KENT, a maritime county, situated at the southeastern extremity of the kingdom, and bounded on the north by the river Thames, which separates it from Essex, and by the North Sea; on the east and southwest by the North Sea, the Straits of Dovor, and the British Channel; on the south-west by Sussex; and on the west by Surrey. It extends from 50° 55' to 51° 28' (N. Lat.) and from 4' (W. Lon.) to 1° 25' (E. Lon.); and contains 1537 square miles, or 983,680 acres. Within the limits of the county are 95,482 houses inhabited, 5039 uninhabited, and 811 in course of erection; and the population amounts to 548,337, of whom 272,532 are males, and 275,805 females.
The territory now forming the county of Kent is first distinctly noticed under the name of Cantium, which is probably a Latinization of the ancient British name; by the Saxons it was at first styled Kant-wara-ryke, signifying "the Kentish men's country," and the present name is an evident variation of the first word of the Saxon compound. Its situation at that point of the island which lies nearest to the European continent has invested it with a degree of importance in the general history of England nearly corresponding with the prominence of its geographical position, as forming a sort of advanced post or vanguard of the English territory, considered in relation to the continental states, more particularly to France and the Netherlands, the ancient Gaul and Belgium. From this proximity it sustained the first attack made by Julius Cæsar upon the aboriginal inhabitants of the isle. In his first expedition, the Kentish Britons immediately opposed him, and forced him to an encounter upon landing in the vicinity of Deal: they fought, even amidst the waves, with singular courage; and although Cæsar, observing his troops to be dispirited, ordered up the vessels with his artillery, and poured from their sides stones, arrows, and other missiles, yet the natives sustained these unusual discharges with unshaken intrepidity, and the invaders made no impression. At length, the standardbearer of the tenth legion rushed forward, exclaiming "Follow me, unless you mean to betray your standard to your enemies;" upon which the Roman legions were incited to that desperate and closer battle which eventually forced back the Britons and secured a landing. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood then sent a message of peace; but four days afterwards, the fleet being dispersed by a tempest, they again attacked the Romans.
In the ensuing summer Cæsar's invasion was more formidable, that able commander being attended by five well-appointed legions and 2000 cavalry, amounting to a force of 30,000 of the best disciplined troops then known. Terrified at the menacing approach of so powerful an army, the inhabitants of the coast retired among the hills, and Cæsar having effected a landing without opposition, and chosen a proper place for encampment, on learning from some prisoners where the British forces were posted, marched about midnight in quest of them, leaving ten cohorts and 300 cavalry, under the command of Q. Atrius, to guard the ships. After a march of about twelve miles, he discovered the Britons, who being repulsed by the Roman cavalry, retired to a place in the woods, which was fortified both by art and nature in an extraordinary manner, but from which they were driven by the soldiers of the seventh legion. When he had divided his army into three bodies, Cæsar sent both his horse and foot in pursuit; soon after which, before their rear had got out of sight, some horsemen arrived from Q. Atrius, to inform him that almost all his ships had been shattered by a storm the previous night, and cast on shore. Upon this, Cæsar, countermanding his orders, returned to the fleet, and found that about forty of the ships were entirely lost, and the rest so much damaged as not to be refitted without much labour. Having therefore chosen some workmen from among his soldiers, and sent for others from the continent, he wrote to Labienus, in Gaul, directing him to cause to be erected as many ships as he could with those legions that were left with him; he himself determining to have his fleet hauled on shore, and inclosed with his camp within the same fortification. This work being completed, Cæsar returned to the scene of conflict, where the Britons had arrived in greater numbers from all parts; on their march the Romans were briskly attacked by the British horse and chariots, which they repulsed with great slaughter, and drove into the woods. A general engagement soon followed, and the Britons were defeated and routed with considerable slaughter; their auxiliaries left them, and they never afterwards engaged the Romans with united forces. Cæsar then led his army towards the territory of Cassivelaunus, the principal leader of the defeated Britons, who in the mean time despatched messengers into Kent, which was then governed by four petty princes, whom Cæsar styles kings, commanding them to muster whatever forces they could, and suddenly attack the camp in which the Roman ships lay: this they accordingly did, but they were repulsed with great slaughter in a sally by the Romans, who made prisoner one of the kings, named Cingetorix. On the submission of Cassivelaunus, which followed this defeat, Cæsar imposed an annual tribute on the vanquished, received the hostages he demanded, and then marched back through Kent to the sea-shore, from which he shortly after took his last departure from Britain.
