Skip to main content


Submitted by KAS on 25 October 2019

Saturday 17 November 2018 

Conference Report

Dr Sheila Sweetingburgh and Dr Mark Bateson warmly welcomed the 80 attendees.  Sheila went on to describe the work of the Kent Centre for History and Heritage at CCCU which aims to encourage community involvement and, also, to provide post-graduate bursaries.  The day consisted of four sessions in the morning and three in the afternoon as outlined below.

Dr Paul Cullen ‘Tavern names of Kent’

Paul referred in his presentation to Barrie Cox’s book English Inn and Tavern Names but, whereas this book covers mainly the counties of Dorset, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Paul concentrated on the county of Kent during the period 1400 – 1690. 

The earliest names were mostly based on chivalric heraldry.  The following names were amongst those noted:

1400 - 1499

Le Crane – Sandwich (1417); The Swan – Sandwich (1455 and 1479); The Saracen’s Head -  Ashford (1478) 

1500 – 1549

The Star – Canterbury (1546);  The Redd Lyon – Ashford and Canterbury (1546);  The George – Milton and Gravesend (1529)

1550 – 1599

Names including The Cock, The Splayed Eagle and The Lion occur.  The Greyhound – Chilham (1551) also crops up a few years later in Goodnestone and Wingham.  More animal names creep in. The Fox – Bapchild (1599); The Sheep – Gravesend (1595).  Also more defined colours appear eg The Black Lion, The Black Swan, The White Bear, and White Hart.  In addition names referencing royalty eg The Maidens Head,The Crown, and The Kings Head and occupations some indicating additional activities on the premises eg The Horn, The Horseshoe, The Wheel and the Beer Pot.  The Black Boy was a popular name during this period with instances at Sevenoaks, Cranbrook, St Mary Cray, and Faversham. The origin of this name was discussed as earlier incidences in Barrie Cox’s work show that it pre-dates the probability of a link with children brought from Africa to work in wealthy homes.

1600 – 1690

Animals still continue to be popular with Faversham hosting The Bear, The Cat, The Dolphin, and The Turkicock.  Mythical creatures begin to appear such as The Griffin, The Unicorn and The Mermaid.  England’s maritime expansion was recognised with names such as The Three Mariners from 1625 and The Globe in 1685. The monarchy is also acknowledged in the name The Royal Oak denoting the oak tree that the future Charles II hid in during the Battle of Worcester in 1651.  This name first appears in Kent in 1669 seven years after the Restoration.  Some names indicate locations eg The Walnut Tree (1606) and The Crooked Billet (1686) being a bent stick placed in the ground as a sign.


Dr Barrie Cook  ‘Names, trades and places on the tokens of 17th century Kent

During the early 17th century there was a shortage of small value coins with nothing of less value than a silver penny available.  To accommodate this shortage several traders had their own tokens minted.  This was most common in Kent.  However, the system was very de-centralised with Canterbury and Dover being prominent places using this system.  Tokens varied in shape but the most common shape was circular.  However, Walter Weeks a weaver in Maidstone in 1669 opted for a heart-shaped token. Often the initials of the tradesperson was imprinted on the metal token as in the case of Richard Wicking a Maidstone grocer  – ie W.R.E. plus heraldic shield. 

There were a total of 522 known issuers across Kent.  Canterbury had 37 issuers, eleven of which were innkeepers.  Margate had nine issuers with two innkeepers. Greenwich had 24 issuers with eight innkeepers.  Some tokens denoted the name and location of the inn eg At the Ship Tavern in Greenwich.  Deptford had 29 issuers with 12 inns, Rochester 24 with 12 inns, Strood 7 with 3 inns, Dover 37 with 12 inns., Faversham 13 with 5 inns, and Deal 17 with 10 inns.  In the case of inns, the initials imprinted on the token changed when the landlord was replaced. 

It was emphasised that tokens are a valuable source of both people’s names and the more unusual names of inns such as The Queen of Bohemia, Leopoldus, Duke of Kent and The Worlds End.

Dr Mark Bateson ‘Place-names from the sources: editions, transcriptions and excerpts’

t with the English Place Names Society.  Describing himself as a ‘cuckoo’ amongst the field of place name specialists, Mark proceeded to outline the skills needed to become a toponymist (place names scholar) such as the knowledge of old languages, phenology, and etymology.  However, others without such skills but who have an interest in and knowledge of local history can still contribute and work together with toponymists such as Paul Cullen.

Paul, as county editor, is currently working on an archive of Kent Place Names.  This is part of much larger Survey of English Place Names conducted by the English Place Names Society and it is intended that each county will publish individual surveys.  However, 95 years since it started the project still has some way to go with the counties of Kent, Herefordshire, Cornwall, and Lancashire still in progress.  Allen Mawer Sir Frank Stenton and JEB Glover covered 12 counties during the years 1925 – 1942.  Albert Hugh Smith’s 1954 book The Preparation of County Place Name Surveys devoted a chapter to the collection of material emphasising the need for consistency of approach.  

