10 things you didn’t know about Kent

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Intriguing Facts about Kent

Kent is well known for being home to the famous White Cliffs at Dover, Anne Boleyn’s childhood residence and its abundance of orchards and hop gardens, which earned it the title, ‘Garden of England’. But there are lots of other facts about the county that aren’t so well known. Here, we take a look at some of the more intriguing ones.

The first British flight took place in Kent

In 1909, John Moore-Brabazon became the first Briton to make an officially recognised aeroplane flight on the Isle of Sheppey, off the Kent coast. He flew 500 yards in a Voisin biplane and shortly afterwards acquired the first UK pilot’s licence.

Kent hosted the first motor show

Britain’s first motor show, the ‘Horseless Carriage Exhibition’, was held in the Kent town of Tunbridge Wells on 15 October 1895. Organised by the mayor and held at the Agricultural Showground, the event hosted a total of five vehicles – two cars, a tricycle, a fire engine and a steam carriage. Despite the small collection, several hundred visitors and members of the press came to see the display.

Pocahontas is buried in Gravesend

Most of us know the story of the North American princess Pocahontas and how she spared the life of Captain John Smith. What is not so well known, however, is that she married an English colonist and visited Britain with him 1616. After a short stay, they boarded a ship back to Virginia, but the princess contracted tuberculosis and was brought ashore at Gravesend, where she died and was buried.

The River Medway decides the identity of Kent residents

According to tradition, being born west of the River Medway means that men and women call themselves a Kentish Man or Kentish Maid. Those born east of the river call themselves a Man or Maid of Kent. This division is thought to originate in the 5th century when the Jutes lived in the east and south of the county, while the Angles and Saxons settled in the west and north.

Kent played a key part in D-Day

Kent was the stage for an elaborate deception during World War II. Designed to fool the Germans’ into thinking that the Allied invasion would begin in Pas de Calais, ‘Operation Fortitude as it was known saw the army assemble dummy forces and build roads and bridges in the county. A mock invasion was launched on 5 June from Dover while the real invasion took place down the coast, bound for Normandy.

Gypsy tart originated in Kent

Legend has it that on the Isle of Sheppey there was an old gypsy woman who took pity on a group of undernourished children, so decided to make them a tart with the ingredients she had to hand. This turned out to be the evaporated milk and muscovado sugar with which so-called gypsy tart is made to this day.

Henry VIII honeymooned in Sheerness

Henry VIII and his new wife, Anne Boleyn, spent their honeymoon in Eastchurch near Sheerness. Far from it being a quiet, romantic affair, the couple were joined by an entourage of 300 and, over three days, almost bankrupted their host Sir Thomas Cheyne.

Kent is home to a dinosaur

In 1834 a 13 metre long Iguanadon fossil was found in Queen’s Road in Maidstone. Now nicknamed ‘Iggy’, the 125 million year old herbivore features on the town’s coat of arms, and a plaster cast of it is on display at the Maidstone Museum.

A Tonbridge church boasts famous stained glass windows

All Saints in the village of Tudeley near Tonbridge is the only church in the world with stained glass windows created by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall.Commissioned in the early 1960s, Chagall worked on designs for all 11 windows over the course of 15 years, with the final one being installed in 1985, the year of the artist’s death.

Kent is the UK’s primary cultivator of hazelnuts

Kent is a major producer of hazelnuts, with the Kentish cobnut being one of the most famous varieties. The rail links between Kent and London meant that cobnuts could be transported easily, and to this day over 200 acres of cobnut orchards remain in the county.

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