MAIDSTONE, a market town and municipal and parliamentary borough, and the county town of Kent, England, 41 m. E.S.E. of London by the South Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. (1901), 33,516; area, 4008 acres. It lies principally on the eastern bank of the river Medway, the modern part spreading over the western slopes of a picturesque valley, which is intersected and environed by orchards and hop gardens, this being the richest agricultural district of Kent. The hop grounds form the socalled middle growth of Kent, and the town has the principal grain market in the county. Archbishop Boniface in 1260 established a hospital here (Newark hospital) for poor pilgrims, the chapel of which, with modern additions, is now St Peter's Church. The parish church of St Mary, which had existed from Norman times, was demolished in 1395 by Archbishop Courtenay, who erected on the site the present church of All Saints. This fine Perpendicular building contains, besides many excellent monuments, the richly carved sedilia and the twenty-eight oak seats used by the collegiate priests. Courtenay also founded a college of secular canons, the ruins of which ii interesting specimen of 14th-century architecture. From the reign of John until the Reformation the archbishops had a , nee here, at which Stafford and Courtenay died. This mlicular building, with its Elizabethan east front, was red by the corporation as a memorial of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887, and houses the school of science and art. The y, with the manor, passed into lay hands at the Reformation; and, having been a perpetual curacy for three hundred i wenty years, the living became a vicarage in 1866. The grammar school was founded in 1549, and endowed with the .s of the local Corpus Christi fraternity, then dissolved; the hall in which the gild assembled remains, but the school is 'lished in modern buildings on a new site. There are oil mills, rope, sacking and twine factories, and cement, lime, lirick works. There is a considerable carrying trade on the Mod way. A museum, with public library, was opened in 1858, in an interesting building of the early part of the 16th century. This is the headquarters of the Kent Archaeological ty, founded by the Rev. L. B. Larking in 1858. In 1890 an art gallery was added. The West Kent and General hospital, the county ophthalmic hospital, county gaol and barracks may be mentioned among other institutions. From Saxon times down to 1830 condemned malefactors were executed, and all the great county meetings were held, on Penenden Heath, a common situated about a mile north-east of the town, and -ed by the corporation as a public recreation ground. The parliamentary borough of Maidstone returns one member. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors.
There is evidence of a Roman settlement at Maidstone. The name Maidstone (Medwegestun, Meddestane, Maydestan), probably meaning Medway Town, is presumably of Saxon origin. At the time of the Domesday Survey it belonged to the archbishop of Canterbury, and from the reign of John the archbishops had a residence there. Its position in the centre of Kent gave it an early importance; the shire-moot was held on Penenden Heath in the 11th century, and Maidstone was an c town in the reign of Edward I. In 1537 Cranmer exchanged the manor of Maidstone with the king, and it was granted by Edward VI. to Sir Thomas Wyatt. Edward also incorporated the town by the title of the mayor, jurats and commonalty; it had formerly been governed by a portreve and 12 "brethren." This charter was forfeited through 't's rebellion; a second charter was granted by Elizabeth in 1559 and confirmed by subsequent sovereigns. A new charter constituting a governing body of a mayor, 12 jurats and 40 common councilmen was given at the petition of the inhabitants by George II. in 1747, and remained the governing charter until 1835. Four fairs were granted by the charter of 1559; these are now held on the 13th of tary. the 12th of May, the zoth of June and the 17th of October. A Thursday market was granted by Henry III. to Archbishop Boniface, and a market every second Tuesday in the month by charter of George II. A corn market on Tuesday and a cattle market on Thursday are still held. The manufacture of linen and woollen goods was introduced by Walloons, who settled here in 1 567. This was succeeded by paper-making, now the chief industry of the town. The cultivation of hops has been carried on since the 17th century.
Maidstone has been associated with various incidents of general history. Wat Tyler broke into the prison, liberated John Ball the rebel preacher, and committed various depredations. Several of the leading inhabitants joined Jack Cade's rising. The rising of the Kentish Royalists in 1648 collapsed at Maidstone, where on the 1st of June Fairfax, after five hours' obstinate fighting, captured the town at midnight.
See Victoria County History, Kent; I. M. Russell, History of Maidstone (1881).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)