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Maidstone is the county town of Kentmarker, Englandmarker, south-east of Londonmarker. The River Medway runs through the centre of the town linking Maidstone to Rochester and the Thames Estuarymarker. Historically, the river was a source and route for much of the town's trade. Maidstone was the centre of the agricultural county of Kentmarker, known as the Garden of Englandmarker. There is evidence of a settlement in the area dating back to beyond the Stone Age.

The town is within the borough of Maidstonemarker. In 2001, the town had a population of 138,959.

Maidstone's economy has changed over the years from being involved in much heavy industry: now light industry predominates; and to more service industries.


Saxon charters (c975) show the first recorded instances of the town's name: de maeides stana and maegdan stane with the possible meaning of either stone of the maidens, or possibly stone of the people. The latter meaning may refer to the nearby megalithmarker around which gatherings would take place. The name evolved through medestan/meddestane as reported in the Domesday Book until, in 1610, the modern name appeared It has also been suggested that the name derives from stones set into the river to allow clothes to be rinsed in the cleaner water away from the banks of the river.


Neolithic finds have revealed the earliest occupation of the area; and the Romans have left their mark also: the road through the town and evidence of villas. The Normans set up a shire moot, and religious organisations established an abbey at Boxleymarker, as well as hospitals and a college for priests. Today’s suburb of Penenden Heathmarker became a place of execution in medieval times.

Maidstone's charter as a town was first confirmed in 1549; although briefly revoked, a new charter in 1551 created the town as a borough. The town’s charter was ratified in 1619 under James I, and the coat of arms, bearing a golden lion and a representation of the river, was designed (in heraldic terms: "or, a fes wavy azure between three roundels gules, on a chief gules a leopard passant gardant or"). Recently these arms were added to by the head of a white horse (representing Invicta, the motto of the county of Kent), a golden lion and an iguanodon. The iguanodon relates to the local discovery in the 19th century of the fossilised remains of such a dinosaur : The remains are now displayed in the Natural History Museummarker in London.

During the Civil War a battlemarker took place here in 1648, resulting in victory for the Parliamentarian forces. Andrew Broughton, who was Mayor of Maidstone in 1649 (and also Clerk to the High Court of Justice) was responsible for declaring the death sentence on Charles I, and today a plaque in Maidstone Town Centre memorialises Andrew as 'Mayor and Regicide' (a killer of kings).

Maidstone has had the right to a town gaol since 1604; the present prison lies north of the town centre and was completed in 1819. Army barracks have been a feature of the town since 1797, when the first was built. The present Invicta Barracks is home to the Royal Engineers 36 Engineer Regiment, which includes two Gurkha field squadrons.

From an economic point of view, Maidstone’s history has developed around the river, and also the surrounding countryside. Paper mills, stone quarrying, brewing and the cloth industry have all flourished here.

Modern history

The modern town of Maidstone incorporates a number of previously outlying villages and settlements (see Geography below).

The county council offices, to the north of the town centre were built of Portland stone between 1910 and 1913. Maidstone General Hospital opened on the outskirts of the town in 1983, replacing West Kent General Hospital, which opened 150 years earlier in Marsham Street. The new Maidstone General Hospitalmarker is located just to the north of the former Oakwood Hospitalmarker (originally the Kent County Asylum) which closed in the mid-1990s.

Many of today's residents are employed within the retail, administrative or service sectors within the town; there are many industrial estates around the town providing employment. Some of the workforce commutes to other towns, including to London.


Previously covered by the single county constituency of Maidstone (once held by Benjamin Disraeli) until 1997 when boundary changes led to its break-up, the town is now divided between the constituencies of Maidstone and the Weald and Faversham and Mid Kent. Ann Widdecombe has been Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Maidstone (and later Maidstone and the Weald) since 1987. Since 2001, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent has been Hugh Robertson.

