Resources and trades
Akin to other counties, Kent has seen the rise of many resource-related trades and sometimes their fall as resources were depleted. Kent's geography, geology, water bodies and climate have had a decisive impact on the population's means of survival throughout history. Whereas some longstanding trades, such as mining, have mostly faded, they left behind a rich heritage which is now an important part of Kentish culture.
Geography And Geology
Kent lies in England's south-eastern extremity, bordered by Sussex to the west, London and the North Sea to the north and to the south, the English Channel and the Straits of Dover. At the narrowest point of the Channel, Kent is particularly close to mainland Europe, as it's located at a small distance from France. As it forms part of the remnants of the Wealden dome, the region's geological strata comprise upper and lower greensand, chalk, clay and sandstone, a formation which has had its impact on the economy through various extractions of prime matter, such as chalk. Kent's geology also determines the structuring of its territory into seven ridges, which incorporate one or two types of strata.
On a national level, Kent stands out due to its milder climate, which creates an optimal setting for agricultural activities. That is why the county is also referred to as ''the Garden of England'', as a significant array of the country's agrarian produce is grown there. Kent is renowned for its fruit production in particular, which has a long history. It was also the first location where certain culture of non-indigenous plants were grown, such as cherries, grape vines and hops. Kent is renowned for its expansive hop cultures, and if hops were initially used in food preparation, during the 16th century they became the primary ingredient for brewing local beer, which has maintained its popularity until today. Agriculture has been particularly prominent in the Darent Valley since the Roman period, due to this region's alluvial soil, which is very fertile. Activities such fishing and rearing animals have always been productive parts of Kentish life as well and their by-products filled the county's many markets.
Due to its geological formation, one of Kent's specific natural resources is chalk, which constitutes the upper layer of the Wealden Dome. The area known as the North Downs consists entirely of chalk and municipalities such as Dover, Canterbury, Deal and Sittingbourne have made intense use of this resource. At times, chalk extractions, especially beside the river Medway, have interfered with prehistoric vestiges such as the Medway Megaliths. Deneholes, which consist of a number of conjoined caves inside a chalk structure, are also present in the North Downs region.
The mining industry was established and developed rapidly towards the end of the 19th century, when coal was localised in the vicinity of Dover, in 1890, following which the surrounding area became known as the Kent Coalfield. Coal was extracted there for nearly a hundred years, yet only for of the collieries dug were actually functional as the rest collapsed. The lucrative ones were Tilmanstone, Chilset, Snowdown and Betteshanger, the latter being the last one to close in 1989, as the other three had been closed in previous years. The mining industry employed experienced workers, most of whom came from other parts of the country, where mining had had a long tradition. Akin to many areas where mines were constructed, villages were built in order to house incoming workers, such as Mill Hill and Elvington, in the vicinity of Deal.
Mills constitute a significant part of Kent's economic heritage as they have been in use for many hundreds of years, in both variations, of watermills and windmills. Watermills are evidently positioned along rivers, as they depend on the mechanical power provided by water, with an impressive number located on the River Darent, which flows from Westerham to River Thames, in the north. The windmills amount to 28 in present times and are mostly concentrated around larger settlements, which is a major decrease compared to past centuries, when more than 400 windmills were in function throughout the county as there used to be one in nearly every village. Other mills exist as well, such as paper mills (originally on the rivers Darent and Stour), which have been running for a very long time, and mills which perform manufacturing processes of other prime matters.
One of the most prominent industrial activities in Kent so far has been and continues to be the manufacture of building materials, such as cement, bricks and steel. The steel for instance is obtained from prime matters at Sheerness and rolled into sheets at Queensborough. The cement industry has declined compared to past decades yet facilities at Cuxton and Northfleet still function. The steel industry is also linked to the manufacture of parts for ships and aircraft.