name Kent derives from the ancient Celtic tribe who inhabited South
East England from the Thames to the south coast. Their lands included
modern Kent plus parts of Surrey,
Sussex and Greater London.
The Roman's called the
people the Cantii or Cantiaci and the county Cantium. Julius Caesar wrote in
his account of
his military campaigns in northern Europe, that the people of
the most civilized of the Celtic tribes.
visited Britain twice. The first occasion in 55 BC he landed at Deal
and his fleet was defeated by the
tidal range. In 54 BC Caesar returned with cavalry and won a
significant skirmish at Canterbury; reputedly near to Bigbury Iron Age
hill fort. After a short campaign the Romans left our shores; returning under Claudius
in 43AD to stay for almost
The Ancient Britons did not have a written history
and so we have little knowledge of what they called Canterbury.
Although it was possibly
as this has linguistic roots to the Iron-Age tribes
who lived on the British Isles before the Roman invasion.
roughly translated to fortified enclosure;
marshy crossing with Alders.
The first documentation of a name is in a 2nd century
Antoine Itinerary. In that the Roman name for Canterbury was
Durovernum Cantiacorum. Cantiacorum meant that the
city was a Civitas Capital. A town where tribal leaders were
trusted to rule their own people
but with the addition of Roman advisors. Canterbury was the
principle tribal capital with a second area of administration at
Rochester which the Roman's named: Durobrivae Cantiacorum.
crossing with a bridge.
Kent's largest river
is the Medway which divides the county east and west. Its source is in the High
Weald Sussex. Its mouth flows in to the Thames estuary.
Hasted wrote in his 'The
Historical & Topographical Survey of Kent'
ancient Britons called the Medway Vaga (travel) to which the Saxons prefixed
If you are born on the east side of the Medway you
may call yourself a Man of Kent. If you were born to the west a
Kentish Man. The female equivalent being Maids of Kent or Kentish
the Men and Maids terms first came in to use is uncertain. Some say
its from the fifth
century invasion of Angles, Saxons and
Jutes who called Canterbury Cantawarburgh. The Anglo Saxons occupied West Kent
whilst the Jutes, settled East of the Medway. Others like Benjamin Franklin
in his ode
Men of Kent or Kentish Men? say
that it dates from the Norman invasion
when the Men of Kent refused to let the Conqueror pass
East Kent unless they were allowed to keep certain rights and
privileges. A tale that may have some truth in that the only English
county to keep the inheritance laws of Gavilkind after the
conquest was Kent.
After the Battle of Hastings the Normans started
a program of building works with castles and cathedrals
appearing throughout their newly conquered lands.
Canterbury had the first Norman Cathedral and Castle, with
Rochester a close second.
Although, many castles were built
in Britain in this period each county had just one cathedral ... except
Kent, which is the only county
in Britain to have two
cathedrals splitting the county into two dioceses.
During the medieval period
Canterbury became by
charter a county corporate. i.e. a town with rights to act like a
county. The City and Borough of Canterbury
which covered some surrounding villages was administered independently of
the county of Kent between 1471 and 1972. Hence there were two
county assizes at Canterbury and Maidstone and each has a County
Court in use today.
After the 1972
reorganisation of English counties Canterbury came under County administration. Kent County Council
then administered almost the entire
county except for a few places in the north of the county which
went to Greater London in the reorganisation. The united county was
to last less than thirty years as in 1998 the Unitary Authority of Medway was formed
from the Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham and the
county has once again been split in two.
historians should be aware that archives in Kent may not be in one
county archive and they should check which Archive they need as depending on the period
the documents they seek could be at; Canterbury,
Maidstone, Strood, or the London Metropolitan Archives at Clerkenwell.