Heritage > Counties > England
'The garden of England', has been the nickname of the county of Kent for generations. As the nickname implies Kent is heavily reliant on agriculture, whether it is in the hopfields or the apple orchards.Modern day Kent has a population of over 1,500,000 and can, along with it's traditional agrarian pursuits, list coal mining, cement manufacturing and paper manufacturing as industrial activities.
Kent's administrative headquarters are to be found in the town of Maidstone, with the historic cathedral city of Canterbury, Chatham, Rochester, Dover, Tunbridge Wells and the resorts of Folkestone, Margate and Ramsgate being the other major towns.
Traditionally the county is divided into Two separate categories, dependant on birthplace. Those born to the east of the River Medway are known as 'Men of Kent' whilst those born to the west are known as 'Kentish Men'.
Covering an area of 1,440 square miles and with it's obvious proximity to the continent of Europe, Dover to Calais is a mere 23 miles across the English Channel, Kent is blessed with a profusion of castles. Dover castle is set high above the famous port and commands quite a spectacular view of the surrounding sea. Within it's walls can be found the numerous offices and tunnels that were used by coastal command during the Second World War and remain today as a very popular tourist attraction.
Leeds Castle is one of the most beautiful of all English castles and, along with Hever Castle, has a strong link with King Henry VIII.
The city of Canterbury is synonymous with the literary classic 'The Canterbury Tales' which is a fine example of early English literature.
Facts on the region
Origin of name: Greek and Roman writers referred to Kention, and Kent has the distinction of being the oldest recorded county name in Britain still in use. Its Celtic root canto means an edge or rim which is apt for the county's geographical position. The Romans called the inhabitants Cantii and their kingdom the land of the Cantii. Kent became the first of the dominant Anglo-Saxon England kingdoms. Celtic caint could mean open country.
Name first recorded: 55 BC
County Motto: Invicta (Unconquered).
County Town: MAIDSTONE Kent's bustling major agricultural, commercial and administrative centre has the almost fairy-tale Leeds Castle close by.
County Rivers: Darent, Medway, Great Stour, Little Stour.
Highest point: North Downs at 800 feet.
Kent's local government: The County of Kent is administered by a two-tier structure throughout the majority of the County by Kent County Council and the 12 District Councils of Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Shepway, Swale, Thanet, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells. There are five unitary councils at Bexley, Bromley, Gillingham & Rochester, Greenwich and Lewisham which Kent County Council doesn't cover. North Woolwich is Kent detached in Essex under the auspice of Newham unitary borough.
The local landscape
Kent is crowded with orchards, plantations of soft fruits, fields of vegetables and market gardens, taking advantage of gthe good earth. It was once famous for hop-growing there are some still to be seen. Vines have been reintroduced and there are vineyards dotted amidst the rich pastureland from which comes Kentish wine.
Along Thameside to the north, this part of Kent is a place of river fogs and unvisited atmospheric promontories beloved of Dickens when described in Great Expectations. In the south the Downs rear chalky outlines, their heights covered in short grass, the valleys between often steep indentations. These softly rounded chalk hills break off, literally, at the Channel to form the famous White Cliffs, especially around Dover.
Occupying the southwestern corner is a surprising spread of flat marshland beneath the downs where the country drops off in a dramatic escarpment. Once flooded, this is the lonely and romantic Romney Marsh. Although western Kent is heavily populated all the county retains patches of ancient heathland along with pockets of old woods.
Local Towns and Villages
CANTERBURY (Derived from Saxon for the city of the people of Kent) was the first town on Roman Watling Street and in the 6th century St Augustine founded the noble gothic pile.
CHATHAM Founded by Henry VIII and a base for the Royal Navy until 1984: the Dockyard is now an 80-acre tourist attraction.
DOVER Complete with castle this ancient cinque port and its legendary White Cliffs are the epitome of English patriotism. Premier cross-channel port with international cruise liners and a £10m passenger terminal.
FOLKESTONE Started as a fishing village later a Georgian resort but now gateway to the Chunnel and the 'Channel Tunnel Experience'.
GREENWICH Home of the famous 0É of longitude, the Observatory, the Cutty Sark, The National Maritime Museum and Millennium Celebrations.
RAMSGATE Handsome resort and working port with Victorian emphasis and a touch of class.
ROCHESTER Birthplace of Charles Dickens. Most of his last book, the unfinished Edwin Drood, was set here.
SEVENOAKS Became one-oak thanks to the Great Storm of 1987. Luckily, the Royal Oak Hotel in the High Street refers to only a single oak in its name.
TUNBRIDGE WELLS Prosperous Regency spa town known for its 'Royal' and 'disgusted of'. Famous Pantiles have colonnaded promenade.
WHITSTABLE Silt and salty waters made it famed for its oysters from Roman times, but pollution ended this culinary connection. Today it is still a very pleasant north Kent coast resort.
Places to Visit
Boughton Monchelsea Place, Maidstone
Chiddingstone Castle, Edenbridge
Cobham Hall, Cobham
Leeds Castle, Maidstone
Deal Castle, Deal
Richborough Castle, Sandwich
Dover Castle, Dover
Many sporting events include horse racing at Folkestone and an annual county fair at Detling.
Annual Cider and Apple Fair in Kent.
Regular events, theatre, storytelling re-created military and battle scenes are put on by English Heritage at Dover, Deal and Walmer Castles. At Richborough Castle there are re-creations of the Roman life at Rutupaie.
Heritage Centres at Tunbridge Wells (A Day at the Wells), Dover (White Cliffs Experience) and Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales) are open all year. Rochester has a lively Dickensian Festival every spring.
Early March: The Dover Film Festival.
Early April: A celebration of Easter at superb Leeds Castle. Occasional outdoor classical concert with a famous orchestra and conductor with, yes, fireworks and even canon!
Early May: Rochester Sweeps Festival is a traditonal festival with processions, dancing ceilidhs, craft fairs and music.
End of May to early June: Ramsgate Spring Festival is a festival of dance, classical music, drama pageantry and the obligatory fireworks.
End of May to early June: Rochester resurfaces for its world-famous festival with displays, competitions and street entertainment all connected with Dickens.
Mid June: Broadstairs has a greater claim to fame with Dickens and hosts a festival with Dickensian garden party, country fair and a play.
Kent County Show is at Maidstone each July.
Famous names from the region
The Queen Mother is often in residence at Walmer Castle where Her Majesty is Warden of the Cinque Ports. Sir Winston Churchill held the office too, and resided at Chartwell near Westerham where he found peace in painting.
Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, often visited Kent. She set parts of novels in places from Ramsgate to Godmersham.
Much of Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield and other early works written in Kent by Charles Dickens, set scenes in such towns as Broadstairs. He lived near Rochester. There is an intriguing Dickens Museum and ornate chalet.
Absolutely Fabulous TV star Joanna Lumley once lived at the old rectory at Goodnestone, near Wingham. This is a fine example of an estate village with ornate Victorian cottages grouped round an old inn like a country calendar picture.
Rudolf Nureyev danced in a house in Sandwich where Susan Hampshire once resided.
Gloria Hunniford lives in Sevenoaks.