Welcome to Sittingbourne, a historic town located in the county of Kent in south-east England. Situated just 17 miles from Canterbury and 45 miles from London, Sittingbourne is a convenient stopover for travelers exploring the region. The town is located beside the Roman Watling Street, an ancient British trackway used by the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons, and next to the Swale, a strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey.
Sittingbourne owes its name to a modernized version of an observation on its location. The town’s name came from the fact that there is a small stream or bourne running underground in part of the town. The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274–5, preserved in the National Archives, record Sittingbourne as Sydingeburn.
There is evidence of settlement in the area before 2000 BC, with farming and trading tribes living inland to avoid attack, yet close enough to access the sea at Milton Creek. In AD 43 the Romans invaded Kent, and to make access quicker between London and Dover, built Watling Street, which passed straight through Sittingbourne. As a point where sea access met road access, the port of Milton Regis became the Roman administrative center for the area, with some 20 villas so far discovered, but Sittingbourne remained a minor hamlet throughout Roman times.
Middle Age Hostelry:
After the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket in 1170, pilgrims began to travel to Canterbury Cathedral and Sittingbourne became a useful hostelry for travelers. Sittingbourne is mentioned as a stopping point in The Canterbury Tales. The parish church of St Michael was built in the 13th century. At that time the High Street had 13 pubs and hostels. The Lyon – now the Red Lion – hosted King Henry V of England on his way back from the Battle of Agincourt, and Henry VIII visited Sittingbourne in 1522 and 1532.
Railway and Industrial Revolution:
After the railway came in 1858, Sittingbourne became less a market trading and hostelry stop-off, and more a 19th-century center of production to fuel the expansion of London, by producing bricks and paper from its clay substrata.
The First World War:
The area around Sittingbourne was subject to constant air raids by Zeppelins and aeroplanes during the First World War. The Germans used the town as a reference point for bearings on the way to London.
Sittingbourne and its consumed suburb of Milton today is a growing town, with much recent expansion by way of housebuilding in the former chalk and brick clay works digs. Expansion is attributable to the town’s train line links to London, some 60 minutes away by high-speed rail and easy access to the A2, A249, M2 and M20. Much of the surrounding Kentish countryside is good farming land, and being southerly in the UK many varieties of fruit are grown nearby, with this part of Kent being particularly famous for apples and cherries. Fruit preserving and packing are hence large employers, while new industrial and retail parks provide additional employment and services.
The local clay was suitable for making bricks, and North Kent is geologically rich in chalk, which is not found in many other places in Europe in such abundance. This led to the development associated industries: water transport, paper, and cement; all of which continue today in the area.
Sittingbourne and the surrounding area have a number of primary schools. The main secondary schools in the town are Fulston Manor School, The Sittingbourne School, The Westlands School and two single-sex Grammar Schools, Borden Grammar School (Boys) and Highsted Grammar School (Girls). Pupils wishing to apply for a year 7 place at grammar school have to take the Kent Test (11+) to assess if grammar school is a suitable option.