Famous in Kent
A county of dramatic landscapes, romantic coastline, iconic castles and all manner of historic locations, Kent has not only been the setting for many big-budget films and TV shows, it’s also produced a bumper crop of famous faces. People, films and filming locations, and a look back at some standout landmarks relating to Kent’s intriguing past…this is our guide to all that’s famous in Kent.
Chartwell – a country house near the town of Westerham, just outside Sevenoaks – was the home of Winston Churchill for over forty years. He bought the property in September 1922 and lived there until shortly before his death in January 1965. In the 1930s, when Churchill was excluded from political office, Chartwell became the centre of his world. At his dining table, he gathered those who could assist his campaign against German rearmament; in his study, he composed speeches and wrote books; and in his garden, he built walls, constructed lakes and painted.
Gad’s Hill Place was the country home of Charles Dickens, where he lived until his death in 1870. Dickens first saw the estate when he was nine years old and his father told him if he worked hard enough, he might one day own such a place. After he rocketed to success, Dickens heard it was up for sale and turned Gad’s Hill into his country home entertaining many of his literary friends such as Hans Christian Anderson and Wilkie Collins there. Now Gad’s Hill is a school, but it can still be viewed clearly from the road and tours can be arranged.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richard
Mick Jagger was born in Dartford in 1943 and went to school in the area where he met future bandmate Keith Richards at Dartford train station – a meeting that was set to change the face of pop music forever. On October 17th 1961, Mick Jagger was on his way to classes at the London School of Economics. Carrying his guitar, Keith Richards was on his way to Sidcup. Recognising each other from primary school, they struck up a conversation over Mick’s records and the rest is history…
The late, great David Bowie lived in Maidstone during the early 1960s when he was part of rhythm and blues band, The Manish Boys. Born Robert David Jones on January 8th 1947 in Brixton, Bowie’s mother, Margaret Mary ‘Peggy’, was originally from Folkestone. The family moved to Bromley in 1953 and Bowie attended Bromley Technical High School in his youth. Bowie had a fondness for Margate, saying in 1970: “I’m very fond of down there. Maybe I’ll move there one day. It’d be a great place to bring up kids. I do feel an affinity; I have a real fondness for the old seaside schtick, all that music-hall, end-of-pier stuff.” He continued to visit the popular seaside resort until his death in 2016.
Hailing from Sevenoaks, the actor John Hurt played roles in a number of blockbuster films, including Elephant Man, Alien and Harry Potter, his first role though was in a school production of L’Oiseau Bleu (The Bluebird) by Maurice Maeterlinck at Otford Primary School.
National treasure, Miriam – who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films – has been famous forever… She has a house in St Margaret’s, near Dover, and said of her first holiday memory: “We always went to Cliftonville and Broadstairs. I loved it and still have a holiday home in Kent. I used to be taken to Dreamland in Margate where I’d take part in the talent contests, which I once won.”
Everyone’s favourite funny woman, comedian Jo Brand spent a long period of time living in Tunbridge Wells and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University in 2014 for her work in raising awareness of mental health issues and challenging the stigma surrounding these illnesses. “I love Tunbridge Wells,” said Jo. “I lived and worked here for years and had a brilliant time – those bars were a big part of my social life – but that’s usually what happens when you’re a student.”
Best known for his roles as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings and as Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Canterbury heartthrob Orlando Bloom attended St Peter’s Methodist Primary School, King’s School and St Edmund’s School.
Bond girl and St Trinian’s star Gemma Arterton grew up in Gravesend and attended Gravesend Grammar School for Girls before starting at the Miskin Theatre at North West Kent College.
More films and TV shows than you can possibly imagine are filmed at some of Kent’s most picturesque locations. Scenes for action animation, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, were shot on Anchor Wharf at The Historic Dockyard Chatham; crime thriller, The Corrupted, features Dartford Marshes by the QEII Crossing as the setting of a crime scene; BBC 3 comedy drama,
Back to Life, shot scenes along the seafront of the small seaside town of Hythe at Fisherman’s beach, as well as filming in Abbot’s Cliff, Dover; and hotly anticipated six-part drama, Baptiste, used various locations for filming action sequences including Discovery Park in Sandwich and the Ramsgate Harbour Approach. All of these were released in 2019 alone…
An interesting and active way to delve into Kent’s most famous plots is to follow one of the Kent Film Office’s themed movie trails, which include the following:
The Austen Trail
Jane Austen was an English novelist who wrote many works of romantic fiction including Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The Austen Trail contains a number of a filming locations for the BBC adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, and the feature film Pride and Prejudice, starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, as well as a number of sites of historical interest.
