Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for MAIDSTONE

MAIDSTONE, a town, a parish, two sub-districts, a district, and a hundred, in Kent. The town stands on the river Medway, at the influx of the Len, adjacent to the Rochester and Paddock-Wood branch of the Southeastern railway, at the junction with it of the line from Strood, 7½ miles S by E of Rochester. It dates from very early times. It is said to have been the third largest city of the ancient Britons, and to have been called by them Medwag or Megwad, from the name of the river. It was known to the Romans as Ad Madam, also from the name of the river, which the Romans called Madus. Some antiquaries suppose it to have been the station Vagniacæ of Antoninus: and they fortify their opinion by the fact that numerous Roman remains have been found here; but others hold the opinion as open to doubt. The town was called Medwegestan or Medwagston, by the Saxons, and appears in Domesday book as Meddestane; and it then had several mills, eel fisheries, and salt pans. The manor belonged, from an early period, to the Archbishops of Canterbury; was transferred to Henry VIII. by Cranmer; remained with the Crown till the time of Edward VI.; was given then to Sir Thomas Wyatt of Allington; reverted, at Wyatt's rebellion, to the Crown; was given, by Charles I., to the Hattons; and passed, in 1720, to the Romneys. The archbishops of Canterbury, for a time, had no residence in it; but Archbishop Langton acquired the house of W. de Cornhill in it in the time of King John; Archbishop Ufford commenced the reconstruction of that house into a palace in 1348; and subsequent archbishops completed, enlarged, and adorned it, and used it as a favourite residence. The palace was given by Queen Elizabeth to Sir John Astley; passed to Sir Jacob Astley, Charles I. 's Baron of Reading; and was alienated from the Astleys to the first Lord Romney. 'The town acquired importance from the presence of the archbishops; received some enrichments at their hands; was long the halting-place of pilgrims to Canterbury: and had, for their use, an edifice called the Travellers' hospital or college, founded by Archbishop Boniface. Some Protestant martyrs were burnt in the town in the time of Mary; the plague devastated it in 1593-5,1604, 1607, and 1666-8; and Fairfax, at the head of 10,000 men, stormed it in 1648. About 2,000 royalist troops, under Sir John Mayney, held it against Fairfax; they made such stout resistance as to yield the ground only inch by inch; and, after a struggle of five hours, they retreated into the church, and there made terms for surrender. Clarendon says, "It was a very sharp encounter, very bravely fought, with Fairfax's whole strength; and the veteran soldiers confessed that they had never met with the like desperate service during the war. ''Archbishop Lee, Bishop Ralph de Maidstone, Bishop Walter de Maidstone, Jenkyns the composer, Woollett the engraver, Jeffrys the painter, Broughton the secretary at Charles It's trial, and Newton the local historian were natives; and Earl Winchelsea takes from the town the title of Viscount.

The town occupies a fine situation. It is screened by surrounding hills, rising from the beautiful vale of the Medway; it stands principally on the slopes of a hill, ascending from the right bank of the river, and declinIng toward the W and the S; it derives ventilation and clwanliness from the nature of its site; it is noted for both the excellence of its water and the dryness of its soil; and it enjoys the amenities of a surrounding country rendered peculiarly charming by innumerable orchards and hop-gardens. It consists chiefly of four streets, intersecting one another near the public drinking fountain, and of smaller ones leading from them; and it extends upwards of a mile from N to S, and is about &hr. of a mile in breadth. The High-Street commences at an ancient seven-arched bridge over the Medway, ascends to the W, and is very spacious. The London-road, partly edificed with elegant modern houses, goes off from the bridge, on a line with High-street; and the Park-meadows, named from a park or pleasance which anciently belonged to the Episcopal palace and the Travellers' hospital, extend on the same side of the river. A general view of the town, owing to the configuration of the ground on both sides of the vale, is not easily obtained; but such partial views as can be got are very fine. One of the best is from a point on the river-bank below the W end of the churchyard; and this shows the old palace, the old hospital, and All Saints church in a very picturesque group. Other views take much character from gabled houses and decorated fronts, and from the large royal horse artillery barracks. A large