This site provides a set of themed essays about Kent, a county in South East England, which include interactive maps and images. Kent has a rich history and provided inspiration for a number of writers and artists.
You’ll need a map because there are no signposts ... There are witnesses of course, hundreds of them queueing up to tell you that they are the original Aunt Betsey, or Broadstairs fisherman, or Janet, or how sorry they are now for stealing that pie.
“This bus it was, this ruddy, venerable and, under God's mercy, immortal bus, that came down the Folkestone hill with unflinching deliberation, and trundled through Sandgate and Hythe, and out into the windy spaces of the Marsh, with Kipps and all his fortunes on its brow. You figure him there.” Kipps.
It isn’t perhaps surprising that Derek Jarman should have fallen in love with Dungeness and Prospect Cottage in particular when happenstance and a desire for fish and chips at the Pilot Inn brought him to Romney Marsh – the ‘fifth continent’ of the Ingoldsby Legends.
Few people generally think of Charles Darwin as a writer, let alone a prolific and gifted writer based in Kent. Although, they may be aware of his Journal and Remarks, generally known as The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), in which a youthful Darwin recounted his five years travelling the world.
It was Kent that engaged my feelings more fiercely than any other place I can remember’, said the American artist Alfred Cohen. He and his second wife Diana lived in Goudhurst, Benenden and Iden Green over a fifteen-year period, and took inspiration from the Kent countryside.
Paul Nash was a war artist and photographer who became an important influence in British inter-war surrealism and Modern Art. Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after World War One, Nash moved to Dymchurch where he recuperated whilst repeatedly painting seascapes in which the sea wall was a central motif.
English writer Edith Nesbit, who wrote as E. Nesbit, has close links to the coastal county of Kent in South East England. In childhood and adolescence, she spent formative years in the village of Halstead, in the Sevenoaks District of Kent. Several of her best-loved stories for children include descriptions of her childhood home.
Sackville-West is perhaps best known today as a gardener, for her unconventional marriage, and as the inspiration for Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s time travelling, gender fluid, eponymous character. However, she was a prolific and versatile writer in her own right, both a a celebrated poet and author of fourteen novels.
Essays by period
The Kingdom of the Kentish (Cantwara rīce; Regnum Cantuariorum), The murder of Becket, the Black Death, Wat Tyler's rebellion, Canterbury pilgrims and Canterbury tales.
Chatham Dockyard was established, the Battle against the Spanish Armada took place. Industry in the county included textiles, leather-making and iron production. Prophesizing and playwriting.
Industry includes production of malt for brewing. Fighting takes place as part of the English Civil War. Scientific discoveries in mathematics, chemistry and anatomy.
Strategic position of the Medway in relation to European wars. New sea water ‘cures’ see the reinvention of Margate as a fashionable resort.
Hoy and steam boats, railways and passenger ships brought people to the county in ever increasing numbers as the county’s tourist industry develops.
Dover and Folkestone become the gateway to the Western Front during WW1. Seaside towns decline, challenged by the increasing popularity of overseas holidays.
On the frontline of England's defence, Kent played a pivitol role in both the First and Second World Wars.
Regeneration and the rise of the DFL, street murals, poetry, books and Covid.
Essays by place
Shingly beaches, white cliffs and ferries. What was happening in Broadstairs, Canterbury, Deal and Dover.
Towns of grandeur. Articles on Folkestone and Gravesend.
Seaside resorts such as Ramsgate and Sandgate.
Essays by theme
Actors have made Kent their home, playwrights have used it as a setting, and theatrical companies have performed in its theatres.
Architects, designers, painters, illustrators, cartoonists and muralists have been inspired by Kent's rich landscape.
It turns out Kent may be a more dangerous place than you realised (at least in the imaginations of writers).
Kent is a county of diverse landscapes, from its wild coastal marshes to the uplands of Down and Weald, from the heavily wooded Blean complex above Canterbury to the bleak, windswept chalklands of East Kent.
Botanists, chemists and naturalists abound in the beautiful garden of England.
Take a musical jaunt with the Canterbury Catch Club through Nineteenth Century Kent, but mind the roads.
The Kent coast and countryside has provided inspiration for poets throughout the centuries.
An exploration of Kent's penal system including the Bloody Code, convicts, transportation and prison hulks.
An exploration of some of the people and places that have shaped faith in the county.
The Kentish coast, the Straits of Dover and the Goodwin Sands have inspired authors and artists throughout the centuries.
A county of rich architecture; castles, churches, ports, forts and towers.
Famed for its cherries, hops and fruit, organic farming, and the modern day greenhouses of Thanet Earth, Kent is known as the ‘Garden of England’ due its rich agricultural history.
Born in Steventon, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, in 1775, Jane Austen often visited Kent, the birthplace of her father, and the long-term residence of her brother Edward Austen Knight, with whom she stayed at Rowling House and later at the magnificent Godmersham Park.
Joseph Conrad, an extraordinary and significant Polish British literary figure of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, lived the last decades of his life in Bishopsbourne, a village about six miles south of Canterbury.
From Rochester to Broadstairs on the East coast – wherever you go you can be fairly certain that Dickens has been there before you. One of the greatest Victorian novelists, Charles Dickens lived in Kent from 1816 to 1822; and again from 1856 to 1870.
After suffering a breakdown in 1921, T.S Eliot positioned himself in the seaside town of Margate to recover. It was there he wrote “The Fire Sermon,” part three of the hugely influential poem 'The Waste Land'. He wrote to Sydney Schiff from the Albemarle Hotel, Cliftonville: “I have done a rough draft .. but I do not know whether it will do.”
It was 1969, and in the fictional coastal North Kent town of Brindown, things would never be the same after the visit of Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition who come in search of a venue for an “open-air freakout,” and find a beach with white cliffs.
Bithia Croker's novel is set on the Romney Marshes in the fictional town of 'Horton'. Rosamund Balmaine finds love when Ronald Gordon arrives to survey the area for a new railway. However, conniving relatives conspire to keep the couple apart.
Delmonden is a village in Kent that doesn’t actually exist except in Shepherds In Sackcloth by Sheila Kaye-Smith. However, there is a real village in the location Kaye-Smith has chosen for her creation; should you wish to visit, it is called Newenden.
The enchanting story of the adventures of Branwell, a rat and a young wolf called Lukin, as they journey from Howletts, the wildlife park by Bekesbourne via Patrixbourne and the North Downs Way, to Canterbury.