In the course of the second invasion, the first effectual conquest, of Britain by the Romans, in the reign of Claudius, their first descent appears to have been on the south-western coast. But it is evident from the account given by Dion Cassius, that Plautius, who commanded the expedition, waited for the promised assistance of the emperor on the southern, or Kentish, side of the Thames; and it has been thought by many that the place of his encampment was Keston Down, near Bromley, where are still some large remains of a Roman camp, or intrenchment. In the division of Britain by Constantine, Kent was included in Britannia Prima; and after the Saxon pirates had begun to infest the south-eastern coast, this was one of the maritime districts placed under the command of the officer called Comes Littoris Saxonici, or Count of the Saxon Shore. Subordinate to him, within the limits of this county, according to the Notitia, were, the commander of the Tungrian soldiers stationed at Dovor; the commander of the detachment of soldiers of Tournay, at Limne; the commander of the first cohort of Vetascians, at Reculver; the commander of the second legion, called Augusta, at Richborough; and the commander of the detachment of the Albuci, at Anderida. The Romans built several watch-towers, forts, and castles on the coast, both to overawe the Britons and preserve a safe intercourse with the continent, and to guard against the assaults of the Saxon pirates. They also made three public or consular ways in Kent, the principal of which led from Dovor to London, forming part of the great military way afterwards by the Saxons called Watlingstreet. The Isle of Thanet was the landing-place of the Saxons, in whose attempts to obtain possession of Britain numerous battles were fought within the limits of the county, which was ultimately constituted one of the kingdoms of the heptarchy. Ethelbert, King of Kent, embraced Christianity, on the arrival of the Roman missionaries in Thanet, in 596; Kent now became a Christian kingdom, and its metropolis, Canterbury, acquired that ecclesiastical pre-eminence over the other English cities which it retains to the present day. Owing in a great measure to its narrow limits, and its situation in an angle of the island, this was one of the weaker powers of the heptarchy; and after first becoming tributary to the kingdom of Mercia, it was finally annexed to that of Wessex, in 823.
The county until lately comprised the two dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester, in the province of Canterbury, the former comprehending the eastern, and the latter the western part of it: the diocese of Canterbury, which formed an archdeaconry, contained 282 parishes, and that of Rochester 132, making the total number of parishes in the county 414. Under the ecclesiastical arrangements directed by the act of the 6th and 7th of William IV., c. 77, the diocese of Canterbury now consists of the county of Kent (except the city and deanery of Rochester, and certain parishes in the diocese of London), and of the parishes of Croydon and Addington, and the district of Lambeth Palace, in the county of Surrey; while the diocese of Rochester consists of the city and deanery of Rochester, of the county of Essex (except a few parishes in the diocese of London), and the whole county of Hertford. For the purposes of civil government the shire is divided into five great districts, called the lathes of St. Augustine, Aylesford, Scray, Shepway, and Sutton-at-Hone, each of which comprises several hundreds. It includes the cities of Canterbury and Rochester; four of the cinque-ports, viz., Dovor, Hythe, New Romney, and Sandwich; the borough and market towns of Chatham, Greenwich, and Maidstone; and the market-towns of Ashford, Bromley, Cranbrooke, Dartford, Deal, Elham, Faversham, Folkestone, Gravesend, Lydd, Margate, Milton, Ramsgate, Seven-Oaks, Sittingbourne, Smarden, Tenterden, Tonbridge, Westerham, Woolwich, and Wrotham. Of the above, Deal, Dovor, Faversham, Folkestone, Margate, Ramsgate, and Sandwich, are sea-ports; and there are extensive dockyards for the royal navy at Chatham, Woolwich, and Sheerness. The county is divided into the Eastern and Western divisions, each sending two representatives to parliament. Two citizens are returned for each of the cities; two for each of the boroughs, except Chatham, which sends only one; and one member for the cinque-port of Hythe. Kent is included in the Home circuit; the assizes are held at Maidstone, at which place are the county gaol and house of correction. By long usage the county is divided into two great districts, of nearly equal extent, commonly called East Kent and West Kent: the former comprising the lathes of St. Augustine and Shepway, and the Upper division of the lathe of Scray; the latter, the lathes of Sutton-at-Hone and Aylesford, and the Lower division of the lathe of Scray: and it is usual for the justices of the peace for the county to confine the exercise of their authority, except upon extraordinary occasions, to the division in which they respectively reside. The general quarter-sessions are held four times in the year in each of these divisions, twice originally, and twice by adjournment. They are held originally, for East Kent, at Canterbury, on the Tuesday after the Epiphany, and the Tuesday after the Festival of St. Thomas à Becket; and by adjournment for West Kent, at Maidstone, on the Thursday next after each of those days. They are held originally for West Kent, at Maidstone, on the Tuesday after Easter and the Tuesday after Michaelmas; and by adjournment, for East Kent, at Canterbury, on the Friday next after each of those days.
