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Kit's Coty

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech

<b>Kit's Coty</b>Posted by pebblesfromheavenImage © Pebblethief
Also known as:
  • Kit's Coty House

Nearest Town:Chatham (5km N)
OS Ref (GB):   TQ745608 / Sheets: 177, 178, 188
Latitude:51° 19' 8.23" N
Longitude:   0° 30' 16.04" E


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Fieldnotes

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Kit's Coty is in the most beautiful location: it is certainly near a lot of transport links, but it isn't spoiled by them at all. We sat up by the standing stones, the last remnants of this great longbarrow, gazing out across the meadow, over the Medway Valley to the scarp of the downs on the other side, that mark the location of the Coldrum Longbarrow. After a while, a New Age-ish couple turned up and started decorating the railings that surround the stones with flowers, in preparation for a hand-fasting ceremony: it is nice to see the place still being used.

I have posted a map, above, to show how it is possible to park nearby and walk round these monuments using the footpaths, keeping roads to a minimum: even those stretches we had to walk along were not that bad, and drivers, as on all country roads, were obviously keeping an eye out for walkers. It really wasn't too bad at all, and while we were on the footpaths, it was lovely - dog roses in the hedges, yellowhammers singing and a few swallows overhead.

Lower Kit's Coty (the Countless Stones - I counted 10 and Scott counted 18) lies in a field surrounded by blue flax: yes, there are pylons nearby, but pylons have been a feature of the countryside for a long time and is is possible simply to ignore them. In fact, it was a very peaceful and reflective place. Nobody should be remotely put off visiting these wonderful places.
Anthony Adolph Posted by Anthony Adolph
22nd June 2010ce

To add to the catalogue of parking difficulties, I drove round and round this site deciding to opt for the large layby in site of the pub at the end of the single track dual carriage way. From there instead of risking the walk back to the path UP the hill, I followed the pavement around and up the hill towards the Kits Coty Estate. After about 400yds (up hill but at least on a pavement) there is then a sign-posted path down some steps to a bridelway that leads down to the dolmen. Such a shame about the railings, bit of a feel of The Wispering Knights at the Rollrights. A passing woman on a horse confirmed that one of my aborted attempts at parking in the Kits Coty estate has got a footpath through to the field with the stones in and may have been nearer. dickie Posted by dickie
8th November 2004ce
Edited 8th November 2004ce

Parking precariously in the recommended spot, we squidged the 200 metres up the muddy sunken path to the top of the hill and there it was - looking as cute as a puppy dog's nose.
With great views over the Medway valley, in spite of the murky weather, this little construction is rudely caged, with a fuck-off spiky fence reminding me of a fluffy chinchilla sitting inside razor wire. But look closely and you see why. The interior portal stone has been a honey pot to the graffiti bees. Mostly delicately carved in classical caps in the late 19th century, they nevertheless have all the charm of repetitious spray-painted 'Fucks' on a subway train. The delicious thing about Kit's Coty is, I think, it's proportions. It doesn't overwhelm or impress, it simply enchants with its human scale.
Jane Posted by Jane
31st December 2003ce
Edited 31st December 2003ce

Kit’s Coty – 4.9.1999

I visited this on Saturday 4th September 1999. I know the date because it was the first away game of the football season and this was a short detour on the way to watch Bristol Rovers triumph at Gillingham.

Strangely I had forgotten my camera, which was a shame because the place had a great vibe about it and I felt like the pics would have somehow reflected the vibe.

I had parked in a strange back road (totally empty except a burnt out car – hhhmm – circa TQ747610) just off the road back onto the thundering A229, then crossed the road and walked down a steep track (an overgrown signpost marked this path) which leads down towards the fields where this huge dolmen stands.

I will definitely go back one day………
pure joy Posted by pure joy
7th July 2003ce
Edited 7th July 2003ce

Regarding Kammer's comments re parking, I'd suggest following the sign to the Kit's Coty Brasserie (drop down off the A229, past the pub then immediate right (back to the A229) then immediate right again). Small car park on the crest. Walk the rest of the road, then cross the road at the junction and follow the steps down straight to Kit's Coty. No good for the Countless Stones though, unless you enjoy a walk.

