MaidstoneMaidstone is the county town of Kent, situated in South East England, approximately 30 miles from London. It is the economic, administrative and agricultural centre of the county. The town has a population in the region of 80,000 and straddles the River Medway.
Incorporated under its current charter in 1549, Maidstone was originally administered by the Anglican church under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, when the people of Maidstone rebelled against the crown in support of Thomas Wyatt this charter was revoked, though a new charter was established soon afterwards.
The town's charter was finally ratified in 1619 under James I, and the coat of arms, bearing a golden lion and a representation of the river, was designed. Recently these arms were added to by the head of a white horse (representing Invicta, the motto of the county of Kent), a golden lion and an Iguanadon.
The Iguanadon relates to the discovery in the 19th century of the fossilised remains of such a dinosaur locally. These remains are now displayed in the Natural History Museum in London.
The modern day commercial heart of Maidstone is built on a crossroads. High Street and King Street run up from the river crossing at Lockmeadow, while Week Street and Gabriel's Hill bisect this route. Much of the modern centre is traffic free or has restrictions imposed on car traffic. The County Council offices are on the northern edge of town, beside the Prison. Cynics claim that this saves time.
For many years the major employment in the town was provided by the agricultural markets, insurance brokers and the toffee factory to the south of the river. Nowadays however, many residents use Maidstone as a base to commute into London, or are employed within the retail, administrative or service sectors within the town.
Leeds Castle is located four miles east of Maidstone.
Much has been made in recent years of the importance of the river on Maidstone's way of life. For may years there has been an annual River Festival during the last week in August, and a millennium project inaugurated the Medway River walk, the Medway Park and a new footbridge linking the former cattle market (which is now a multiplex cinema and night-club) south of the river to the shopping area to the north.