History of Penenden Heath
Recorded as ‘Pinnedenna’ in the Domesday Book, the name Penenden Heath is taken from the Old English ‘pinia’ meaning to ‘punish.’
An apt name as, in the darker days of the Middle Ages, as well as being a place of execution, Penenden Heath was also the place where the landowners of Kent would gather to receive important notices. If they failed to attend, a forfeiture of one hundred shillings would have to be paid to the King.
Penenden Heath is perhaps most famous for its connection to the Peasants Revolt of 1381. This was a direct revolt against wage freezes and the poll tax. During one of the skirmishes, leader of the revolt, Wat Tyler, led a mob of protestors from Penenden Heath down to Union Street and into Maidstone, before marching on London to confront Richard II.
Penenden Heath also secured its rightful place in history in May 1648 when George Goring, Earl of Norwich and leader of the Kent Royalists during the Second English Civil War, gathered an army of 7,000 men in his unsuccessful defence of Maidstone from the Roundhead army of Lord Fairfax.
Executions took place at Penenden Heath all the way through to the 19th century and suspected witches are believed to have been tried and burned at the stake on the Heath between the 12th and 17th centuries. The Heath ceased to be used for executions in the 1830s when new gallows were built outside Maidstone Prison.
If you’re in the area, a visit to Leeds Castle is a must. Set in 500 acres of lovely parkland, Leeds Castle has been described as the ‘loveliest castle in the world.’ With its glorious gardens and programme of events that promises to take you on a captivating 900-year journey, Leeds Castle is a great day out, whatever the season.
Of course, through the ages, there’s one thing about Penenden Heath that has remained the same – the breathtaking beauty of the Kent Downs. To fully appreciate this beauty, why not take the famous four mile walk beginning at Maidstone Barracks.
Starting and finishing in the centre of Maidstone, the walk passes by the absolutely stunning Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery; through the scenic Vinters Valley Nature Reserve and deep ancient woodlands; and onwards through the historic suburb of Penenden Heath.
Directions to the Chiltern Hundreds
You’ll find the Chiltern Hundreds close to Junction 7 of the M20 on the outskirts of Maidstone. Just key ME14 2DG into your satnav to find us.