Rent, a maritime county of England, forming the S. E. extremity of Great Britain, bordering on Essex (from which it is separated by the Thames and its estuary), Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, the North sea, and the strait of Dover; area, 1,624 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 847,507. The northern border is skirted by broad marshes; and the N. E. coast is made very irregular in outline by the estuaries of the Thames and Medway. A large peninsula projects between the two, its northern portion forming the district called the Isle of Grain. A branch of the Medway, called the Swale, cuts off from the mainland a large tract known as the Isle of Sheppey. The E. end of the county, separated from the rest by the narrow river Stour, forms the Isle of Thanet, terminating in the North Foreland, and having an area of about 40 sq. m. The surface of the county is hilly, the range terminating at many points on the E. and S. E. coast in high chalk cliffs. Elsewhere (especially in Pegwell bay and at Rom-ney marsh, near the S. end of the county) the shore is low.
Both the N. E. and S. E. coasts are rendered dangerous by outlying sand banks, the best known and most dreaded being the celebrated Goodwin Sands, lying off the shore between the Isle of Thanet and the South Foreland, a cape projecting into the strait of Dover. The county has several important ports, the chief of which are Dover, Folkestone, and Gravesend. The Downs, between the Goodwin Sands and the mainland, furnishes the most frequented roadstead of the English coast. Several of the minor coast towns are well known watering places, among them Margate and Ramsgate. The Medway is the principal river having its entire course in the county; of the smaller streams, the Swale and Stour are important from their positions. Kent is mainly an agricultural county, its alluvial soil and pleasant climate insuring a large production. Hops are raised to a great extent. Estates are small, and are mostly inherited equally by all the sons of intestates, under the Saxon law of gavelkind, now nearly peculiar to this county.
The chief towns, besides the ports already named, are Canterbury, Rochester, Greenwich, Maidstone, and Chatham. - The authentic history of Kent extends further back than that of almost any other part of England. The Romans made their first landing on the coast of this county, and the region, called by them by the Latinized form (Cantium) of its name, was regarded with special favor and included their earliest settlements. Later, the legendary Saxon chiefs Hengist and Horsa are said to have landed in Pegwell bay; and the earliest battles of the Saxon invasion were undoubtedly fought in Rent, which afterward constituted one of the kingdoms of the heptarchy. It was again the scene of important battles at the Norman invasion, against which the Kentish men made a desperate and long continued resistance. The insurrections of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade broke out in Kent; it was the scene of important events during the wars of the roses; and a third rebellion, that of Sir Thomas Wyatt, arose here under Queen Mary. The county is very rich in Roman and Saxon antiquities, historic buildings, and ruins; and its ecclesiastical edifices, including Canterbury cathedral, Aylesford priory, and others, are of great celebrity and beauty.