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Canterbury Churches

 East Kent Churches


Men of Kent or Kentish Men?

The Point so often mooted
Men of Kent and Kentish Men?
Should you chance to hear disputed
As, no doubt, you will again.

Where the Medway’s stream divideth
and by it’s North Eastern shore.
Where the Kentish man abideth
William, unopposed, passed o’er.

But the lands South East the River
knew not what submission meant.
May Invicta stand for ever
word and boast of Men of Kent.

Benjamin Franklin circa 1780



There are several versions of this legend. The following was written in a thirteenth century chronicle by Thomas Sprot a monk of St. Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury. Sprot describes the gathering at Swanscombe of the Men of East Kent with their Saxon Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury. They were awaiting King William I, the Conqueror, who was taking his first journey through Kent; after the Battle of Hastings and his coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

On his way to Dover to take ship to his lands in Normandy he was prevented from passing into the lands of East Kent by a deputation of the Men of Kent. They held a branch [treaty] or a sword [war] and told William to choose. The legend suggests that he chose the branch and in doing so agreed that the people of both East and West Kent could keep certain rights and customs if in return they would accept him as their King. Reputedly this is why the custom of Gavelkind continued in Kent centuries after vanishing from other parts of England.

Gavelkind (in a nutshell) was a system whereby a deceased person's land and assets were shared amongst their heirs. It did not entirely preclude women unlike primogeniture; where assets usually went to the eldest son or nearest male relative. In many cases primogeniture effectively debarred even a closely related female from inheriting whilst a male relative could be found; notwithstanding the remoteness of his claim and the closeness of hers! Even so, there are a few cases of women inheriting titles, lands and wealth. Joan the Fair Maid of Kent (wife of the Black Prince) was Countess of Kent
suo jure (in her own right). As her father had no male relatives when he died Joan inherited everything.

Gavelkind was not abolished until The Law of Property Act 1925.


The emblem of Kent and also of Kent Family History Society. Traditionally shown on a red background KFHS use the inverted version red on white. The horse is affectionately named after his Latin motto 'Invicta' meaning 'unconquered'. A reminder that Kent was not conquered at Hastings on 14 October 1066.

 Tricia Baxter, Webmaster

David Wood, Branch Chairman

Page updated:  23 November 2015