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The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868

"KENT, a maritime county at the south-eastern extremity of England, bounded on the N. by the estuary of the Thames and the German Ocean, on the E. by the German Ocean and the Straits of Dover, on the S. by Sussex, from which it is partly separated by the rivers Rother and Tees, and on the W. by Surrey. Its extreme length, from Deptford to the North Foreland, is about 63 miles, and its extreme breadth, from the North Foreland to Dungeness Point, about 43 miles. It is 170 miles in circuit. Its area, including the city and county of Canterbury, is 1,039,419 statute acres. Its population in 1861 was 733,887 (369,129 males and 364,758 females), having increased since 1851, when it was 615,766, by 66,413, or at the rate of 19 per cent. during the decennial period. The number of inhabited houses in 1861 was 126,221, and of uninhabited, 5,247.Kent, from the numerous important events which have taken place within its limits, is one of the most interesting counties in England.

It was on the Kentish coast that Julius Cæsar landed on the occasions of his two invasions of England, and it was in a great measure owing to the determined resistance offered to him by the men of Kent that he was prevented from obtaining a permanent footing in the island. At this period the inhabitants of Kent, from their more frequent intercourse with the Continent consequent on their close proximity to Gaul, were in a more advanced state of civilisation than those of the more inland parts of the island. In the reign of Claudius, Kent was brought under the Roman sway, and in that of Constantine, was included in the division Britannia Prima. It was called by the Romans Cantium, and still retains many traces of their continued occupation, in the ancient roads, bridges, forts, camps, &c., scattered over all parts of the county. On the departure of the Romans from Britain, it would seem to have been the theatre of a protracted civil war, and in 450 to have been overrun by the Jutes and Saxons, who, according to tradition, had been invited over by Vortigern to repel the attacks of the Picts and Scots.

Five years later these hardy Northmen, under the command of their leader Hengist, subjugated the whole of the county, and laid the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon supremacy in England. Of the successors of Hengist, Ethelbert is the most worthy of notice. He invaded the territory of Ceawlin, king of Wessex, about the year 568, and suffered a severe defeat. In 589, he was elected Bretwalda, which dignity he enjoyed until his death in 616. During his reign Christianity was introduced among the Saxons in England by St. Augustine, and Ethelbert was one of his earliest converts. Augustine built a church (the precursor of the present cathedral) adjoining the royal palace, at Canterbury. This city then became and has since continued the ecclesiastical metropolis of England. Under the successors of Ethelbert, the crown of Kent lost the supremacy which it had obtained during the reign of that king. In the reign of Lothar, Ethelred, king of Mercia, invaded the county and destroyed Rochester; and, during the same reign, in 686 and 687, Kent was again invaded by Ceadwalla, king of Wessex.

For about half a century previous to the consolidation of the various parts of England into one kingdom, by Egbert, Kent was under the supremacy of the kings of Mercia. Baldrid, the last sole king of Kent, was driven from his throne by Egbert, king of Wessex, about the year 823. From this period Kent was for some time governed by dukes and earls, and afterwards by sheriffs. In 832 the Danes made their first attack upon the coast of this county. During the reign of Ethelwulf their attacks became frequent: in one of these they were met and defeated at Sandwich by Athelstan, brother of Ethelwulf, and at that time governor of Kent. During the successive reigns of Ethelbert, Ethelred, and Alfred, the Danes still continued to infest this county. In the reign of Ethelred, surnamed the Unready, the Danes renewed their ravages with great fury, on most occasions exacting large sums of money as the price of their retreat. In one of their attacks they obtained possession by treachery of Canterbury, burned the city, and murdered the archbishop.

In the brief contest between Canute and Edmund Ironsides, a great battle was fought at Otford, in this county, which resulted in favour of Edmund. During the reign of Edward the Confessor Kent was included in the earldom of Godwin. Kent was called by the Saxons Cantwaraland.

At the battle of Hastings the men of Kent formed the van of the Anglo-Saxon army, it being their privilege to occupy that post. After the battle William the Conqueror marched to Dover, took possession of the castle, and hanged the governor; he then proceeded by Watling Street to London, conciliating the men of Kent on his way by granting them a continuance of their ancient privileges. In the reign of William Rufus, Odo Bishop of Bayeux raised this county in favour of Robert Duke of Normandy. When John was threatened with an invasion by Philip II. of France, he resigned his crown to Pandulph, the pope's legate, at Dover. Louis, the Dauphin of France, coming to the assistance of the barons, landed in the Isle of Thanet in 1216. He took Rochester, and reduced the greater part of the county to submission, but failed to obtain possession of Dover Castle, which was defended by Hubert de Burgh. In 1381 Wat Tyler's rebellion broke out in Kent. The insurgents attacked the Archbishop of Canterbury's house at Maidstone, and released John Balle, a follower of Wickliffe.