The Surface of the county is divided by two nearly parallel chains of hills, called the Upper and the Lower, or the Chalk and the Gravel hills, which extend across the middle of it, from the neighbourhoods of Folkestone and Hythe on the eastern, to the vicinity of Westerham on the western, border. The northern range, and the substratum of the entire north side of the county, are composed chiefly of chalk and flints; and the southern range, of iron and rag stone. Below the last-mentioned hills lies the Weald of Kent, an extensive tract, occupying the whole southern side of the county, from the border of Surrey to the marshy tract at its south-eastern extremity, of which Romney Marsh forms the principal portion; the greater part of the Weald adjoining to Sussex rises to a considerable elevation, being part of what is well known as the Forest ridge.
East Kent includes two tracts of land, one open and dry, lying between the city of Canterbury and the towns of Dovor and Deal; and the other much sheltered by woods and coppices, extending in length from Dovor, by Elham and Ashford, to Rochester, and in breadth from the Isle of Sheppy to Lenham, &c. All that portion of East Kent situated in the vicinity of Faversham, Sandwich, and Deal, is very fertile, and for the most part under tillage. The Isle of Thanet, at the northeastern extremity of the county, now only insulated by a small sewer, communicating with the river Stour and the sea, contains, including Stonar, nearly 41 square miles, or about 27,000 acres, of which 3500 are excellent marsh land, and 23,000 arable; it is in a high state of cultivation, having been long celebrated for its fertility, which is much increased by the inexhaustible supply of sea-weed constantly thrown on the shore. The Isle of Sheppy lies eastward from the mouth of the Medway, and is separated from the rest of the county by an arm of the sea, called the Swale, which is navigable for ships of 200 tons' burthen. It is about eleven miles long, and eight miles across, in the broadest part, and contains seven parishes; four-fifths of the land consist of marsh (including a large tract of rich fattening land) and upland pasture, a great part of which latter is very poor, and used for breeding sheep. The Isle of Grain, a low and marshy tract, 3½ miles long and 2½ broad, situated between the estuaries of the Medway and the Thames, is no longer insulated; the channel which communicated with the two rivers, and separated it from the main land, being now filled up.
West Kent comprises the Weald, a large part of the ragstone shelf between the Weald and the chalk range, together with all the tract lying between the towns of Westerham, Deptford, Rochester, and Maidstone, and their vicinities; and comprehends a variety of country, having soils and features of various descriptions. The Weald of Kent, anciently an extensive forest, has been gradually stripped of a great part of its sylvan features, and brought into cultivation, though it is yet more thinly peopled than any other part of the county; when viewed from the adjoining hills, it has the appearance of a vast plain of great fertility and beauty. At its south-eastern extremity is the Isle of Oxney, formed by the different channels of the Rother (of which, however, the northernmost is now deserted by the waters of that river), and about ten miles in circumference, having an upland ridge running through the middle of it, and low fertile marshes next the river. Romney Marsh is an extensive tract of land lying on the southern coast between the uplands and the sea-shore; this general name being usually given to the whole level between Hythe and Rye, comprehending the districts of Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh with South Brooks, and Guilford Marsh. Romney Marsh, properly so called, contains about 24,000 acres, is ten miles in length from east to west, and four in its greatest breadth. Walland Marsh lies to the west of Romney Marsh, extending five miles from north to south, and four from east to west, and consists of about 16,500 acres. Denge Marsh with South Brooks lies to the south of Walland Marsh, and contains nearly 3000 acres. Guilford Marsh adjoins Walland Marsh on the west, and contains about 3300 acres.
