Sittingbourne – A Quick History
Sittingbourne, in south east England, 17 miles (27 km) from Canterbury and 45 miles (72 km) from London has a wealth of history. Initially it was a minor hamlet next to Milton Regis, which in Roman times was the Roman administrative centre for the area. Sittingbourne was on Watling Street, along which Roman soldiers would have marched, and became the larger town as Sittingbourne High Street on the London to Dover Road’ along Watling Street. In the Middle Ages the number of houses, and especially inns grew to accommodate the many travellers who needed a meal, or somewhere to stay for a night.
Sittingbourne was a popular stopping place for Kings and Queens, and other notables including Henry V, who dined at Sittingbourne in 1415 when he was on his way back from the Battle of Agincourt _ In 1518 Cardinal Campeggio stopped in the town, attended by five hundred horsemen, and in 1522 King Henry VIII had a meal at the Red Lion. After Queen Elizabeth I visited Tunstall, the town was awarded charters giving the citizens more rights. In 1825 Princess (later Queen) Victoria stayed here overnight’ The Rose, where she stayed, was at the time described as ‘perhaps the most superb [lnn] of any throughout the kingdom’. In 1840, Prince Albert, with a much smaller entourage, heading for London to marry Victoria, stopped only for refreshments.
In Medieval times the journey from London to the coast took five days, but by the 18th century the ‘Flying Stage Coach’ took just two days, and Sittingbourne was the only overnight stop. The size, and quality, of the inns reflect the importance of the town.
Sittingbourne also became a major industrial and agricultural area. It boasted important brickworks, which supplied much of London’s needs, and with this, the Barge industry became important for transporting the bricks, and other goods to London. Paper making also became important, with Sittingbourne Mill enjoying the right to be the largest mill in the world.
Changes came with the birth of the railways but Sittingbourne still has a lot of untold history. Many of the buildings that were used by travellers are also still there. You just have to look up above the current shop fronts, or down the side alleys at the backs of the buildings, to see them as they once were. The HRGS exists to tell the stories and help current generations to understand and enjoy their heritage that still exists.
Want to learn more? Come along to the Heritage Hub in the Forum Shopping Centre in Sittingbourne and find out what we have there.