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Englishman is wholly devoid. The chief agents of this praiseworthy reaction are the county historians, including in that class the writers of guide-books, whose united labours bave produced a body of literature of which any nation might be proud; and the provincial Archæological Societies, which exert themselves not only to record the fading relics of the past in memoirs and drawings, but to preserve them by timely help from material decay. Even such a sketch in outline as is here offered of the characteristic features of Kent could not have been attempted without freely drawing upon the treasuries of research and learning stored in the volumes of Hasted and Furley, the excellent handbook published by Mr. Murray, and the Transactions of the County Archæological Society. But no amount of such reading would serve to impress the idiosyncrasy of a particular county upon the student's mind unless supplemented by what in the jargon of modern science is called 'autopsy. One must saturate oneself with the atmosphere of the locality by long residence in it, familiarise the eye with its scenery, mingle with its natives, absorb their traditions and learn their ways, in order to apprehend the peculiar contour of its form and tint of its colour so vividly as to make them apprehensible to others. The present writer is conscious of possessing these qualifications most inadequately, but an acquaintance extending over many years with a large portion of the county, and such observations as an inveterate propensity to tramp' every district within reach has enabled him to make, may suffice in default of a better equipment for the modest undertaking which he proposes to himself.
The configuration of Kent, as shown upon a good map, affords a reasonable explanation of its historical vicissitudes. The large extent
. of flat open coast upon its eastern side, to which it owes its Celtic name, and the presence of such important rivers as the Thames and Medway as inlets to its fertile fields, have rendered it more easy of approach and exposed it more frequently than any other county to invasion from the adjoining Continent. Here, in all probability near Deal, Cæsar and his legions landed. Here, five centuries later, the first incursion of the Saxons, under the reputed leadership of Hengist and Horsa, took place at Ebb's-fleet. A century and a half afterwards the same coast witnessed the peaceful advent of the first Apostle of Christianity, Augustine. From that time forward it has been the main channel of our communication with Europe, the high-road of travel for princes and envoys, soldiers and churchmen, artists and craftsmen, merchants and pleasure-seekers, invalids and pilgrims, conspirators and refugees. To its neighbourhood to the Continent the county owes the origin of its most precious products, cherries and hops, both of which were introduced from the Netherlands. Hence also is due the presence of the foreign element which has leavened the population of some of its towns, particularly Sandwich, where the descendants of French and Flemish exiles are still
numerous, and the word "polders' which the latter must have brought with them is locally applied to the adjacent marshes.
On the other hand, the encincture of Kent on two or even three sides with water (for the Rother which divides it from Sussex was within historic times a navigable tidal river), and its dorsal barrier of hills, have served to isolate it in a measure from communion with the rest of the realm, and secure its inhabitants in the possession of their independence and ancient customs. It is a familiar tradition associated with Swanscombe, near Gravesend, that the assembled men of Kent there met the Norman Conqueror and awed him by their determined attitude and their numbers (artificially magnified by the covert of green branches under which they advanced) into confirming them in their Saxon privileges. Whether this story be true or not, the fact is incontestable that Kent is the only county wherein the Saxon law of Gavelkind, which, among other advantages, entitled all the sons of a deceased landowner to equal shares of inheritance, has always prevailed; the custom in other parts of England being restricted to single manors. Notwithstanding the disgavelling of many estates by Act of Parliament, the area subject to the operation of this law is still large. Unique, too, among English counties is the Saxon nomenclature of its division into Laths (from gelathian, to assemble) which answer to the Ridings and Rapes prevailing elsewhere. If any weight is to be attached to the popular belief on the subject, Kent is Saxon to the core. Its heraldic shield, bearing as device the white horse with the motto Invicta,' is paraded by the inhabitants with unconcealed pride ; now capping a tradesman's circular, now figuring on an itinerant traction-engine, or ornamenting an oast-house cowl.
