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An edition of the Magna Carta, which belongs to Sandwich town council, discovered in Kent County Council's archives in Maidstone

By Anna Young

An edition of the Magna Carta has been found buried in Kent's archives.

The historic document, which established the principle of the rule of law, was discovered at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone by community history officer, Dr Mark Bateson.

The charter, dated 1300, has been authenticated by Professor Nicholas Vincent, of the University of East Anglia, who confirmed it belongs to Sandwich town council.

The Magna Carta at the Kent History and Library Centre
The Magna Carta at the Kent History and Library Centre

Dr Mark Bateson, who is based at the James Whatman Way site, was looking in the archives for the Charter of Forest, at the request of Prof Vincent, when he spotted the Magna Carta in December.

The Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone
The Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone

He said: "Just leafing through, I thought 'this is an interesting document' and right next to the Charter of the Forest was this Magna Carta to Sandwich.

"(I felt) great excitement. I obviously didn't expect it. Seeing it was was just something extra."

The Magna Carta at the Kent History and Library Centre
The Magna Carta at the Kent History and Library Centre

Both documents were issued to the Cinque Port by Kind Edward I and have remained in KCC's storage since the 1950s.

The first Magna Carta was issued by King John of England in 1215 but was revised
several times during the 13th century.

Only 22 other originals exist in the world, including one in Faversham which is also dated 1300.

Dr Bateson said: "This is an original Magna Carta. Even though it's not dated 1215, it's one of a series that were issued in the years after 1215 for different reasons and for different organisations."

The Magna Carta unveiled on Monday at the Kent History and Library Centre
The Magna Carta unveiled on Monday at the Kent History and Library Centre

The Mayor of Sandwich, Cllr Paul Graeme, said: "On behalf of Sandwich town council, I would like to say that we are absolutely delighted to discover that and original Magna Carta and original Chamber of Forest, previously unknown, are in our ownership.

"To own one of these documents, let alone both, is an immense privilege international importance."

Mike Hill, KCC's cabinet member for community services, said: "This is most exciting news. Our History and Library Centre is a treasure house of records relating to the history of Kent."

The latest discovery, which could be worth millions-of-pounds, comes as historians prepare to mark the Magna Carta's 800th anniversary.

Dr Mark Bateson who discovered the Sandwich Magna Carta in Maidstone. Picture by Matthew Walker
Dr Mark Bateson who discovered the Sandwich Magna Carta in Maidstone. Picture by Matthew Walker

Later this year, a travelling exhibition by Visit Kent will be on show in Canterbury, Faversham, and Maidstone and it's now expected to stop in Sandwich.

Dr Bateson said: "This has come into the mix obviously at the 11th hour and I think what we were hoping was there must be some way that we could get this alongside the Faversham and have them next to each other, which would just be fantastic."

Sandra Matthews-Marsh, chief executive of Visit Kent, said: "This is an incredible treasure for Kent. We already have the Canterbury Magna Carta and the Faversham Magna Carta and can now add a third charter to our already fascinating story."

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