The town is within, and is the main town of, the local government district of Maidstonemarker, which includes the surrounding rural areas. The town is divided into the twelve local government wards of Allington, Bridge, Downswood and Otham, East, Fant, Heath, High Street, Park Wood, Shepway North, Shepway South, South, and North. These wards have thirty of the fifty-five seats on the Maidstone Borough Council. As of November 2009, 28 of those seats were held by the Conservative party, 21 by the Liberal Democrats, and 3 independents. The Labour Party has no sitting Councillors, however.

ref> Maidstone Borough Council is responsible for running local services, such as recreation, refuse collection and council housing; while Kent County Council is responsible for education, social services and trading standards. Both councils are involved in town planning.


A former millpond on the River Len, Mill Street/Palace Street Maidstone.
Lower Chrisbrook Mill mill pond and Upper Chrisbrook Mill, on the Loose Stream.
The town is situated at a point where the River Medway has previously flowed in a generally west-east direction; now, having been joined by the Rivers Teise and Beult, its course changes to a northerly one. As it does so, it cuts through the ridge formed by the Greensand, so that the town occupies a site on two opposite hills; the more easterly one containing the town centre. Beyond that, and still higher, is Penenden Heath.

The River Len joined the River Medway at Maidstone; though a short river it provided the water to drive numerous watermills. The Loose Stream, that rose at Langleymarker and joined at Tovilmarker powered over 30 mills. The resultant mill ponds on these rivers, are a prominent feature of the landscape.

Because of that situation, Maidstone had an industrial base, and became a nodal point for communications, both along the ridge and beside the river, and on the river itself. Roads radiate from here, connecting with Sevenoaksmarker and Ashfordmarker (the A20); the Medway townsmarker and Hastingsmarker (A229); Tonbridgemarker (A26) and Tenterdenmarker (A274). All of these roads were served by the Turnpike trusts in the 18th/19th centuries.

The two railway routes, in spite of the fact that Maidstone is the county town, are not principal ones, due to an accident of history. There are two principal stations: Maidstone Eastmarker, the more northerly of the two, connects with London and Ashford; whilst Maidstone Westmarker is on the Medway Valley Line.

Although the River Medway was historically responsible for the growth of the town, because of its capability to carry much of the area's goods, it is no longer a commercial stream. There is however a great deal of tourist traffic upon it.

As with most towns, Maidstone has continued to grow. In doing so it has incorporated hitherto separate settlements, villages and hamlets within its boundaries. These include Allingtonmarker, Barmingmarker, Bearstedmarker, Penenden Heathmarker, Sandlingmarker, Tovilmarker and Weavering Street. Housing estates include Grove Greenmarker, Harbourland, Ringlestonemarker, Roseacre, Shepway and Vinters Park.

Maidstone was at one time a centre of industry: brewing and paper making being among the most important. Nowadays smaller industrial units encircle the town. The site of one of the breweries is now Fremlin Walkmarker shopping centre. The pedestrianised areas of the High Street and King Street run up from the river crossing at Lockmeadow; Week Street and Gabriel’s Hill bisect this route.


Maidstone compared
Maidstone Maidstone district England
Population 75,070 138,948 49,138,831
Foreign born 5.9% 5.2% 9.2%
White 97% 97% 91%
Asian 1.5% 1.1% 4.6%
Black 0.4% 0.2% 2.3%
Christian 74% 76% 72%
Muslim 0.8% 0.5% 3.1%
Hindu 0.7% 0.5% 1.1%
Source: 2001 UK census
As of the 2001 UK census, Maidstone town wards had a total population of 75,070, and a population density of 28 residents per hectare. The town had 31,142 households; of which, 38% were married couples, 29% were individuals, 10% were cohabiting couples, and 9% were lone parent families. 14% of households had someone living alone at pensionable age.

The ethnicity of the town was given as 96.6% white, 0.9% mixed race, 0.3% Chinese, 1.5% other Asian, 0.4% Black and 0.3% other.The place of birth of the town's residents was 94.1% United Kingdom (91.4% England), 0.6% Republic of Ireland, 0.6% Germany, 1.3% other European countries, 1.7% Asia, 0.9% Africa and 0.8% elsewhere.