In 1450 the insurrection, headed by Jack Cade, broke out in this county. In the wars of the Roses, Kent was the scene of several contests. In 1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion had its origin in Kent. In the civil war between Charles I. and the parliament, a battle was fought at Maidstone in 1648, in which the latter was victorious.

Kent has a great extent of coast. That portion of it on the northern side which bounds the estuaries of the Thames and the Medway, and that part of the county which is included between those two rivers, consist of marshland. Eastward of the Medway lies the Isle of Sheppey, separated from the mainland by the Swale, an arm of the estuary of the Medway, and containing the royal dockyard of Sheerness, and the decayed borough of Greenborough. The island is 10 miles in length, and 5 in breadth, and contains about 33 square miles. The coast on the northern side of the Isle of Sheppey is precipitous-the cliffs, which decay very rapidly, rising to a height of from 60 to 80 feet. The southern part of the island is a low flat. The isles of Harty and Elmley form subordinate portions of the Isle of Sheppey, with the exception of Harty Isle, which is included in the hundred of Faversham. The Isle of Sheppey constitutes a separate liberty. The coast between the Isle of Sheppey and the Isle of Thanet, with few interruptions, as at Herne Bay and Reculver, rises in clayey cliffs.

The Isle of Thanet, containing the celebrated watering-places of Ramsgate, Margate, and Broadstairs, occupies the north-eastern corner of the county. E. of Margate is the North Foreland, where is a lighthouse. The coast of Thanet rises in chalk cliffs. From the Isle of Thanet to Walmer Castle the coast is low; at the latter point the cliffs recommence, continuing round the South Foreland to Folkestone, whence the coast gradually declines until it forms the extensive tract known as the Romney Marsh. Off the coast, between Thanet and the South Foreland, are the Goodwin Sands, between which and the mainland is the well-known roadstead of the Downs. The Goodwin Sands, supposed to be the remains of an island called Lomee, belonging to Earl Godwin, which was submerged in 1097, are about 10 miles in length, and from 3 to 4 miles in breadth, and are traversed by a channel navigable for small vessels, called the "Swashway." Between the north-western extremity of the Goodwin Sands and the shore is another sandbank, about 5 miles in length, called the Brake. The Downs are about 8 miles long and 6 wide. To the N. of and contiguous to the above are the Small Downs, which are sheltered by the Brake, as the Downs are by the Goodwin Sands. Off Margate are the Margate Sands, between which and the mainland are Margate Roads.

Kent is a hilly county. The chalk range of the North Downs enters the county near Westerham, and runs eastward. The principal hills in this range are Hollingbourn Hill, 616 feet high, between the Medway and the Stour; Paddlesworth Hill, 642 feet high, near Folkestone; Folkestone Hill, 575 feet high; and Dover Castle Hill, 400 feet high. The width of the chalk formation varies from 3 to 6 miles. The district lying between the chalk formation and the estuary of the Thames is occupied partly by plastic clay, and partly by London clay. The land between the estuaries of the Thames and the Medway, the Isle of Grain, and the Isle of Sheppey, belongs to the latter formation. Shooter's Hill, 446 feet high, is an insulated mass of London clay. S. of the North Downs, and skirting the chalk, is a strip of marl and green sand, from 2 to 7 miles in width: the greensand contains limestone, which is quarried near Maidstone, and is used for the purposes of road-making, building, and lime-making. A considerable quantity is exported to the West Indies, where it is used for refining sugar. The southern slope of this formation, the most elevated points of which rise to a height of from 600 to 800 feet, is called the "Ragstone Range" of hills. The next parallel belt through the middle of the county is the Weald clay, forming the nucleus of the district of the Weald of the S.E. of England. The Weald was formerly an immense forest, frequented only by deer and hogs. The Weald clay is succeeded by the ironsand, which, down to the end of the 17th century, was in great request; but the substitution of coal for billet-wood has caused the manufacture of iron to be transferred to other parts of the country, where fuel and iron-ore are more abundant.

