Legends and Heroes

Tash Reeves

21st August 2020

We've all heard the legends of heroic figures changing the world for good like that of King Arthur and his knights, and Robin Hood and his Merry men. Even infamous legends like Dick Turpin and Guy Fawkes, have been passed down through history. But what about the new legends? The people, the heroes of today who will be deemed legendary in local history. A visit to Kent can uncover some impressive legends and heroes.

Before you head off to discover these legends, make sure you, Know Before You Go and check our partner websites before you visit. Take a look at our guidance on how to best Respect, Protect and Enjoy our beautiful Kent attractions and landscapes. So, whether it's a restaurant with a top chef, the tale of a world-renowned author, or a gallery full of an artist's work, discover the legends and heroes of Kent.

Eleanor de Montfort, Princess of Wales

It's fair to state, that when one pictures a castle siege, a heroic male is usually depicted. It’s legendary figures like Eleanor de Montfort that change this perspective. Eleanor was the granddaughter of John Lackland and was the second woman who can be shown to have used the title Princess of Wales. Eleanor held Dover Castle against the king in 1265 after her husband and eldest son died in battle. Prince Edward besieged the castle from the outside. At the same time, 14 royalist prisoners Eleanor was holding in the great tower fortified the tower against her. Attacked from all angles, Eleanor managed to negotiate a settlement, she was exiled to the continent, but her supporters would be pardoned. Discover more about her legend at Dover Castle.

Dover castle is good to go, make sure you pre-book entry before travel.

Anne Boleyn

As the second wife to King Henry VIII and mother to Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn is one of our best known queens and her role in changing the monarchy has been fascinating historians for centuries - maybe because she met a sticky end, if you can remember the nursery rhyme! With so much written about the elusive figure, look to her childhood home of Hever Castle for the best history lesson on the mysterious queen, and take a peek at King Henry VIII’s bedchamber from their courting days.

Dr James George Beaney

Heroes give back to their homes and communities, Dr James George Beaney is the founder of The Beaney Museum and a local legend. A Canterbury-born man of modest background who studied medicine and apprenticed to William James Cooper before emigrating to Australia, where he found his success. Upon his death in 1891, Dr Beaney left money in his will to the city of Canterbury to build an 'Institute for Working Men' with amenities for men from poor backgrounds such as his own. His patronage was fundamental in making The Beaney Institute: a dedicated location for Canterbury's museum, where you can visit to learn more about Dr James Beaney’s legacy,

You must book online for entry.

St Augustine

Arriving on the shores of Thanet in AD 597, St Augustine had the mission to bring Christianity to the English for the first time. He was successful, and his legacy is still with us today throughout art, culture, legal systems, music, and more. You can visit St Augustine's & Pugin: Shrine & Visitor Centre which commemorates his legend and houses a relic of St Augustine's bone, right here in Thanet! St Augustine's shine is the personal project of the renowned architect. Augustus Pugin, most famous for designing "Big Ben,". He said that this building was the perfect model of his 'true principles' of architecture and called it "my own child." While on your trail of St Augustine, be sure to visit St Augustine's Cross, which said to mark the very spot where the saint first landed on the shores of England! 

Legends of the Screen

Not all legends are real; many are romanticised with only a sprinkling of reality. We embrace the fictitious legend, especially that of Inigo Montoya. In the late 80s Penshurst Place was selected as one of the filming locations for the cult classic "The Princess Bride". The medieval Baron's Hall was used as the backdrop for Montoya's legendary sword battle with Count Rugen in which the infamous line "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!" was uttered over and over again.

Penshurt Place is good to go, you need to pre-book tickets to visit.

Sir Winston Churchill

A man that needs no introduction, he's a war hero, a great statesman, and national treasure, guaranteed to go down as a legend. Kent is home to Chartwell House, the much-loved home of the Churchill family since 1922. It was a playground for their youngest daughter and a treasured private country recluse for a very public man. The house is still much as it was when the family lived here - pictures, books and personal mementoes evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of this influential family. The studio is home to the most extensive collection of Churchill's paintings. Chartwell is just one of many places that helps to preserve the memory of Winston Churchill.