Religion was recorded as 73.9% Christian, 0.8% Muslim, 0.7% Hindu, 0.3% Buddhist, 0.14% Sikh and 0.11% Jewish. 15.8% were recorded as having no religion, 0.6% had an alternative religion, and 7.7% did not state their religion.


Fremlin Walk


Today Aylesfordmarker (on the northwest side of Maidstone) has the largest paper recycling factory in Europe, manufacturing newsprint for the newspaper industry.

Until 1998, the Sharps toffee factory of (later part of Cadbury Trebor Basset), makers of liquorice allsorts, was in central Maidstone and provided a significant source of employment.

Loudspeaker manufacturer KEF was founded in 1961 in Maidstone on the premises of a metal working operation called Kent Engineering & Foundry (hence KEF). Today, KEF still occupies the same river-bank site. In the late 1990s KEF manufactured a loudspeaker called “the Maidstone”.

The town centre has the largest office centre in the county and the area is a base for the paper and packaging industry. Many high-technology firms have set up on surrounding business parks.

Southern Water and Mid Kent Water operate the Maidstone water system.


The town is ranked in the top five shopping centres in the south east of England for shopping yields and has more than one million square feet of retail floor space, including the new Fremlin Walkmarker. That shopping arcade opened, on the site of a former brewery, in the centre of the town. It has an area of . Other recent developments include the riverside Lockmeadow Centre, which includes a multiplex cinema, restaurants, nightclub, bowling alley, and market square

As of the 2001 UK census, 45.2% of the town's residents aged 16–74 were employed full-time, 12.7% employed part-time, 7.6% self-employed and 2.5% unemployed, while 2.3% were students with jobs, 3.0% students without jobs, 12.9% retired, 6.6% looking after home or family, 3.8% permanently sick or disabled and 3.2% economically inactive for other reasons. These figures were roughly inline with the national average.

Employment, by industry, was 19% retail; 13% real estate; 11% manufacturing; 9% construction; 7% transport and communications; 10% health and social work; 8% public administration; 7% education; 5% finance; 4% hotels and restaurants; 1% agriculture; 1% energy and water supply; and 5% other. Compared to national figures, Maidstone had a relatively high percentage of workers in construction and public administration, and a relatively low percentage in agriculture.

According to the Office for National Statistics estimates, the average gross income of households in Maidstone between April 2001 and March 2002 was £595 per week (£31,000 per year).

Army barracks

Army barracks have been a feature of the town since 1797, when the first was built. The present Invicta Barracks is home to the Royal Engineers 36 Engineer Regiment, which includes two Gurkha field squadrons.

On 29 September 1975 a local pub serving the barracks - The Hare and Hounds - was damaged by a bomb during the IRA campaign against the English mainland. Another pub - The White Rabbit - now occupies the former Officers’ Mess of the original barracks, now a listed building.

Transport and communications

Residential developments along the river upstream of the Palace.

One of the first roads in Kent to be turnpiked was that from Rochester to Maidstone, in 1728, giving some indication of the town’s importance. The A20 runs through the town and the M20 motorway runs to the north. Originally opened in 1960 as the Maidstone Bypass, A20(M) this was the first motorway standard road to be constructed south of London.Maidstone is a hub for major roads such as the M20 motorway, the A229, A249, A20 and A26. The M2 motorway is also a short distance to the north and the A21marker is not too far away. The historic centre of the town is largely pedestrianised or of restricted access to private vehicles.

The River Medway had, until the coming of better roads and the railways, long been one of the principal means of transporting goods to and from Maidstone. Improvements had been made in about 1730 to the River Medway, so that barges of 40 tons could get upriver to East Farleighmarker, Yaldingmarker and even Tonbridgemarker. This meant that a good deal of trade, including corn, hops, fodder, fruit, stone and timber passed through the town, where there were several wharfs.

The medieval stone bridge was replaced in 1879 to give better clearance: it was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. A second bridge, St. Peter's Bridge, was built in 1977.