proportion of the houses are ancient, and more or less quaint or picturesque; but many, on the other hand, are modern and handsome. A tendency to extension became pretty manifest in the third decad of the present century; and it worked on all sides, particularly to the E of Gabriel'shill, and Week-street, on the Ashford-road; but it has not seriously altered the general aspect of antiquity. The old palace, as enlarged by Archbishop Courtenays, and as both enlarged and adorned by Archbishop Morton, is now divided into two private residences, but still shows an E front in Tudor architecture, and other fronts in After English. A long range of building, on the opposite side of the road, originally part of the palace-offices, and now used for stables and tanstores, shows the original exterior Little altered, exhibiting windows and an external stair of late decorated English character. A small building at the end of Mill-street, immediately at the gate turning down to the palace, is probably of the 14th century, and Shows interesting architectural features. Another ancient house, with very rich carved and pargeted front, probably of the time of James I., is on the right in entering High-street from the r. station. Chillington House, in St. Faith-street, originally the court-house of the manor, and now occupied as the public museum, belongs to the early part of the 16th century, exhibits interesting features of that period, and contains a fine collection of local Roman antiquities, and a collection of fossils and birds from the neighbourhood. The Travellers' hospital or college, situated on the slope between All Saints church and the river, underwent considerable alterations in 1845, but still presents to antiquarian observers a very fine upper gateway tower, a long downward range of quondam priests' apartments, a lower tower at the end of that range, part of the master's house occupying the side of a court toward the river, a ruined tower adjoining that house, and a second or back gateway. The hospital was Originally founded in 1260, by Archbishop Boniface; was incorporated in 1395, by Archbishop Courtenay, with a new college of secular priests founded by him contiguous to All Saints church; and continued to flourish till suppressed in the first year of Edward VI. The ruins, besides the interest of their architectural features, possess the interest of rich variety of tinting from weather-worn Stone and clustering ivy; and the upper gateway tower commands one of the best views over the town and vale. The town hall stands in High-street, near the centre of the town; and is a large plain building. The assize court and the county jail stand on the Rochester-road, on a plot of 14 acres; form together one fine structure, of Kentish rag; and were built in 1818, at a cost of £200,000. The house-house is in the front; comprises a commodious range of rooms: and is used both for assizes and for quarter sessions. The jail Has capacity for 466 male and 122 female prisoners. The royal horse artillery barracks stand below, on the river-side; and have accommodation for about 400 men. The West Kent militia barracks stand at the top of Union-street; were erected in 1857; and are a large brick building. The corn-exchange was erected over the market for meat, fish, and vegetables, at a cost of £4,000; is entered by an archway from High-street, at the Mitre hotel; and was thought, for a time, to be very commodious; but the business done in it, originally extensive and multifarious, grew rapidly; and improvements on it, long felt to be much needed, were completed in the spring of 1867. There are assembly rooms, a theatre, a conduit of 1624, public baths and wash-houses, and a public drinking-fountain. The baths and washhouses stand in Fair-meadow; and were erected in 1852, at a cost of £6,245. The drinking-fountain stands in the market-place; was erected in 1862, at the expense of MrRandall; is an open Gothic quadrangular structure, enclosing a life-size marble statue of the Queen, and surmounted by richly-crocketted canopy; consists of red Mansfield stone in the base, and of Portland stone in the upper part; and has, at the angles, columns of red granite, with carved capitals, each surmounted by a statue-figure of a winged angel. The county lunatic asylum stands at Barming-Heath; and is an extensive range of building, with accommodation for nearly 700 inmates. The West Kent general hospital was recently enlarged by a new wing; and, at the census of 1861, had 23 inmates. The ophthalmic hospital, at that census, had 37 inmates. The mechanics' institution, as well as the public museum, is held in Chillington House; and it has a library of upwards of 4,000 volumes, and maintains lectures during the winter months.

