Man of Kent or Kentish Man

I think most of us born in Kent are aware of these two terms being available to identify ourselves. In modern times it seems to have become established that those born east of the River Medway are Men of Kent and those born west of the Medway are Kentish Men. Francis Grose notes this distinction; Men of Kent are those “born east of the river Medway, who are said to have met the Conqueror in a body, each carrying a green bough in his hand, the whole appearing like a moving wood; and thereby obtaining a confirmation of their ancient privileges”. The Lynstead branch of the Association of Men of Kent & Kentish Men confirm this on their website and go as far as to suggest it may be related to residence rather than birth and extended to Maids of Kent and Kentish Maids. The Kent Resources website uses pubs to confirm these definitions – the “Kentish Man” at Dunks Green near Maidstone and the “Kentish Rifleman” are west of the Medway, whilst the Man of Kent in Ashford is east of the river. However further research suggests that this was not always the case.

Charles Henry Fielding, writing in 1893 gives a couple of definitions. First that a Man of Kent is born between the Stour and the sea, all others being Kentish Men, which would give quite an imbalance of one over the other. Whilst an alternative opinion was that a Kentish Man was born in Kent, but not of Kentish parents, but a Man of Kent was born in Kent to Kentish parents.

Dr Pegge back in the early eighteenth century had noted a number of different definitions. He thought that a Man of Kent was a term of high honour, whilst Kentish Man denoted an ordinary person. But he had read of other sources that defined men of west Kent as Men of Kent and those of east Kent as Kentish Men, the exact opposite of the modern thinking. He also mentions another source who claims that the term Men of Kent should be used only for those who were natives of the Weald of Kent.

Another interesting theory is expounded in an article on the Medway Memories website which suggests an ancient boundary marked by stones and remembered especially in the Rainham Mark. This may be the correct dividing line for Kent, rather than the River Medway.

It seems the more you look into these definitions, the more the waters become muddied, and can even result in analysing how different inhabitants of Kent are referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. In the end, as many have found before, it is probably wise to return to a quote from Dr. Pegge that the terms probably involve “a distinction without a difference”.


Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose. (1811)
Memories of Malling and Its Valley, Charles Henry Fielding (1893)
Alphabet of Kenticisms and Collection of Proverbial Sayings Used in Kent. Samuel Pegge (1736)


Gavelkind was a set of customs and legal standards enjoyed by the county of Kent exclusively from the rest of England, who were subject to the feudal customs implemented by the Norman rulers after the conquest of 1066.  The reasons for these concessions to Kent are open to conjecture, but they enabled the Kentish people to continue their old Saxon customs. As an explanation of the customs of gavelkind and how they fared in to modern times I have linked to a pdf document of an article The Customs of Gavelkind Tenure in Kent, and some Reflections on Proposed Legislation by W. H. Mandy found in "The Invicta Magazine" of 1913. Unfortunately the pleas of the writer fell on deaf ears, and gavelkind was legally abolished in Britain in 1925, however certain aspects of it had already been used in the modern legal system of England and so had much to commend it.


During my research into the Kentish Dialect and my own family history studies I have found and used a number of very useful resources, some of which are more readily accessible than others. In this section I hope to add transcriptions of books, registers and documents which are not generally available or are difficult to search in their available format. As with all transcriptions the usual caveat applies - although they have been made to the best of my abilities, always check the originals for accuracy.

The Universal British Directory was a forerunner to those directories widely published in the British Isles in 19th century, which included the well-known Kelly's, Pigot's and the Post Office Directory. They are a vital source of both commercial and residential information and often include a description of towns and the activities carried on within them and the surrounding area. The UBD is especially useful because it pre-dates the first universally available census by about 50 years - the various volumes being published between 1790 and 1798 - and the sections on principal inhabitants of each town can give valuable genealogical data. The general background information they supply can also add colour to the lives of our ancestors.

The books are quite rare, but can sometimes be found in libraries and some genealogy suppliers have digitized copies on CD for sale. The second volume (covering towns beginning A - D) has been digitized by Google and may be downloaded. However the print still uses the 'long s' which closely resembles a 'f' and was used in place of a lower case 's'. This makes the text difficult to read and to search and so I have transcribed some of the entries for Kent cities and towns. These are available to download below as PDF documents and are fully searchable.

In typical 18th century style the full title of the UBD runs to many lines, but they do accurately portray the information that can be found in each entry:

UBD Title Page

Below are links to the UBD entry transcriptions for 5 Kent cities and towns.

UBD AshfordUBD CanterburyUBD Chatham
UBD CrayfordUBD Dartford

No copyright infringement of any previously published material is intended.  All other material, unless otherwise noted, is copyright of Mervyn H. King. The “Kenticisms” website is strictly non-profit.  In case of objection please contact Mervyn H. King.

This website has been designed by adapting a template from FullAhead. Valid CSS & XHTML with no rights reserved.