Today the river is of importance mainly to pleasure-boat owners and the considerable number of people living on houseboats. For many years there has been a river festival during the last weekend in July, and a millennium project inaugurated the Medway River Walk, the Medway Park and a new footbridge linking the former cattle market (which is now a multiplex cinema and nightclub) west of the river to the shopping area to the east.

Bus transport in Maidstone is provided by Arriva Southern Counties and Nu-Venture transport companies. Bus services are centred on High Street, King Street and the Chequers Bus Station adjacent to the Mallmarker shopping centre. New Enterprise Coaches, an Arriva subsidiary, will in January 2009 cease to operate the commuter coach services 781 and 784 from Maidstone and surrounding areas to Londonmarker; these pass to Chalkwell Coaches of Sittingbourne. A larger commuter network of services was previously provided by Green Line but withdrawn in August 2005. Prior to this, commuter buses were provided by Invictaway, and, even earlier, by a number of smaller operators in the wake of coach de-regulation in 1980.

In 2004 the centenary of Maidstone Corporation Transport was marked with several events, looking back at several historic operators of transport in Maidstone, and featuring a preserved trolleybus.

Former bus operators in Maidstone include: Maidstone & District Motor Services Ltd (M&D); Maidstone Borough Council Transport, later Boro'line Maidstone; and Bygone Buses.

When the railways were built in the 1840s, Maidstone was not well served. It was reported at the time that inhabitants were bitterly opposed to the railway: the mayor suggesting that “Maidstone will be ruined as a commercial town”. It was said that wharfingers and corn and coal merchants would be hardest hit.

In the event, in 1842, the South Eastern Railway, in its haste to reach the Channel ports of Folkestone and Dovermarker, put its main line through Tonbridge and Ashford, some to the south. A station named Maidstone Road was built in an isolated spot called Paddock Woodmarker, from where coaches were run to the county town.

The 1874 Maidstone East line crossing the River Medway; also on the bridge is a footpath connecting Maidstone East with Maidstone Barracks.
years later a branch line was built to Maidstone. In 1846 another branch line (the Medway Valley Line) connected Stroodmarker with the town. It was not until 1874 that the line from London arrived; and another ten years before Ashford was connected by rail. There are three stations: Maidstone Westmarker and Maidstone Barracksmarker on the Medway Valley Line (whose platforms are visible one from the other); and Maidstone Eastmarker on the Ashford line.

In 1905, a railway was authorised under the 1896 Light Railways Act to link Maidstone with Sutton Valencemarker and Headcornmarker, linking with the Kent & East Sussex Railway. The only part of the Headcorn & Maidstone Junction Light Railwaymarker ever built was a short branch serving the paper mills at Tovil.

Two long-distance footpaths are easily accessible from Maidstone. The Medway Valley Walkmarker between Tonbridge and Gillingham passes through the town, following the banks of the river. The North Downs Waymarker, which incorporates the Pilgrims' Waymarker to Canterburymarker, runs for between Farnhammarker, Surreymarker and Dover, passing about five miles (8 km) to the north and west.


see List of schools in Kent
The town of Maidstone has fifteen secondary schools; twenty-three primary schools; and two special schools. Two of the secondary schools, Maplesden Noakesmarker and Invicta Grammar Schoolmarker, have been awarded Business and Enterprise College status.

Alumni at Maidstone Grammar Schoolmarker include James Burke, television presenter, and Lord Beeching, responsible for cutting British railway routes. William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies was a teacher there. Also in Maidstone is a regional campus of the University for the Creative Artsmarker (formerly Kent Institute of Art & Design) at which the British artist [[Tracey Emin, and the Graphic designers Toby Dison, Tony Rolfe, Andy Wall and Hassain Rauf began their artistic educations.

Maidstone has two independently/non-government funded Academies. Cornwallis Academy (formerly The Cornwallis Technology College) and New Line Learning Academy's (formerly Oldborough Manor School and Senacre Technology College) which were all State Schools. The New Line Learning Academies will soon form one Academy, with the Senacre site being closed down, and all activities moving to the Oldborough site, which will then be re-built. Cornwallis Academy will also be re-built, at a cost estimated to be over £62M.

