The story has since been told by Mr. Green in "The Making of England].
It is with the landing of Hengest and his war-band at Ebbsfleet on the shores of the Isle of Thanet that English history begins. No spot in Britain can be so sacred to Englishmen as that which first felt the tread of English feet. There is little indeed to catch the eye in Ebbsfleet itself, a mere lift of higher ground, with a few grey cottages dotted over it, cut off nowadays from the sea by a reclaimed meadow and a sea-wall. But taken as a whole, the scene has a wild beauty of its own. To the right the white curve of Ramsgate cliffs looks down on the crescent of Pegwell Bay; far away to the left, across grey marsh-levels, where smoke-wreaths mark the sites of Richborough and Sandwich, the coast-line bends dimly to the fresh rise of cliffs beyond Deal. Everything in the character of the ground confirms the national tradition which fixed here the first landing-place of our English fathers, for great as the physical changes of the country have been since the fifth century, they have told little on its main features.
[Authorities for the Conquest of Britain. - The only extant British account is that of the monk Gildas, diffuse and inflated, but valuable as the one authority for the state of the island at the time, and as giving, in the conclusion of his work, the native story of the conquest of Kent. I have examined his general character, and the objections to his authenticity, etc, in two papers in the Saturday Review for April 24 and May 8, 1869. The conquest of Kent is the only one of which we have any record from the side of the conquered. The English conquerors have left brief jottings of the conquest of Kent, Sussex, and Wessex, in the curious annals which form the opening of the compilation now known as the "English Chronicle." They are undoubtedly historic, though with a slight mythical intermixture. We possess no materials for the history of the English in their invasion of Mid-Britain or Mercia, and a fragment of the annals of Northumbria embodied in the later compilation which bears the name of Nennius alone throws light upon their actions in the North. Dr. Guest's papers in the "Origines Celticae" are the best modern narratives of the conquest.
It is easy to discover in the misty level of the present Minster marsh what was once a broad inlet of sea parting Thanet from the mainland of Britain, through which the pirate-boats of the first Englishmen came sailing with a fair wind to the little gravel-spit of Ebbsfleet; and Richborough, a fortress whose broken ramparts still rise above the grey flats which have taken the place of this older sea-channel, was the common landing-place of travellers from Gaul. If the war-ships of the pirates therefore were cruising off the coast at the moment when the bargain with the Britons was concluded, their disembarkation at Ebbsfleet almost beneath the walls of Richborough would be natural enough. But the after-current of events serves to show that the choice of this landing-place was the result of a settled design. Between the Briton and his hireling soldiers there could be little trust. Quarters in Thanet would satisfy the followers of Hengest, who still lay in sight of their fellow-pirates in the Channel, and who felt themselves secured against the treachery which had so often proved fatal to the barbarian by the broad inlet which parted their camp from the mainland.
Nor was the choice less satisfactory to the provincial, trembling - and, as the event proved, justly trembling - lest in his zeal against the Pict he had introduced an even fiercer foe into Britain. His dangerous allies were cooped up in a corner of the land, and parted from it by a sea-channel which was guarded by the strongest fortresses of the coast.
The need of such precautions was seen in the disputes which arose as soon as the work for which the mercenaries had been hired was done. The Picts were hardly scattered to the winds in a great battle when danger came from the Jutes themselves. Their numbers probably grew fast as the news of the settlement spread among the pirates in the Channel, and with the increase of their number must have grown the difficulty of supplying rations and pay. The dispute which rose over these questions was at last closed by Hengest's men with a threat of war. The threat, however, as we have seen, was no easy one to carry out. Right across their path in any attack upon Britain stretched the inlet of sea that parted Thanet from the mainland, a strait which was then traversable only at low water by a long and dangerous ford, and guarded at either mouth by the fortresses of Richborough and Reculver. The channel of the Medway, with the forest of the Weald bending round it from the south, furnished another line of defence in the rear, while strongholds on the sites of our Canterbury and Rochester guarded the road to London; and all around lay the soldiers placed at the command of the Count of the Saxon Shore, to hold the coast against the barbarian.
Great however as these difficulties were, they failed to check the sudden onset of the Jutes. The inlet seems to have been crossed, the coast-road to London seized, before any force could be collected to oppose the English advance; and it was only when they passed the Swale and looked to their right over the potteries whose refuse still strews the mudbanks of Upchurch, that their march seems to have swerved abruptly to the south. The guarded walls of Rochester probably forced them to turn southwards along the ridge of low hills which forms the eastern boundary of the Medway valley. Their way led them through a district full of memories of a past which had even then faded from the minds of men; for the hill-slopes which they traversed were the grave-ground of a vanished race, and scattered among the boulders that strewed the ground rose the cromlechs and huge barrows of the dead. One mighty relic survives in the monument now called Kit's Coty House, which had been linked in old days by an avenue of huge stones to a burial-ground near Addington. It was from a steep knoll on which the grey weather-beaten stones of this monument are reared that the view of their first battle-field would break on the English warriors; and a lane which still leads down from it through peaceful homesteads would guide them across the ford which has left its name in the little village of Aylesford. The Chronicle of the conquering people tells nothing of the rush that may have carried the ford, or of the fight that went struggling up through the village.