Reading Notes – The Little History of Kent

During lockdown I’ve been spending some time in lovely Kent, where I grew up. I took the time to brush up on my local history, reading Susan Hibberd’s ‘The Little History of Kent’

My reading notes, aka the bits I underlined as follows

In The Beginning

“The Paleolithic period .. the Stone Age .. the skeleton of an iguanodon lay hidden in the Maidstone area.

“By 5000 BC there were an estimated 6,000 people living in England, most of whom lived in Kent. Shortly after this the causeway from the continent flooded for the last time”

“In 20 BC Canterbury became the Iron Age capital of Britain”

The Romans

“In 55BC Julius Caesar attempted to invade .. the invasion was short-lived. He tried again the next year, bringing 600 ships, 17,000 soldiers and 2,000 cavalry with him. He landed at Deal and fought his way to London. Weakened by the Belgic tribes … he returned home two months later”

“Kent already had its name, as Julius Caesar recorded the area as Cantium, home of the Cantii people”

“In AD43 Roman Galleons [were] once more sailing along the eastern coast and landing 50,000 men at Richborough near Sandwich.. The coastline has changed .. and today Richborough is inland… Despite fierce resistance .. the Romans triumphed and Plautius became ruler of Kent”

“In AD50 the built two lighthouses, one on either side of Dover’s river, the Dour. Only the Eastern one survives, as the Pharos Roman lighthouse”

“Richborouch was remodelled … in about AD90 the Romans built a massive arch, reported to be over 82ft high, to mark the entrance to the overseas territory which they called Britannia”

“By AD410 the well-oiled administrative machine which ran the Roman Empire had broken down, the troops were recalled”

The Angles, Saxons and Jutes

“The Saxons took over Sussex, Wessex and Essex, the Angles took East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria and the Jutes (led by the Angles Hengist and Horsa) stayed in Kent, adopting the white horse as their symbol”

“Some of the Saxon mercenaries stayed in Kent, settling the Western villages.. it might be this Jute/Saxon split whicj gave rise to the differentiation between Men of Kent in the east and Kentish Men in the west. Differences in burial customs between east and west Kent also point to this as a time of division”

“Place names which originate from the Jutish language are thos ending in -inge, -ynge and -linge”

“The Jutes had a slightly different way of ruling than the Angles and Saxons … One notable difference in law was the practice of gavelkind, or partible inheritance, under which many people could inherit the wealth of the deceased and which led to the division of the land into smaller and smaller units. This contrasted with the rule of primogeniture which covered the rest of Britain, where only the eldest inherited. Partly due to this law, Kent was never subject to the open field system of agriculture, where common land is farmed in rotation by different villagers .. Gavelkind was not rescinded until 1925.”

“Hengist and Horsa and their descendents ruled Kent for hte next 100 years and were followed by Ethelbery who became the first Christian king in Britain.. The church of St Martins in Canterbury was built during the Roman occupation, before the arrival of St Augustine and it has been in continuous use as a place of worship ever since”

“Kent was the only kingdom divided into two sees with archbishops at both Rochester and Canterbury”

“In AD825 Kent became part of Wessex, under King Alfred the Great”

The Normans

“William [Duke of Normandy] came to England in 1066 to claim his throne, bringing 12,000 soldiers to fight at Hastings and Harold, after a long march southwards to meet him was killed”

“The Normans raped and pillaged their way from Hastings, across Romney Marsh to Dover, and up through Kent to London for William I’s coronation. Turning southwards again, William and his troops headed for Dover, but they had not counted on the resistance of the people of Kent.. Eventually William saw that hew was unlikely to win and negotiated a settlement. Kent became a County Palatine administered by Willaim’s half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and as such remained unconquered by the Normans. The Kentish motto to this day is Invicta – unconquered”

“Construction of Canterbury Castle started around 1070”

“William 1 was keen to take stock of his new kingdom, and in 1086 ordered the recording of all land … the Domesday Book.. the landholders of Kent were required to give details of their estates … it is interesting to note their were no land owners, as only the king could own land . They also gave information about the number of peasants workfing on their land and the number of slaves held”

“Kent was on of the more densely populated areas of the country, and it is estimated that about 50,000 people lived there”

“The tiny Normal ruling class sought to consolidate their hold over the local population by building castles. This was intended to dissuade further invasion and to show their strength to the surrounding villages”

“Towns although becoming more numerous, were very small by modern standards. There were more opportunities for work in the country .. farm[ing] the land for generations, being fundamentally self-sufficient and paying rent to the local landowner each year (ususally in produce) and giving a tenth ( a tithe) to the Church”

“Schools and hospitals were for the rich and home-schooling and herbal medecine were their lot. They lived on the grains and the vegetables they gre, meat from their pigs and the occasional fish from the river”

“By the end of the 14th century, seventy towns and villages had been granted the right to hold a market in their streets. A wide central street used as a High Street is an indication of a Norman marketplace and Wingham is a good example of this practice”