Accuracy is the supreme requirement plus the determination to push back each name as far as possible and to document changes over time.  Mark highlighted the problems that can arise during transcription particularly the tendency to transcribe what is thought the name ought to be rather than what is actually written on the parchment or paper.  Images of the Kent Eyre Roll dated 20 November 1278 – 19 November 1279 were shown and, despite being a first rate source of place names, it could be seen that they could present difficulties to the researcher.  Each roll consists of 75 membranes sewn across the top and the script contains many instances of ambiguity, particularly in relation to the minims in the letters u, n, i, and m.  Abbreviated endings and contracted words can also lead to misunderstandings and examples were shown. Once again, Mark emphasised the need to transcribe what you see but to also leave a note to alert the editor of any ambiguity.


Anita Thompson – ‘ Lenham Dens and St Stephen’s Bridge in Headcorn’

Anita presented her research into the meaning of the den names and the routes taken to and in the Weald. 

In the lathe of Hollingbourne (a small and remote lathe, says KP Witney),were 9 King’s estates in Anglo-Saxon times. One was Lenham. The Mercians conquered Kent in AD 796: they allowed the puppet King of Kent to give/sell  Lenham estate by charter to the Abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury in AD 804. The 13 Lenham dens, attached by custom to the 20 Lenham ploughlands, have names which predate 804. There are 7 dens [pig pastures], 2 leahs [glades], 5 hersts [wooded hills]; 1 maple, 1 thorn, 1 farmstead, 4 –ing names [family of], and 1 gisella [sheds] which lies next door on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chart Sutton estate. 

The list of the dens begins with Mapleherst and Frythyndene [Frittenden], standing together after the swine had crossed the River Beult at Headcorn. They moved south to Cumbden [Comenden], a sheltered valley halfway up Rock Hill, the escarpment between the clay Low Weald and the sandstone of the High Weald, then further south to Snatyngdenne [Snaethel’s family den] near Sissinghurst. They returned north to Wyfleherst [Wilsley], to a second Mapleherst and 3 Babbyngdens, to Tunlafaherst, [the farmstead in the private wood] at the bottom of Rock Hill, to Plessyngherst [Pluss’s family wood], Friezley [Frithe’s clearing] and Feredenne [the difficult-to-get-to den]. By 850 that had  become Faircrouch [beautiful cross].

In 850 AD the Danes wintered in Kent. St Augustine’s reconfirmed their Lenham charter, some places with different names, plus 2 dens on the east side of the River Beult.  A third den was added from the Black Book of St Augustine’s c.1200. These are Rustingden [Tong], Dornden {Thornden] and Grasitegh [Grafty Green]. I interpret these three as escape routes to the north-east in November if the River Beult was too wild to swim the pigs back to the east bank at Headcorn. St. Stephen’s Bridge wasn’t built there till the 13C.  They could travel  high, away from the floods. They were the winter’s meat supply!

Originally there had been a Roman bridge across the Beult near Cross at Hand. When that collapsed at an unknown date traffic crossed by bridge or ford at Hertsfield Bridges to the west, then went to the third Babbyngden, called Haddan sudan in AD 850, [South Hathdune], built right on the Roman road, but on the east side of the river. The pigs should travel safely home from there, most to be butchered by the swineherd on arrival.



Dr Ellie Rye (EPNS Headquarters in Nottingham) – ‘Place Names and Travel in Early Medieval Kent’

Early medieval roads might be Roman roads or drove roads or trade routes such as the salt roads, or, for long-distance travel, a mixture of all three. Where newer populated places had grown up, or where Roman roads had lost their bridges, place names can sometimes shed light on routes taken. For instance, Deptford, the’ deep ford’, had no bridge.  Charing was named either for a man, Ceorra, or for a turn in the road, Old English *cerring ‘a turn, a bend’.Anglo-Saxon charters, which are numerous for Kent, frequently contain descriptions of boundaries running along rivers or roads which can still be traced as evidence, but shorter-lived markers, such as the bishop’s thorn-bush in Godmersham’s charter, cannot. 

Some words in place-names and boundary landmarks tell us about travel by water, such as Erith and Hythe, which contain OE hȳð ‘a landing place’. Old English strǣt ‘main road, paved road’ was a pointer to overland travel, though this word did not necessarily mean that the road was Roman. Paving may be indicated in the name Stone Street, a name applied to Roman roads in Kent and elsewhere. If not stoned, old roads, especially in hilly country, produced a holloway (996)Local knowledge lay behind Evegate, the ‘thieves’ gate’, in AshfordRiver-crossings are also commonly recorded along routes, where a ‘king’s ford’ or a ‘plank bridge’ might be crossed along the way.  Combining all this evidence, there is evidence for the use of many local paths and roads, in addition to medium- or long-distance routed.