Kent has numerous rivers. The northern boundary of the county is formed by the Thames, which affords a grand channel of communication between that side of the county, the metropolis, and other parts. The Ravensbourne rises on Keston Common, and flows northward, past Bromley and Lewisham, into the Thames near Deptford. It supplies Deptford and Greenwich with water, and turns several mills. Its length is 10 miles. The Darent, or Dart, rises in Squerries Park, near Westerham, and runs parallel to the North Downs as far as river Head, near Sevenoaks, where it turns to the N., and flows through a pass in the Downs by Otford, Shoreham, Farningham, and Sutton to Dartford, and, after receiving the Cray, falls into the Thames. The Cray, famous for trout, rises near Orpington. The Medway rises on the northern border of Sussex, between East Grinstead and Crawley, and flows eastward, entering Kent near Ashurst; at Penshurst it receives the Eden; thence it flows by Tonbridge to Yalding, where it receives the Tees and the Beult. The Tees rises in Sussex, and flows by Lamberhurst. The Beult rises in the Weald, near Shadoxhurst, and flows north-westward to Yalding. From Yalding the Medway flows northward past Maidstone, Aylesford, Rochester, Strood, and Chatham, and falls into the Thames at Sheerness. The length of the course of the Medway is 60 miles, 40 of which are navigable. The tide flows up to Maidstone Bridge.

The Stour has two branches, the Greater and the Lesser Stour. The Greater Stour rises near Lenham, flows to Ashford, where it is joined by another stream; thence it proceeds north-eastward by Canterbury to Sarre, where it divides into two branches, one of which falls into the Thames near Reculver, and the other into Pegwell Bay, below Sandwich : these two branches separate Thanet from the mainland. The Lesser Stour rises near Lyminge, flows past Elham and Burham, where it sometimes becomes dry, and flows into that arm of the Greater Stour which falls into Pegwell Bay. The channel which is formed by the Stour, and was formerly called Wantsume Channel, was anciently 3 or 4 miles wide. Both the Greater and the Lesser Stour contain excellent trout. The Rother rises in Sussex, and after forming the boundary of Kent, re-enters the former county, and finally falls into the sea at New Romney. In the reign of Edward I. this river forsook its ancient channel, and formed a new one by Rye and Winchelsea. The principal canal in the county is the Royal Military canal, which runs along the borders of Romney Marsh, from Hythe to the Rother.

The climate of Kent is mild and genial. The soil consists of gravel, chalk, and clay, and the alluvial soils along the Thames and Medway, and in Romney Marsh, which are very rich. In the chalk district are extensive sheep-downs. The soil of the Isle of Thanet, by a skilful application of manure, has been rendered very productive. The principal crops raised are wheat, oats, barley, rye, and canary and radish seed. Large quantities of hops are produced, about 50,000 acres being planted annually. Fruit and vegetables are very abundant-of the former the principal are apples, pears, plums, filberts, &c.; and of the latter, peas, asparagus, &c.: these are generally sent to the London markets. Kent is well wooded, producing much oak, beech, hop-poles, and billet-wood. The principal manufactures of Kent are paper, ribbons, calico, linen, woollen cloths, bricks, tiles, pottery, cement, lime, and gunpowder. The county contains many mineral springs, the most remarkable being those of Tunbridge Wells and neighbourhood.

Kent is divided into 5 lathes, which are as follows: Sutton-at-Hone lathe, comprising the western extremity of the county, and including 10 hundreds; Aylesford lathe, on the western side, coterminous with Sutton-at-Hone lathe, including 15 hundreds; Scray lathe, on the western side, coterminous with Aylesford lathe, including 14 hundreds; St. Augustine's lathe, comprising the north-eastern part of the county, and containing 14 hundreds; Shepway lathe, comprising the south-eastern part, and including 19 hundreds. Kent is partly in the diocese of Canterbury, partly in that of London, and partly in that of Rochester. That portion of the county which is in the diocese of Rochester constitutes the archdeaconry of Rochester. The county is under the jurisdiction of a lord-lieutenant and sheriff: several parts, however, have their separate liberties-viz: the county of the city of Canterbury, the city of Rochester, the borough of Maidstone, the liberty of Romney Marsh, comprehending the hundreds of Langport, St. Martin, Poutney, and Worth, and part of those of Newchurch, Alvesbridge, and Street, and of the barony of Bircholt, under the jurisdiction of bailiffs and jurats, and the liberty of the Cinque Ports.

