Darent forms a compendium of information about this area of North West Kent, compiled for the first time into a single volume. It embraces the formation of the land and its river; who and what lived here in prehistoric times; the mills which once abounded along this river and, above all, the histories and stories of every village and market towns – from Westerham up to the Dartford Marshes. Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of photos, drawings and reproductions, the book makes for easy reading as well as an ideal reference work.
Darent is published by Stanhope Publishing, Otford.
‘DARENT’ IS CELTIC FOR ‘THE RIVER WHERE OAKS GROW’
FOREWORD by Nick Johannsen of AONB
Darent celebrates the heritage of this unique river region. Though it lies so close to London this is an area of Kent unknown to many. The river’s rich history and the part it has played in the nation’s evolution of culture, invention and industry has often remained unsung. Darent tells its story through the many anecdotes of the villages and towns though which the river passes.
This book forms a broad-ranging compendium of local information and knowledge: from the formation of Kent deep beneath the ocean and how our earliest ancestors followed the river’s once broad course to the effects of Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement along the banks of the valley still evident today. Almost every one of the great water mills which drove the industrial revolution in this region of Kent has now disappeared. Their stories, though, can still be told. Throughout our history it has been the river that has acted as the impetus and the energy behind the development and evolution of the region. The Darent is the thread that runs through everything.
Only when you understand how a community has evolved and where it has come from do you begin to appreciate it fully. This is another reason why Darent has been written. The history that underlies every village or town has made each place what it is today. The memories contained in its houses are a part of that continuity. Darent is a celebration of a common heritage.
This is not a history book, nor an encyclopaedia; others are far more qualified than me. It is, as much as anything, a retelling of tales. This book seeks to invoke a picture of the region and bring its history to life, making it accessible and tangible.
For visitors, as much as for those that live here, Darent forms a guide, a history, a reference book and a general celebration of who we are, the landscape in which we live and how the river is continually interwoven in our long past.
My hope is that you will always be able to dive into these pages at any point and be able to exclaim, ‘well, I never knew that!’.
PART ONE: LANDSCAPE AND SETTLEMENT
Putting the Darent on the map
Forming the landscape
The river and its fish
Flora and fauna
The first humans
The Romans arrive
Creating a community
PART TWO: THE UPPER RIVER
Chipstead and Chevening
Sevenoaks wildlife reserve
PART THREE: THE DARENT VALLEY
PART FOUR: ACROSS RICH PASTURE
PART FIVE: ONWARDS TO THE SEA
PART SIX: INDUSTRY AND ARCHITECTURE
Understanding water mills