General history: Rivers

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.

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Edward Hasted, 'General history: Rivers', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury, 1797) pp. 272-293. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

Edward Hasted. "General history: Rivers", in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury, 1797) 272-293. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Hasted, Edward. "General history: Rivers", The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury, 1797). 272-293. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,


AMONG the different advantages which the county of Kent enjoys from its situation, those two noble rivers, the Thames and the Medway, must not be forgotten, the former of these flowing by the northern boundary of it for upwards of forty miles, and the latter taking a navigable course for a much greater length through the midst of it.

The Thames, the most famous river of this island; has been already so fully treated of by our historians in their accounts of London, and the shires through which it passes before it comes to this county, that it is needless to repeat again here what they have said on this subject. Indeed, the various matters relating to it would fill a volume of themselves, I shall, therefore, content myself with observing some few particulars relating to it, so far as it has connexion with this county.

Camden has observed, that there is no river in Enrope, in which the tide flows with so long a course as in the Thames. It flows in it as high as Richmond, in Surry, which is upwards of sixty miles from the mouth of it, a circumstance of the greatest benefit to its navigation, the preserving of its waters sweet and wholesome, and the increase of the numerous shoals of fish with which it is filled.

The glorious view of trade, plenty and riches always to be seen on this river, exhibits a constant astonishment to the beholder, and the numerous fleets of ships so continually crowding their sails on its surface from every part of the globe, afford a sight greatly beyond what any other river in Europe can shew.

The Thames, having passed London-bridge, flows on to Deptford, the first boundary of Kent, where it receives the stream called the Ravensborne. Here the river is so covered with shipping lying at their anchors for various purposes of trade, that there remains a space between them barely sufficient for the passage of others. Besides several private ones, here is a royal dock, for the building and refitting of the navy of Great Britain, and the shore, from hence to Greenwich, is covered with all the opulence and hurry of trade, carried on by those who are employed either unloading the various merchandises from the shipping, or supplying them with fresh stores, and victualling for their intended voyages.

From Deptford the Thames passes by the royal hospital and town of Greenwich, and from thence flows on by Woolwich, where there is a royal dock, and other buildings and accommodations for the use of the navy, and an establishment of the office of ordnance for the royal artillery. Having passed this town it goes on by Erith, where the East-India ships frequently stop in their passage homewards, to unload part of their stores; and having received the rivers Cray and Darent into its bosom near Dartford, it flows on by Greenhith, where there are large wharfs, and a ferry for horses and cattle over the river into Essex. Thence it goes on to Northfleet, and by the large chalk-wharfs there, having first received into it a small stream which flows under Northfleet bridge, to the town of Gravesend, a populous place, entirely supported by the navigation of the Thames.

Just below Gravesend ends the port of London, from whence the Thames flowing through the road called the Hope, passes by the hundred of Hoo and the isle of Graine, at the eastern extremity of which it meets the waters of the Medway, and being thus united at the Nore, they flow together into the German ocean.

The river MEDWAY, or Medwege, was named by the antient Britons Vaga, to which the Saxons added the syllable mad, signifying in their language, mid, or middle, because it ran through the middle of the kingdom of Kent, calling it in their language, Medweg, which word is now modernized to Medway.

This great river has four principal heads, one of which rises in the manor of Gasson, in the parish of Blechingley, in the county of Surry, and having received into it several small streams, it runs on to Eatonbridge, in Kent, and passing by Hever-castle, runs to Chidingstone, and so flows on to Penshurst, where it divides into two parts, uniting again at about three quarters of a mile distance. The Medway is here increafed, on the southern side, by a second principal head of it, which rises at Graveley-hill, in Sussex, and being augmented by other streams in that county, it enters the county of Kent, and goes on by Cowden, and thence runs on by Groombridge to Ashurst, some distance below which it joins the Cowden branch above-mentioned. Thus united, it runs on, and meets the main river near Penshurst, having throughout the whole course of it been augmented by numbers of small streams.

