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MAIDSTONE. ability and integrity. I passed a few days with the old gentleman, much to my satisfaction. He was the son of David Polhill, Esq. whom Dr. Watts thus celebrates in his Lyric Poems, as being one of the five famous English gentlemen who petitioned parliament in the reign of King William, to hasten their supplies for the support of his Majesty in his war with France
Let useless souls to woods retreat,
Knolle Castle, the venerable seat of the Duke of Dorset, is in the vicinity.
But it is now time to bend my course towards Maidstone, at the distance of about fifteen miles from Tunbridge; and on my way thither we observed Mereworth House, the seat of Lord le Despencer. The interior is decorated with paintings, and the situation yields a fascinating variety.
My approach to Maidstone could not fail of giving rise to agreeable sensations. Here, amidst a circle of kind and intelligent friends, how many of my vacations have passed away! and here, having left my little family, I was now about to return to them with renewed satisfaction.
I remain, dear Sir,
MAIDSTONE; ITS ANTIQUITY AND POPULATION; IT'S CHURCH,
BRIDGE, AND PRISON ; REFLECTIONS ON A GENERAL ELECTION; PAPER; IT'S MANUFACTURE; POEM ON PAPER, BY DR, FRANKLIN; SOLDIER'S FUNERAL ; INSURRECTION OF WYATT; ALLINGTON CASTLE; DEFEAT OF THE ROYAL ARMY; MOAT, SEAT OF LORD ROMNEY; VISIT OF HIS MAJESTY; COXHEATH; TOVIL; OATHAM ; LOOSE ; ADIEU TO MAIDSTONE ; WROTHAM ; FARNINGUAM; FOOT'S CRAY; ELTHAM; BISHOP HORNE; OLD BARN; DEPTFORI) ; LONDON ; ISLINGTON ; ITS HISTORY; ITS SITUATION, &c.; CONCLUSION.
MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND, MAIDSTONE is rarely mentioned by antiqua-' rians and historians without some kind of eulogium ; in particular Camden calls it a largé, fair, and sweet town. It derives its name from the river Medway, on which it stands, and Maidstone is in reality no other than a corruption of Medway's Town, or the town on the Medway. Hence the absurdity of its present arms, which represent two maids with stones in their hands, an idea calculated to excite our risibility. The town existed in the time of the Romans, and is thought to have been a place of note even at that period. Its situation may be reckoned the middle of the county, being near forty miles from London, and at about the same distance from Dover. :
Mr. Halsted, in his History of Kent, gives the following account of a curious Roman instrument of diversion found near Maidstone.“ On Offham Green there stands a quintin, a thing now rarely
MAIDSTONE. to be met with, being a machine much used in former times by youth, as well to try their own activity as the swiftness of their horses in running at it. At the top of a piece stuck into the earth is a cross piece, broad at one end, and pierced full of holes, and a bag of sand is hung at the other, and swings round on being moved with any blow. The pastime was for the youth on horseback to run at it as fast as possible, and hit the broad part in their career with much force. He that by chance hit it not at all, was treated with loud peals of derision; and he who did hit it made the best use of his swiftness, lest he should have a sound blow on the neck from the other end of the quintin. The great design of this sport was to try the agility of both horse and man, and to break the board, which, whoever did, he was accounted chief of the day's sport. When Queen Elizabeth was at the Earl of Leicester's, at Kennelworth Castle, among other sports for her entertainment, the running at the quintin was exhibited in the castle-yard by the country lads and lasses assembled on that day to celebrate a rural wedding. Dr. Plot, in his Natural History of Oxfordshire, says, “ This sport was used in his time at Deddington, in Oxfordshire: and Dr. Kennet, in his Parochial Antiquities, says it was at Blackthorne. It is supposed to be a Roman exercise, left in this island at their departure from it."
Leland gives the following account of Maidstone, in the reign of Henry VIII.:--The ruler of the towne is cawled port-ryve. Ther is in the
455 towne a fair colledge of prestes. The castel, or palace, standeth about the myddle of the towne, being well maynteyned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ther is the commune gayle or prison of Kent, as in the shyre-towne. It is a market-towne of one long street, and full of ynnes.” If this sketch be a true delineation of Maidstone, it must have undergone a considerable revolution. It now consists of four principal streets, which meet and intersect each other at right angles. It also spreads itself to a considerable extent every way, partly on a hill, and partly in a valley, containing about eight or ten thousand inhabitants. For the great difference of the town from the description of Leland, we cannot easily account. Places as well as persons are subject to strange fluctuations. · The castle or palace was given by William de Cornhill, to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the seventh year of King John, or about the year 1207; but its manor was long before, even in the reign of Edward the Confessor, the property of the Archbishop of Canterbury, probably by the gift of one of the Saxon princes. Both the manor and palace, however, were granted by Henry VIII.' to Sir Henry Wyat, one of his privy-council. This gentleman is said, by a jest, to have raised the courage of the king to go through with his divorce, notwithstanding the opposition of the court of Rome-telling him that it was strange a man could not repent when he had done amiss, without asking the Pope's leave! Archbishop Cranmer used to reside at the palace, and even to
MAIDSTONE. preach in the church. He was so partial to Maidstone, that he set it down in his note-book as one of the considerable towns, where there ought to be placed learned men with sufficient stipends. Looking the other day on the front of the old palace, its appearance seemed to acquire a greater veneration in my eyes, because it was once the residence of Archbishop Cranmer. He was the friend and martyr of the reformation.
Maidstone was incorporated in the reign of Edward VI. with a view of rewarding the inhabitants on account of the zeal expressed by them for the advancement of the reformation. It is, indeed, to their honour that they hailed the period when religion, emerging from the absurdities and corruptions of the Romish church, began to show herself to the understandings of men in her native simplicity.
. . . in Several protestant martyrs were burned in this town with circumstances of barbarity.' Pure Christianity holds these outrages of unhallowed passion in abhorrence. Its benevolent Author calls upon us to judge even of ourselves what is right, and assures us that the homage of the heart can alone be acceptable to the Supreme Being. This town used to be remarkable for four religious houses.
The church bears the name of St. Mary All Saints; it is a fair large building, said to be the most spacious parish church in the county, and has a good parochial library. Its spire was burned by lightning, in the year 1730, and it has not been