You will need to book your visit in advance.

Ian Fleming

Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig, the six men to play the legendary character of James Bond. Ian Fleming was inspired by Kent, basing his novels, Moonraker and Goldfinger, on places, buildings and people in the county. To experience all things bond, you need to visit St Margaret’s bay! Written in 1955, Moonraker is largely based in St Margaret's, a little fishing village that became a seaside resort. The former Granville Hotel was the setting for Bond’s and Gala Brands recovery following an encounter with a villain in Moonraker where they enjoyed fried soles and Welsh Rarebits. Stroll along the shingle beach north where you will spot a white house with green shutters. Known as White Cliffs this was Flemings former weekend and holiday home during the decade, he wrote his Bond blockbusters, pop into the Coastguard for a pub lunch, it's said to have provided inspiration for Fleming.

Amy Johnson

Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930, as well as setting many long-distance records during the 1930s. She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary; she died when her plane crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay in January 1941. Searches failed to find her body or the aircraft after she ditched off the Kent coast. A statue of the pilot, commemorating her at the age of 37, has gone on display on Herne Bay's seafront, where you can celebrate her legacy and have photos.

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe is an Elizabethan legend whose story will never be fully uncovered. Marlowe was baptised in Canterbury in 1564 and is most famous for his work as a playwright, writing plays such as Doctor Faustus, and The Massacre at Paris, he is noted to have had an influence on the early plays of Shakespeare and is cited as establishing the dramatic of Blank Verse. Marlowe's legacy doesn't end there; he was also heavily rumoured to have been a government spy. He is reported to have extended absences from Cambridge University saying that he had been engaged in unspecified "affairs" on "matters touching the benefit of his country". Marlowe also died under suspicious circumstances, with an official coroner account only being revealed in 1925. Marlowe's legacy is celebrated by Canterbury's local theatre, named The Marlowe, and there is a historic walk around the city! 

Chatham Dockyard

For 414 years Chatham Royal Dockyard provided over 500 ships for the Royal Navy and was at the forefront of shipbuilding, industrial and architectural technology. In 20th century history, during the first World War I, twelve submarines were built here, in the interwar years, eight S-class submarines were built at Chatham. During World War II there were 1,360 refits and sixteen launchings. The Royal Dockyard is also a legend on the silver screen, being featured on The Crown, Downton Abbey, Mr Seflridge and Les Misérables.

Chatham Dockyard is good to go, all visits must be booked online in advance. Enjoy fantastic savings at the Historic Dockyard with the Kent Pass

Hawkhurst Smugglers vs. Goudhurst

We’ve told you the tales of the good, we’re now telling you the tales of the bad. The Hawkhurst Gang was a criminal organisation involved in smuggling throughout southeast England, their influence ran from Hawkhurst, in Kent, along the South coast, to Dorset. In 1747, at St. Mary's Church there was a battle between the Hawkhurst Gang and the Goudhurst Militia. When the gang heard that the Militia had been formed they became enraged and threatened to burn the village and kill the residents unless the Militia was disbanded, by 21 April 1747. These demands were not met, so the gang attacked on the appointed day, they approached heavily armed. However, the Militia were trained to shoot dead, three smugglers died during the battle, their leader captured and later hanged.

Charles Dickens

Who in your opinion, is the quintessential Victorian author? The Brontë sisters? Oscar Wilde? George Eliot? You, of course, cannot forget the literature legend, Charles Dickens. There are many significant connections Dickens had with Kent; his influence is seen all over from Gravesend to Rochester. If you want to immerse yourself in Dickens's head to Gad's Hill Place where Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood before his death in 1870. Dickens was quite the fan of a walk along the River Medway from Rochester to Maidstone, which can still be followed today. There is no denying that Charles Dickens was one of Kent's biggest fans and the feeling is mutual.

