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A stone built house with red-tiled roof, overlooking a river. Behind a blue sky with white clouds.
River Medway, Maidstone
Maidstone is located in Kent
Population 113,137 (2011)
OS grid reference TQ765555
• London 32 mi (51 km)NW
  • Maidstone
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district ME14–ME16
Dialling code 01622
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Maidstone and The Weald/
    Faversham and Mid Kent
List of places
KentCoordinates: 51°16′19″N 0°31′44″E / 51.272°N 0.529°E / 51.272; 0.529

Maidstone is the county town of Kent, England, 32 miles (51 km) south-east of London. The River Medway runs through the centre of the town, linking it with Rochester and the Thames Estuary. Historically, the river was a source and route for much of the town's trade as the centre of the agricultural county of Kent, known as the Garden of England. There is evidence of a settlement in the area dating back to before the Stone Age.

The town is in the borough of Maidstone. In 2011, the town had a population of 113,137, about 73 per cent of the population of the borough.

Maidstone's economy has changed over the years from being involved in heavy industry, to more light industry and service industries.


Saxon charters (c975) show the first recorded instances of the town's name, de maeides stana and maegdan stane, possibly meaning stone of the maidens or stone of the people. The latter meaning may refer to the nearby megalith around which gatherings took place. The name evolved through medestan/meddestane in the Domesday Book with possible variation Mayndenstan, in 1396. The modern name appeared by 1610. It has been suggested that the name derives from stones set into the river to allow clothes to be rinsed in the cleaner water away from the banks.


Leeds Castle, Kent, England 2 - May 09
Leeds Castle, four miles east of Maidstone

Neolithic finds have revealed the earliest occupation of the area, and the Romans have left their mark in the road through the town and evidence of villas. The Normans set up a shire moot, and religious organisations established an abbey at Boxley, hospitals and a college for priests. Today’s suburb of Penenden Heath was a place of execution in medieval times.

Maidstone 034
Maidstone Museum

Maidstone's charter as a town was granted in 1549; although briefly revoked, a new charter in 1551 created the town as a borough. The charter was ratified in 1619 under James I, and the coat of arms was designed, bearing a golden lion and a representation of the river (in heraldic terms: Or, a fess wavy Azure between three roundels Gules, on a chief Gules a leopard passant gardant Or). Recently to these arms were added the head of a white horse (representing Invicta, the motto of the county of Kent), a golden lion and an iguanodon. The iguanodon relates to the discovery in the 19th century of the fossilised remains of that dinosaur, now in the Natural History Museum in London. Maidstone has had the right to a town gaol since 1604.

During the English Civil War, the Battle of Maidstone took place in 1648, resulting in a victory for the Parliamentarians. Andrew Broughton, who was Mayor of Maidstone in 1649 (and also Clerk to the High Court of Justice) was responsible for declaring the death sentence on Charles I, and today a plaque in Maidstone Town Centre memorialises Broughton as 'Mayor and Regicide'.

Paper mills, stone quarrying, brewing and the cloth industry have all flourished here. The paper maker James Whatman and his son invented wove paper (Whatman paper) at Turkey Mill from 1740, an important development in the history of printing.

A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of cavalry barracks in 1798. Invicta Park Barracks is now home to the 36 Engineer Regiment.

Maidstone Prison is north of the town centre and was completed in 1819.

Modern history

Modern Maidstone incorporates a number of outlying villages and settlements (see Geography below).

The county council offices to the north of the town centre were built of Portland stone between 1910 and 1913. On 29 September 1975 a local pub serving Invicta Park Barracks, The Hare and Hounds, was damaged by a bomb during an IRA campaign in England.

Maidstone General Hospital opened on the outskirts of the town in 1983, replacing West Kent General Hospital, which opened 150 years earlier in Marsham Street. It is just to the north of Oakwood Hospital (originally the Kent County Asylum), which closed in the mid-1990s.

Residents are employed in the retail, administrative or service sectors; there are industrial estates around the town providing employment. Some of the workforce commute to other towns, including to London.


A former millpond on the River Len, Mill Street/Palace Avenue Maidstone.
Lower Crisbrook Mill mill pond and Upper Crisbrook Mill, on the Loose Stream.