This was a repeat visit after my New Year's Day trip which resulted in corrupted photos (see my entry for the Chestnuts. I think I must be fated as, having checked 3 sets of batteries the previous night, 2 sets were dead when I got there! Changing camera batteries in the rain is not a pleasant experience...

Anyway, the stones seemed very sad, sitting alone on the edge of the field, caged as they are. There was a lot more site damage compared to my visit on the 1st. Lots of chalked graffitti - childishly scrawled pentagrams probably reflecting the mental age of the idiots who do this kind of thing. Some flowers (memorial wreaths) had been left outside the railings - easily moved, but they seemed very fresh so I left them as they were. The worst damage was at the 'back', against one of the uprights where it looked as if someone had tried to dig a small pit against the base of the stone.

I suppose, trying to be reasonable, this damage is minor compared to the 19c names and dates carved into the stones, and to the much more major damage of having had the full burial mound removed which left the uncovered stones as they can be seen today. For all that, I wish these idiots would just leave them as they are, to be enjoyed.
ocifant Posted by ocifant
27th January 2003ce
Edited 27th January 2003ce

Visited 26th July 2002: I'm repeating myself a bit here (see Countless Stones) but parking for Kit's Coty and Countless Stones is extremely poor.

The safest parking space we found was at the end of the weird dual carriageway (TQ74456055). Here it is on Multimap:

http://uk.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?grid=TQ74456055&scale=25,000

This might be the same place that 'juamei' is describing below. Take a flourecent vest with you, especailly if you go on to visit Countless Stones!
Kammer Posted by Kammer
8th November 2002ce
Edited 20th November 2003ce

(visited 13/9/02)
This was my second visit to these two sites, but my first at night. Parking & walking safely remains a challenge, though I think I solved it to Kit's Coty. Heading away from Aylesford go past the strange dual carriageway & park in a weird layby type thing just up the hill.
Now go though the hedge into the field behind, walk round the edge of the field clockwise (it has a crop so be careful) , to the third side you reach and then find a gap in the hedge onto the public footpath. On the other side of the footpath is the field the dolmen is in.

Anyhow, at night this site is very peaceful. Town lights are visible on the horizon in two directions and light up the scene by reflecting off the low cloud that unfortunately decided to move in as I got there. I walked round the fence twice before locating the 'gate' and got up close to this amazing dolmen.
Unfortunately others had taken this opportunity to chalk graffiti on most of the stones, in a curious similarity to the victorian carved graffiti on what was presumably the inside of the longbarrow.
Other than that, its now a home to huge spiders; I counted at least 3 different varieties living in the holes in the rocks. Best not get too close at night if you don't like them...

And so onto the Countless Stones. Its walkable from Kits Coty but I drove back down the hill and parked in the layby on the road/track that goes past the field the stones are in. Leaving my car with trepidation, nestled next to the burnt out remains of someone elses car, I set off across the field (the crop had been harvested). The huge pylons that run next to the stones made my hair stand on end and my teeth feel slightly funny, which was nice.
The stones are ungraffitied, which struck my as ironic given the ease of access to them. They lie in a no real order but were presumably like Coldrum originally facing to the east, now marked by a line of traffic lights along a ridge...
I stayed with the stones for 20 minutes, the incessant traffic & humming of electricity, eventually driving me home.
juamei Posted by juamei
14th September 2002ce
Edited 20th November 2003ce

Kits Coty

Even though this is near to Little Kits Coty, we still found ourselves a bit disoriented! You need to travel on up the hill back to the layby (described in Little Kits Coty, 4); about halfway, the road is joined on the left from Burham/Eccles. At the meeting of the roads, in the corner, there is a track. This track continues on the other side of the road - the Pilgrims Way. There is no sign for KC. Proceed up the wooded track, which is quite steep, and pass into the field on your left. Look up the hill (to your right!) and there it is on the crest. The Pilgrims Way continues up the hill/track.

