Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the River Thames estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of Medway. Kent has a nominal border with France halfway through the Channel Tunnel. Maidstone is its county town and historically Rochester and Canterbury have been accorded city status though only the latter still holds it.
Kent's location between London and the continent has led to its being a front line of several conflicts, including the Battle of Britain during World War II. East Kent was named Hell Fire Corner during the conflict. England has relied on the county's ports to provide warships through much of the past 800 years; the Cinque Ports in the 12th–14th centuries and Chatham Dockyard in the 16th–20th centuries were of particular importance to the country's security. France can be seen clearly in fine weather from the iconic White Cliffs of Dover
Because of its abundance of orchards and hop gardens, Kent is widely known as "The Garden of England" — a name often applied when marketing the county or its produce, although other regions have tried to lay claim to the title.
Major industries in the north-west of Kent have included cement, papermaking, and aircraft construction, but these are now in decline. South and East Kent rely on tourism and agriculture.
The area has been occupied since the Palaeolithic era, as attested by finds from the quarries at Swanscombe. The Medway megaliths were built during the Neolithic era. There is a rich sequence of Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman era occupation, as indicated by finds and features such as the Ringlemere gold cup and the Roman villas of the Darent valley.
The modern name of Kent is derived from the Brythonic word Cantus meaning "rim" or "border". This describes the eastern part of the current county area as a border land or coastal district. Julius Caesar had described the area as Cantium, or home of the Cantiaci in 51 BC.
The extreme west of the modern county was occupied by Iron Age tribes, known as the Regnenses. It is possible that another ethnic group occupied The Weald and East Kent. East Kent became a kingdom of the Jutes during the 5th century and was known as Cantia from about 730 and as Cent in 835. The early medieval inhabitants of the county were known as the Cantwara, or Kent people. These people regarded the city of Canterbury as their capital.
In 597, Pope Gregory I appointed Augustine as the first Archbishop of Canterbury. In the previous year, Augustine successfully converted the Pagan King Æthelberht of Kent to Christianity. The Diocese of Canterbury became Britain's first Episcopal See and has since remained Britain's centre of Christianity.
In the 11th century, the people of Kent adopted the motto Invicta, meaning "undefeated". This naming followed the invasion of Britain by William of Normandy. The Kent people's continued resistance against the Normans led to Kent's designation as a semi-autonomous County Palatine in 1067. Under the nominal rule of William's half-brother Odo of Bayeux, the county was granted similar powers to those granted in the areas bordering Wales and Scotland.
During the medieval and early modern period, Kent played a major role in several of England's most notable rebellions, including the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, led by Wat Tyler, Jack Cade's Kent rebellion of 1450, and Wyatt's Rebellion of 1553 against Queen Mary I.
The Royal Navy first used the River Medway in 1547. By the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) a small dockyard had been established at Chatham. By 1618, storehouses, a ropewalk, a drydock, and houses for officials had been built downstream from Chatham.
By the 17th century, tensions between Britain and the powers of the Netherlands and France led to increasing military build-up in the county. Forts were built all along the coast following the raid on the Medway, a successful attack by the Dutch navy on the shipyards of the Medway towns in 1667.
The 18th century was dominated by wars with France, during which the Medway became the primary base for a fleet that could act along the Dutch and French coasts. When the theatre of operation moved to the Atlantic, this role was assumed by Portsmouth and Plymouth, with Chatham concentrating on shipbuilding and ship repair. As an indication of the area's military importance, the first Ordnance Survey map ever drawn was a one-inch map of Kent, published in 1801. Many of the Georgian naval buildings during this time still stand.
In the early 1800s, smugglers were very active on the Kent coastline. Gangs such as The Aldington Gang brought spirits, tobacco and salt to the county, and transported goods such as wool across the sea to France.
In 1889, the County of London was created and the townships of Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Lee, Eltham, Charlton, Kidbrooke and Lewisham were transferred out of Kent and in 1900 the area of Penge was gained.
During World War II, much of the Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over the county. Between June 1944 and March 1945, over 10,000 V1 flying bombs, known as "Doodlebugs", were fired on London from bases in Northern France. Many were destroyed by aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, and barrage balloons, yet both London and Kent were hit by around 2,500 of these bombs.
After the war, Kent's borders changed several more times. In 1965 the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley were created from nine towns formerly in Kent. In 1998, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, and Rainham left the administrative county of Kent to form the Unitary Authority of Medway. They have, however, remained in the ceremonial county of Kent. During this reorganisation, through an administrative oversight, the city of Rochester lost its official city status.
The earliest locomotive-driven passenger-carrying railway in Britain was the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway which opened in 1830. This and the London and Greenwich Railway later merged into South Eastern Railways (SER). By the 1850s, SER's networks had expanded to Ashford, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells, and the Medway towns. SER's major London termini were London Bridge, Charing Cross, and Cannon Street. Kent also had a second major railway, the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR). Originally the East Kent Railway in 1858, it linked the northeast Kent coast with London terminals at Victoria and Blackfriars.
The two companies merged in 1899, forming the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). In the aftermath of World War I, the government's Railways Act 1921 grouped railway companies together; the SECR joined neighbouring London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and London and South Western Railway (LSWR) to form the Southern Railway. Britain's railways were nationalised in 1948, forming British Rail. The railways were privatised in 1996 and most Kent passenger services were franchised to Connex South Eastern. Following financial difficulties, Connex lost the franchise and was replaced by Southeastern.
The Channel Tunnel was completed in 1994 and High Speed 1 in November 2007 with a London terminus at St Pancras. A new station, Ebbsfleet International, opened between Dartford and Gravesend, serving northern Kent. The high speed lines will be utilised to provide a faster train service to coastal towns like Ramsgate and Folkestone. This station is in addition to the existing station at Ashford International, which has suffered a massive cut in service as a result.
In addition to the "mainline" railways, there are several light, heritage, and industrial railways in Kent. There are three heritage, standard gauge railways; Spa Valley Railway near Tunbridge Wells on the old Tunbridge Wells West branch, East Kent Railway on the old East Kent coalfield area and the Kent and East Sussex Railway on the Weald around Tenterden. In addition there is the 15-inch (380 mm) gauge, tourist-oriented Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway on the southeast Kent coast along the Dungeness peninsular. Finally, there is the 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m), industrial Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
If you have photographs or knowledge of the area and would like to contribute we would love to hear from you. Original work only please - you must own the copyright.