The river Medway flows from hence to Tunbridge, a little above which it separates into five different channels, the most northern of which is the principal and only navigable branch, and in this state it passes Tunbridge town. Three of these streams again join the main channel a mile and a half below Tunbridge, as does the other and most southern in somewhat more than half a mile below the others; from hence the Medway flows on to Brand-bridge, and thence to Twyford-bridge, and so on to Yalding, where it is joined by a very considerable stream, flowing from two of its principal heads; one of these, being the third principal head of this great river, rises at a place called Hockenbury Panne, in Waterdown-forest, in the county of Sussex, about a mile from Eredgehouse, near Fant, and runs from thence to Beghamabbey, which having supplied, it flows from thence to Lamberhurst, and so on to Finchcocks, in Goud- hurst, where it is met by a rivulet composed of two streams, one called the Bewle, which comes by Scotney, and gives name to a bridge just above it, called Bewles-bridge; and the other the Theyse, from its rising at Teyshurst, in Sussex; after this rivulet has passed by Finchcocks, it goes on to Broadford, and so runs on to Marden, and about a mile from Twyford it separates into two branches, called the Twist, both of which run into another main branch of the Medway, near Hunton, at about three quarters of a mile distance from each other. The spring from whence this last-mentioned branch flows is the fourth principal head of the Medway, and rises near Goldwell, in Great Chart, from whence it passes on to Romeden, and flowing on by Smarden, it continues its course towards Hedcorne, and being much increased by several lesser waters, it flows on to Style-bridge, soon after which, receiving into it the two streams of the Twist above-mentioned just beyond Hunton, it goes to Yalding-bridge, at a small distance below which it joins the main river as above-mentioned.

From Yalding the river Medway flows on by Nettlested and Watringbury, and passing through Testonbridge runs on by West Farleigh and Barming, and through those bridges, and so on through East Farleigh-bridge to Tovill, after having been joined by several small rivulets during its course, one of which, at about a mile from thence, hides itself under ground, being covered near half a mile, and then at the Quarries it rises again, and runs above ground to Loose,—thence the Medway runs on to Maidstone, and above the bridge there, on the north side, it receives a rivulet, which rises at Bigon-heath, near Lenham, at a small distance from which this little stream, having been joined by several brooks on each side, runs on to Fairborne, and so by Bromfield to Leedscastle, and through the park there, and being in its way augmented by several brooks, especially from the north, it passes by the Mote, a small distance below which it supplies the curious manufacture for paper at the old Turkey-mill, soon after which it joins the main river just above Maidstone-bridge as abovementioned.

Having passed by Maidstone town, the river Medway flows on by Allington castle, and so on through Aylesford-bridge, whence it runs on by Boreham, and so flows on to Woldham and Whornes-place, and being now become a large and spacious river, of great width and force of water, it passes through Rochester-bridge, and by the towns of Strood, Rochester, and Chatham, and so on to the royal storehouses and docks there, and then by Upnor-castle and Gillingham-fort, after which it increases to a great width, and its waters become very rapid, and so plentiful, that they form many islands and smaller channels on each side of it, the river all the while twisting and winding itself about in continued meanders, and at the south-west corner of the isle of Graine it passes the small stream which separates that isle from the main land, which is called at this end the Dray, and at the end next the Thames the North Yenlet; opposite to this island the Medway receives into it Stangate-creek, and a little lower the waters of the Swale, which flow between the island of Shepey and the main land, and thence it goes on by Blackstakes to Sheerness, where are the royal docks and storehouses for the use of the navy, a garrison, and strong fortifications for the defence of this river; after which the Medway meeting the waters of the Thames at the Nore, they flow together into the German ocean. The principal channel of the Medway, from Tunbridge to Sheerness, runs north-north-east, and the length of country, from its entrance at Cowden and Eatonbridge to its mouth, is forty-four miles, though by the circles and meanders this river makes it is many more. The rivers and brooks that supply it over- spread a surface of near thirty miles in width, in the midst of this country and in the Weald, bringing with their streams fertility, pleasure, and convenience.