All Saints church stands commandingly on a cliff; was mainly built in 1381-96, by Archbishop Courtenays; is all later English; measures 227 feet by 91; comprises nave, aisles, and chancel, with a chantry of 1366; had formerly another chantry of 1406; has a SW tower, 78 feet high, formerly surmounted by a spire 80 feet high, which was destroyed by lightning in 1730; contains a richly painted chancel-screen, elaborately ornamented sedilia, the grave of Archbishop Courtenays, remains of an ancient fresco, several ancient monuments, and a Jacobean font; was recently restored, and fitted with open seats; has a new N memorial window toMercer, erected in 1864; and was collegiate from the 14th century till the Reformation. Trinity church stands in Church-street, was erected in 1828, and is a large plain stone edifice. St. Peter's church was originally the chapel of the Travellers' hospital; stood long in a state of neglect and dilapidation; and was restored and enlarged in 1839. St. John's church stands at Mote Park, the seat of the Earl of Romney; was built in 1861; and is in the early English style, of Bath-stone, with bell-turret. St. Paul's church stands at PerryfIelds; was built in 1860, at a cost of more than £5,000; is in the style of the 1 4th century; and consists of nave, aisles, and chancel, with a tower. St. Philip's church stands at Kingsley, and was built in 1858, and greatly altered in 1869St. stephen's church stands in Tovil township, about a mile from the town; and is a stone building, with about 600 sittings. St. Faith's church is a temporary iron-building. The Independent chapel in Week-street was built in 1865, at a cost of 2,649; is in the Italian style, of white brick, with Bath-stone dressings; and contains 800 sittings. There are three chapels for Baptists, and one each for Presbyterians, Quakers, Unitarians, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Roman Catholics. The public cemetery is on the Road-road, about a mile S of the town; and has two handsome chapels. There are remains of a grey friary, founded in 1331, and removed to Walsingham; and of St. Faith's chapel, which was used, in the time of Elizabeth, by the Walloons. The grammar school, in Earlstreet, arose from property of the Corpus Christi brotherhood, founded in 1324, and suppressed in 1547; and has an endowed income of £43 a year, and two exhibitions at University College, Oxford. The blue coat school, in Knightrider-street, was founded in 1711; gives education to 53 boys and 43 girls; and has an endowed income of £136. Sir Charles Booth's school gives education to 35 boys and 35 girls, and has an endowed income of £99. The green coat school gives education to 12 boys and 12 girls. There are seven national schools, two British schools, two infant schools, an industrial school for girls, and a Presbyterian school. Sir John Banks' alms houses are for six poor persons, and have £60 ayear from endowment; Brenchley's are for old persons, and have £50; Duke's are for females, and have £191; Hunter's are for twelve poor persons, and have £184; Corral's are for six persons, in six houses; and Cutbush's are for decayed tradesmen or journeymen mechanics, were built and endowed in 1865 at a cost of nearly £12,000, and give £52 a year to the holder of each of six houses. The total amount of endowed charities is about £1,500 a year.

The town has a head post office, † a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, and four chief inns; is a seat of assizes, quarter-sessions, petty-sessions, and county courts, and the place of election for West Kent; and publishes four weekly newspapers, and one twice aweek. A market for corn, seeds, and hops, is held on every Tuesday; a market for general business, on every Saturday; a cattle-market, on the second Tuesday of every month; and fairs, on 13 Feb., 12 May, 20 June, and 17 Oct. An extensive navigation traffic was formerly carried on, seaward down the Medway; amounted, for a number of years, to an annual aggregate of 120,000 tons, passing through Allington lock, and paying £3,000 of tolls; but has been exceedingly reduced since the opening of the railways. The wharves at the town are well suited for unloading coals, but afford no proper berth to a sea-going vessel, and have no suitable appliances for discharging heavy goods or for shipping timber. There are several large paper-mills, a large oil-mill, papermould works, breweries, malting establishments, a distillery, a tannery, iron-foundries, agricultural implement manufactories, coach-building establishments, Roman cement and lime-works, ornamental plaster works, tobacco-pipe works, and hop-bag, matting, sacking, and rope and twine manufactories. There are also, in the neighbourhood, brick-fields, extensive stone quarries, and extensive market-orchards. The stone from the quarries is a Kentish rag, much used for docks, wharves, and church. building; and the fruit from the orchards is sent largely to the London market. One of the neighbouring quarries furnished the famous fossil iguanodon, now in the British museum. A large quantity of timber, from the Weald, is barged hence down the river for the use of the Chatham dockyard. The town is a borough by prescription; was first chartered by Edward VI.; sends two members to parliament; and, under the new act, is divided into four wards, and governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. Corporation income, in 1855, £7,302. