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Kent, like other maritime counties on the eastern side of England, is subject to cold ungenial blasts from the northeast, which frequently injure the vegetation in spring, and affects the health of the inhabitants. The low marshy grounds near the Thames, are also by their situation particularly unhealthy; and the garrison of Sheerness is supposed to suffer more from sickness than any other in the kingdom. The higher and more internal parts of the country enjoy a pure and wholesome air, and many spots are distinguished for pleasantness and salubrity. The products of agriculture are earliest on the northern side.
This county has long been celebrated for a very intelligent and spirited system of agriculture, and more of arable than pasturage; annually sending out a great quan: tity of grain for the supply of London, and other places. The manure principally used is sea-weed. On the banks of the Thames, about Deptford, Greenwich, and Gravesend, garden vegetables are much cultivated for the London markets, and the supply of shipping. The Gravesend asparagus is acknowledged superior to any other.
The London brewery is almost wholly supplied with its hops from Kent, of which the principal plantations are in the vicinity of Canterbury, and of Maidstone. The stony lands about Maidstone, which form the hop grounds, likewise yield great quantities of apples, cherries, and filberts, which are commonly cultivated together. The fruit chiefly goes to the London market: cyder is also sometimes made from the apples.
Many of the Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and South-down. sheep are kept as a favourite breed on the Sussex border, in West Kent.
The marsh land of the Medway, Thames, Swale, &c. containing about eleven thousand five hundred acres, is all devoted to the fattening of cattle and sheep, or the breeding of the latter. The waste commons of Kent are computed not to exceed twenty thousand acres.
There is no county in England where property is more divided than in Kent, a natural consequence of the tenure
of gavel-kind, which is prevalent throughout the county, and one of the properties of which is the equal division of lands among all the sons of a family. Hence the yeomanry of Kent, have long been famous for their numbers and comparative opulence, and it is said that they are still on the increase. The Kentish freeholders are supposed to be about nine thousand, an extraordinary number considering the large possessions of the two episcopal dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester, and of other corporate bodies within the county. There are also from twenty to thirty seats of noblemen in Kent, as well as many mansions of the inferior gentry, to which are attached large estates.
The abundance of cover in this country renders game very plentiful. Its pheasants, in particular, are noted for their size and flavour. Fish abounds in its rivers, and other waters. The lobsters taken off the isle of Thanet are reckoned the finest in England. Oysters form a considerable article of exportation, there being a particular corporation at Rochester for the management of those which are fed in the creeks of the Medway. Milton, near Feversham, has a species of oysters of peculiar excellence.
Kent is primarily divided into large districts, called Laths, of wbich there are five. Each of these is subdi. vided into bailiwicks, hundreds, and liberties, of which subdivisions the whole county contains fourteen bailiwicks, sixty-three hundreds, and thirteen franchises, or liberties. Kent, moreover, is divided into two moieties, East and West Kent; the first of which is reckoned to contain the laths of Sutton at Hone, Aylesford, and the southern division of that of Scray. This makes nearly an equal partition of the county, and the courts of session for the districts in each are held four times in the year; those for the eastern at Canterbury, for the western at Maidstone.
The ecclesiastical division is, first, into the two dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester. Each of these is subdivided into deaneries and parishes, of which Rochester contains foor deaneries and one hundred and thirty-two parishes. Besides the cities of Canterbury and Rochester, there are
reckoned thirty market towns in this county, though in some of these the market is discontinued. town is Maidstone, where the assizes are always held, and the knights of the shire elected. Kent sends eighteen members to Parliament. The chief trade of Kent consists in the export of its agricultural productions; but much employment is afforded by means of its connection with the river Thames, and the navy. The dock yards and arsenals at Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, and Sheerness, keep a great number of men at work in all the branches of ship building, and the preparation of naval and military stores. Near London some branehes of manufacture are carried on connected with the trade of the metropolis. At Maidstone linen thread is made; there are also large paper mills, and other works on the river and in this town. British spirits, denominated British Geneva, are also distilled in great quantities. Tunbridge has an elegant manufacture of turnery
The principal character of this county is agricultural; and it has long supported a considerable population, which the improved culture of its land, and the increasing business of its naval towns, have certainly not suffered to diminish,
GAVELKIND is an antient tenure peculiar, among the English counties, to that of Kent; our description would be very incomplete without giving some account of this tenure; and therefore we present our readers with the following summary.