Among the historical associations in which the county is so rich, those of the Saxon era are of capital importance. At Tong Castle, near Sittingbourne, according to legend, was held the memorable banquet at which Rowena, the fair daughter of Hengist, inspired Vortigern with the fatal passion that cost him his crown. A hill occupying the highest ground in the Isle of Thanet is the accredited scene of King Ethelbert's interview with Augustine, when permission was accorded to the introduction of that teaching which brought England within the pale of Christendom. The Goodwin Sands are the mythical site of a submerged city built by Godwin, the great Earl of Kent and father of the last Saxon king. The cathedrals of Canterbury and Rochester, the churches of Swanscombe, Lyminge, and many another, owe their foundation to Saxon piety. Numerous earthen mounds appear to indicate the sites of entrenched camps, or open-air Hundred Courts, belonging to the same period; while the extensive cemeteries found at Osengal Hill, near Ramsgate, and Ash, near Sandwich, date from the age of Saxon Paganism, which has left other traces in the names of such places as Wodnesborough, and Thunor's Leap.
Earlier and later associations than these carry us back to the ages preceding the Roman occupation, and onward through every century down to living memory. Kits-Coity House, near Aylesford, and other cromlechs are among the most remarkable relics now extant of the Celtic period. The ruined fortresses of Richborough, Reculver, and Lymne, erected by the imperial officers denominated Counts of the Saxon Shore,' mark the points at which they considered it most liable to predatory invasion. The Watling and Stone streets, whose course can still be traced; the foundations of villas; bricks inserted in many ancient church walls, and the extensive remains of pottery in the Upchurch marshes testify to the permanence of the Romans' handiwork no less than the transience of their rule.
As a memorial that links the Saxon with the Norman era, Penenden Heath, near Maidstone, is of singular interest. The Shyre-gemot, or County-Court, having been held there before the Conquest, it was chosen in the year 1076 as the fittest place for trying the right of Odo of Bayeux to certain manors claimed by Archbishop Lanfranc as temporalties of the See of Canterbury. After a three days' trial, at which a leading witness was Agelric, Bishop of Chichester-eminent for his knowledge of Saxon law, who, by reason of his great age, had to be carried to the heath in a' quadriga drawn by oxen—the cause was decided in favour of Lanfranc. On few places, probably, in England has the lapse of eight centuries wrought so little change. It has ever since continued to be the rendezvous of county gatherings; the last noteworthy meeting held there having been to discuss the Catholic Emancipation Bill of 1829.
A century after the establishment of Norman rule, the Cathedral Church of Canterbury itself witnessed the most dramatic event in Kentish annals, the murder of Archbishop Becket. Scenes in his troubled life are associated historically or mythically with many places throughout the county. His arbitrary interference with the patronage of Eynesford Church was prominent among the high-handed acts which incensed the King and the nobles against him. At Otford a spring which feeds St. Thomas' Well,' near the ruins of the archiepiscopal palace, is reported to have issued forth at a stroke of his staff. At Eastry, near Sandwich, he lay concealed for some days before his exile to France. At Saltwood Castle (the title to which, on its escheating by the forfeiture of its tenant, he had fiercely contested with the King), the four knights who conspired to kill him settled their plans, and there they first rested after having accomplished the deed. The reaction in public feeling which followed upon his murder, and led to his canonisation as a martyr, is attested by the aged yews which crest the ridges of The Pilgrims' Road,' along which they were planted to direct foreign votaries to his shrine at Canterbury.