As is told elsewhere, KC is surrounded by railings, but this has not stopped some graffiti artist. However, the vandalism is fading and I felt that the site was so much more than this silly incident. The view across the valley is impressive, with the recumbent(?) hill - Holly Hill (Holy Hill? etc) drawing your eye. There is unfortunately light industry doing its non-bit for the environment and the geography, although the remaining hills have no clear or specific strong features.

The stones are wonderful and very noble in their stance, quite heavily cup-marked. Again there was a cool serenity around and the adventure of finding this site was part of the buzz.
Posted by Johnny
9th October 2001ce
Edited 19th August 2004ce

Some call it simply Kit's Coty, because 'coty' means the same as 'house'. The story explaining the name tells us that Kit is Catigern, who, together with his brother Vortimer fought Hengist and his brother Horsa here around 455, which is recorded both in the Historia Brittonum as well as in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:.

Historia Brittonum, chapter 44
He [Vortigern] had three sons: the eldest was Vortimer, who, as we have seen, fought four times against the Saxons, and put them to flight; the second Categirn, who was slain in the same battle with Horsa...

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 455:
the second battle of Vortimer against the Saxons at Episford, where Catigern and Horsa fell.

Both Horsa and he were killed. We don't know who won, but Catigern was supposedly buried here. Indeed, This site is just a few miles north of Aylesford, which is usually identified with the Episford of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. That a battle once raged here may be supported by another reference to this place as the battle of 'Cit Coit'. This battle is also a legendary Celtic battle ('Battle of the Woods'), but not connected with any specific site. A possibility therefore remains that both are the same thing, as 'Cit' (or 'Kit') is in fact the same as 'Cat', the Celtic word for 'battle', which is of course the first part of Catigern's name.
(http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artgra/kitcoit.htm)
Vortigern Posted by Vortigern
20th June 2001ce

LITTLE KIT'S COTY - Visited 21/12/99 & 27/12/00

This is a great site, so close to where I was brought up and I never knew it was there!
After running the gauntlet by walking down the road to the Countless Stones, I crossed the weird dual carriageway (know what you mean Julian) and headed up the tree-lined path to the wonderful Kit's Coty, taking in the excellent views across Kent .
By the time I returned a year later, on a walk of the area with my girlfriend (persuaded along by the promise of a double brandy in the nearest pub), the railings around the monument had been fixed, and at the Countless Stones someone had placed white stones around the fence that enclosed the monument, with what looked like runic letters on them.....
Walking through the nearby fields we saw lots of 'historic' rubbish - pottery, tiles, oyster shells and the like, but sadly that elusive handaxe still evades me!
Rob Gillespie Posted by Rob Gillespie
15th January 2001ce

Folklore

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A somewhat similar story [to that at the Countless Stones] is that Kits Coty House cannot be measured for as fast as the imprudent surveyor takes his measurements he is made to forget them even before he can commit them to paper.
From 'Notes on the Folklore and Legends Associated with the Kentish Megaliths, by John H. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Mar., 1946), p. 39.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th September 2006ce
Edited 24th September 2006ce

..the building of Kits Coty House is attributed to the magical work of three witches who lived on Blue Bell Hill. Having raised the huge wall-stones, they found themselves unable to lift the capstones, and had to call in the assistance of a fourth member of the sisterhood, by whose help they were enabled to raise the immense stone into the air and lower it gently upon its walls.
From 'Notes on the Folklore and Legends Associated with the Kentish Megaliths, by John H. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Mar., 1946), p. 39.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th September 2006ce
Edited 24th September 2006ce

It is a persistent tradition that if a personal object is placed upon the capstone, and the donor thereof walks around the monument three times, then the object will disappear; this ritual must be carried out on the night of the full moon. Interested persons have carried out this ritual at intervals right up to this year when the activities of a local investigator were fully reported in the local press.

The insistence that a personal object must be used suggests a substitute sacrifice by which the worshipper buys his own immunity from the Otherworld powers, or, possibly, that the received gift is a reward for favours granted or to be granted, although there is no hint that the ritualist must make a wish when making the circuit.

