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Kent was populated by man at least from c 200,000 years ago. Fragmants of early man, the forerunner of modern man, were found at Swanscombe in 1935 and in 1955.
The Stone Age from c 500,000 to 10,000 BC and the Mesolithic Age from c 10,000 to 4,000 BC with the nomadic hunters continued to maintain Kent’s environment using rock shelters or caves like those on Oldbury Hill near Ightham.
New Stone Age period of c 4000 to 2000 BC brought the migration of Neolithic farmers to the rich lands of Kent. They introduced the first field systems, began to settle in permanent homesteads and build their megaliths.
The Bronze Age period from c 2000 to 500 BC sees pastoral warrior from the continent, the Beaker people, so called from the evidence found of their burials.
Dover Museum has a fine example of a middle Bronze Age boat which had arrived at our shores
Kent became populated by an amalgam of migrant ethnic groups from the continent and from the 2nd century BC, the most influential were the Celts, who came to dominate much of Britain.
During the Iron Age from c 700 BC, as the population grew, there is evidence that more newcomers were not welcomed, from the construction of defended enclosures, the first hill forts.
These forts were placed at vantage points, for instance, Boughton, at the top of the Loose valley, allowing the inhabitants an early warning of invaders. These hill forts became quiet vast with the one at Oldbury, near Ightham, enclosing 123 acres. Others were built at Caesars Camp (Keston), Bigbury (near Canterbury), Hulberry (Lullingstone), Nettlestead, Castle Hill (at Capel) and Squerryes (at Westerham).
Between 125 and 75 BC, the Belgae crossed channel from Europe and established themselves in East Kent making Durovernum their capital. This was the beginnings of the Cantiaci tribe of Kent, they were open to influences from France and Mediterranean and had been using coins for 150 years before the Roman Conquest.
In 55 BC, when Caesar first came to Kent, he commented on the people of what he called the maritime region, ‘they do not regard it lawful to eat the hare, the cock and the goose, they breed them for amusement and pleasure’. He also noted the abundant grain crops growing along a heavily populated coastline.
During the 1st century AD the Roman occupation occurred and their armies were a mixture of peoples from their empire. These soldiers settled in Britain and married local women.
Following the Roman withdrawal from Kent, there came the Saxons, firstly as mercenaries and then as invaders. They drove the British from Kent and occupied the land themselves. Two centuries later the Vikings began to make their raids on the coastal areas of Kent. This was followed by the Normans invasion in the 11th century bringing large numbers of French to Kent.
The Kentish people have always been an amalgamation of peoples, from the Celts, to the Romans, Saxons, Norse, Normans and those seeking refuge from persecution like the Flemings, Hugenots and the Jews.
For centuries the River Medway was the boundary to the kingdom Kent, later on, the kingdom stretched further west into areas that are now part of London.
The county boundary has been subject to revision not only due to conquest but latterly for administrative purposes, for instance, in the 1750’s those parts of Kent nearest to London began to develop as suburbs of the capital. The county boundary was adjusted in 1889 when the towns of Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Lee, Lewisham, Kidbrooke, Charlton and Eltham left Kent and joined London.
A smaller adjustment took place in 1900, when Penge was changed from being situated in Surrey to Kent.
In 1965, the London Borough of Bromley was created, which included Bromley, Beckenham, Penge, Orpington and Chistlehurst, and at the same time, the London Borough of Bexley was created, which included the towns of Bexley, Sidcup, Erith and Crayford.
Further parts of Kent lying between the A21 and M25 were added to London in 1974.