The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.271315, 0.528853

5 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

L&M: In 1639 Peter Mundy wrote of Maidstone: 'For Many Miles about London there is Not a handsomer and cleaner place': Mundy, iii. 40.

To Celia Fiennes (ca. 1697) it was 'a very neat market town as you shall see in the Country, its buildings are mostly of timber work the streets are large . . . very pretty houses about the town look like the habitations of rich men, I believe it a wealthy place. . . . : Journeys (ed. Morris), p. 330.

Daniel Defoe called it 'a town of very great business and Trade, and yet full of Gentry, of Mirth, and of good Company',: Tour (ed. Cole), i. 115.

Its staple trade was the making of linen thread.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Maidstone owes much of its importance to its situation at the point where the road from London and Sevenoaks to Ashford and the coast crosses the Medway.
However, in the 16th and 17th centuries this road carried much less traffic than Watling Street, and it was not until the latter half of the 19th century that Maidstone surpassed Rochester, Chatham and Canterbury in size.

For its development in the 17th century Maidstone had to thank 4 local industries — the making of cloths called ‘mannikins’, the export of fuller’s earth from Boxley, the dressing of linen, and the making of linen-thread.

The latter was another industry introduced by Flemish refugees at the end of the 16th century.
During the following century it flourished to such an extent that it was said that Maidstone thread was ‘carried all over the world’, but in 1668 the thread-makers of Maidstone petitioned Parliament to protect their industry from unfair competition, and especially from the import of Dutch thread.

The industry survived into, but not until the end of, the 18th century.

EXCERPTED FROM “Industries in the 15th to 18th Centuries“ [in Kent]…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Also from "Industries ...":

Stone of a kind which in the Middle Ages was used for church-, castle- and house-building, had been quarried in Kent from Roman times.

The great ragstone quarries at Maidstone ... Folkestone and Hythe for many centuries provided an excellent building material, used for buildings as far apart in time as St. Leonard’s Tower, West Mailing (c.1100) and Preston Hall, Aylesford (c.1850).

The ragstone was not only used for building but also for cannon-balls, at least up to the time of Henry VIII.

A particularly fine limestone known as Bethersden marble was quarried from medieval times, and was used locally for building, and in more distant parts of the county for ornamental features like columns and tombs.

In the south-west corner of Kent the sandstone found around Tunbridge Wells has been extensively used for building, as at Penshurst Place.

At the other end of the county, in Thanet, Dover and Deal, the chalk contains bands of flint which was mined and often used in church- and house-building until the end of the 19th century.


The cloth-making industry of the Kentish Weald prospered by the introduction of skilled foreign workmen, invited over to England by Edward III, particularly from the Netherlands.
Before Edward III’s time cloth-making was widespread, each town and village making the cloth for its own needs. Cloth-making on this scale cannot be called an industry, and fine cloth was either imported from the Continent, or the coarse English cloth sent there to be finished.
Edward I, during a dispute with Flanders, forbade the export of English wool or the import of Flemish cloth.
Edward III strengthened the English cloth industry and weakened the rival Flanders industry by invitating foreign workmen to resettle in England. At first, the foreigners were not well received.

There was plenty of wool from the Kentish flocks, although it was of inferior quality to the wool of East Anglia and the West Country.

Two other commodities were available locally for finishing the cloth — water-power and fuller’s earth.
To cleanse the grease from the cloth, it had to be pounded in water and treated with fuller’s earth. The pounding was done by people walking on the cloth in a trough, but it was done more economically by a fulling mill where hammers were driven by water-power.

The fuller’s earth came from around Maidstone, especially from Boxley parish.

Apart from the weaving and fulling, processes like spinning and carding, were carried out in the workers’ homes.

Until the 18th century, weaving was done in the master cloth-worker’s ‘hall’ and there the raw materials and the finished products were stored.
Several of these fine timber-framed cloth-workers’ halls still exist, one of the best known being that at Biddenden.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Because cloth-making was carried on in isolated units, the industry was controlled in the interests of the purchaser. The regulation width of Kentish broadcloth was 58 ins., and each piece had to be between 30 and 34 yds. in length and to weigh 66 lbs.
Officials, known as ulnagers (from aulne, an ell) checked the regulations were obeyed. No piece of cloth might be sold until it had been passed by them and sealed; offenders, principally those whose cloth was below the regulation weight, were fined.

Woad, madder and saffron were used to dye the cloths, the principal colors being russet, ginger, orange, blue, grey and green. Eventually the Kent clothiers specialised in a grey cloth, which became known as Kentish grey.

So many processes were involved in cloth-making that the manufacture of a single piece required the labor of 30 to 40 skilled workers.

It was estimated, during Queen Elizabeth’s reign, that the output of cloth in Kent amounted to 11,000 - 12,000 pieces a year, so the total value was about £150,000, a large sum of money in those days.

The clothiers constantly believed that the industry was threatened, and sought to have it protected by Parliament against foreign competition.

By the end of the 17th century trade was seriously falling off, and by the end of the 18th century the cloth-making industry had ended.
It was not foreign competition, but competition from the more favourably situated cloth areas of Yorkshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucester that caused the collapse of the industry in Kent.

At the height of its prosperity, about 1580, Cranbrook supported a population of some 3,000, at a time when Maidstone’s population was not more than about 2,000.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.