Kent is the location where some of the world’s favourite seaside forts, offshore battles and naval history took place. The Romans were the first to build constructions specifically for navigators. They build two lighthouses at Dover, called Pharos, one of which is still standing.
After the Romans left England in AD 410, a long line of Saxon kings used the Roman infrastructure of ports and settlements, and established a powerful fleet of ships that engaged in many coastal conflicts.
Five settlements got the name Cinque Ports by Royal Charter in 1155. They were located along the coast that was closest to France. Their aim was protection and to expand by building new harbours for trade. Because they promised their support for Edward I, when they were established, they enjoyed special tax status for commerce and import. Gradually, they lost this to other towns that were better at ship building.
From that time on, Kent was the base for England’s maritime military operations. Shipbuilding was taken to new heights with the fleet that defeated the magnificent Spanish Armada in 1588. With the industrial revolution, more innovations were introduced that transformed naval engineering.
A few of the most famous ships that can be seen in Kent are:
- The Bronze Age boat from 1550 BC, which was found by road builders in 1992 in Dover.
- A reproduction of a Viking ship was built in Denmark and sailed to Kent in 1949 to commemorate the 5th century landing of two brothers.
- The Mary of Colchester, a 19th century fishing boat that is the oldest boat in the Ramsgate harbour and is still in use.
- The Britannia vessels collection in Dover that has several ships from different historical periods all named Britannia.