The town is six miles downstream from where the River Medway, having flowed in a generally west-east direction, is joined by the Rivers Teise and Beult at Yalding and changes its course to a northerly one. It cuts through the ridge formed by the greensand, so that the town occupies a site on two opposite hills, the easterly one containing the town centre. Beyond that, and higher, is Penenden Heath.

The River Len joins the Medway at Maidstone. Though a short river, it provided the water to drive numerous watermills. The Loose Stream, which rises at Langley and joins at Tovil, once powered over 30 mills. Mill ponds on these rivers are a prominent feature of the landscape.

Roads connecting to Sevenoaks and Ashford (the A20); the Medway Towns and Hastings (A229); Tonbridge (A26) and Tenterden (A274). All these roads were served by the Turnpike trusts in the 18th/19th centuries.

The two railway routes are not principal ones, in spite of Maidstone being the county town, due to an accident of history. There are two principal stations: Maidstone East, the more northerly of the two, on the secondary line from London to Ashford, and Maidstone West on the Medway Valley Line.

Maidstone has continued to grow. In doing so it has incorporated hitherto separate settlements, villages and hamlets within its boundaries. These include Allington, Barming, Bearsted, Penenden Heath, Sandling, Tovil and Weavering Street. Housing estates include Grove Green, Harbourland, Ringlestone, Roseacre, Shepway and Vinters Park.

Maidstone was at one time a centre of industry, brewing and paper making being among the most important. Nowadays smaller industrial units encircle the town. The site of one of the breweries is now Fremlin Walk shopping centre. The pedestrianised areas of the High Street and King Street run up from the river crossing at Lockmeadow; Week Street and Gabriel’s Hill bisect this route.


Kent experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest official Met Office weather station for which online records are available is at East Malling, about three miles west of Maidstone.

East Malling's highest temperature of 37.4 °C (99.3 °F) was recorded in August 2003. The lowest temperature recorded is −17.8 °C (0.0 °F) during January 1947 and 1972. East Malling also holds the record for the mildest January day in South East England, 17.4 °C (63.3 °F), also set in 2003. The lowest temperature recorded in recent years was −10.7 °C (12.7 °F) on 20 December 2010. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate).

Climate data for East Malling 1961-1990 (Weather station 3 miles (5 km) to the West of Maidstone)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.8
Average low °C (°F) 1.2
Precipitation mm (inches) 62
Sunshine hours 51.6 69.4 113.9 148.5 201.0 204.8 201.0 195.6 151.4 114.4 69.3 46.6 1,567.5
Source: Met Office


Maidstone compared
Maidstone Maidstone district England
Population 75,070 138,948 49,138,831
Foreign born 5.9% 5.2% 9.2%
White 97% 97% 91%
Asian 1.5% 1.1% 4.6%
Black 0.4% 0.2% 2.3%
Christian 74% 76% 72%
Muslim 0.8% 0.5% 3.1%
Hindu 0.7% 0.5% 1.1%
Source: 2001 UK census

In the 2001 UK census, Maidstone town wards had a population of 75,070, a density of 28 residents per hectare. The town had 31,142 households, of which 38% were married couples, 29% were individuals, 10% were cohabiting couples, and 9% were single-parent families. 14% of households had someone living alone of pensionable age.

The ethnicity was 96.6% white, 0.9% mixed race, 0.3% Chinese, 1.5% other Asian, 0.4% Black and 0.3% other. The place of birth was 94.1% United Kingdom (91.4% England), 0.6% Republic of Ireland, 0.6% Germany, 1.3% other European countries, 1.7% Asia, 0.9% Africa and 0.8% elsewhere.

Religion was 73.9% Christian, 0.8% Muslim, 0.7% Hindu, 0.3% Buddhist, 0.14% Sikh and 0.11% Jewish. 15.8% had no religion, 0.6% had an alternative religion, and 7.7% did not state their religion.


In the 2001 UK census, 45.2% of residents aged 16–74 were employed full-time, 12.7% part-time, 7.6% self-employed and 2.5% unemployed, while 2.3% were students with jobs, 3.0% without jobs, 12.9% retired, 6.6% looking after home or family, 3.8% permanently sick or disabled and 3.2% economically inactive for other reasons. These figures were roughly in line with the national average.