Shaun Williamson, TV actor, attended the local Catholic Seconday School, St. Simon Stock Schoolmarker. The school serves Catholic families throughout the whole of mid-Kent.

As of the 2001 census, 15.7% of the town's residents aged 16–74 had a higher education qualification or the equivalent, below the national average of 19.9%. 27.5% had no academic qualifications, compared to the national figure of 28.9%.


The town’s religious base was recorded as 73.9% Christian, 0.8% Muslim, 0.7% Hindu, 0.3% Buddhist, 0.14% Sikh and 0.11% Jewish. 15.8% were recorded as having no religion, 0.6% had an alternative religion, and 7.7% did not state their religion.

There are a number of churches and other religious congregational buildings within the town of varying denominations.



  • Maidstone is twinned with Beauvaismarker in Picardy, France. This used to be announced on signs at the entry to the town, but these were not included when the signs were replaced in 2005/6.

Radio and television

Maidstone has long held links to local radio. There are three radio stations: Invicta Sound (now Heart Kent) used to broadcast from studios in Earl Street; and Hospital Radio Maidstone is one of the longest serving hospital radio stations in the UK. KMFM Maidstone, formerly CTR, broadcasts from studios in Mill Street. It is part of the KM Group who acquired the station in October 2006. A new version of former pirate radio station Radio Caroline, broadcasts (via Sky and the internet) from The Maidstone Studiosmarker, in the Vinters Park area of the town.

The town is home to the Maidstone Studiosmarker, an independent television production base that was once home to the former ITV company TVS in Vinters Park.


The Exchange
Theatres in Maidstone include: The Hazlitt Theatremarker; RiverStage (also known as "The River Theatre); The Exchange (also known as ‘‘The Corn Exchange’’); and the Hermitage Millennium Amphitheatre.


Maidstone Unitedmarker football team was formed in 1897, and has had mixed fortunes in recent years. The peak of the club's achievement was gaining promotion to the Football League in 1989 after many years of success in non-league football. However, the club could not bring their own London Road Ground up to Football League standards so they ground-shared Dartford's Watling Street stadium and played their games there. The club could not keep up with the financial pressures of the Football League and folded in 1992. A new club was formed and made its way from the Kent County League Division 4 to the Isthmian Premier Division. The club currently plays at Sittingbourne F.C.'s Bourne Park stadium. In January 2007, work started on a new home for Maidstone F.C. at James Whatman Way in the town. Little activity has happened since however the club are (as of mid 2008) finalising an application to the Football Foundation for the funding to allow the club to relocate back to the town.As at mid-2009 no progress had been made,and Maidstone United are ground-sharing with Ashford Town for the 2009/10 season at least.

Maidstone Hockey Club is one of the oldest field hockey clubs in the country, founded in 1878. For the 2009/10 season, the Ladies' 1st XI play in the East Womens Premier League, and the Men's 1st XI play in the South Hockey League 1st XI Premier League Division 1. The Men's 1st squad are also represented in the Indoor England Hockey League Division 1 England Hockey League, having won the Division 2 title in 2008/09. In total, the club has 7 men's sides and 4 women's sides playing at all levels of National, regional, and County leagues.

Maidstone Rugby Football Club is one of the oldest rugby clubs in the country, founded in 1880. The club run 6 senior men's sides and a junior section.

Kent County Cricket Club played occasional matches on pitches at Mote Parkmarker for some 150 years until 2005. Mote Park itself is Maidstone's largest park and includes a number of recreational and sport facilities. The Lashings World XI exhibition cricket team is based in Maidstone and has included a number of high-profile professional cricketers.

Maidstone Sailing Club are a small club that sail on Mote Park lake. Maidstone also has a rowing club, a martial arts school, a tennis club, an athletics club, an American football team, and a basketball club.

The baseball team, Medway Mariners, are also based in the town. As of 2008 they play in the British AA South division.

Notable people

See also

External links


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