The soils of East Kent are principally chalk, loam, strong cledge, hazel mould, and stiff clay; and the various soils of West Kent are chalk, loam, clay, gravel, sand, and hazel mould. The crops commonly cultivated are wheat, barley, beans, oats, peas, canary-seed, radish-seed, turnips, and colewort. Some flax is grown; also spinach seed, kidney-beans, cresses, and white mustard-seed, principally for the London seedsmen. Woad for dyeing is much cultivated in the western part of the county, on poor and stiff, and in some instances on chalky, soils. The quantity of land in natural meadow in the uplands of East Kent is comparatively small, and the hay consumed in that district is principally brought from the marshes. The Weald abounds with natural grass-land, producing a vast quantity of hay of excellent quality. The grass-land of the marshes is of very considerable extent, and is appropriated to the fattening of cattle and sheep, or to the breeding of sheep; of the latter, Kent has long been famous for a peculiar fine breed, called Romney Marsh sheep. In the Isle of Sheppy the horses are for the most part a sort that has been in that district from time immemorial; elsewhere they have been crossed with other breeds.
The chief hop plantations are situated in the vicinity of Canterbury and Maidstone; those near the former, called the City Grounds, surround it to the distance of two or three miles, and comprise between 2000 and 3000 acres. The best portion of the plantations of East Kent are upon a deep rich loamy soil, with a thick subsoil of loamy brick-earth. The plantations near Maidstone extend through the several parishes on the ragstone shelf of land which lie below the hills bordering on the Weald; the quality of the hops grown here is somewhat inferior to that of the hops of Canterbury and East Kent. In the central part of the county, the plantations are so extensive as to require thrice the amount of the labouring population of the district to gather the crops; so that numbers of people are employed from other places. In the neighbourhood of Gravesend and Deptford a large quantity of vegetables is raised for the supply of the metropolis. Great quantities of fruit, chiefly apples, cherries, and filberts, are grown in the vicinity of Maidstone, the young trees being frequently planted among the hops; and it is doubtful whether a soil more adapted to the growth of corn, fruit, and hops, conjointly, exists in the kingdom.
The Waste lands consist of about 20,000 acres, dispersed in various parts of the county, in commons, heaths, &c.: the soil of some is a cold sterile loam, that of others a wet stiff clay, but of most the soil is composed of gravel and sand. The principal Woodlands of East Kent are scattered between the great road from Rochester to Dovor and the range of chalk hills running from Folkestone, by Charing, to Debtling; their chief produce is hop-poles for the adjacent plantations, and they also furnish piles for securing the sea-walls of the marshes, and props to be used in the Newcastle coalmines. West Kent abounds with woods and coppices, of which there are about 13,000 acres; some in the Weald are still in their original forest state, and the finest oak is grown there. The manufacture of silk has been carried on to a great extent at Canterbury, but is now giving way to that of cotton. At Dovor and Maidstone are extensive mills for the manufacture of all kinds of paper, the white paper made at the latter place having long been in high repute. There are salt-works at Stonar near Sandwich, and in the Isle of Grain; at Whitstable and Deptford are large copperas-works. Gunpowder is made at Dartford, Tonbridge, and Faversham: at Crayford are extensive works for printing calico and bleaching linen; and at Woolwich, Chatham, and Sheerness, the building of vessels for the royal navy is extensively carried on.
The two great rivers are the Thames and the Medway. The Thames forms the northern boundary of the county, for upwards of forty miles, and in the whole of its course is navigable for merchant vessels of the largest burthen. The Medway, which falls into the North Sea at the mouth of the Thames, between the Isle of Grain and Sheerness, was made navigable for barges as high as Tonbridge, under the provisions of an act passed in 1740; up to Chatham it is navigable for vessels of the largest burthen. The principal fishery of the Medway is that of oysters, which is also carried on in the numerous creeks formed immediately above its influx into the sea: Rochester smelts are celebrated. There are six smaller rivers; viz., the Greater Stour, the Lesser Stour, the Rother, the Darent, the Cray, and the Ravensbourne. The Darent becomes navigable at Dartford, where it assumes the name of Dartford Creek; and falls into the Thames between two and three miles further down, at Long Reach. The Ravensbourne falls into the Thames at Deptford, where it receives the name of Deptford Creek; and is navigable for small craft for the distance of about one mile from its mouth. The Royal Military canal, constructed as a defensive work during the continental war, at the time of the threatened invasion from France, commences near Hythe, and quits this county for Sussex, near Fairfield. In 1825, an act was obtained for forming a Railroad from Whitstable to Canterbury, which passes under a tunnel, 822 yards long, a little to the north of that city; the line is six miles and a quarter in length. The South-Eastern railway branches from the Brighton railway at Reigate, in Surrey, and enters this county near Eden-bridge, whence the line is continued to Tonbridge, and to Ashford, where it curves towards the south-east, passing by Hythe and Folkestone to its terminus at Dovor. It has a short branch to Tonbridge-Wells; a branch to Maidstone; and a much longer branch to Canterbury, Ramsgate, and Margate. The county also contains a railway from Gravesend to Rochester, and a small part of the London and Greenwich line.
