Demography And Urban Development
The development of Kentish settlements followed a similar pattern to that of other regions of the country, and as a matter of fact of the world. Most settlements which later became cities developed in the immediate vicinity of a source of water, either a river or the North Sea (or both, where that applies). Water was crucial for human and animal consumption, irrigation, fishing, water milling, navigation and so forth. Therefore, three notable settlements developed along the River Medway, today's Tonbridge, Maidstone and Rochester. Along the River Stour there are four large municipalities, namely Ashford, Canterbury, Richborough and Sandwich. Westerham and Dartford developed near River Darent; Dover was established at the mouth of River Dour and among the most notable coastal towns are, aside from Dover, Deal, Ramsgate, Folkestone, Margate and Sheerness. Besides its hydrography, the region's economy, which in time favoured population growth, was supported by Kent's geography, geology and climate, which is significantly milder and in terms of agriculture, allows many popular cultures to be grown.
Maidstone. First established in prehistoric times, as confirmed by the Stone Age relics found in the area, Maidstone is situated on the river Medway and is today the county town of Kent. It underwent repeated transformations at the hands of various occupants, such as the Romans and the Normans, and is historically renowned for a battle which took place there during the English Civil War, in 1648. Economically, Maidstone stood out through its heavy industry, which has been overshadowed today by other sectors. It also comprises the largest office centre in the whole of Kent, adjacent intensively active business parks and, what is most remarkable, the largest paper recycling facility in Europe, located at Aylesford.
Dover. One of England's most important coastal cities, Dover is fairly close to mainland Europe, as it is located at a distance of merely 21 sea miles from the French city of Calais. Its foundations lay near the mouth of River Dour and the area has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Dover was one of the main settlements intensely developed by the Roman occupiers, who left behind a rich heritage. In medieval times it became one of the Cinque Ports, due to its coastal position, which facilitated intense navigation and commerce. In terms of innovative transport, the Channel Tunnel, linking Dover to Calais, opened in 1994. Today, as ever, Dover is one of the busiest cities in the world in terms of maritime activity, running numerous ferries and shipping services.
Dartford. Dartford is located in Kent's north-western extremity and is nearly adjacent to central London, which is why it is to a considerable extent inhabited by London commuters. Its initial human habitation dates back to prehistory, approximately 250.000 years ago. It was later developed by the Romans and in medieval times it was closely linked to notable religious orders such as the Knights Templar, the Franciscans and the Dominicans. Economically, it is known for its agriculture and historic trades such as paper manufacturing, flour milling, brewing and chalk mining. However, those industries have mostly been left behind. As a particularity, nowadays it comprises an expansive science park and industrial complex.
Ashford. Located on the river Stour, its earliest signs of habitation can be traced back to 893 AD, when it was presumably founded by a community of Britons fleeing the Viking invasion. Later connected to other settlements by a Roman road, throughout the centuries it has fortified its role as a successful market town, mainly due to its prolific agriculture. It then developed as a centre of railway transport, which it remains today, with a number of important lines passing through it. There is also an international railway station, connected to the Channel Tunnel. Modern Ashford is also known for its large number of science parks, and for its many business, production and retail complexes.
Margate. A favourite holiday destination for centuries, Margate is a seaside resort situated in the district of Thanet, with a long history of successful tourism. Its beaches are referred to as the Margate Sands and have been particularly favoured during the aestival season. It has been attested in historical documents since the 13th century, occasionally with an alternative spelling. Aside from its natural attractions it has got a prolific maritime heritage, which is illustrated in its many museums and galleries.
Canterbury. Originally founded by the early settlers of Kent on the River Stour, it was developed during the 1st century AD by the Roman occupiers, who expanded it considerably. Canterbury is a place of pilgrimage for many Christians and will always be associated with its religious past, particularly with a number of saints, such as St Augustine, who first brought Christianity to England. It is foremost a place of intrinsic historical value and a key location for Kent's tourism. Many name with a high resonance, excelling in fields such as literature or music, are associated with Canterbury, which also boasts a rich artistic and cultural past.
Sandwich. With an exceptionally rich naval history, Sandwich has been attested since the 11th century, as early as 1028, on the River Stour. It has been the gateway to England for foreign troops on a number of occasions and later became one of the Cinque Ports due to its strategic position. Today, its attractions include a nature reserve, a bird observatory, eight windmills, a few museums and a significant number of historic buildings, mostly inns and pubs, some of them still functional and dating as far back as the 15th century.
Kent's ethnical background is a very diverse one, consistent with the region's history, which from ancient to present times has known the blending of many races, nationalities and cultures. When the last survey was conducted in order to record Kent's latest ethnicity statistics, its population comprised White (96.5%), Asian (1.7%), Black (0.4%) and Chinese (0.3%) people. Most residents stated the UK as their country of origin; other places of origin include Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Far East and North America.