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £9,280. The municipal borough excludes a small part of the parish, and the parliamentary borough is conterminate with the whole. Acres of the p. borough, 4,632. Real property in 1860, £104,780; of which £84 were in quarries, £992 in canals, £462 in railways, and £2,297 in gas-works. Electors in 1833, 1,108; in 1868,1,873. Pop. of the m. borough, in 1851, 20,740; in 1861,23,016. Houses, 4,111. Pop. of the p. borough in 1851,20,801; in 1861,23,058. Houses, 4,119. A railway to Ashford was authorised in 1866. Loddington hamlet, lying detached about 5 miles to the S, is the part of the parish not included in the m. borough; and it comprises 590 acres. Tovil township or hamlet, lying on the Medway about 1 mile to the S, is mainly but not wholly in the parish; and, in 1861, it had a pop. of 897, of whom 660 were in the parish. The Mote, the seat of the Earl of Romney, about 1 mile to the E, was rebuilt by the third Lord Romney about 1795; took its name, not from any ancient moat around the previous edifice, but from the Auglo-Saxon word mót, signifying "a gathering-place; ''and stands in a fine park, containing some grand old oaks and beeches, and comprising about 600 acres. The river Len, crossed by a bridge, runs in front of the mansion; and a pavilion, near the site of the previous house, marks a spot on which the third Lord Romney, in the presence of George III., gave a dinner to upwards of 3,000 of the Kentish yeomanry. Penenden Heath, about 1½ mile NNE of the town, is a large open space where county meetings have been held for centuries. The parish is ecclesiastically cut into the sections of All Saints, around All Saints church; Trinity and St. Peter, constituted in 1840; St. John, St. Paul, and St. Philip, constituted in 1861; and part of St. Stephen, or Tovil, constituted in 1842. Pop. of All Saints, 3,739; of Trinity, 8,729; of St. Peter, 3,610; of St. John, 320; of St. Paul, 4,000; of St. Philip, 2,000; of the M. part of St. Stephen, 660; of the whole of St. Stephen, the rest of which is in Loose and East Farleigh, 897. The head-living, or All Saints, is a vicarage, and the other livings also are vicarages, in the diocese of Canterbury. Valne of all Saints, £650;* of Trinity, £435;* of St. Peter, £200;* of St. John, £107; of St. Paul, £180;* of St. Philip and St. Stephen, each £100. * Patron, of All Saints, Trinity, and St. Paul, the Archbishop of Canterbury; of St. Peter, the Rev. W. A. Hill; of St. John, the Earl of Romney; of St. Philip, the Vicar of Maidstone; of St. Stephen, alternately the Archbishop of Carnterbury and Mrs. Charlton. The two sub-districts are East M. and West M.; and they are jointly conterminate with the m. borough. Acres of East M., 1,986. Pop. in 1851,10,364; in 1861,12,109. Houses, 2,257. Acres of W. M., 2,056. Pop. in 1851,10,376; in 1861,10,907. Houses, 1,854. -The district comprehends also the sub-district of Yalding, containing the parishes of Yalding, Nettlestead, Teston, West Farleigh, and Hunton; the sub-district of Marden, containing the parishes of Marden, Staplehurst, and Linton, and the hamlet of Loddington; and the sub-district of Loose, containing the parishes of Loose, East Farleigh, Barming, West Barming, Bearstead, Otham, and Boughton-Monchelsea. Acres, 38,082. Poorrates in 1863, £26,363. Pop. in 1851,36,097; in 1861, 38,670. Houses, 7,152. Marriages in 1863,375; births, 1,289,-of which 108 were illegitimate; deaths, 1,040, - of which 374 were at ages under 5 years, and 21 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60,3,293; births, 11,753; deaths, 8,468. The places of worship, in 1851, were 21 of the Church of England, with 10,845 sittings; 4 of Independents, with 1,700 s.; 5 of Baptists, with 1,827 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 250 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 400 s.; 2 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1,373 s.; 3 of Primitive Methodists, with 258 s.; 1 of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, with 600 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 25 s.; and 3 undefined, with 210 s. The schools were 30 public day schools, with 3,603 scholars; 80 private day schools, with 1,764 s.; 24 Sunday schools, with 2,890 s.; and 5 evening schools for adults, with 41 s. The workhouse is at Coxheath, in Linton parish; and, at the census of 1861, had 260 inmates.-The hundred is in the lathe of Aylesford, excludes Maidstone borough, and contains six parishes. Acres, 13,357. Pop. in 1851,6,562. Houses, 1,211.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, two sub-districts, a district, and a hundred"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Maidstone AP/CP       Maidstone Hundred       Maidstone SubD       Maidstone RegD/PLU       Kent AncC
Place names: AD MADAM     |     MAIDSTONE
Place: Maidstone

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