Few remains of the Britons have been discovered within the limits of the county: some brass celts and other weapons have been dug up in places which were probably the scenes of conflict between them and their invaders; and there are a very few cromlechs, of which the most remarkable, for its magnitude and good preservation, is that commonly called Kit's Coty House, both from its name and situation conjectured to have been erected over the grave of the British prince, Certigern, who was slain in one of the battles with Hengist. The Roman stations were, Anderida, supposed to have been at Newenden; Dubris, Dovor; Durobrivæ, Rochester; Durolevum, Judde Hill, Newington, or Sittingbourne; Durovernum, Canterbury; Lemania, Lymne; Noviomagus, Keston, or Crayford; Regulbium, Reculver; Rutupium, Richborough; and Vagniacæ, Northfleet, or Southfleet. The principal remains of Roman buildings are at Canterbury, Dovor, and Richborough; numerous relics, such as weapons, domestic utensils, &c., have been dug up in various parts of the county, on or near the sites of the several stations. In this county was made the first settlement in England of the four following Monastic orders, viz., of Augustine canons at Canterbury in 605; of Grey friars, or Franciscans, at the same place, in 1224; of Trinitarian friars at Mottenden, in the same year; and of White or Carmelite friars at Aylesford, in 1240. The religious houses before the Reformation were, of the Benedictine order, two abbeys, three priories, and five nunneries; of the Cluniac, one priory; of the Cistercian, one abbey; of Secular canons, five colleges; of Canons regular, four abbeys and five priories; of Dominicans, one priory and one nunnery; of Franciscans, two priories; of Trinitarians, one priory; of Carmelites, three priories. The number of alien priories was four; there were two commanderies of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and fifteen hospitals, besides several hermitages, chantries, and free chapels. The remains are those of St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, and the abbeys of Boxley, Bradsole or St. Rhadegund's, Monks-Horton, and West Malling.
Of ancient Castles, the most considerable are at Canterbury, Tonbridge, Rochester, and Dovor; besides which there are interesting remains at Allington, Cooling, Hever, Leeds, Chilham, Leybourne, Limne, Saltwood, Stutfall, Sutton-Valence, Eynsford, the Mote at Ightham, Nettlestead, and Ostenhanger. The great hall of the ancient royal palace at Eltham is, perhaps, the noblest specimen remaining in the county of the domestic architecture of the middle ages. Besides the magnificent buildings of the naval hospital at Greenwich, with its fine park, so long a favourite residence of the English sovereigns, this pleasant and fertile county abounds with elegant Mansions, fine parks, and thriving plantations. Among the most distinguished of the seats may be noticed Knowle, Cobham, Eastwell, and Waldershare. Penshurst Place is an example of the mansions of the nobility from the era of Edward III. to that of James I.; Charlton House and Summer Hill are excellent specimens of the domestic architecture of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. In different parts of the county are Springs, the water of which is chalybeate, but those of Tonbridge-Wells are the most celebrated. At Sydenham, in the parish of Lewisham, are some springs of medicinal purgative water, resembling those of Epsom, and which, from their proximity to Dulwich, have received the name of Dulwich Wells. The custom of Gavelkind, by which lands descend to all the sons equally, prevails in Kent, and has produced a marked distinction between it and almost every other county in England, with regard to the occupation of land and the number of freeholders, the latter being very numerous, so that the Kentish yeomanry have long formed one of the strongest and most independent divisions of that important class of British subjects.