Another curious story is that if a person climbs on to the capstone, again at full moon, and thrusts his hand into a natural cavity in the stone, he will withdraw five iron nails. The five iron nails (without doubt for a horseshoe) will irrisistably remind readers of the legend attached to Wayland the Smith's Forge, in Berkshire, which is the ruined dolmen of a Long Barrow like Kits Coty House. The story attached to this megalith is that if a traveller places coins upon the capstone he will have his horse shod by an invisible smith. Bearing this story in mind there is thus the further possibility as regards the Kits Coty rituals that they have become confused and separated, and that the object which disappears is really payment for the nails.
From 'Notes on the Folklore and Legends Associated with the Kentish Megaliths, by John H. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Mar., 1946), p. 39.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th September 2006ce
Edited 24th September 2006ce

— On visiting Kit's Coty House near Maidstone, Kent, a few months ago, I was informed, by a person who apparently knew something of the country round about, of the following common belief by the rustics of the district. It is said by them that a pool of water contained in a hollow on the top of the capstone never dries up, not even in the hottest weather, when it might reasonably be supposed to soon evaporate.
A contribution to Notes and Queries by EHW Dunkin, January 8th, 1870.

A slightly different take on the legend is this, from N+Q from July 26th 1879 -
A belief was current in the neighbourhood of these stones—say in Rochester, &c. — some forty-two years ago, that there was on Kit's covering stone a basin of water that, ladle it out as you would, could never be emptied. Two of us, curious boys, mounted the flat roof and found, not one basin, but two, or one cavity divided by a septum.

Commencing on Baconian principles, we carefully examined these, and the murder soon seemed out. The septum had a communicating hole below, and our minds were satisfied with the theory that, not caring to take the trouble of throwing the water over the stone, some one had ladled it from one basin into the other, with the result, of course, of everything remaining in status quo.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th September 2006ce
Edited 5th September 2006ce

As mentioned above, this is reputedly the site of combat between a British chieftan and the Jutish Horsa c455AD. It is said that sometimes you can see the combatants still fighting 'in uncanny silence'. Castleden notes in his 'Neolithic Britain' that it is supposed to be Horsa who is buried here.

It is also supposed to be known as the hut of St Christopher - well, according to Castleden who suggests some bizarre explanation referring to fords: but this is on top of the hill and surely well away from any fords?? Feel free to prove me wrong.

It's also said that if you place an object on the capstone at full moon it will disappear when you walk round the stones three times. Makes you wonder what you might try getting rid of.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th May 2002ce
Edited 28th July 2005ce

Miscellaneous

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For those who have enjoyed a picnic at the stones:

Near this spot [Kit's Cotty-House] is a respectable Inn, which commands an extensive and beautiful prospect, and has on its sign-board, one of the best representations of the Cromlech that has yet been painted. The inn affords comfortable accommodation for persons inclined to spend a few days in this part of Kent. Those who establish their quarters here in summer-time, not unfrequently take their wine and coffee in the ancient cell which furnishes occasion for this note.

From 'The Graphic and Historical Illustrator' edited by Edward Brayley (1834).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th October 2007ce

Between these two [Kit's Coty and the Countless Stones] a third dolmen is said to have existed within the memory of man, but no trace of it is now to be found.

In the rear of these groups, nearer the village, there exists, or existed, a line of great stones, extending from a place called Spring Farm, in a north-easterly direction, for a distance of three quarters of a mile, to another spot known as Hale Farm, (When I was there four years ago I was fortunate enough to find an old man, a stonemason, who had been employed in his youth in utilizing these stones. He went over the ground with me, and pointed out the position of those he remembered.) passing through Tollington, where the greater number of the stones are now found.

In front of the line near the centre at Tollington lie two obelisks, known to the country people as the coffin-stones - probably from their shape. They are 12 feet long by 4 to 6 broad, and about 2 or 3 feet thick. (It is extremely difficult to be precise about the dimensions. One is wholly buried in the earth, and its dimensions can only be obtained by probing; the other is half buried.) They appear to be partially hewn, or at least shaped, so as to resemble one another.

