20 more fascinating facts about Kent

PUBLISHED: 10:14 07 August 2018

Margate's Dreamland is to the UK's oldest theme park (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Margate's Dreamland is to the UK's oldest theme park (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

In the second of the series we look at 20 facts, theories and mysteries connected with the always intriguing Garden of England

See 20 more fascintating facts, theories and mysteries about Kent

1. In 1914 the very first white lines in the UK were painted on the London to Folkestone Road in Ashford. It was four years later before any other roads in Britain were given similar markings.

2. The Isle of Sheppey has more than 100 years of aviation history and is responsible for many of the earliest flying inventions. Both the Short Brothers and the Wright Brothers used the island to test and create new inventions.

3. Herbert Baker, the dominant force behind South African architecture, was born in Owletts, Cobham. From an early age, he loved to discover the historic ruins of some of Kent’s most impressive structures. Among his most notable works are some of New Delhi’s most significant government buildings, including Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s official home.

4. Kent boasts more than 350 miles of pristine coastline and more blue flag standard beaches than any other county. For sun worshippers, fossil hunters keen to unearth their very own Iggy and even water-sport enthusiasts, our coastline has it all.

5. On 25 August 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the Channel without artificial aid. Starting from Dover, he accomplished his swim in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Inspired by reading how J. B. Johnson had tried and failed to swim the Channel, he left his job to focus on training. Unfortunately, Webb then attempted to swim through the treacherous Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River below Niagara Falls and sadly met his end there.

6. Hidden deep inside the heart of the White Cliffs of Dover are 3,500 sq ft of interconnecting tunnels that once housed up to 185 soldiers during the Second World War. Originally dug out during the Napoleonic wars to house and hide soldiers in case of invasion, they were re-used when the nation was once again at war. Today the tunnels are open to the public and you can see carvings on the walls made by servicemen.

7. Of all the celebrities and historical figures to have lived in and visited Kent, the biggest fan has to be Julius Caesar, who declared that ‘of all the British tribes, by far the most civilised are they who dwell in Kent’.

Kent boasts more than 350 miles of pristine coastline and Botany Bay, Broadstairs is just one of its seven fabulous bays in Kent (photo: Visit England/Diana Jarvis)Kent boasts more than 350 miles of pristine coastline and Botany Bay, Broadstairs is just one of its seven fabulous bays in Kent (photo: Visit England/Diana Jarvis)

8. Kent is home to the UK’s oldest theme park. Margate’s Dreamland dates back to 1880 and memorably featured in the Only Fools and Horses episode Jolly Boys Outing. Boycie (actor John Challis) from the popular TV show attended the ceremony when Dreamland reopened in 2015, after many years of decline.

9. Also in Margate, lurking underground in the seaside town is the Shell Grotto, famous Grade I-listed passages decorated with 4.6 million shells all over the ceiling and walls. It was discovered in 1835 and visitors have long speculated over its mysterious origins.

10. A type of legal inheritance known as gavelkind is most associated with Kent. A form of land ownership that makes allowances for inheritance to be passed on to females equally if there are no male heirs, gavelkind has origins with the Saxon invaders, was established in Kent by the time of William I and was in use up until 1926. Gavelkind was used so frequently in Kent that unless otherwise indicated, it was assumed that lands were to be inherited according to gavelkind.

11. A colony of yellow-tailed scorpions lives in the docks at Sheerness. It is thought that they arrived in Kent when Geroge III was on the throne and not only are they the UK’s largest, best-known wild scorpion colony, they are also the most northern scorpions in the world – and, fortunately, harmless.

12. Tunbridge Wells Motor Club is one of the oldest in the UK and dates back to 1911. Today, it is mostly involved in Autotesting and Sprinting but also organises lots of non-competitive and social events for all ages and abilities.

13. Kent’s coast is famed for its seafood and the best known of all sole fish is named after Dover. During the 19th century, the busy port landed the most sole and duly earned the title. Chefs value the Dover sole for its mild, buttery, sweet flavour and ease of filleting.

14. Kent suffered a storm on 19 August 1763 that saw the county battered with hail the size of oysters (one measured nine inches across). Birds were killed, property damaged and crops destroyed.

15. In 1821 King George IV named Ramsgate harbour ‘Royal’, making it the only Royal Harbour in the UK. With such regal recommendation, it makes sense that the seaside town is also home to the world’s largest Wetherspoons, with arguably some of the finest ladies’ loos in pub history!

16. Pegwell Bay was the site of the world’s first international hoverport. Officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1969, it cost £1,500,000 to build and could carry a million passengers a year.

17. During the First World War Ramsgate was the UK’s most bombed seaside town. Bombs were so frequently dropped by Zeppelin and Gotha bomber raids that tunnels were built for civilian shelter and an air raid shelter built in 1917 at Ellington Girls School.

18. Sir Norman Wisdom, the comedy giant and star of some of the best-loved films of the Great Comedy Era, spent several years of his childhood in Deal.

19. John Le Mesurier, known as playing the charming Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, moved to Ramsgate in the late 1960s and lived there for 13 years with his third wife Joan Malin.

20. In 1791 The Royal Sea Bathing Hospital opened in Margate for those seeking a cure for tuberculosis. Patients were exposed to the fresh sea air and the hospital had its own seawater reservoir. This wonderful facility was the first of its kind and many flocked to Kent as a result of its growing popularity and encouraging results.

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