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Dickens to Darwin - Kent's Hall of Fame

28th February 2022

From the worlds of art, literature, film, science, sports and music, Kent boasts a heavy-weight Hall of Fame when it comes to famous faces throughout history. Kent residents are in fantastic company with the impressive haul of legendary figures who were either born and raised in the county or are known to have lived here over the years. We’ve chosen to shout (brag) about a few of our favourite Kent superstars – both past and present - who have really made their mark on history…

Charles Dickens

Kent has extraordinary literary links to some of the greatest writers in history, with the great Charles Dickens himself taking great inspiration from the beautiful Garden of England. Spending much time in North Kent throughout his life he declared of the county, “You cannot think how delightful and fresh the place is - and how good the walks.” From his family home in Gads Hill, to his holiday residence on the Isle of Thanet, the locations and characters of some of his most prolific works are inspired by the Kent landscape. From Rochester Cathedral's feature in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, to Eastgate House's transformation into Westgate House in The Pickwick Papers, Rochester's Guildhall Museum's The Making of Mr Dickens exhibition, opened by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, tells the tale of the Medway landmarks that helped shape his literary and personal life.  Great Expectations…

Dame Kelly Holmes

Superstar runner Dame Kelly Holmes is one of the most successful female athletes in history, snagging double-gold in the 2004 Olympics. A current local resident of her hometown of Hildenborough, the national treasure is often spotted out and about in West Kent supporting lots of local sports events and charity initiatives in the area. Why not lace up your trainers for a Kent Parkrun for a glimpse of the sporting star, or even just head out for a jog in one of the beautiful Kent parks? On your marks….

 

J M W Turner

The quintessentially British seaside town of Margate was a firm favourite and source of inspiration for world-famous artist J M W Turner and it was here that he found his inspiration for the nation's favourite painting. Positioned in the former beach-side spot of Turner’s favourite guest house, visitors will now find Margate’s impressive Turner Contemporary Gallery. An internationally renowned gallery showcasing contemporary and historical art, Turner Contemporary has been a huge part of Margate’s regeneration and burgeoning cultural scene. Even a walk along Margate's beach to see the icon from the outside is enough to get that fix. The loveliest skies in Europe…

Bob Geldof

Lead singer of eighties band ‘The Boomtown Rats and renowned instigator of world-famous charity single ‘Band Aid,’ music industry legend Bob Geldof is arguably Faversham’s most famous resident. With his family home based in the lovely market town, Geldof is often spotted out and about in the historic town centre. The Boomtown of Faversham... 

Charles Darwin

English Heritage property Down House in North Kent was the family home to world-renowned English science and theorist Charles Darwin throughout the 1800s. With its unique place in the history of science and evolution, and housing the study where Darwin wrote 'On the Origin of Species,' the property is a must-see for history fanatics and budding scientists alike. Let Sir David Attenborough take you on an interactive multimedia tour around the house and discover how the great man developed his ground-breaking theories. Inspiration and experimentation…

David Bowie

The Kentish roots of legendary music star David Bowie run deep, with his mother born and raised, and his parents meeting, in Tunbridge Wells. Bowie joined two Kentish bands from Maidstone and Margate in the 60s, living in Maidstone for a number of years whilst with local band The Manish Boys. Although the band never hit the dizzy heights of stardom, you’ll find plaques about the important part they played in Bowie’s historic music career in the town centre today. As we all know, Bowie went onto become one of the most influential and prolific writers and performers in music history - so we think it’s only fair that we lay a little fame claim for Kent! A touch of Stardust…

 

Sir Mark Rylance

Kent-born BAFTA and OSCAR winner Mark Rylance is one of England’s most well-loved and respected actors, eventually heading to Hollywood for an incredible decade-spanning career. Taking a break from the glamourous Hollywood hills, Rylance has recently been spotted back in his hometown filming a brand-new documentary, ‘My Grandparents’ War.’ The beautiful Kentish village of Sissinghurst will have a starring role in this television series as Sir Mark Rylance returns to his family home in the village to find out more about his relatives’ experience of the Second World War. Head to West Kent and check out the world-renowned and award-winning Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens before spotting them on TV very soon! Quality and class…

Christopher Marlowe

Canterbury-born Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day and one of the most famous Kentish figures in history. He attended The King’s School in Canterbury, and there is now a house named after him there. In fact, there are nods to the historic playwright across the town from the incredible Marlowe Theatre to the exhilarating ‘Marlowe’s Ghost’ escape rooms experience. For the perfect weekend break, head to the beautiful ancient city of Canterbury, and immerse yourself in the history and culture on offer in Marlowe’s hometown. Marlowe’s City…

Thomas Becket and Geoffrey Chaucer

Murdered in Canterbury Cathedral under instruction from King Henry II, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket's death and subsequent rise to sainthood and martyrdom is forever remembered at The Cathedral. Marked by a candle in the Trinity Chapel, Becket's tomb has long been associated with miracles that attracted pilgrims from all across the world. Which brings us to our next Canterbury legend, Geoffrey Chaucer. Author of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer wrote satirical and humorous stories of  characters who made the pilgrammage. So why not come and make it for yourself? 

The Few

Any hero deserves a spot in our hall of fame and The Few, the men who fought in the Battle of Britain in the skies over the Channel in 1940, are certainly that. Fewer than 3000 airmen made up Churchill’s Few, many from Kent, and are all honoured on The Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the Battle of Britain Memorial. Here you’ll spot Beckenham-born Joseph Kilner, one of the first to sign up for the RAF Reserve Scheme and who later won the Distinguished Flying Cross, among many other brave men who risked their lives in the Battle. After honouring The Few, we recommend seeing their story in The Scramble Experience, a hands-on audio-visual extravaganza.

Anne Boleyn

We couldn’t create a list of our famous faces without including one of King Henry VIII’s most iconic wives, Anne Boleyn (say it with us…Divorced…beheaded…died…divorced…beheaded…survived). Before she caught the eye of the married King (we all know the story), Anne Boleyn grew up at our very own Hever Castle before eventually being placed in service to Queen Catherine of Aragon… and we all know how that turned out. Hever Castle’s latest exhibition Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court tells the tale of Anne’s childhood, what molded her character, and the rise of the Boleyn family. The family’s letters and portraits can all be seen, presenting an intimate picture of the woman who changed the course of British history.

The poets of Penshurst 

Literary buffs, prepare to be impressed! Penshurst Place has hosted and inspired many a poet and writer in its time as the ancestral home of the Sidney family. From Sir Philip Sidney, the celebrated renaissance poet and author of Defence of Poesie, who was born here, to his niece Lady Mary Wroth, the first English woman to write a complete sonnet, Love’s Victory, which was first performed in the Baron’s Hall, Penshurst’s literary links run for centuries. But it was arguably Ben Jonson’s early 17th century poem, To Penshurst, that really put our beloved country estate on the map. Read the poem before you visit and you’ll witness the estate’s woodland, beauty and warm welcome for yourself.

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