Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

and Feversham; 'calicos are printed and bleached at Crayford; and sacking and hop bagging made in different parts of the county. At Canterbury is one of the largest flour mills in the kingdom. The royal dock yards at Deptford, Woolwich, Sheerness, and Chatham, employ a great number of hands; and ship-building is largely carried on along the coast.

The minerals are not very important; chalk, flint, rag-stone, and pyrites, are the only ones that are worked. The chalk pits at Northfleet and Greenhithe, near Gravesend, are very extensive, and from 100 to 150 feet deep.

The oyster fisheries of Feversham and Milton, and the Swales of the Medway, have long been noted; and at St. Margaret's bay, near Dover, large quantities of small but very delicate lobsters are caught.

The two popular divisions, termed East and West Kent, are of nearly equal extent, and form five large districts, called Laths, viz. Sutton-at-Hone, Aylesford, Scray, Shipway, and St. Augustine; these are subdivided into 14 bailiwicks, and 63 hundreds, containing 413 parishes, two cities, 39 market towns, and a great number of villages and hamlets; there are also several liberties or franchises, not included in any hundred, and the Cinque Ports possess an exclusive jurisdiction. The number of inhabitants in 1821 was 426,016; and the members returned to Parliament are eighteen.

The Thames, the Medway, the Stour, the Rother, and the Darent, are the principal rivers; while numerous smaller streams diffuse fertility in every direction.

The present Lord Lieutenant of the County is the Marquis of Camden; and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction is divided between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester.,

HISTORY OF THE COUNTY.

The history of Kent is peculiarly interesting; it comprises, in fact, in its earlier stages, all that is known of the remarkable events connected with Britain; but these events have been so fully treated on by various writers, that it will not be necessary

for us to give more than a rapid glance at the most prominent, in the brief sketch which our limits will permit.

The question as to the original inhabitants of this part of the island, has been long agitated, but with fittle success; the most probable opinion, however, seems to be that they had emigrated from the opposite coast, as Cæsar, from whom we derive the earliest information on the subject, describes them as possessing in their manners, government, and religious rites, a general similarity to their Gallic neighbours.

The first Roman invasion took place August 26, B. C. 55; but the resistance of the Britons was so vigorous, and their determined hostility so apparent, that Cæsar, after remaining encamped on the coast nearly a month, deemed it expedient to retreat with his forces into Gaul. He returned the following May, and after a variety of encounters, in which, notwithstanding his assertions, it is evident that he was seldom victorious, again sailed for the continent in September, without having effected his proposed conquest.

From this period Britain remained undisturbed by the Romans, until the emperor Claudius, about A. D. 43, resolved to add this “unknown world” to his dominions. For that purpose he dispatched Plautius, prætor of Gaul, with a large body of troops; but this general met with such indifferent success, that the emperor himself determined on undertaking, the enterprise. He accordingly landed with an immense force, and, after several battles, having subdued those parts of the country now called, Kent, Essex, Middlesex, and perhaps Surrey, returned to Rome, leaving Plautius to complete the conquest, and had a triumph decreed to him, as if for the subjugation of the whole island!

The subsequent events connected with the Roman sovereignty in Britain belong to the general history of the country; it may be sufficient to remark here, that in process of time their authority was established over nearly the whole island; that the natives, by degrees, adopted the dress, the manners, and luxurious habits of their conquerors; and that when the Goths, by striking at the heart of the empire, compelled the Romans to abandon its extremities, the Britons had so far degenerated from the courage of their ancestors, as to despair of defending themselves against the Scots and Picts, whose merciless devastations they scarcely attempted to oppose. In the most pathetic terms they besought the assistance of the Romans; a legion was sent to their relief, which drove the barbarians back to their northern fastnesses, assisted the Britons to build a wall across the island, in order to repel any future attempts at invasion; and then, with many exhortations to the people to defend themselves with courage proportioned to the magnitude of their danger, the Roman general took his leave: and thus was the province finally abandoned, about the year 430, nearly 500 years after the first invasion by Julius Cæsar.

Very shortly after the departure of the Romans the Scots and Picts resumed their ravages; the wall proved ineffectual as a defence against these hardy invaders, and they rushed like a torrent upon the fertile regions of the south, spreading havoc and destruction on every side.