Besides these stones, which are all on the right bank of the river, there are several groups at or near Addington, about five miles to the westward of Aylesford. Two of these in the park at Addington have long been known to antiquaries, having been described and figured in the 'Archaeologia' in 1773. (Archaeologia,'ii. 1773, p. 107.) The first is a small circle, about 11 feet in diameter, the six stones comprising, it being 19 feet high, 7 wide, and 2 in thickness. Near it is the larger one of oval form, measuring 50 paces by 42 paces. The stones are generally smaller than those of the other circle.

The other groups or detached stones are described by Mr. Wright, (Wanderings of an Antiquary;, London, 1854, P. 175 et seqq.) who went over the ground with that excellent and venerable antiquary the Rev. L. B. Larking. They seem to have adopted the common opinion that an avenue of such stones existed all the way from Addington to Aylesford, but it seems to me that there is no sufficient evidence to justify this conclusion. Many of the stones seem natural boulders, and in no place is any alignment distinctly perceptible.
From chapter four of James Fergusson's 'Rude Stone Monuments' (1864) which has been graciously added to the Olivaceous Megalithic Portal, here:
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/downloads/rude_stone/Rude_Stone_Monuments_Chapter_4.pdf
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/download.php?op=getit&lid=77
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th January 2007ce
Edited 22nd October 2010ce

From John Stow's 16th century "Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles":
Cits Cotihous is of foure flat stones, one of them standing upright in the middle of two other, inclosing the edge sides of the first and the fourth layd flat aloft the other three;... menne may stand on eyther side of the middle stone in time of storme or tempest, safe from wind and rayne, being defended with the bredth of the stones, as having one at their backes, one on eyther side, and the fourth over their heads.

(Sounds like a bus shelter. Quoted by Grinsell in his 'Ancient Burial Mounds of England' 1936)

According to his entry in the Wikipedia, "Stow's antiquarian tastes brought him under ecclesiastical suspicion as a person "with many dangerous and superstitious books in his possession." In 1568 his house was searched and an inventory was taken of certain books he possessed "in defence of papistry," but he was apparently able to satisfy his interrogators of the soundness of his Protestantism. A second attempt to incriminate him in 1570 was also without result."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stow


Another view from history: Samuel Pepys visited it and wrote in 1669 ".. Certainly it is a thing of great antiquity and I am mightily glad to see it." A sentiment we can surely share.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd July 2005ce
Edited 28th July 2005ce

A little more information, from Dyer's 'Southern England':

He mentions the 'H' formation of the three lower stones, suggesting "on the analogy of the other Kentish megaliths we may assume that stones also stood at either side of the monument thus forming two small enclosed chambers." Small? Very small more like. And what do people think of the chunk missing from the stone in the middle? Could it not be that the middle stone is the 'doorway' to a chamber behind, and the chunk missing the bit you must squeeze through (rather like the portals present at some other sites?). Just a thought.

Aerial photos show the stones were once part of a longbarrow 80m long and 12-15m wide (details on MAGIC) and lying east to west. It's only relatively recently (the 1940s) that stones were still being removed from the site.

Stukeley recorded an arc of small stones lying on either side of the chamber, apparently indicating a facade. There were stones around the perimeter of the barrow too, so the mound may have been revetted. One of Stukeley's sketches shows a single large stone at the far end of the original mound. It was known as 'The General's Tomb'. Unfortunately it was destroyed in 1867. It's possible that some other stones still exist under the soil somewhere though.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th August 2004ce

Links

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The Heritage Journal


"The Medway Megaliths consist of two clusters of sites either side of the River Medway in Kent. These sites are the only groups of megaliths in eastern England. They all date from between 2500 and 1700 BCE and are largely the remains of burial chambers and long barrows."

By Alan S
Littlestone Posted by Littlestone
8th February 2011ce

Bexley Archaeological Group


Conclusion of an article discussing the Medway Tombs. Includes site plans.
ocifant Posted by ocifant
28th April 2003ce