KENT FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY ~ CANTERBURY BRANCH

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INVICTA: KENT'S WHITE HORSE
The emblem of the county of Kent and also of Kent Family History Society. Traditionally shown on a red background KFHS use the inverted version red on white. The horse is affectionately named after his Latin motto Invicta' meaning unconquered. A reminder that Kent was not conquered on 14th October 1066 at Hastings.

There are several versions of this legend. The following was written in a thirteenth century chronicle by Thomas Sprot a monk of St. Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury. Sprot describes the gathering at Swanscombe of the Men of East Kent with their Saxon Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury. They were awaiting King William I, the Conqueror. He was taking his first journey through Kent  after the Battle of Hastings and his subsequent coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

On his way to Dover to take ship to his lands in Normandy he was prevented from passing further into the county and into the lands of East Kent by a deputation of the Men of Kent. They held a branch [treaty] or a sword [war] and told William to choose.

Perhaps  the terms requested were reasonable or maybe William didn't have time for another war in case he missed his cross channel ferry booking...? The legend reveals that he chose the branch and in doing so agreed that the people of both East and West Kent could keep certain rights and customs if in return they would accept him as their King.

Reputedly this is why the custom of Gavelkind continued in Kent centuries after vanishing from other parts of England.

Men of Kent or Kentish Men?

The Point so often mooted
Men of Kent and Kentish Men?
Should you chance to hear disputed
As, no doubt, you will again.

Where the Medway’s stream divideth
and by it’s North Eastern shore.
Where the Kentish man abideth
William, unopposed, passed o’er.

But the lands South East the River
knew not what submission meant.
May Invicta stand for ever
word and boast of Men of Kent.

          Benjamin Franklin C 1780

Gavelkind (in a nutshell) was a system whereby a deceased person's land and assets were shared amongst their heirs. It did not entirely preclude women unlike primogeniture; where assets usually went to the eldest son or nearest male relative. Effectively primogeniture debarred even a closely related female from inheriting whilst a male relative could be found; notwithstanding the remoteness of his claim and the closeness of hers!

Although Gavelkind does not appear to have been practised amongst the Squiracy after the Norman Conquest it may be one of several suggestions as to why Kent's landed Gentry do not have the vast estates as is often the case in other English counties.

Gavelkind survived until 1925 when it was abolished under The Law of Property Act.
 

Tricia Baxter, Webmaster

David Wood BA (hons.), Branch Chairman

Page updated:  09 May 2014