Kent's industrial past uncovered
7th March 2019
Knole's industrial Heritage group has been running for around four years and its members have researched and presented talks on a wide variety of topics as diverse as broadcloth, windmills, tanning, brick and tiles, watermills, glass, brewing, cement, paper and much more - all former industries that could once be found in abundance in our county.
For its February talk the group has heard presentations about the Kent coal industry and in March about the importance of wood to a wide range of these past industries - including the coal industry. Despite the often substantial environmental impact of many of these former industries to the Kent landscape, little trace remains except the few preserved windmills scattered across the county, former industrial buildings now converted to attractive dwellings, and odd piles of rubble, stone and brick in remote corners of the county.
What the group's research has shown is how industrial parts of Kent have been even in the recent past. The talk by Alan Heyes in February highlighted that the Kent Coal industry which ended as recently as the 1980s, produced over two million tonnes of coal a year by the 1930s and employed some 7500 men. The industry started around 1905 with the development of Shakespeare Colliery near Dover, and at one stage the Government had plans to open 18 pits in the area of East Kent including an iron and steel industry! It never happened and only four mines eventually produced coal.
The well-researched March talk by Michael Harries emphasised the importance of timber to all of Kent's former industries including a detailed account of the history of timber production, the myriad of terms and definitions used by the trade, and the environmental importance of our forests. His talk also included some fascinating early photographs of the harvesting and working of timber. The photographs of coppice woodland close to Sevenoaks - once used to manufacture charcoal for iron production, highlights how our current landscape was shaped by the requirements of past industries.
The April meeting of the group will be a talk by Lionel Parks about another material essential to many former industries and activities - Rope making. The group plan to widen the scope of its research next year to encompass a wider range of topics associated with Kent History. Details of the new programme will be reported on the website later this year.