The Medway is now made navigable as high as Tunbridge, which is of great utility to this county and Sussex, and to the public in general. This navigation was first begun in pursuance of an act of parliament, passed in the 16th and 17th years of king Charles II. but the undertakers, not finding the powers of that act sufficient to complete so great a work, procured another in the 13th of king George II. anno 1740, by which they are incorporated by the name of The Proprietors of the Navigation of the River Medway, and enabled to raise thirty thousand pounds among themselves to carry on their work, which sum was to be divided into three hundred shares, of which no one person was to have more than ten. They were empowered likewise to employ boats, &c. to carry goods on the river, and to take toll of others; and the navigation was exempted from the commission of sewers; in consequence of which the proprietors have laid out great sums of money in deepening and widening it, and erecting locks and bridges, and other improvements; insomuch that a safe and constant navigation upon it is now completed from Rochester up to Tunbridge, by which the great quantities of fine timber, which grow in the wealds of Kent and Sussex, and the iron ordnance, balls, and other materials of war forged in those parts, which could not otherwise, by reason of the badness of the roads, be conveyed to market without an enormous expence, find an easy carriage in lighters thither; and wood, corn, grain, hay, hops, wool, leather, and all manner of provisions, coals, lime, quarry stone, and all other necessaries and commodities are conveyed on it at an easy expence, to the great benefit of this county, and the improvement of trade and commerce in general; and in 1792, another act passed for im- proving this river still farther below the town of Maidstone, through the parishes of Boxley, Allington and Aylesford.

The traffic on the Medway still increases from the neighbouring country on each side of it, till it comes to Maidstone, where it becomes still more considerable by the hoys, which continually fail from thence, freighted for the supply of the London markets, to which the several mills for corn, paper, &c. there, and the great quantity of hop-grounds in those parts, do not a little contribute. The tide flows up as high as the lock just above Maidstone-bridge, and is there stopped by it, before the erecting of which it used to flow up as high as Farleigh-bridge, and sometimes, though but very seldom, as far as St. Helen's, in Barming.

At Rochester-bridge, where the tide of this river becomes exceeding rapid, foaming with great noise as it passes through, all the shipping are obliged to stop, neither the bridge nor the river itself permitting them to sail higher; and at those towns of Strood, Rochester, and Chatham, they unload their cargoes, either for sale there, or to be put into lighters to be conveyed upwards, towards Maidstone or Tunbridge, Besides the trade necessarily arising from the country, and the number of inhabitants with which these towns are filled, there are at Chatham large and extensive docks, buildings, and other accommodations for the use of the royal navy, and departments of the ordnance and victualling offices, several private docks, and other branches of trade in consequence of them; all which promote a constant succession of trade, hurry, and business, upon this river.

From Rochester-bridge to Sheerness, which is about twenty miles, the channel of the river is so deep, the bed so soft, and the reaches so short, that it is the best, and indeed the only safe harbour in the kingdom for the larger ships of the royal navy, which ride here, when they are put out of commission, in great numbers, as in a wet dock, and being moored at the chains, which are fixed for that purpose at the bottom of the river, swing up and down with the tide. Below Chatham there have been several forts erected for the defence of the royal navy, &c. of which a further mention will be made hereafter; from whence to the mouth of it there is little else worth notice, excepting that at the entrance of Stangate-creek, about three miles above Sheerness, on the south side of this river, there is a regular quarantine established for all vessels coming from the Levant and other suspected places, to prevent their bringing any infection of the plague into this kingdom; and that at the Swale, about two miles below this creek, the vessels from Queenborough, and very frequently from Milton, Faversham, and those parts of Kent, take their course into the Medway towards the Thames.

At Sheerness, which is a royal dock likewise, for the buildings ships of a lesser size, and refitting others upon a sudden emergency, there is a garrison, and strong fortifications, to guard the entrance into this river, mounted with such heavy cannon commanding the mouth of it, that no fleet of ships whatsoever can attempt to pass by them without being torn to pieces. This fort was built by king Charles II. and improved from time to time to its present state, especially on the memorable attempt which the Dutch made on the 10th of June 1667, upon the royal navy in this river, at which time it was left almost defenceless; for there were then but four guns that could be used at Upnor, and scarce so many at Gillingham, and about twelve guns in the isle of Shepey, where the fort of Sheerness is now built.

