Place:Sittingbourne, Kent, England

Watchers
NameSittingbourne
TypeParish (ancient), Civil parish, Urban district
Coordinates51.35°N 0.733°E
Located inKent, England
See alsoMilton Hundred, Kent, Englandancient county division in which it was located
Sittingbourne and Milton, Kent, Englandurban district into which Sittingbourne was absorbed in 1930
Swale District, Kent, Englanddistrict municipality into which the area was transferred in 1974
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Sittingbourne is an industrial town about eight miles (12.9 km) east of Gillingham in England, beside the Roman Watling Street off a creek in the Swale, a channel separating the Isle of Sheppey from mainland Kent. The town is growing rapidly due to a number of large residential developments, and its train line links to London Victoria and HS1 to St Pancras International, the journey taking about an hour from Sittingbourne railway station.

Wikiepedia gives an undated estimate of its population as 62,500. It should be noted that the "Milton" referred to throughout the Wikiepedia article is Milton Regis located facing Sittingbourne on the opposite side of the River Swale.

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Sittingbourne owes its name to a modernised version of an observation on its location. The town's name came from the fact that there is a small stream or "bourne" running underground in part of the town. Hasted writing in the 1790s in his History of Kent states that:

"Sittingbourne was anciently written Sedingbourne, in Saxon, Saedingburga, i.e. the hamlet by the bourne or small stream."

The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-5, preserved in the National Archives, record Sittingbourne as Sydingeburn in the following entry

  • Item dicunt quod Johannes Maresescall de Synele tenet unam parvam purpresturam in villa de Sydingeburn et solvit domino regi per annum 1d et dominus rex nichil perdit et quod Petrus de London tenet unam parvam purpresturam in villa de Sydingeburn et solvit inde per annum domino regi 1d et rex nichil perdit."

Translated as, "Then they say John Marshall de Synele holds one small encroachment in the vill of Sittingbourne and he pays the lord king 1d. each year and the lord king loses nothing and that Peter of London holds one small encroachment in the vill of Sittingbourne and he pays 1d. each year to the lord king and the king loses nothing."

Romans

There is evidence of settlement in the area before 2000 BC, with farming and trading Celtic tribes living inland to avoid attack, yet close enough to access the sea at Milton Creek. In AD 43 the Romans invaded Kent, and to make access quicker between London and Dover, built Watling Street, which passed straight through Sittingbourne. As a point where sea access met road access, the port of Milton Regis became the Roman administrative centre for the area, with some 20 villas so far discovered, but Sittingbourne remained a minor hamlet throughout Roman times. Most Roman finds in this area were due to the efforts of 19th century brick makers who used topsoil to make bricks, and uncovered the finds; and preserved thanks to banker George Payne, who preserved or bought materials and published his works in 1893 in Collectanca Cantiana.

Middle Age Hostelry

There was no entry for Sittingbourne in Domesday book in 1086, merely a note attached to Milton with a population of 309. However, after the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket in 1170, pilgrims began to travel to Canterbury Cathedral and Sittingbourne became a useful hostelry for many travellers. Sittingbourne is mentioned as a stopping point in The Canterbury Tales, with the Summoner in the Wife of Bath's Prologue says:

At this time, the 13th century Parish of St Michael church was constructed, and the High Street contained 13 pubs and hostels. The Lyon - now the Red Lion - played host to King Henry V of England on his way back from the Battle of Agincourt, and Henry VIII visited Sittingbourne in 1522 and 1532. In 1708 the Rose Inn was built, described by a noted traveller as one of the best in England, where Queen Victoria later stayed overnight.

Railway and industrial revolution

After the railway came in 1858, Sittingbourne became less a market trading and hostelry stop-off, and more a 19th-century centre of production to fuel the expansion of London, by producing bricks and paper from its clay substrata.

The First World War

The area around Sittingbourne was subject to constant air raids by Zeppelins and aeroplanes during the First World War. The Germans used the town as a reference point for bearings on the way to London.

The first visit by a German aeroplane happened on Christmas Day 1914. Guns at Sheerness fired at the lone invader but still one shell dropped into a field at Iwade. The next event was to occur on 16 January 1915 when another solitary pilot from a German aerodrome in Belgium bombed Sittingbourne. This aircraft, a Taube, was pursued by two local airmen, but managed to escape after dropping a couple of bombs.

About 100 air raid warnings were sounded in Sittingbourne during the First World War and anti-aircraft batteries were strengthened in 1917. The last big raid to pass over the town on Whit Sunday (19 May 1918), carried out by a number of Gothas, eliciting perhaps the most ferocious barrage from the ground defences the town had ever seen.

The local newspaper, the East Kent Gazette, reported:

"The first of these duels occurred about an hour after the raid had been in progress, and probably this machine was caught while on its way to London. It was engaged by a daring aviation officer while at a great height. The British airman attacked his opponent so fiercely that the German was forced down to a lower height, and ultimately, to the joy of the onlookers, the Gotha burst into flames, seemed to break in two and came down piecemeal, all aflame. The wrecked machine and the three occupants fell by a farm. Two of the Germans fell into marshy ground and their bodies were deeply embedded in the mud. The third man's head struck a wall and was shattered like an eggshell. All three bodies were removed to a local aviation establishment. The fall of the burning Gotha was seen for miles around."

The second Gotha was surrounded by British fighters shortly after, returning from a successful raid on London.

Donald John Dean VC OBE born and bred in Sittingbourne was awarded the Victoria Cross for deeds carried out in France in 1918 and is buried in the graveyard of Tunstall church.

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Sittingbourne.

Research Tips

  • Kent County Council Archive, Local Studies and Museums Service. James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ. This incorporates the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone and the East Kent Archives Centre near Dover.
  • Canterbury Cathedral Archives see the Archives web pages on the Canterbury Catherdral site.
  • For information on the area around the Medway Towns, have a look at Medway Council's CityArk site.
  • Ordnance Survey Maps of England and Wales - Revised: Kent illustrates the parish boundaries of Kent when rural districts were still in existence and before Greater London came into being. The map publication year is 1931. An earlier map of 1900 may also be useful. The maps blow up to show all the parishes and many of the small villages and hamlets. Maps in this series are now downloadable for personal use.
  • Census records for Kent are available on FamilySearch, Ancestry and FindMyPast. The first site is free; the other two are pay sites but have access to microfilmed images. Steve Archer produced a very useful round-up of the available sources, but this information may not be up to date.
  • Registration Districts in Kent for the period 1837 to the present. By drilling down through the links you can follow any parish through the registration districts to which it was attached.
  • England, Kent, Parish Registers, 1538-1911 The full database from Kent Archives Office, Maidstone, has been available online from FamilySearch since June 2016.
  • Kent had five family history societies (now only four):
  • Volume 2 of the Victoria County History of Kent (published 1926) is available online through the auspices of British History Online. It includes accounts of the early history of Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals, and of several sites now within the conurbation of London.
  • Volume 3 of the Victoria County History of Kent (published 1932) This includes the text of, and the index to, the Kent Domesday survey. It has been provided by the Kent Archaeological Society.
  • In place of the other volumes of the Victoria County History, British History Online has transcriptions of the numerous volumes of The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent by Edward Hasted (originally published 1797)
  • English Jurisdictions 1851, a parish finding aid provided by FamilySearch, is particularly helpful in locating parishes in large ancient towns and cities like Canterbury.
  • Kent Probate Records Numerous links provided by Maureen Rawson
  • GENUKI lists other possible sources, however, it does not serve Kent so well as it does some other counties.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Sittingbourne. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.