The Main Plantagenet Line ~ 1154-1399

“The population of the country .. only numbered 5 million people”

“Henry II acceded to the throne in 1154 and one of his first major taks was to establish the Cinque Port Confederation, a community of Cinque Ports to defend the south coast .. in 1155 .. a charter .. granted them certain rights amd tax benefits in return for an agreement to remain ready at all times to defend the country”

“The ports of Sandwich, Hythe, Romney and Dover in Kent and Hastings in Sussex were chosen”

“On 29 December 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral .. ordered by King Henry II”

“In 1166 he established the system of law that we follow today, with local courts and prisons for those awaiting trial. He also established the system of assizes so that decisions were brought about quickly”

“Henry II started to build Dover Castle in 1180 .. but did not live to see it finished. He was succeeded by his son Richard I .. the Lionheart.. [who] spent most of his reign abroad, fighting in the Holy Land”

“Richard I was succeeded in 1199 by his brother John, .. the signatory of the Magna Carta.. the Archbishop Simon Langton.. played an important role in the genesis of the paper that was intended to limit the power of the monarch”

“One product that was famous throughout the country was Kentish spiced cider, made from the apples from the monastery gardens”

“The Great Flood of 1287.. the coastline of southern Kent was completely altered, creating new areas of land, changing the course of rivers and leaving ports stranded far inland”

“Edward the Confessor expelled the whole Jewish community from England, signing an Act of Parliament to that effect in 1290”

“In 1331, migrant cloth workers from Flanders were invited by Edward the III to England and settled in Tenterden, Biddenden, Cranbrook and Staplehurst .. The Flemish workers shared their skills in weaving and fulling cloth .. Wealden braodcloth became sought after throughout the country”

“Kentish broadcloth was 58in wide and each piece had to be between 30 and 34 yards lang and weigh 66lb .. a certain shade of grey was particularly popular and eventally became known as Kentish Grey”

“When a ban on the export of woollen cloth to the continent, where prices were higher, was imposed, a new trade emerged: smuggling. The men who carried bundles of cloth through the Weald and the Romney marshes to the ports communicated by mimicking the calls of owls, and so were called ‘owlers'”

“In 1348.. lives were rocked by the bubonic plague … the population had reached a million at the beginning of the century, but by the end of the Plantagenet period in 1399 it had fallen to half that number, due principally to the effects of the Black Death”

“A writ in 1351 had set wages at pre-plague levels, limiting what could be charged for goods and had outlawed the giving of alms to beggars. The Crown exacerbated matters by introducing a poll tax in 1377, 1379 and 1380. There was more work, for fewer people and they were being paid less”

“By 1381 the Kentish family .. joined with other rebels to release John Ball from Maidstone Prison, where he had been imprisoned for repeatedly advocating a classless society .. to plan a revolution .. After capturing Rochester Castle and freeing the prisoners, the men were joined by Walter Tyler from Essex.. the peasant throng (up to 100,000 strong) [travelled] through Kent to London where they destroyed property.. and murdered many innocent tradesmen … Wat Tyler was hanged, drawn and quartered, along with other rebel leaders “

“Kent gained a new Member of Parliament, one Geoffrey Chaucer who was elected in 1386 .. he served as an MP for only on year before retreating into semi-retirement to write The Canterbury Tales”

The House of Lancaster ~ 1399-1461

“Edward III had increased the burden on the men of the land when he had passed the Archery Law of 1363, which commanded the practice of archery on Sundays and holidays by all men.. this was the only rest day of the week for people of the lower classes and it had been taken from them. Even boys as young as 7 were required to attend practice “

“The Battle of Agincourt in 1415, was one of the major battles of the Hundred Years War .. the English were outnumbered six to one, but the archers could shoot twelve armour-piercing arrows a minute .. all that practice had paid off”

The House of York ~ 1461 – 1485

“William Caxton.. born in Tenterden .. travelled widely on the continent and brought back with him details of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press .. in 1476 he travelled back through Kent to London. Here, he set up the first British printing press and printed books in the English language for the benefit of the people as a whole, not just for scholars. One of the books printed was The Canterbury Tales, written by man of Kent Geoffrey Chaucer”

The Early Tudors ~ 1485 – 1558

“Henry VIII was the last English king to hold the title of King of France and it was he who lost the greater part of the port of Calais”

“In 1534 Henry VIII appointed himself ‘The Supreme Head on Earth of the Church’, thus breaking ties with Rome and enabling him to dictate the was the Church was run in England”

“He introduced the use of bibles and prayer books written in plain English.” (rather than Latin)

“Fordwich was the nearest ships could get to Canterbury when sailing up the Stour.”