Employment, by industry, was 19% retail; 13% real estate; 11% manufacturing; 9% construction; 7% transport and communications; 10% health and social work; 8% public administration; 7% education; 5% finance; 4% hotels and restaurants; 1% agriculture; 1% energy and water supply; and 5% other. Compared to national figures, Maidstone had a high percentage of workers in construction and public administration, and a low percentage in agriculture.

According to the Office for National Statistics estimates, the average gross income of households between April 2001 and March 2002 was £595 per week (£31,000 per year).

Transport and communications

Residential developments along the river upstream of the Palace.


One of the first roads in Kent to be turnpiked was from Rochester to Maidstone, in 1728. The A20 runs through the town and the M20 motorway runs to the north. Opened in 1960 as the Maidstone Bypass A20(M), this was the first motorway south of London. Maidstone is a hub for major roads: the M20 motorway, the A229, A249, A20 and A26. The M2 motorway is a short distance to the north and the A21 also runs close to the town. The historic centre of the town is largely pedestrianised or with restricted access for private vehicles, which are diverted around a one way system.


The River Medway was, until the coming of better roads and the railways, the principal means of transporting goods. Improvements had been made in about 1730 to the river so that barges of 40 tons could get upriver to East Farleigh, Yalding and Tonbridge. This meant that a good deal of trade, including corn, hops, fodder, fruit, stone and timber passed through the town, where there were several wharves.

The medieval stone bridge was replaced in 1879 to give better clearance: it was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. A second bridge, St Peter's Bridge, was built in 1977.

Today the river is of importance mainly to pleasure-boat owners and the considerable number of people living on houseboats. For many years there has been a river festival during the last weekend in July, and a millennium project inaugurated the Medway River Walk, the Medway Park and a new footbridge linking the former cattle market (now a multiplex cinema and nightclub) west of the river to the shopping area to the east.

Public transport


Chequers Bus Station, Maidstone (geograph 3726872)
Maidstone Chequers bus station

Bus services centre on High Street, King Street and the Chequers Bus Station adjacent to the Mall shopping centre and serve nearby towns including Chatham, Faversham, Sittingbourne, Tonbridge, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tenterden and a limited service to Bluewater Shopping Centre. Most services are operated by Arriva and some operated by Nu-Venture.

Stagecoach also operates route 10X in the town to Ashford via Lenham, with most buses continuing onto Hythe and Folkestone.

There are weekday commuter coach services between Maidstone and London.

Former bus operators in Maidstone include Maidstone & District Motor Services (M&D); Maidstone Borough Council Transport, later Boro'line Maidstone; and Bygone Buses.

Arriva Southern Counties 3176
An Arriva Southern Counties bus in Maidstone Transport Centenary livery

In 2004 the centenary of Maidstone Corporation Transport was marked with several events, featuring a preserved Maidstone trolleybus.


When the railways were built in the 1840s, Maidstone was not well served. It was reported at the time that inhabitants were bitterly opposed to the railway, the mayor suggesting that "Maidstone will be ruined as a commercial town". It was said that wharfingers and corn and coal merchants would be hardest hit.

In 1842, the South Eastern Railway, to reach the Channel ports of Folkestone and Dover, put its main line through Tonbridge and Ashford, some 6 miles (9.7 km) to the south. A station named Maidstone Road was built in an isolated spot called Paddock Wood, from where coaches were run to the county town.

The 1874 Maidstone East line crossing the River Medway; also on the bridge is a footpath connecting Maidstone East with Maidstone Barracks.

Two years later a branch line was built to Maidstone. In 1846 the Medway Valley Line connected Strood with the town. It was not until 1874 that the line from London arrived, and another ten years before Ashford was connected by rail. There are three stations: Maidstone West and Maidstone Barracks on the Medway Valley Line (whose platforms are visible one from the other); and Maidstone East on the Ashford line.

In 1905, the Headcorn & Maidstone Junction Light Railway was authorised under the 1896 Light Railways Act to link Maidstone with Sutton Valence and Headcorn, linking with the Kent & East Sussex Railway. The only part built was a short branch serving the paper mills at Tovil.