Divided into numerous small states, although nominally subject to one supreme monarch, the Britons were unable to combine with effect against the common enemy; and in this distracted state they adopted the fatal expedient of inviting the Saxons, a warlike and ferocious people, to their assistance.

This proposition was joyfully acceded to by the latter; and a small party of them landed in the Isle of Thanet, A. D. 449, under the command of Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, of eminent rank and great courage; these having been quickly followed by others of their countrymen, encountered the Scots and Picts near Stamford in Lincolnshire, completely defeated them, and in several subsequent engagements so entirely annihilated their power, that after that period they never attempted to renew their invasions.

But although the Britons were thus delivered from one enemy, another, still more dangerous, was established in the very heart of their country. Vortigern, who held the supreme command over the British nation, was a weak and wicked prince; and, becoming enamoured of Rowena, the daughter of Hen

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

gist, in order to procure her father's consent to their marriage, invested him with the government of Kent; and the ambitious chieftain, being reinforced by numerous bodies of his countrymen, allured by the flattering reports of the beauty of the country, and the hope of plunder, soon established himself so firmly as to defy all the efforts of the Britons, too late aroused into resistance by the treacherous conduct of their late allies. Thus was founded the first Saxon kingdom, that of KENT, comprehending the present county of that name, with those of Essex, Middlesex, and part of Surrey..

After a variety of conflicts, in which the Britons, driven to despair, displayed a valour, which, if exerted earlier, might have preserved their independence, they were at length compelled to abandon the open country, and to take refuge in the mountainous districts of Wales and Cornwall; while the Saxons, portioning out the lands among themselves, formed the seven kingdoms known as the Heptarchy, the rise and progress of each of which will be related in its proper place.

Hengist died in 488, thirty-three years after his assumption of the title of King of Kent. He was succeeded by his son Oisc, or Escus; and the fourth in descent from the latter was Ethelbert, in whose reign the knowledge of Christianity was first introduced among the Saxons in this island; and from his marriage with a French princess, and the resort of many foreigners to his court, this prince may be considered as the means of introducing some tincture of civilization, and even of learning and science, among his countrymen, who had hitherto been utterly ignorant of either.

Historians give a series of fifteen monarchs, suc. ceeding Hengist in his kingdom; but the annals of their reigns present nothing but a continued succession of treasons, murders, and outrages, alternately perpetrated and suffered, until in 794 the death of Alric, the last lineal descendant of the founder of the monarchy, opened the way to the throne for any ambitious leader, and Egbert, who first established himself, after a short and turbulent reign of two years, was deposed, imprisoned, and deprived of sight, by Kenulph, King of Mercia, who placed his own bro

ther, Cuthred, on the throne; he was succeeded, eight years afterwards, by Baldred, an illegitimate branch of the Kentish family, who, after an insecure and disturbed government of eighteen years, was finally expelled by Egbert, King of Wessex, who, by the conquest of all the other Saxon states, dissolved the Heptarchy, and became sole monarch of England: the kingdom of Kent was thus brought to a conclusion, in 823, having existed 368 years.

After the establishment of Egbert's authority, the history of Kent becomes a part of that of England, and as such need not be detailed here. The sufferings of its inhabitants from the piratical incursions of the Danes were such as almost to depopulate the country; and although a transient gleam of prosperity beamed over it during the latter years of the reign of Alfred, the death of that great prince exposed his dominions anew to the ravages of their barbarous foes. After innumerable conflicts, with various success, the Danes were induced to settle peaceably in certain portions of the island, which enjoyed, in consequence, a tranquillity to which it had long been a stranger.

In 991 a new horde of Danes landed in Kent, and being very injudiciously met with bribes instead of arms, others of their countrymen were induced to repeat the experiment, and met with similar success. At length, after a long course of barbarities on one side, and ineffectual resistance on the other, Canute, King of Denmark, was acknowledged sole monarch of England; the crown was possessed, in succession, by his sons, Harold and Hardicanute, who both dying without issue, the Saxon line was restored, in the person of Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred, and brother of Edmund Ironside.

After a reign of twenty-four years, Edward was succeeded by Harold, who being slain, with the principal Saxon nobility, and an immense number of private men, in 'the fatal battle of Hastings, (in which the Kentish men occupied the van) William the Conqueror established himself on the throne, having previously, in his march to London, been met by the natives of this county, with Stigand, their archbishop, at their head, presenting so formidable an appearance, that he judged it prudent to acquiesce

« НазадПродовжити »