This custom, which antiently obtained throughout England, is still in force in a great part of Kent, Urchenfield, in Herefordshire, and elsewhere, though with some difference: but by the statute 34 and 35 Henry VIII. c. 26, all gavelkind lands in Wales are made descendible to the heir, according to the course of common law; whereby it appears, that this tenure was also in that principality; and was probably of British original.
In an antient book of records in Christchurch, Canterbury, of the time of Henry VIII. our Saxon ancestors are said to have held their lands either by writing, or without;
the first was called Bockland, whose owners were men whom we now call Freeholders; the second was called Folk.land, the owners of which were of servile condition, and possessed at the will of their lord. The inheritance, or freehold, did not in those days descend to the eldest son, but to all alike; which in Saxon was called Landescyftan; and in Kent, to Shiftland, whence came the custom Gavelkind. And the reason why it was retained in Kent more than other places, was, that the people of Kent, upon the Norman invasion, could not be reduced to surrender to the Conqueror, but on these conditions, that they should retain their antient coun. try customs without any infringement or diminution; and especially that of Gavelkind.
In the reign of Henry VI. there were not above thirty or forty persons in the county of Kent, who held by any other tenure than this of Gavelkind; which was afterwards altered upon the petition of several Kentish gentlemen, with regard to great part of the land in this county, so as to be descendible to the eldest son, according to the common law: by 31 Hen. VIII. c. 3. Though the custom to devise Gavelkind still remains; and all lands in Kent shall be taken to be gavelkind, except those which are disgavelled by particular statutes, the distinguishing properties of this tenure are various; some of the principal are these; the lands held under this denomination of Gavelkind, which is an antient soccage tenure, descend equally, and are di. vided, share and share alike, among all the male children; and in defect of these, among the females, They are of age, or qualified to take the lands upon them, at fifteen ; and may then give, vend, or alienate the same to any person, without the consent of any lord: and children here inherit their father's land, though convicted of felony, murder, &c. according to the maxim:
The father to the bough--
The tenants of Gavelkind are to do fealty, and to be in the tuition of the next a-kin, who is not next heir, to
thein, till fifteen years of age; and to pay
and to pay acknowledgment to the lord for the lands, and various other customs*.
The .county of Kent is remarkable on many accounts. History informs us that it was the first county in England; and the men of Kent boasted their superior strength, colirage, and valour, in the antient wars with the Danes, &c. The front of the battle was looked opon as belonging to them, as so many Triarii, who, among the Romans, were the strongest .men, and on whom the stress of the baizie lay; and on these accounts the nobility of Kent laid claim to honours of the first rank. This antient spirit they still boast of, but at the same time it is blended with humanity.
William of Malmsbury writes, that “ they retain a spirit above the rest of the English, being more ready to afford respect and kind entertaininent to others, and less inclinable to revenge injuries."
This just compliment to Kent has been also a theme of high poetic lore. The immortal Shakespeare thus expresses himself:
Kent, in the Commentaries Cæsar writ,
The people, liberal, valiant, active, wealthy. The inspired Drayton, also, in his Poly-Albion, thus exclaims :
- O famous Kent,What county hath this Isle, that can compare with thee! That hath within thyself as much as thou canst wish; Thy rabbits, venison, fruits, thy sorts of fowl and fish; As what with strength comports, thy hay, thy corn, thy wood, Nor any thing doth want, that any where is good.
Time, has not yet deprived this county of its antient name, but as Cæsar, and others, called it Cantium, so the Saxons named it Cantþanarıc, i.e. the Kingdom of the Cantwari, People of Kent.