The historic interest of Kent during the thirteenth century centres at Dover, which, in accordance with the estimate attached to it by the chronicler Matthew Paris, as the lock and key of the realm,' was twice besieged by the armies of Lewis, Dauphin of France, after his acceptance of the English crown from the Barons in rebellion against John. The stout defence of the castle by Hubert de Burgh with no more than 140 men, besides his own servants, obliged Lewis to raise the siege upon each occasion, and mainly determined his return to France. The most striking figure of the following century, Edward the Black Prince, by his marriage with Joan de Holland, the Fair Maid of Kent, his bountiful benefactions to Canterbury Cathedral, and his minute testamentary instructions for the costly tomb where he lies, may be claimed as a Kentish hero. Chaucer has immortally linked his name with every stage of the Pilgrims' Way, and his description of Harbledown,
Which that ycleped is Bob up and down
still holds as the best that could be given. The popular champions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, are both connected with Kent; the one beginning his career at Dartford, the other (according to a probable tradition) closing his at Hothfield. Sir Thomas Wyat, the poet, will always be remembered in company with his seat of Allington Castle, where he has described his happy country life in some of his brightest verse. Greenwich, whose palace dates from the reign of Henry the Sixth, when it was built as a ‘pleasaunce' by Humphry Duke of Gloucester, became famous as the birth-place of Henry the Eighth and the death-place of his son, but is still better known in connection with Elizabeth, who was also born there, and made it her favourite residence. It was there that she refused the offered crown of the Netherlands. There too, if Scott's historical imagination be not at fault, her notice was first attracted to Sir Walter Raleigh by the extravagance of his knightly courtesy. In the new palace commenced by Charles the Second, enlarged by William the Third and converted into a Naval Hospital at the instance of his queen, Nelson's body lay in state, after his crowning and fatal victory of Trafalgar. Chislehurst is fragrant with the memories of one of the worthiest of Elizabethan statesmen, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the patriarch of English antiquaries, William Camden. Penshurst has a triple link of association with the names of our English Bayard, Sir Philip Sidney, who was born there, and seems to bave described its scenery in a well-known passage of his Arcadia; of Algernon Sidney, noblest of all the Stuarts' victims, and of his sister Dorothy, celebrated as the Sacharissa who inspired Waller. Hayes will recall one of the most dignified statesmen of the last century, Lord Chatham, and Keston his yet more famous son. Gad's Hill, near Rochester, immortalised by Shakespeare as the imaginary scene of Falstaff's mock-heroic adventure, has been invested with fresh interest in our own day as the favourite residence of Charles Dickens.
| Heathfield in Sussex (which includes a hamlet of Cade Street) has also been supposed to be the scene of his death, but Alexander Iden, the Sheriff of Kent, to whom it was due, would have had no jurisdiction out of his own county.
The attractions of venerable antiquity and secular participation in momentous events, wherein Kent is unequalled among English counties, are heightened by the exceptional variety and rare charm of its landscape scenery. A rough geographical division may be made of it into three broad bands of chalk, sand, and clay. Of these three the first bears the palm for beauty.
Girdled by sea and river; ridged with hills,
In this description its leading structural outlines are but faintly indicated. The irregular chalk range of the North Downs, the eastern ridge of which stretches from Cliffe to Folkestone, and the western from Dartford to Westerham, bisects the country so nearly as to merit the name of its backbone.' The Vale of Holmesdale, which sunders the range into its two ridges, is traversed by the little River Darent. Though now shrunken to a narrow channel, this doubtless represents the denuding agency to which the original formation of the valley is due. Lateral valleys, produced by similar causes, run between spurs of the same range, branching north and south from either limb. The winding lanes that intersect them are commonly lined with rows of elm interspersed with ash, or, if leading to farmsteads, with avenues of damson and bullace. The crests and slopes of the hills, swarded with short turf, are in some places bare of trees, particularly as they approach the coast, or merely studded with bushes of thorn, gorse, and juniper, but in other places are clothed with dense woods. Beech and larch are the principal trees, but the copses, and the hedgerows of such parts as have been brought under cultivation, include hawthorn, maple, yew, dogwood, service, spindle, wayfaringtree, guelder, bazel, privet, and holly, intertwined with eglantine, woodbine, hop, bryony, and clematis; and a blossoming undergrowth, according to the season, of primroses, violets, anemones, cowslips, wood-sorrel, milkwort, speedwell, orchids, columbines, daphne, and wood-spurge. The smooth curves of these undulating downs, and the varying forms and tints of leaf, blossom, and berry which characterise their vegetation, impart to the scenery a grace of line and a warmth of colour especially grateful to the eye. In spring the abundance of white-flowering sbrubs; in summer the foliage of the maple, crimson