“It was Henry VIII who first used the phrase ‘The Garden of England’ to refer to Kent .. Kent is home to the National Fruit Collection at nearby Brogdale, and contains many old varieties including the Costard and Pearmain which were brought to England by the Normans”

“Mary I .. returned England to the Roman Catholic faith. During her reign, she ordered the execution of over 300 dissenters, which earned her the nickname Bloody Mary”

“In 1555 eighteen Kentish men were burned at the stake in Canterbury in the area of Martyr’s Field .. In total about 70 Kentish men and women were burned durung what are referred to as the Marian Persecutions. “

The Elizabethans ~ 1558 – 1603

“Elizabeth I .. born in Greenwich, which was at that time part of the county of Kent, and as such she was a Kentish Maid”

“Silk weaving came to Canterbury in 1560 .. the weaving industry .. prospered, so that by 1660 over 2,000 people were employed in the trade”

“In 1575 the Walloons came to Kent as refugees, fleeing from the Catholic Inquisition in Belgium”

“In 1589, Elizabthe I granted John Spilman a licence to make white writing paper and he established the first English paper mill in Dartford”

“Knole House .. erected in the 1570s is said to be a calendar house with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards”

“Once the threat of Spanish invasion had lessened, many fishermen and sailors saw an opportunity to make some extra money plundering Spanish ships. Elizabeth I recognised the practice as legitimate enterprise and issued licences, called ‘letters of marque’

“John Ward who was born in Faversham and rose to fame as a Robin Hood-like swashbuckling privateer .. When James I came to the throne and rescinded the licences.. John Ward .. being now outside the law he was labelled a pirate .. Towards the end of his life, he accepted the teachings of Islam and changed his name to Issouf Reis, dying at the agoe of 70 in Tunisia”

The Stuarts ~ 1603 – 1714

“By 1600 the population of England had risen to just over 4 million .. the British Empire had expanded, and noblemen from all corners of the globe were keen to visit England”

“The Native American Algonquian princess we remember as Pocahontas married Englishman John Rolfe in 1614 .. she died at Gravesend aged 22 and is buried there”

“Adela Wyman, daughter of an Englishman and an Inca princess .. was taken ill in a visit to her father’s birthplace in Littlebourne, near Canterbury, in 1862 and died two years later”

“From 1661 to 1698 an estimated 50,000 protestant Walloons and Huguenots fled to England from France, feeing religious persecution .. many gravitated to Canterbury, where families where granted asylum … Services are still held in the Huguenots chapel in Canterbury Cathedral in French every Sunday”

“The Crown Inn at Sarre is called Cherry Brandy House for the high-quality cherry brandy ot serves made from a secret Huguenot recipe”

“The export of wool was made illegal in 1614 but smuggling wool out of England avoided the tax which had to be paid to the powerful guilds”

“In June 1667 .. to the embarassment of the British navy, the Dutch entered the Medway. They sailed up the Thames, looted Sheerness .. after making their point they were gone by the end of July”

“From the 1670s hops started to be grown in greater numbers as corn prices fell.. Hops had been introduced to the country from the Netherlands some 100 years earlier”

The Hanoverians ~ 1714 – 1837

“In 1752 the Gregorian calendar replaces the old Julian calendar, skipping eleven days and moving some Saints’ Days different dates.

“Benjamin Beale invented the first bathing machinf in 1753 whereby bathers went to a ‘bathing room’ – rather like a wooden caravan – which was pulled out into the sea by a horse. Once it was in position, the door could be opened so the bather could lower a set of steps and walk down into the water. Not only did this avoid the pebbles, but it also minimised the chances of anyone looking at their ankles”

“Before the use of steam power became widespread, the industry of Kent was powered by wind and watermills”

“The Royal Military Canal .. constructed between Folkestone and Hastings to cut off any potential invading army .. the canal runs 28 miles is possible to walk or cycle along the entire length”

“The tower at Deal was adapted in 1855 to become a timeball tower, whereby a ball is raised and lowered at set times as an aid to those offshore”

“By the 1830s there were famine conditions int he county, and half the parishes in Kent were giving relief to families with more than three children”

“In 1830, labourers started an uprising by smashing threshing machines at Hardres, a village near Canterbury”

The Victorians ~ 1837 – 1901

“An agricultural labourer earnt about 9s 6d per day, which was surprisingly less than they would have earnt had they lived in northern counties. An average annual wage in Kent was about £25 per year, whereas the average for all counties was £31”

“These incomes were supplemented by the work of the wives and children, for although a woman had housework to do, and was almost always pregnant or nursing, she also undertook a variety of fieldwork, especially at busy times”

“The earliest railway in Kent was the Canterbury to Whitstable Railway, which opened in 1830”

“The paper mill at Chartham was erected in the early 1700s and grew in size .. by the middle of the 20th century the mill was producing a quarter of the world’s tracing paper”

“The artist Vincent Van Gogh stayed in Ramsgate for 3 months in 1876, working as a teacher for board and lodging”

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha ~ 1901 – 1917

“The first Kent coalfield opened in 1913 and was bringing up coal util 1989. The villages of Aylesham, Elvington and Hersden were built for miners”

In 1916 “British Summer Time was introduced to increase productivity”