From the Romans to Present Day: Discover Kent’s Varied Past
Kent was one of the first places invaded by the Romans, who named the county Cantium. Prior to this, Kent had been the home to an Ancient Celtic tribe, whom Julius Caesar famously regarded as the most civilised of the tribes in Britain at the time. Since the Roman era, Kent has remained a strategically significant country and has often been at the forefront of invasion and warfare, most recently during the Second World War. As a county with a rich Ancient, Medieval and more modern history, there is lots to see and do in Kent if you’re a history buff, or if you fancy seeing somewhere new!
At over 1,400 years old, Canterbury Cathedral is one of Britain’s oldest and impressive cathedrals. Whether you’re interested in religious history or not, Canterbury Cathedral is a beautiful building with a fascinating story to tell. Nicknamed by some as ‘England in Stone’, Canterbury Cathedral has borne witness to many influential events throughout the centuries. Perhaps most significant of all is the fact that Christianity in England was formally introduced by the first Archbishop of the Cathedral, Augustine, who was sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great as a religious missionary. The Cathedral tells this story and more through its displays and exhibitions, the most recent editions being a Second Folio of Shakespeare’s works being put on display here in 2016 and an even more recent exhibit all about Canterbury and Kent’s involvement in World War One. The Cathedral is open to visitors 7 days a week.
Canterbury is a Cathedral city that has been a site of pilgrimage since the eleventh century. This long history is reflected in the architecture of the city, which is primarily medieval, with modern buildings intertwined, making for an interesting view. The River Stour runs through the heart of the city and there are various river tours you can take to see the sites, but Canterbury Historic River Tours are best for combining historical knowledge with a serene boat trip. The tour guides tell you the history of the city with a few jokes thrown in, making for an enjoyable and educational experience. If you’re interested in the spooky side of history, book onto a Chilling Evening Tour to discover the dark side of Canterbury’s past…
Located on the River Medway in North Kent, The Historic Dockyard Chatham is fun for all the family and an absolute must-do for naval and maritime history enthusiasts. Chatham Dockyard was at the heart of British shipbuilding and repairs for over 400 years until it’s closure in 1984. Nowadays, the dock has been transformed into an amazing museum, with exhibitions, tours and 3 historic warships that can be explored: HMS Gannet (1878), HMS Cavalier (1944) and HMS Ocelot (1962). You may be interested to know that Call the Midwife was also filmed here, so fans of the show can have their very own experience of 1950s Poplar! With loads to get involved in, a trip to The Historic Dockyard Chatham will not disappoint.
The family home of Winston Churchill, Chartwell has recently reopened its interiors and studios for visitors. The house has been recreated with the furniture and decor that Churchill was familiar with and there is also a dedicated art studio showcasing Churchill’s paintings, an aspect of the former Prime Minister less well known. There is also a permanent exhibition called ‘Churchill in 50 Objects’ at the site, as well as some lovely tended gardens to explore. For those on holiday with a dog, or people who prefer getting out and about to wandering historic walls, there are lots of lovely country walks around the Chartwell Estate for you to discover.
Just to the west of Maidstone lies one the ruins of a once prestigious Roman house that was originally constructed in 100 AD and was continually updated in the latest Roman fashion up until the fourth century. A fascinating site that showcases the changing trends and customs during the Roman occupation of Britain, Lullingstone is one of Kent’s best displays of the region’s Roman history. Another great Kentish Roman site is Richborough Roman Fort, which you can read more about in our Dog-Friendly Guide.