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The History of Kent

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History of Maidstone

Maidstone comes from the Old English ‘mægden’ meaning a ‘maiden’ with ‘stān’ as a ‘stone, rock’; therefore, the ‘stone of the maidens’. The Domesday Book chronicles Maidstone as Meddestane.  

A small community existed when the Romans arrived and added villas and other stone building..

The Domesday Book, records
Maidstone as a centre for crafts and part of the manorial estate of the Archbishop of Canterbury. By the 16th century, the small manorial estate had grown into a market town and borough; with the founding of the first Grammar school in 1549, and with growth in the number of schools, literacy markedly improved. By 1620, Maidstone held most Assize hearings.

The Georgian period sparked off real prosperity; living standards rose, specialist industries, shops, inns and professions proliferated.
Maidstone became a prominent market town, maintained by the weekly Thursday market, four annual fairs, Sunday fairs, and a monthly cattle market. Maidstone built the town hall in 1765 and replaced Canterbury as Kent's most prominent town, with the opening of the first General Dispensary in 1824, a new gaol in 1819, the County Sessions House in the 1820's, and expansion of the barracks.

The Saxons built the first wooden church - dedicated to Saint Mary - by the River Medway around 650AD, although it survives only in references, in manuscripts such as the Doomsday Monachorum at the Chapter Library in Canterbury. 

Maidstone parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to All Saints. Archbishop Courtenay commenced building it on the site of the completely demolished, St Mary’s, in 1395, although Archbishop Arundel completed it in 1405. Henry Yevele – Nave and south-west Transept of Canterbury Cathedral – designed the church and oversaw the 24 masons called `fre maceons' and 24 masons called `ligiers' (stone layers). In 1450, four bells hung in the tower. Thomas Hatch cast another bell in 1509, with a sixth by an unknown founder in 1604. By 1719, the bells had increased to eight. In 1730, lightning struck and utterly destroyed the 80 feet high timber spire. Men watched helplessly and in frustration until the fire came to within reach of their hand-pumps. In 1784, Chapman and Mears recast the eight bells into a ring of ten. In 1886, the architect John Loughborough Pearson carried out a restoration of the church. In 1899, Gillett and Johnston installed a clock in the tower…. more

Maidstone East railway station opened on the South Eastern Railway’s northward branch from Paddock Wood, on 25 September 1844. It subsequently became part of the loop to Strood on 18 June 1856…. more

Maidstone West station opened as the terminus on the South Eastern Railway’s northward branch from Paddock Wood, on 25 September 1844…. more

Maidstone Barracks station opened on the South Eastern Railway’s Medway Valley Line, on 1st July 1874…. more