Man of Kent or Kentish Man - which are you?

PUBLISHED: 13:29 14 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:31 14 August 2013

Men of Kent Monument at Swanscombe

Men of Kent Monument at Swanscombe


It’s not all as straightforward as you may think...

Invicta - Kent coat of ArmsInvicta - Kent coat of Arms

It’s one of the recurring questions related to our county’s great history and those who live here: are you a Man of Kent or a Kentish Man?

The precise definition remains open to debate even now – and this has been one long disagreement, considering that the terms were believed to have been founded more than 1,500 years ago.

According to tradition, the first Men and Maids of Kent hailed from a Germanic tribe called the Jutes who settled in the east of the county, while the Kentish Men and Maids were of Saxon origin and had settled in the west of the county.

The standard way to tell which category you fell into has been according to which side of the River Medway you were born.

If you originated from the south and east of the river, you were a Man of Kent. Those who believe they are of that lineage tell tales to set themselves apart from their counterparts on the other side of the Medway.

In 1067, it is told, the Men of Kent showed their fighting spirit by warding off William the Conqueror and winning a peace settlement from the new king allowing them certain traditional rights.

Meanwhile, the Kentish Men were said to have simply surrendered.

The story still holds sway today, although a monument in the churchyard of Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Church in Swanscombe tells a slightly different version, suggesting it was men from both sides of the Medway who fought off William, who also carried the title of Duke of Normandy.

It is claimed the county motto Invicta originated from this tale.

The plaque reads: “Near this spot in 1067, by tradition the Men of Kent and the Kentish Men, carrying boughs on their shoulders and swords in their hands, met the invader William Duke of Normandy.

“They offered peace if he would grant their ancient rights and liberties, otherwise war and that most deadly.

“Their request was granted, and from that day the motto of Kent has been ‘Invicta’, meaning unconquered.”

Other less popular theories behind the Kentish divide include that of the 19th century author Charles Henry Fielding, who is said to have defined a Man of Kent as someone born between the River Stour in Canterbury and the sea, with all others being Kentish Men.

Other explanations include the suggestion that a Kentish Man was born in Kent but not of Kentish parents, but a Man of Kent was born in Kent to Kentish parents.

Alternatively, put forward in the 1907 book Highways And Byways In Kent, by Walter Jerrold, is the theory that the terms have a more religious meaning. According to Jerrold, the Men of Kent are supposedly those born within the limits of the Diocese of Canterbury, while Kentish Men are those born within the limits of the Diocese of Rochester.

The more you look into the background of the two county sides, the more interpretations there seem to be, which muddies the waters yet more.

With the true definition of where the two Kentish factions originated perhaps still not entirely clear, the search for the truth continues, proving the county’s ancient foundations are still a popular topic.

So, whether you believe you are a Man or Maid of Kent, or a Kentish Man or Maid, the debate will no doubt rage over pints of Kentish ale – or should that be ale of Kent?


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