Long-distance footpaths

The Medway Valley Walk between Tonbridge and Gillingham passes through the town, following the banks of the river.

Historic public transport


Between 1928 and 1967, Maidstone had a small trolleybus network. The system had two main routes:

  • A route from the High Street, along Tonbridge Road terminating near the Bull Inn at Barming; and
  • A route from the High Street, along Loose Road and Sutton Road to Park Wood, with a separate spur along Loose Road towards Loose village.


All Saints' Church

In 2001, religions were 73.9% Christian, 0.8% Muslim, 0.7% Hindu, 0.3% Buddhist, 0.14% Sikh and 0.11% Jewish. 15.8% had no religion, 0.6% had an alternative religion, while 7.7% did not state their religion.

All Saints' Church in the town centre was the collegiate church of the College of All Saints built in 1395 next to the Archbishop's Palace. It is a landmark building and is one of the largest and widest parish churches in England. It contains a monument to Sir Jacob Astley, the Royalist Civil War soldier and a memorial to Lawrence Washington, great-uncle of George Washington's great-great-grandfather, that includes the stars and stripes in the family coat of arms The college, the church, the palace and the palace's tithe barn are all Grade I listed buildings.



A Twinning Association Committee meets every month. It organises annual trips to the Jeanne Hachette Festival in Beauvais. An annual sporting weekend is also held, with Maidstone and Beauvais taking it in turns to host the event.

Radio and television

There are several radio stations based in the town, or which broadcast to it. KMFM Maidstone, formerly CTR 105.6, is the local commercial station. It used to broadcast from studios on mill street, however now broadcasts from the studios of sister station KMFM Medway in Strood.

Hospital Radio Maidstone, which broadcasts from Maidstone Hospital, is one of the longest serving hospital radio stations in the UK.

A new version of former pirate radio station Radio Caroline broadcasts (via Sky and the internet) from The Maidstone Studios, an independent television studio complex in the Vinters Park area, once home to the former ITV company TVS. Several national TV shows are also filmed at the studios.

Heart Kent used to broadcast from studios in Earl Street.


The Exchange

Theatres include the Hazlitt Theatre; RiverStage; The Exchange Studio (previously the ‘‘Corn Exchange’’); and the Hermitage Millennium Amphitheatre.


Maidstone is mentioned several times in Ian Fleming's 1955 James Bond novel, Moonraker. Villain Hugo Drax passes through King Street and Gabriels Hill and later stops at the Thomas Wyatt Hotel.

Writer Jack London recounts his visit to Maidstone in his 1903 book The People of the Abyss. Whilst living in the slums of London in the summer of 1902 - he heads to Maidstone in search of hop picking work up the London Road. He finds lodging with a 'Sea Wife' living in the poor quarter of Maidstone, and persuades her and her husband, Thomas Mugridge to let him stay in their front room.


Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery

Maidstone Museum & Art Gallery is located in the town centre, near to the Fremlin Walk shopping centre. Operated by Maidstone Borough Council, the museum is open seven days a week, with free admission. The Museum & Art Gallery has a large collection of over 600,000 objects, including collections about ancient Egyptians; archaeology; costume; ethnography; biology; fine and decorative art; geology; Japanese decorative arts and prints; and local history. It also hosts temporary exhibitions.

The core of the museum is located within the former Chillington Manor, an Elizabethan manor house completed in 1577. New wings were added to the building in the 19th century. A striking gold-coloured extension was added in 2012 which has extended the display space by 40% but the modern design has divided opinion.

Kent Life

Kent Life, formerly the Museum of Kent Life, is an open air rural life museum at Sandling, near Allington Locks, on the east bank of the River Medway. The museum includes a collection of historic buildings including a chapel, village hall and old houses. It also includes displays on agriculture, including a farm yard and farm animals.

Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages

The Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages is located in a Grade I Listed tithe barn near the Archbishop's Palace. The museum was established by Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, a former mayor of Maidstone, who amassed a large collection of horse-drawn vehicles.

Martian crater

Following the NASA tradition of naming craters on Mars after small towns, the Maidstone crater was added to the list of Martian geographical features in 1976.

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