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A Brief History of Kent


The name Kent derives from the ancient Celtic tribe who inhabited South East England from the Thames to the south coast. Their lands included modern Kent plus parts of Surrey, Sussex and Greater London. The Roman’s called the people the Cantii or Cantiaci and the county Cantium. Julius Caesar wrote in his account of his military campaigns in northern Europe, Gallic Wars, that the people of Cantium were the most civilized of the Celtic tribes.

Julius Caesar visited Britain twice. The first occasion in 55 BC he landed at Deal and his fleet was defeated by the high tidal range which swamped their ships. In 54 BC Caesar returned with cavalry and won a significant skirmish at Canterbury; reputedly near to Bigbury Iron Age hill fort. After a short campaign in England Julius Caesar left our shores. In 43AD under Emperor Claudius the Roman’s returned and stayed for almost four centuries.

Kent MapThe Ancient Britons did not have a written history so we have little knowledge of what they may have called Canterbury. Although it may have been a version of Durovernum, the name the Roman’s used. This has linguistic roots to the Iron-Age tribes who lived on the British Isles before the Roman invasion. Duro roughly translates to fortified enclosure; vernum to marshy crossing with Alders. The first documentation of a name for Canterbury was in a 2nd century geography the Antoine Itinerary. In that the Roman named it Durovernum CantiacorumCantiacorum meaning that the city was a Civitas Capital, that is a town where tribal leaders were trusted to rule their own people with the addition of Roman advisors. Canterbury was the principle tribal capital of Cantium (Kent) with a second area of administration at Rochester which the Roman’s named: Durobrivae CantiacorumDurobrivae meaning fortified crossing with a bridge.

Source: Kent Family History Society