It was during a treaty of peace between the Dutch and the English, that the former took advantage of our too great security, and appearing with a great fleet on our coasts, rode in triumph along them, and ad- vanced near the mouth of the Thames, and finding no opposition there, they made a bold attempt, and sailed up the Medway, and soon made themselves masters of the little fort of Sheerness, though valiantly defended by Sir Edward Spragg. To put a stop to their farther progress, several vessels were sunk about the Muscle-bank, the narrowest part of the river, and a strong chain was put across the channel, and the lord-general, the duke of Albermarle, came down thither with a land force to oppose them, but having the advantage of an easterly wind, and a strong tide, the Dutch furiously pressed on and broke through the chain, and fought and burnt the three ships that lay to guard it, the Matthias, the Unity, and the Charles V. all three Dutch ships taken in that war, damaging many other vessels, and taking along with them the hull of the Royal Charles, which was twice fired by the English, and as often extinguished by the enemy. After which they advanced, with fix men of war and five fire-ships as far as Upnor-castle, and burnt the Royal Oak, and in effect destroyed the Loyal London and the Great James, which they left a great part under water, and after all this insult and ravage they fell down the river again, with no great damage to themselves, excepting the loss of their fireships, and the running aground two of their men of war, which they were forced to set on fire.

This bold attempt of the Dutch gave such an alarm to the nation of the danger the royal docks and magazines at Chatham, and the British navy itself lay exposed to, from the defenceless state of the river Medway, and of the easy access of the enemy to it, that the little fort at Sheerness was soon afterwards increased to a regular fortification, with a line of large and heavy cannon to command the mouth of it. A fort or platform of guns was likewise raised higher up in the river, called Cockham-wood; the Swamp and Gillingham-castle were likewise formed and furnished with guns, and on the opposite shore, Upnor-castle was strengthened with a good platform of guns, which commanded two reaches of the river, above and below it. Besides which, there has always been since, in time of peace, a man of war, and in other times several more, ready for service, lying at the entrance of this river, and the Thames at the Nore, to protect the nation from any sudden insult of the like sort for the future.

The river Medway is plentifully stored with fish; above Maidstone there is, in particular, plenty of carp, perch, tench, pike, dace, chub, roach, and gudgeons, and about once a year there is a salmon caught, commonly of about twelve or fourteen pounds weight; there were formerly great numbers of this fish in the Medway, several of the manors belonging to the priory of Rochester being bound to furnish one or more of them yearly to the monks there, for the use of their refectory; (fn. 1) and below Rochester there are taken the finest and largest smelts that can be, soals, flounders, dabs, thornbacks, maids, &c.

Sturgeon, in former times, used to be so exceedingly plenty in this river, that a duty was paid from it to the bishop of Rochester, and formed a considerable part of his revenue, as second to the archbishop, and another to the king; but there has been hardly any fish of this kind in the river for many years, which is imputed to the largeness and frequency of the men of war in it, which, disturbing the fish, have driven them from it. Indeed once in six or seven years a fish of this kind is seen up the river, one of which, in particular, was taken in the Medway, near Maidstone, in July 1774, which weighed one hundred and sixty pounds, and was seven feet four inches long.

On the Medway, and in the several creeks and waters belonging to it, within the jurisdiction of the cor- poration of Rochester there is an oyster fishery, and the mayor and citizens hold a court once a year, or oftener, if necessary, called the admiralty-court, for regulating this fishery, and to prevent abuses in it, the jurisdiction and authority of it have been further established and enforced by two acts of parliament, passed for that purpose, and this fishery is now in a flourishing condition.

There are six smaller rivers in this county; the Ravensborne, the Cray, the Darent, the Greater and Lesser Stour, and the Rother. The most western of these is

The river, called RAVENSBORNE, which rises on Keston-common, at a litle distance westward from the antient camp at Halwood-hill in the parish of Keston, directing its course north-north-west between the parishes of Hayes and Bromley, and, being augmented by several small brooks on the eastern side of it, this stream runs northward, through the eastern bounds of Beckenham, towards Lewisham, where, at the, hamlet of Southend, it supplies the steel manufactory, and flowing from thence, at about a quarter of a mile below Kengeley-bridge, it receives a considerable increase from the western side, from a stream which rises from several springs in the parish of Beckenham. Hence it directs its course northward, and at a little distance from Lewisham-street, having turned a mill, it crosses the highway leading from Lee to Deptford, where, having passed the bridge, it receives the Lee Bourne from the westward, and flows on to Deptford, where it crosses the London-road, having a handsome stone bridge over it, and then passing due north empties itself into the Thames, at about a mile's distance, during which length it is navigable for lighters, and such other like craft, up as high as Deptfordbridge.

