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
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
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 what is now called 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
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
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 1554 against
Queen Mary I.
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 still stand.
In the early 19th century, 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. Some of
Kent, notably Dartford, is contiguous
with Greater London.
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. During this reorganisation, through an "apparent"
administrative oversight, the city of Rochester lost its official city