Sittingbourne – A Quick History

Sittingbourne, in South East England, 17 miles (27 km) from Canterbury and 45 miles (72 km) from London has a wealth of history.  Initially it was a minor hamlet next to Milton Regis, which in Roman times was the Roman administrative centre for the area.  Sittingbourne was on Watling Street, along which Roman soldiers would have marched, and became the larger town as Sittingbourne High Street grew on the London to Dover Road. In the Middle Ages the number of houses, and especially inns grew to accommodate the many travellers who needed a meal, or somewhere to stay for a night.

Sittingbourne was a popular stopping place for Kings and Queens, and other notables including Henry V, who dined at Sittingbourne in 1415 when he was on his way back from the Battle of Agincourt. In 1518 Cardinal Campeggio stopped in the town, attended by five hundred horsemen, and in 1522 King Henry VIII had a meal at the Red Lion. After Queen Elizabeth 1st visited Tunstall, the town was awarded charters giving the citizens more rights. In 1825 Princess (later Queen) Victoria stayed here overnight’ The Rose, where she stayed, was at the time described as ‘perhaps the most superb [lnn] of any throughout the kingdom’. In 1840, Prince Albert, with a much smaller entourage, heading for London to marry Victoria, stopped only for refreshments.

In Medieval times the journey from London to the coast took five days, but by the 18th century the ‘Flying Stage Coach’ took just two days, and Sittingbourne was the only overnight stop. The size, and quality, of the inns reflect the importance of the town.

Sittingbourne also became a major industrial and agricultural area.  It boasted important brickworks, which supplied much of London’s needs, and with this, the Barge industry became important for transporting the bricks, and other goods to London.  Paper making also became important, with Sittingbourne Mill enjoying the right to be the largest mill in the world.

Changes came with the birth of the railways but Sittingbourne still has a lot of untold history.  Many of the buildings that were used by travellers are also still there. You just have to look up above the current shop fronts, or down the side alleys at the backs of the buildings, to see them as they once were.  The HRGS exists to tell the stories and help current generations to understand and enjoy their heritage that still exists.

Queen Victoria stayed at the Rose Inn overnight in her younger days

Want to learn more? Come along to the Heritage Hub in the Forum Shopping Centre in Sittingbourne and find out what we have there.

Historic Sittingbourne’s Cat Trail…Town Walk

Great fun for all the family and find out more about the town at the same time.

We are paw-sitive that you will find out more about Sittingbourne by doing the cat walk.

A free trail set up by the HRGS and Baileys Coffee Shop with the help of Swale Council, guides you around some of the heritage and history of the town.

The self-guided route takes walkers along Watling Street, a Roman road through the heart of the town, as you try to spot 15 cat pictures in shop windows.

A century ago Florence and Thomas Gisby, who lived in Sittingbourne at 9 Cockleshell Walk, had 15 cats, which roamed the town. Each cat had a favourite place to sit. We have placed photos of cats in windows in the town for you to find, and our guide gives you a little bit of history of that part of the town. Follow the trail, and collect your sticker at Baileys Coffee Shop.

Pick up a leaflet in the Heritage Hub in the Forum Shopping Centre or from Baileys Coffee Shop or print a .PDF version here


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Brownie Visit

The 11th Sittingbourne Brownie Troop visited The Hub on 27th September 2017.  They were told about the activities of the HRGS and a little about the history of the town.   They were intrigued by the exhibits in The Hub, particularly those relating to the Romans.  This era seemed to catch their imagination.   They spent some time using our WW1 and Rose Hill touch screens and played with the Roman tesserae exhibit.   The Brownies were full of questions and appeared to be very interested in the history of the town and our work.

They collected their Wheels of Time badges and then set off with Brown Owl and Snowy Owl to do the Cat Trail.   They excitedly sought out the cats and learned something about their surroundings at the same time.


Free to Download

Click here to download Swale Memorials List 

We have more to offer…

We have a considerable amount of books, pamphlets, DVDs etc on sale at the Heritage Hub in the Forum Shopping Centre. Call in to see what we have.  We are open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm

We will also be adding more information and links to resources very soon. We will also be adding more items online for sale.  Watch this space!

2018 Calendar

2018 Calendar Now on Sale now from the Heritage Hub and at Baileys Coffee Shop, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum and Sittingbourne FC / The Woodstock

We can also arrange delivery by post, but with additional post and packaging costs addedContact us for details.