The next river is the CRAY, antiently called, by the Saxons, Crecca, which word signifies a small brook, or rivulet. This rises at Newell, in the parish of Orpington, and runs from thence almost due north by St. Mary Cray, Paul's Cray, and Foot's Cray, where it crosses the high road from Farningham to London, and having supplied the waters in Foot's Cray-park, through which its runs, as it does through those of North Cray-place adjoining, and thence by several other seats in its way to Bexley, it crosses the road, and passing under a newly-erected brick bridge, it runs by the late Mr. Thorpe's gardens to those of Hall-place, and thence passes on to Crayford, and then branches into two streams, both of which cross the great London road, having bridges over them.

These two streams having supplied two large manufactories for the printing of calicoes, as they cross the high-road, re-unite, and turn an iron-mill; and having supplied some whitening grounds, this river makes several small windings through Crayfordmarshes, and joining the river Darent in Dartfordcreek, on the west side of it, about a mile below Dartford town, and as much from the Thames, flows in one united stream into that river, This river is well stored with trout of the finest flavour, colour, and size, much beyond what any other water produces in these parts.

The river DARENT, called also, in the Saxon charters, Tærent, takes its rise above the grounds belonging to Squirries, in the parish of Westerham, and having crossed the high road at the end of Westerham-street, it runs north-east and by east, by Valence to Brasted, soon after which it separates into two streams, which pass by Sundridge, where there is a bridge over them, leading towards Combank, hence they run on to Chipsted, where the road crosses them on two bridges; soon after they again unite in one stream, which then passes on to Riverhead, where the Tunbridge road crosses it over a bridge, and soon afterwards directs its course nearly north, and passing by Otford, it runs by Newhouse to Shoreham, and having passed the bridge there, it runs on to Lullingstone-park, where it separates into two streams, forming an island, and rejoins again at Lullingstone-place, at the back, or east part of which it continues its course, and so goes on to Eynsford, where it runs by the old castle there on to Farningham, and having passed the bridge lately built there, and crossed the high road, it flows on by Franks and Horton to South Darent, soon after which it separates into two streams, the northernmost of which, being the old river, flows through the village of Darent, the southernmost having passed by St. John's and Sutton-place, reunites with the other branch, about a mile or less from their separation. Hence this river flows by Hawley, and about a mile farther on, it supplies a gunpowder manufactory, soon after which it separates into two streams again, which unite just above the county bridge there, under which the Darent flows, and soon after supplies the ironmill, a little below which it forms an island, and now, acquiring the name of Dartford-creek, it receives, on the west side, the little brook called the Cranford, which rises at Hawley, somewhat more than a mile south of Dartford, and hence it flows, with several turns and windings, for about a mile and a half, when it receives, on the west side, the Cray, and in about the same distance more empties itself into the Thames.

The Darent, or Dartford-creek, as it is called, below Dartford town, is navigable for small boats, as high as the iron-mills above-mentioned, though not at all tides, the channel of it being of late years much choaked up with the sulliage, &c. which drives into it, as it is said, from the above manufactory, insomuch, that it is feared this navigation, so useful to this town and neighbourhood, will be by this means, before many years are elapsed, entirely destroyed.

The next river is the STOURE, of which name there are two, at no great distance from each other, dis- tinguished by the names of the Greater and the Lesser Stoure.

There are several rivers so called in different parts of England, the name is supposed to be derived from the British words, Es Dür, (or [To udor]) signifying the water; hence the city of Canterbury was called Durwhern, and afterwards, in Latin, Durovernum. The above British name, Es Dür, was afterwards latinized into Estura, or Sture, and now, by change of language and long custom, it is called and spelt Stoure.

The Greater Stoure has two principal heads, from which it rises; the first of which is at Well-street, in Lenham, and at about a mile's distance runs so strong, as to turn a mill, keeping on its course southeast, thence it runs on through the grounds belonging to Calehill to Ford-mill, near Surrenden; after which it takes a circle to the east, round Ruttingstreet, and turning Hurst-mill, it runs south-west, and forms an island; and having united it changes its course again to south-east; after which it runs on by Goddington to Bucksford-mill, where it makes again another small island, and thence to Stone-bridge, having in its way formed several small islands, soon after which this river is greatly augmented by the stream which takes its rise above Postling church.