The James Bond Trail
Ian Fleming loved Kent. You only have to read one of his books to experience the great adoration he had for his home county. He made his home in a beautiful house on the beach of St Margaret’s and wrote many of his novels looking out over the English Channel.
His most famous creation, James Bond, known to all the world as 007, inspired 12 novels and two books of short stories, which, in turn have been adapted into 22 films so far including Casino Royale, which features Mereworth Castle as Sir James’s home; The World is Not Enough where The Historic Dockyard was used as the location for the action-packed boat chase scene; and Die Another Day in which the Antonov cargo plane scenes were filmed at the Kent International Airport – Manston.
Charles Dickens left behind a nationally important literary legacy. To this day, many of his works are adapted into much loved film and TV adaptations. Many of his novels and the characters in them were inspired by the county of Kent and its people. The Dickens Trail follows in Dickens’ footsteps and visit the many varied and beautiful places in the county that inspired him and the filmmakers who subsequently strove to bring his great works to life including Rochester, Chatham, Sheerness, Deal and Folkestone.
The Darling Buds of May Trail – Garden of England Trail
The Darling Buds of May was a classic 90’s show idolising the life of the Larkins, a family living on a small holding in rural Kent. Set in the 1950s, the village of Pluckley in Kent and the surrounding countryside provided the main backdrop for the series.
The Darling Buds of May – Garden of England Trail will transport you back to the 1950s as you walk in the footsteps of the Larkins visiting some of the award-winning local food and drinks producers, rural attractions and rolling countryside that keep Kent crowned The Garden of England.
In the village of Pluckley, you’ll take a look at the church where Mariette and Charley got married, and where Primrose flirted with the young vicar. Stop off for a drink at Pop and Ma Larkin’s local, The Black Horse, before setting off on the circular Pluckley walk, which will take you through Kent’s famous fields and orchards. Out of the village, you’ll find the home of the Larkins – Buss Farm – and if you fancy the beach, a trip to Folkestone will reveal the location of the Larkin’s day at the seaside and the cable car lift that was used for Pop and Charley’s heart to heart.
Visit these standout Kent landmarks for a glimpse into the county’s intriguing past.
Retaining beautiful towers built in the 11th and 12th centuries, Dover Castle is a fortress with an incredible history. Visitors can wander through the secret wartime tunnels deep within the famous White Cliffs and watch drama unfold as real life stories are captured illustrating the Dunkirk evacuation of May 1940 and of the underground hospital that once existed there. The Medieval Place in the Great Tower captures the richness of royalty, also providing guests with remarkable views of Dover. There are plenty of cafés for drinks and snacks, and special events take place throughout the year.
The Moat Tea Rooms
Just five minutes from the historic Canterbury Cathedral, The Moat Tea Rooms is an atmospheric 15th-century building with original wood interiors that takes you back in time the minute you step inside. A wide variety of teas are on offer, along with 17 types of freshly ground beans for the perfect cup of coffee to accompany a slice of homemade cake. Take afternoon tea just as the Duchess of Bedford did back in the 1840s with freshly made sandwiches, homemade scones, jam and clotted cream.
The Hop Farm
An iconic and historic Kentish landmark, The Hop Farm features the world’s largest collection of Victorian oast houses and was a major supplier of hops to London breweries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Families across the South East and beyond used to spend the summer holidays working in the rolling countryside around The Hop Farm, harvesting hops and preparing them to be transported. The hop pockets were then delivered to the local train station using the strength of the famous Shire horses. Amazingly, although the farm dates back over five centuries, it has only ever changed hands four times in 450 years. A fully working farm before opening to the public, it now doubles as a brilliant day out where you can visit a museum processing over 1,000 artefacts from Victorian times and a mystifying Magic Castle among many other attractions.
Take a lantern and explore the dark labyrinth of Chislehurst Caves to uncover tales of Druids, Romans and Saxons. The manmade tunnels cover a massive 22 miles and were originally constructed as chalk and flint mines. Opening to the public for the first time in the 1900s, this astonishing maze of caves famously provided air-raid shelters during World War II and then became a music venue during the ‘60s and ‘70s, even hosting a performance from legend, Jimi Hendrix. The best way to take it all in is by guided tour, which set off hourly and last for around 45 minutes.