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Sayings About Kent Places

 These have been taken from two sources; Pegge’s Alphabet of Kenticisms and Chapter XIII of Fielding’s Memories of Malling and its Valley with some additional material from Kentish As She Wus Spoke. Some are very derogatory and probably are indicative of local town rivalries, whilst other refer to the weather and geography of Kent. Some spellings have changed, which I have attempted to indicate and several sayings include towns within the historic boundaries of Kent before the expansion of Greater London. I don’t know if any are still in use, I have never heard any said.

To start, here are some of the less flattering:

Long, lazy Lewisham. little Lee,
Dirty Deptford, and Greenwich free

And a variation

Long, lazy, lousy Lewisham.
Reportedly this saying was conferred on Lewisham by James I, and preserved rather for the alliteration than being founded in truth.

Sutton for mutton, Kirby for beef,
South Darenth for gingerbread, and Dartford for a thief

This is said to refer to the fertile meadows along the Darenth Valley and the fair at Dartford which was notorious for robbers and pick-pockets. I have however come across an interpretation which attempts to put a better light on Dartford which proposes that the "thief" is the poll tax collectors who provoked the rebellion led by Watt Tyler, a resident of Dartford.

Dirty Dartford, peculiar people,
Bury their dead above the steeple

This rhyme is explained by the town burial ground being on East Hill above the church which sits in the valley by the river Darent.

Starv'em, Rob'em, and Cheat'em
Strood, Rochester and Chatham
(Note: Sometimes you may see Stroud instead of Strood, an old spelling)

He that rides in the hundred of Hoo,
Besides pilfering seamen, will have dirt enoo'

Smoky Charing lies in a hole,
It had but one bell and that was stole

Surly Ashford, proud Wye,
And lousy Kennington lieth hard by

And a variation

Naughty Ashford, surly Wye,
Poor Kenninington hard by

Proud Wingham, wicked Ash, and lazy Sandwich

Cowden play
means any silly way of playing

Conscience is drowned in Sandwich Bay (or Haven)
There was a local tale of a woman wanting a groat's worth of mackerel. The fisherman took her groat, and bade her take as many as she would for it. She took such an unconscionable amount, that provoked by her unreasonableness, he cried "is that your conscience?” then I will throw it into the sea. So he threw the groat into the water and took the fish from her. Hence it came commonly to be said; ''Conscience is drowned in Sandwich haven”

Frindsbury clubs.
A story from the 16th Century relates that a dispute once arose between the monks of Rochester and the people of Stroud (Strood), where the latter hired some men from Frindsbury armed with clubs to help them and gave the monks of Rochester a severe beating.  As a penance they were required to commit to a yearly procession to Rochester on Whit Monday with their clubs.

Get on anyhow, as they do at Rainham
This seems to refer to how poor the people of Rainham were as another saying is quoted along side it;
Why, you've only two sticks and a piece of paper, like a Rainham fire

Proud town Malling, poor people;
They built a church to their steeple

The highest ground, the lowest steeple,
The smallest church, the poorest people

Is reportedly of St Oswald's church at Paddlesworth, but falls down from the start because it is does not stand on the highest ground in Kent.

 Some sayings are of a moral nature.

To be married at Finglesham Church
There is no church at Finglesham, but there was a chalk-pit known for casual “amours”, therefore this refers to people living together who are not married.

Born down Ryarsh Sandpits
signifies that the person is illegitimate.

Whilst some are quite bizarre and it is difficult to determine a meaning.

You've got no calves to your legs like the Pluckley girls, and are obliged to wear straight stockings

Huckinge glass breeches where rats run on tiptoe

Go to Monk's Horton,
Where pigs play on the organ

 A Rochester portion: Two torn smocks and what Nature gave you

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