This is the second principal head of the Stoure, which runs from Postling to Stamford, and from thence by Westenhanger, after which crossing the road from Hith to Ashford, a little below Summerfield, it runs on, and having turned Evegate-mill, it passes on to Mersham-bridge, beyond which it forms an island near Sevington-court, having in its course been increased by many smaller waters, it joins the main stream as above-mentioned.

The Stoure having been thus increased, directs its course north-east, and passes Ashford-bridge at the east end of that town, crossing the high road from Hythe thither, and thence, after receiving several small brooks into it on each side, it goes on by Spring-grove to Wye, and having passed the bridge there, and supplied the gardens and grounds at Ollantigh, for which purpose it is there separated into two channels; this river flows on in one stream to Godmersham, and having passed the bridge there, it continues its course by Chilham, which it leaves not quite half a mile to the noth-west, and then goes on to Shalmsfordbridge, where it crosses the high road from Ashford to Canterbury, and thence runs on to Chartham, bending its course eastward, by Horton and Thanington, after which it separates into two streams, which form three islands, one above the other, in the second of which is contained part of the city of Canterbury; these two streams, in their passage through Canterbury, turn five mills, and again unite a little below the town. Thence the Stoure, having supplied Barton-mill, passes by Vauxhall, and having crossed the high road from Canterbury to the isle of Thanet, under a new built bridge of three arches, it runs on, in its way to Fordwich-bridge, which having passed, as well as the town of Fordwich, after having taken several circles and meanders, it passes Grove-ferry, where there is a passage over it for carriages, as well as cattle; and thence it flows on till it arrives at the isle of Thanet, a mile southward from Sarre.

Near this place, somewhat northward of Stourmouth, the two river Stoures are supposed to have emptied themselves formerly into the water antiently called the Wantsume, which separated the isle of Thanet from the main land, now esteemed as part of the river Stoure. This water was once so considerable as to afford a good harbour, and a safe and easy passage for the shipping in their way from Sandwich towards London, without the danger and inconvenience of going round the North Foreland.

The Wantsume, a name now almost forgotten, was formerly supplied as well by the waters of the two ri- vers Stoure, and other smaller streams, as by the two distinct tides which, entering it at each end, met each other at the low point of high lands under Sarre, from whence they each ebbed back again to their own sea, at Northmouth and Sandwich-haven.

This water was once, as it is said, in the widest part of it, near four miles over, but it had by degrees retired so much, that even in the venerable Bede's time, as he tells us, it was but three furlongs over, and was usually passable at two places only; these were Sarre and Stonar, where two ferry-boats were kept for that purpose. (fn. 2)

The Wantsume had two mouths; one of which was eastward of Sandwich, and the other at Yenlade, or Northmouth, near Reculver. It was navigable throughout, so late as the time of king Henry VIII. for Twyne, who lived in the latter part of that reign, tells us, that there were people then living, who had often seen vessels of good burthen pass to and fro upon it, where the water was then, especially towards the west, totally excluded; all which, he adds, happened, because the fresh streams were not sufficient to check the falt water, that choaked up the channel.

At present, that part of this water which flowed round the south side of the isle of Thanet (from the place where the river Stoure arrives at it, about a mile southward from Sarre, to the mouth of it at Pepperness,) is called the river Stoure, and is deemed a part of that river; a farther account of which will be given in its proper place below.

That part of this water, which flowed into the sea northward of Sarre, at Northmouth, having the supply of the streams from Chislet and that part of the county, after the above period, directed its course still northward, but in two separate channels, one of which continued, as before, into the sea at North- mouth, and the other found a course more westerly, through a new channel, into the sea at a place, called from thence, Newhaven, about a quarter of a mile eastward from Reculver, and one mile distant from the other.

The eastermost of these waters last mentioned directs its course northward from Sarre-bridge, below which, taking the name of the Nethergong, it flows almost due north into the sea at Coldharbour or Northmouth-sluice, formerly called the North Yenlade, at about five miles distance from Sarre-bridge.

