Maidstone

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Maidstone (mād´stən), city (1991 pop. 86,067), Kent, SE England, on the Medway River. It is a market city with agricultural, paper, printing, quarrying, brewing, and engineering industries. There is evidence of a Roman station. Chillington Manor (Elizabethan) contains the Maidstone Museum, the public library, and the headquarters of the Kent Archaeological Society. The grammar school dates from 1549. Noteworthy are the Church of All Saints, founded in the 14th cent.; the palace of the archbishops; and Penenden Heath, a recreation ground. Maidstone has technical, art, and adult-education schools. William Hazlitt was born in the city. Nearby Cobtree Manor is the "Dingley Dell" of Dickens's Pickwick Papers.

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Maidstone, battle of, 1648. Although the Kentish royalists in 1648 had assembled an army of 11,000 men, they dispersed them among several towns, leaving only 2,000 in Maidstone. Sir Thomas Fairfax, after assembling a 4,000-strong parliamentary force, attacked the town on 1 June. Though heavily outnumbered, the defenders resisted fiercely, using their cannon to deadly effect in the town's narrow streets. Under heavy rain they were eventually overpowered. This defeat prompted most of the Kentish royalists to desert, while the remainder—fewer than 3,000—fled north to Chelmsford and Colchester.

Ian Gentles