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Kentish Drovers

Paul Passey, a Family History enthusiast, has just contacted me.  His folk come from Kent and one of the surnames on his mother’s side is Craddock (variously spelt), a Welsh surname derived from Caradog meaning ‘amiable’.  (Caratacus, the most famous holder of the name, rebelled against the Romans, was defeated and brought to Rome in chains in c. 45AD.  The Emperor Claudius, moved by his final speech, spared his amiable life.)

I knew nothing about the Craddock derivation till Paul told me, but he reasoned that if the Craddocks were Welsh, why not Welsh drovers?  Roderick certainly stopped, probably to sell stock, at Staplehust in 1839 (#1) and at various Kentish towns & villages.  But more convincing is the excerpt Paul quoted from William Marshall’s Rural Economy of the Southern Counties (1798).  Here is the passage:

No district in the island, perhaps of equal extent and fertility, breeds fewer cattle [than Kent]… Its entire stock, may, with little license, be said to be Welch, or of Welch origin; although it is situated at an extreme point of the Island, some hundred miles distant from the source of the breed.  The Welch cattle are mostly brought in by drovers from Wales, while young as one, two or three years old.  They are bred in different parts of the principality.  But the Heifers, which are brought in for milk, are mostly of the Pembrokeshire mould…several thousands, of different description, are annually brought into the county.  In the month of October, the roads are everywhere full of them; some going to the upland districts, others to the marshes.

For centuries the main destination of the cattle from North Wales was with Kent.  By the sixteenth century “the long summer drove from North Wales to that distant English county was part of the rhythm of agricultural life”, said Shirley Toulson at the end of her book The Drovers’ Roads of Wales.  They expected to spend three weeks on their 250-mile journey. 

Kent was also the destination for South Wales drovers, who travelled through Stockbridge, along the Lunway (London Way) to Alresford and Preston Candover then on to Kent.  Some would have carried bales of knotted garments with them for sale at the Farnham stocking markets, held at Michaelmas and Christmas. 

But what was so enticing about that far eastern English county?  The salt marshes, in particular Romney Marsh?  The independent minds of Kentishmen, who let their grassland out at low cost?  The short distance to Smithfield and the Cinque Ports?  Or was it just tradition?  Answers, please, on no more than half a side of A4!

Thank you again, Paul Passey.

Kentish Drovers image 1
Roderick in Kent, 1839
Kentish Drovers image 2
The Kentish Drovers
Kentish Drovers image 3
The KD (Old Kent Rd.)