Kentish myths and legends
From things that go bump in the night to spine-tingling tales that can turn peaceful dreams into nightmares, Kent is at the heart of many chilling myths and legends. As a county with a rich and turbulent history, it’s perhaps no wonder that many unproven yet unforgettable tales are doing the rounds, so let’s take a look at some of the best.
The ghosts of Chislehurst Caves
Located some thirty metres below the woodlands and dating back thousands of years, the mysterious passageways of Chislehurst Caves are thought to be rather on the eerie side. Shrouded in darkness, the manmade labyrinth of tunnels – which were used as air-raid shelters during the Blitz – are believed to hold many secrets with figures thought to lurk in the nooks and crannies.
One ghost-like sighting was that of an old lady rumoured to have drowned many years ago in a pool situated deep within the tunnels. Rumour has it that the troubled spirit just can’t find peace and so spends her lonely days wondering the caves. A lady pushing a pram has also been spotted and there have been various sightings of animals including a mythical horse and a black dog.
The Tale of the Princess of Canterbury
As the story goes, Canterbury was once the scene of a rather unusual challenge which involved a quick-thinking shepherd and a father with a passion for beheading.
According to English folktale, a beautiful princess resided in Canterbury. Her father longed for her to marry the strongest of all fellows and therefore set an exceedingly difficult challenge that would separate the weak from the strong. Whoever could guard his beloved daughter throughout the night without falling into a slumber could take her hand in marriage. Those who failed would be executed without hesitation by having their heads chopped off.
Many suitors tried and failed until one day, a shepherd decided to give the challenge a go. En route to the castle, the shepherd took a dip in a river where his feet were nibbled by fish. Annoyed, he popped the fish in his pocket and continued to the castle. That night, while guarding the princess he fell asleep – just as those before him had also done. When the princess caught him, however, he claimed he had been fishing in the hallway and pulled the river fish from his pocket.
Amazed, the princess asked her father to take pity on the man and the couple married soon after.
The Biddenden Maids
Legend has it that in the year 1100, two sisters conjoined at the hip and shoulder were born to wealthy parents in Biddenden. Although their names were reportedly Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, they quickly became known as the Biddenden Maids. They lived for around 34-years but when Mary died suddenly her sister apparently refused to be separated by doctors, claiming: “as we came together we will also go together.” She died six hours later.
In their will, the maids left their land in Biddenden to the church with the wish that rent generated from the lands would be used to buy bread, cheese and beer for the poor every Easter. To this day, tea, cheese and bread are given out to pensioners on Easter Monday with eligible residents also being handed out Biddenden cakes – a snack designed to look like conjoined twins.
Every place has a story to tell, and Kent certainly has its fair share of myths and legends.