery, clothing labels displayed on the wrong side, meagre vocabulary, low foreheads, unrefined speech and lack of classical education) can be spotted in many individuals walking down the High Street.

But the same can be said of other towns across this sceptr’d isle. The quaint market town of Faversham, which has a maritime and royal history that even Rochester might envy, is sometimes referred to as Chaversham because of the large number of mouth-breathers who occasionally invade its centre, rattling (in the case of the distaff side) their hooped earrings, exposing their flabby midriffs and sporting what is known, I believe, as a council house facelift (an ultra-tight bun hairstyle definitely not favoured by Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria).

That evidence connecting chav and Cha’am is therefore remote. However, two other theories persist.

First, Chatham was epitome of the working-class town until the dockyard and ancillary industries were destroyed in the 1980s. The proud artisan class was effectively wiped out as the trades all but vanished. Is today’s feckless chav therefore the offspring of this industrial and economic devastation wrought by the Thatcher administration? Nothing to do, no vocational education, no prospect of a decent job? It’s a possibility.

The Clarence Hotel in Chatham High Street, where the duke stayed on one his visits

But here’s another intriguing hypothesis. It’s connected with the name Jordan.

An amply proportioned young woman called Jordan, who disrobes herself in some of the red-top public prints, has been hailed by those publications as Queen of the Chav. Although I understand her name is merely un nom d’étape, I wonder if she chose it as un homage to the notorious Mrs Jordan?

Mrs Dora Jordan (1761-1816), I scarcely need remind you, was the greatest comic actress in the British theatre of the late 18th century. Dora, a former milliner’s assistant from Dublin, scandalised polite society when she became mistress to the Duke of Clarence (son of King George III) who later became King William IV (1830-37).

They shacked up in a villa on the Thames where she bore him 10 children before he dumped her after court pressure to marry and have legitimate children.

Mrs Jordan was described by some contemporaries and boisterous and uncouth. That might have suited her sailor prince, who visited Chatham and stayed in a High Street establishment that later became known as the Clarence Hotel.

It’s a long shot … but I wonder?

All comments on chavs and their origins greatly appreciated. Kindly email me.


Rochester & Strood
Medway villages
Medway at war
Crimes that Shocked the Medway Towns

9 Responses to Chatham, Clarence, chavs and the other Jordan

  1. Vince says:

    I’m not adding much here, but…

    I remember both ‘Chav’ (friend) and ‘Chogger’ (to steal) from my schooldays too (Sittingbourne Kent, late 60s and late 70s).

    So I was surprised when my nephew used ‘Chavving’ to mean ‘stealing’ in the early 2000s.
    He *was* born in Chatham so I suppose he should know.

  2. mark beer says:

    i found this most amusing as i grew up in chatham went to school in chatham also have a son called jordan. But i can honestly say chav and chogger were the least words that were used.
    I went to walderslade school for boys i left in 1985 and i can tell you this it wasnt a school for the faint hearted just about everything that could go on did go on but i would gladly go back for a while if that was possible apparently my old pe teacher is now the head master i have memories of terrorising him in my days ( sorry mr reece) and the words that are used now are nothing to what we used then.
    Chatham was a much harder town then people would have a good old straightener and tear up to prove a point now days you have to worry about if the other lads got a knife at least in them days you went home with a busted nose and a dent in your pride now you would have to stop off at A&E first.

    • Steve Murphy says:

      I think i remember Mr Reece, a big Welsh guy I believe. I went to Fort Luton and he was a PE teacher there but left after a year so probably went up the road to Walderslade.

      In response to those words, such as chogger … a few of my friends still use them. Thanks for jogging my memory.

  3. Mike bishop says:

    I left fort luton school aged 15 in 1975 and i remember chawed ie stole and chav but i think chav was used meaning young kid , mind you memorys not what it was. I have lived in Australia since 1973 .

    • stephen hyde says:

      I was in same year and remember your name…small world…..I joined usaf military and been about too now in newmaket suffolk…….

  4. William Pilcher says:

    Lovely to hear these words again.
    My Grandfather Fred Pilcher ran pubs all his life (after serving in WWI) and spoke some Romany due to the proximity of the travellers’ encampment at the top of Ashtree Lane, Chatham, and his last pub the The Old Ash Tree. He told me that ‘chav’ was Romany for brother and was not at all pejorative.

    ‘Choggered’ was in general use through my school days in the 60s. The guys fell out of Medway when the rush to leave was started with HM Dockyard closing in 1984 followed by Grain refinery, Wingets the Royal Marines, and more.

    It saddens me to visit these days as I fondly remember the high-class shops, theatres, and cinemas such as the Ritz with its own restaurant – all long gone.

  5. Mark butler says:

    I went to Fort Luton hard school and to ruff lads chav means boy and chavo girl. The word chores or choring means stealing. I grew up on the white road estate and the gypsy camp in ash tree lane was my family home I’ve got a lot of stories I could share.

  6. Jay Moore says:

    Went to walderslade ,people that left school 83_84 the job situation was dire,lot of skilled people kicking about ,what chance did we have ??,chav was, as we said it, like you say geezer or geez today ,bro ,bud ,in that way ,it was always in a good sense ,but I wonder about jel or gel,IE to go ??like jel it down shops or he jelling after us ??,never heard that since ,from no one but there ‘chatham’and that time

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