At a small distance north-west from the place where a stream from Chislet meets the Nethergong, the westernmost water branched off from it, though they have now no communication, a wall of earth, of about fifteen feet wide, thrown up for the benefit of the marsh lands, separating them entirely from each other. By which means this water becomes a dead head, or pond, at this end; but a little farther, at Marsh-row, it becomes of a much greater width, and so flows on northward into the sea at Newhaven.

These waters, especially the Nethergong, are at most times narrow inconsiderable streams, being continually crossed by wears, gates, &c. set up as well by the commissioners of sewers, as private persons, for the convenience of the levels, though in the time of floods they are both frequently increased to a great width, and run with vast force and rapidity into the sea.

After this change in the course of the Wantsume, there was a space left between the northern and the southern streams, that is, from Sarre-bridge southward for about a mile, to the place where the river Stoure arrives at the isle of Thanet, where there was no water remaining, so that Thanet might from thence be called rather a peninsula than an island, but for the benefit of sewing the marshes, an artificial cut, called the Mile stream, has been made from the Nether- gong to the Stoure, by which means it was again surrounded with water, and became an island as before.

The Stoure, being come to the isle of Thanet, as above-mentioned, and having parted with that water, which runs north-westward by Sarre, just described, continues its course between the island and the main land south-eastward, soon after which it receives into it the stream of the Lesser Stoure.

The river, called the Lesser Stoure, may properly be said to rise in the grounds belonging to Bournplace, for though it is frequently increased by a temporary water, called the Nailbourn, which, after great rains or thaws, makes its way from several springs, one of which is at Eching-street, which seldom fails, even in the driest summer; another a mile lower, at Liminge, which though it is seldom dry at the well, yet sometimes does not afford water enough to flow the space of a mile; the third is at a place called Brompton's-pot, about three miles and and an half lower than Liminge, and this, in the space between Eleham and Barham, frequently becomes dry, except when the occasional water or Nailbourn bursts out, when running over at this spring, it makes a river of itself, more or less permanent, for several months, as the spring affords it a supply, and continuing its course to Barham, it passes near Kingston and by Charlton-place to Bourn, where falling in with the head of the Little Stoure, it increases the waters of it to double their usual size; after which this river having supplied the grounds belonging to Bourn-place, it passes by Bridge-place, and crossing the great Dover road, under a bridge of one arch, it directs its course north-eastward by Bifrons through Patricksborne, and then running on by the remains of the archbishop's palace, at Bekesborne, it crosses the road by the vicarage there, and goes on through the grounds of Old Howlets by Garwinton and Well, after which it supplies the grounds belonging to Lee-house, and then crosses the high road from Deal to Canterbury, under a bridge of two arches, and soon afterwards turns two corn-mills, whence it runs to Wickham, after which this river continues its course till it flows into the Greater Stoure, which it meets in its progress round the isle of Thanet, as above-mentioned.

The river Stoure continues its course round the isle of Thanet south-east and by south, and passing by Richborough castle, it flows on to Sandwich, where there is a bridge over it into the island, and having afforded a harbour for the shipping there, it takes a circle and flows almost due north, as it were back again, till it comes to the salt-works at Stonar, a little distance from whence, where the land is not more than forty rods over, a cut has been made for the benefit of sewing the levels above, for which an act passed in 1776, from this part of the river to the former part of it a little above Richborough-castle, the river having flowed from thence nearly in the shape of an horse-shoe, making a circuit of about four miles; Sandwich being situated midway between the two extremes of it. Soon after the Stoure has passed by Stonar it directs its course north-east and by east, and soon afterwards empties itself into the British channel by Pepperness.

The trout in both these rivers are remarkably fine, particularly about Littlebourne in the Lesser Stoure, and in the Greater Stoure about Chartham. There is another sort of trout, which frequents the Greater Stoure, and seems to be of the salmon kind. These fish come into it from the sea at the latter end of the summer, and remain in it only three or four months; they are caught as high up this river as Wye, but more often between Barton-mill, below Canterbury, and Fordwich, than in any other part of it. They are in general of the weight of nine pounds and upwards, though they are sometimes taken of the weight of twenty-one pounds, or more. Both these sorts of trout are of a beautiful red colour when in season.

Below Fordwich, and to the mouth of the river at Pegwell-bay, there is still a different sort, commonly called Fordwich trout, though it is supposed this fish never breeds in the river, but comes from the sea. They have been much more numerous formerly than they are at present, owing to the mouth of the river, where it empties itself into the sea, being so much narrower and shallower than it used to be, when the tide ran stronger, and flowed farther up.

