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Stupid questions about Kent answered

Ever wondered what that horse represents on the Kent flag?

Or perhaps pondered why Bromley is no longer part of this proud county of ours?

Then look no further. We answer everything you ever wanted to know about Kent but were too afraid to ask.

The River Medway in Maidstone: what side you were born on determines if you are a Man (or Maid) of Kent or a Kentish Man or Maid
The River Medway in Maidstone: what side you were born on determines if you are a Man (or Maid) of Kent or a Kentish Man or Maid

Are you a Kentish Man or Man of Kent?

Or, indeed, Kentish Maid or Maid of Kent. But let's not get bogged down in the whole equality argument when there's so much debate over the origins of this one.

Traditionally, those of us born to the west of the River Medway are defined as a Kentish Man and those to the east, a Man of Kent. The Medway runs in a somewhat haphazard route from Rochester, down through Maidstone and then through Tonbridge en route to East Sussex

But some suggest the village of Rainham Mark - named after a boundary marker which apparently divided east and west Kent - is the actual line down which the division is made.

Meanwhile, just to further muddy the waters, in 1735 the Reverend Samuel Pegge said the names were more a social status, saying a Man of Kent is a term of high honour, while a Kentish Man "denotes but an ordinary man". So take your pick.

Rochester and the Medway Towns are still part of Kent - but not under KCC control
Rochester and the Medway Towns are still part of Kent - but not under KCC control

Are the Medway Towns part of Kent?

Yes, of course they are. Just that Medway opted out of being under Kent County Council control back in 1998.

Keen to have more control over its roads and services, Medway Council was formed by the amalgamation of Gillingham Borough Council and Rochester-upon-Medway. It created what's known as a unitary authority, laying claim to powers previously held by KCC.

Just don't mention what happened to its city status (an administrative error, not noticed for four years, meant the status was rescinded).

Bromley town centre - once part of Kent...now a London boroughByline: David Antony Hunt
Bromley town centre - once part of Kent...now a London boroughByline: David Antony Hunt

But Bromley and Bexleyheath aren't?

No. But they once were before greedy old London sprawled out and consumed them.

The London Government Act of 1963 saw the creation of Greater London and Kent lost a host of towns as a result - Bexleyheath, Orpington, Bromley, Erith, Chislehurst and Sidcup being just some.

Not that it stops plenty of folk in what is now the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley still often considering themselves part of this great county of ours. But you can't blame them can you?

It also means that David Bowie, for example, who grew up in Bromley, did so while it was still part of Kent.

Why is Kent called Kent?

While half the world think only of Kent being the surname of Superman's alter-ego, the rest of us know that the county's moniker has deep historical routes.

According to the Kent Family History Society, it derives from an old Celtic name - Kantos. The invading Roman army called the people the Cantii or Cantiaci and the county Cantium. The name is thought to have meant 'coastal district' or 'corner-land'.

Julius Caesar wrote in his account of his military campaigns in northern Europe that the people of Cantium were the most civilized of the Celtic tribes. Insert a joke about him clearly having not visited a town of your choice here.

Kent cherries were such a hit with Henry VIII he apparently declared us to be the Garden of England
Kent cherries were such a hit with Henry VIII he apparently declared us to be the Garden of England

Why are we 'the Garden of England'?

If you ever wanted to play a form of word bingo for any article about the county written by someone from outside it, your almost guaranteed banker phrase will be ‘the Garden of England’.

Mind you, it's never done the tourism trade any harm.

Legend has it the name was given to the county more than 400 years ago after Henry VIII polished off a plate of Kentish cherries and coined the lazy writer's cliche.

The name is certainly apt, however, given our long history of rich soils providing hop and fruit harvests.

The flag of Kent featuring the horse often referred to as Invicta (9165870)
The flag of Kent featuring the horse often referred to as Invicta (9165870)

What's the origin of the county's white horse?

According to legend, the brothers Hengist and Horsa led the successful Saxon, Angles and Jutes invasion of Britain in the 5th century and in doing so saw Hengist named the first Jutish king of Kent.

What's this to do with a horse? Well, depending on various accounts, the horse is either derived from their names - in Old English, the earliest form of the English language, Hengist means stallion and Horsa, obviously, horse - or the flag, which featured a horse, under which they invaded Britain under.

The horse is often linked with Invicta - the county's motto - meaning unconquered, which dates back to the 11th century.

There are various different versions of quite how it came about - all of which centre on William the Conqueror marching through the county after landing in Battle, near Hastings in 1066.

Hengist and Horsa - with flag of white horse come ashore (9165872)
Hengist and Horsa - with flag of white horse come ashore (9165872)
The memorial in St Peter & St Paul church yard in Swanscombe (9165874)
The memorial in St Peter & St Paul church yard in Swanscombe (9165874)

One is that William was chased off his planned route to London by Kent's finest. Another, as outlined on a monument which now sits in a churchyard in Swanscombe, that he was ambushed on Watling Street, near Strood.

The inscription reads that the armed folk who challenged him "offered peace if he would grant their ancient rights and liberties otherwise war and that most deadly. Their request was granted and from that day the motto of Kent has been invicta, meaning unconquered”.

Or it could be because Dover was not defeated on that same march but agreed a conditional surrender. Take your pick.

Why is Maidstone the county town?

Traditionally, the administrative heart of a county lays claim to the title of county town.

And while the county council was only established in 1889 following a reform of local government, Maidstone was already known as the county town courtesy of its central position and size.

Following KCC's creation - with its headquarters in the town - it underlined its county town credentials.

However, up until 1814, the county's administrative centres were split, with Maidstone the key town for west Kent and Canterbury fulfilling the same role for the east of the county.

In fact, up until 1974, Canterbury lay claim to being the smallest county borough in the country, before another reform scrapped it and saw it come under the control of KCC.

For more quirky and unusual stories, click here.

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