Pocahontas

More than just a character from Disney, Pocahontas was a Native American Princess, who in 1607 intervened to save the life of Captain John Smith. Later, she married an Englishman and left her home to travel to England. Pocahontas’ legend ends here in Kent, in late November 1616, Samuel Argall was elected Deputy Governor of Virginia and planned to return, accompanied by Pocahontas and her husband. In Mid-march they set sail from London, a courtier wrote that ‘[Pocahontas] is on her return though sore against her will’. The last place down-river to take on freshwater was Gravesend, and it was here that Pocahontas was brought ashore, either dead or dying. It is believed she was buried in St George’s, in 1896, the memorial tablet to Pocahontas was put in the chancel of the Church.

Kings and Queens

Whisk yourself away to the heart of Kent's lush countryside, where one of the loveliest castles, Leeds Castle, in the world awaits. Stroll its opulent rooms to reveal 900 (+1) years of captivating history, flit through the grounds, lose yourself within a marvellous maze, and reveal your competitive side with a round (or two) of adventure golf. And, breathe…

War time heroes

The Battle of Britain was a pivotal part of WWII as 3000 RAF pilots fought to protect the skies over Southern England. Today the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne remembers “The Few” who gave their lives and helped inform history. Pay tribute to them and learn all about their sacrifice with a visit this summer. Alternatively, why not delve into the history books when you step back in time at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham? Discover all about the job of the Paratroopers who had a key role capturing bridges and key targets, and the courage D-Day took.

Pilgrims and saints

Experience a spiritual moment in North Kent as you walk through the pages of history at Rochester Cathedral, a church that has been celebrating Christian worship since 604AD. With its breathtaking architecture, beautifully refurbished crypt and stunning library collection, it’s not to be missed. Learn all about the history of this astonishing place of worship, which as England's second oldest cathedral, is sure to reveal a tale or two. 

Maritime history 

Delve into the fascinating maritime heritage of the Isle of Sheppey and learn of the island's intriguing Blue Town at the Blue Town Heritage Centre - yes, a blue town! From war time history and the bravery of the suffragettes, to the dances and splendour of the newly restored Criterion Music Hall, discover treasure and memorabilia that tells the tale of Swale and the people who have lived here. 

Charles Darwin

Yes, the father of evolution lived right here in Kent and you can tour his home of more than 40 years! Visit Down House and you'll have the chance to see the very desk where he wrote On the Origin of Species, tour his "outdoor laboratory", the very gardens where he made so many of the observations that informed his work and even stroll his "thinking path" through the grounds. Now how about that for following in a great man's footsteps? 

Please book tickets in advance

Shepherd Neame

When you think about the Legends of Kent, one name that cannot be forgotten is Shepherd Neame. Britain’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame has been based in the market town of Faversham, Kent for over 300 years, with more than 300 pubs and hotels throughout London and the South East. Perhaps best known for great British classic ales such as Spitfire, Shepherd Neame also played an important part in British History. Richard Marsh leased the Brewery in 1678 and in his capacity as Mayor, held King James II as a prisoner after he ran aground off Faversham while attempting to flee to France to avoid William of Orange and his Dutch army during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The monarch was held at Marsh’s house, 19 Court Street (now part of the Brewery), for two days while the authorities decided what to do with him.

Mark Sergeant 

They say that the way to the heart is through the stomach, if that’s the case then there is no Kentish hero more loved then Mark Sergeant. This top Michelin star chef and restaurateur operates the renowned Rocksalt restaurant and rooms. Mark doesn't stop there he has recently also bought the Radnor Arms pub, both in Folkestone. So if you want good food from one of Kents own, this is a stop that you won’t want to miss.

Secrets of Canterbury 

What secret histories lie in the extraordinary medieval buildings of Canterbury? What ancient tales of legends and heroes are hiding round the river bend? Discover the hidden gems of Canterbury as you sail along the River Stour through the heart of the city with Canterbury Historic River Tours. Let your feet rest while you explore, as your tour guide brings historic Canterbury to life with detail and humour as you pass by some of Canterbury’s most famous sights. The past never felt so alive!