These trout are sometimes taken of ten or twelve pounds weight, and generally upwards of four. They are sharp-snouted, and their flesh of a yellowish cast.

In the sixth year (fn. 3) of the reign of king Henry VIII. an act passed for making that part of this river navigable which lies between Canterbury and Fordwich, so that both lighters and boats might come to each alike, notwithstanding which nothing appears to have been done in it. Perhaps this might be owing to the difference which then subsisted between the archbishop and the city, which caused him to build at Otford, instead of Canterbury, as he at first designed. However, in queen Elizabeth's time, Mr. Rose, an alderman of Canterbury, made an attempt to put the above act in execution, and render this stream navigable, and besides being a great benefactor and encourager to it in his life-time, he, by his last will, left three hundred pounds towards this useful undertaking. The consequence of which was, that for some time there were a few lighters, and boats that navigated this stream as high as Canterbury, but now, and for many years since, there has been no passage for them above Fordwich, but between that place and Sandwich there is a constant traffic carried on by means of this river, which is of some, though of no great benefit to the city of Canterbury and its neighbourhood.

The river ROTHER, formerly called Limene, takes its rise at Gravel-hill, in the parish of Rotherfield, in the county of Sussex, from whence it runs to Mayfield, whence it flows on to Itchingham, and then running near Salehurst and Bodiam, it enters this county in the parish of Sandhurst; hence the Rother still continues its course eastward, separating the parishes of Sandhurst and Newenden from Sussex, after which, at Maytham-ferry, leaving its old channel, which formerly was round the north side of the isle of Oxney, by Apledore, and separating that parish, and those of Rolvenden and Tenterden from that island, the Rother now takes its course round the opposite, or southern side of the island, and at the south-east corner it falls into its old channel again, which comes down from Apledore, with whose waters it flows down into Rye-harbour, and thence into the sea.

The channel of this river, which formerly ran round the north side of this island from Maytham-ferry, as above-mentioned, by Smallhith, Reading, and Apledore, is now only a small stream, which receives into it a few brooks on the north side of it, and joins the Rother at the south-east and west corners of the island. This channel, in 1736, was become so choaked up and contracted, that the waters could not find sufficient passage in it, which obliged the proprietors of the adjoining marsh-land to purchase and cut a new channel through Wittersham level, from Maytham-ferry to Blackwall, on the southern side of the island, where this river now runs, as above-mentioned.

Before the time of king Edward I. this river flowed from Apledore straight on to Romney, where forming an harbour it emptied itself into the sea, but in that king's reign, anno 1287, the raging violence of the sea overflowed this tract, and made great destruction of the people, cattle, and houses in every part within it, and entirely drowned Promhill, then a well frequented town, at the same time it so greatly agitated the channel of the Rother, that the waters of it, forsaking their old course, took a new and nearer passage from Apledore into the sea at Rye, as they run at present.

It appears, by an inquisition, taken in the beginning of king Edward III.'s reign, before William Trussell, the king's escheator, on this side Trent, that the tide then ebbed and flowed up above Newenden, and so strong, that the bridge there was broken and demolished by it, and the lands on each side the river were greatly overflowed, and much damaged by the salt water. To prevent which there were, from time to time, several commissions of sewers granted for the new making, viewing, and repairing the banks on each side of it, but there were, in consequence of letters patent granted by king Edward III. some new banks raised, which thwarted this river, and prevented such ships and boats as used to pass on it with victuals, and other things, from divers places in Kent and Sussex to Itchingham, and were likewise of the greatest prejudice to the market town of Salehurst, which had been supported by the course of this water; the king therefore revoked these letters patent, and commanded those banks to be demolished.

There are, in different part of this county, besides the above rivers, several inconsiderable brooks, and rivulets, which are not worth a particular description in this place, but each will be mentioned under the heads of the several parishes where they take their rise.


  • 1. Text. Roff. p. 193.
  • 2. Bede, lib. i. cap. 26. Lamb. Peramb. p. 96.
  • 3. Somn. Rom. Ports. Lamb. Peramb. Dugd. Imb. p. 83, &c. Somner's Rom. Ports, p. 21.