Wednesday, January 3, 2007

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“Kent was settled well before most other parts of England and has the oldest recorded place name in the British Isles. The county's history is closely bound up in it's proximity to mainland Europe. Archaeological remains from prehistoric times show clear links between Kent and northern Europe, as well as a land link.
Kent had no single natural urban centre but several towns of medium size. As local administration developed Kent was divided into two units, East (Men of Kent), administered from Canterbury, and West (Kentish Men), from Maidstone. In 1814 these two separate administrations were merged and Maidstone became the county town.
Ease of access by water to London developed Chatham and Sheerness as dockland towns, and Margate and Ramsgate seaside resorts. All the towns along the eastern coast were significant either as commercial ports or in the defence of the realm. Dover, Hythe, New Romney and Sandwich were four of the original five "Cinque Ports". Many paper mills were set up in the seventeenth century where sufficient water was available. Tunbridge Wells became a fashionable spa town in the 1670's. Elsewhere in the county the dominant occupation was horticulture and the growing of hops for brewing. The hop, iron and cloth industries have provided the Kent landscape with two of the most prominent landmarks, the oast houses used for drying hops and the Wealden Hall houses of the Kent ironmasters and cloth manufacturers.
From the 1750's those parts of Kent nearest to London began to develop as suburbs of the capital. The County boundary was adjusted in 1889 when the present boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham became part of London. These were added to in 1965 with the boroughs of Bromley and Bexley. Further parts of Kent lying between the A21 and the M25 were added to London in 1974.
Much of West Kent is now London commuter territory and towns like Maidstone, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge have expanded rapidly in size and population. The coming of the railways in the mid-nineteenth century was responsible for reviving the fortunes of Folkestone and for transforming Ashford from a sleepy market town to the centre of railway communications in Kent.
During the war both Canterbury and Dover were heavily bombed by Germany and received numerous V1 and V2 rocket attacks from Calais during 1943. The subsequent rebuilding of Canterbury and the enlargement of towns like Maidstone and Dover since 1963 has changed much of Kent. The building works and extensive road system connected with the Channel Tunnel has had the greatest impact on the County's communication links and economic structure since the first trading forays of the Belgae from northern France around about 400 BC”.
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