For political purposes Kent is divided into two parts-East Kent and West Kent, each division returning two members; besides these, Canterbury, Rochester, the Cinque Ports of Dover and Sandwich, and the boroughs of Greenwich and Maidstone, return two each, and the Cinque Port of Hythe and the borough of Chatham return one each. The greater part of Kent is in the Home Circuit; that portion of it lying within 10 miles radius of London is (in criminal matters) in the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court. The assizes for the county are held at Maidstone. The county is divided by the Poor-law Commissioners into 27 unions: the management of the poor of the city of Canterbury, however, is under a local act. The most remarkable antiquities in the county are Roman camps at Ospringe, Barbara, Trenworth, Bonning, and Folkestone, besides which are tumuli at Woodnesborough, Shottington, Liminge, Chartham, Shebbertswold, Sutton Valence, Julaber's Grave. At Addington are the remains of a Druid circle. The principal Roman road through the county was Watling Street, running from Canterbury to London. Of monastic remains the most important are St. Augustine's, at Canterbury, Lesnes, Faversham, Reculver, Malling, West Langdon, and Bradsole. There are remains of priories at Aylesford, Horton, Folkestone, Bliston, and Dover, and of a nunnery at Minster and preceptory at Swingfield.

Kent is intersected in all directions by railroads, the chief of which belong to the London, Chatham, and Dover railway company, and the South-Eastern railway company. The London, Chatham, and Dover railway has its termini at London Bridge, Victoria Station, Pimlico, and Blackfriars; it passes by Bromley, Beckley, Rochester, and Chatham (whence is a branch to Sheerness), Faversham (whence is a branch to Whitstable and Herne Bay, and another to Sevenoaks), Canterbury, and Dover; several other lines are now in course of construction in connection with this railway in various parts of the county. The South-Eastern railway has its London termini at London Bridge and Charing Cross; the main line runs eastward through the middle of the county; diverging from the Brighton line at Reigate, it enters Kent near Edenbridge, whence it proceeds by Tonbridge (whence is a branch by Tunbridge Wells and St. Leonard's), Paddockwood (whence is a branch to Maidstone), Ashford (whence is a branch N. to Canterbury, Whitstable, Ramsgate, Margate, and Deal, and S. to Rye and Hastings), Folkestone, to Dover.

The county is traversed by three main roads; the Dover road runs by Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Sittingbourne, and Canterbury, to Dover; its length is 71 miles. The Hythe road runs by Maidstone and Ashford to Hythe; its length is 65 miles. The Hastings road runs by Bromley, Sevenoaks, and Tonbridge.

The principal seats of the nobility and gentry in the county are-Bayham Abbey and Wilderness Park, Marquis of Camden; Bifrons, Marquis of Conyngham; Montreal, Earl Amherst; Chevening Place, Earl Stanhope; Belmont, Lord Harris; Blackheath, Earl Dartmouth; The Mote, Earl of Romney; Cobham Hall, Earl of Darnley; Eastwell, Lord Winchilsea; South Park, Viscount Hardinge; Knole Park, Dowager Countess Amherst; Birling Manor, Hon. and Rev. Earl of Abergavenny; Chart Lodge, Lord Monson; Cliff House, Ramsgate, Dowager Lady Curtis; Godmersham Park, Lord St. Vincent; Holwood House, Lord Cranworth; Lees Court, Lord Sondes; Lenniker, Lord Kingsdown; Linchfield House, Dowager Lady Hampson; Linton Park, Lady Julia Cornwallis; Mereworth Castle, Viscount Falmouth; Penshurst Castle, Lord de L'Isle; Scott's Hall, Dowager Lady Knatchbull; Sissinghurst Park, Lady de Spaen; Smiths Hall, Dowager Lady Fitzherbert; Southwood House, Ramsgate, Dowager Countess Ashburnham; Torre Hill, Lord Kingsdown; Waldershare Park, Lady North; Belvedere House, Eardley, Bart.; Burrswood, Stirling, Bart.; Charlton House, Wilson, Bart.; Collingwood House, Sir John Herschel, Bart.; Crofton Hall, Sir R. M. Bromley, K.C.B.; East Cliff Lodge, Ramsgate, Sir Moses Montefiore; East Sutton Place, Filmer, Bart.; Evington, Honeywood, Bart.; Finchden, Lady Chatterton; Forest Hill, Lady Legge; Goodnestone Park, Bridges, Bart.; Great Bounds, Hardinge, Bart.; Hatch, Knatchbull, Bart.; High Elms, Lubbock, Bart.; Hothfield Park, Tufton, Bart.; Kennards, Shaw, Bart.; Leybourne, Hawley, Bart.; Lullingstone Castle, Dyke, Bart.; Oxenoth, Geary, Bart.; The Palace, Maidstone, Lady F. Riddell; Thurnham Court, Hampson, Bart.; Bedgebury, Beresford-Hope, Esq.; Broomhill, Alderman D. Salomons, M.P.; Gads Hill Place, Charles Dickens, Esq.; Langton House, O. W. H. Hamilton, Esq., besides numerous other seats of private gentry."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 by Colin Hinson ©2010]