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History of Penenden Heath

Penenden Heath comes from the Old English 'pinian' meaning to ‘punish'. The Domesday Book chronicles Penenden Heath as Pinnedenna.

During the middle ages, Penenden Heath became the venue for the Shire Moot or assemblies. The most famous of these occurred shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and involved a dispute between Odo bishop of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror and Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Domesday Book recorded Penenden Heath as the place for the landowners of Kent to gather to receive notice in matters of administration at the shire moot. If they did not attend, forfeiture would be paid of 'one hundred shillings' to the King.

Penenden Heath also became the site for local administrative meetings and executions for several hundred years as well as a place for large gatherings of the populace. Wat Tyler led a mob gathered at Penenden Heath to Union Street, Maidstone in an early skirmish, in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. The heath continued to be used as a gathering place in the 16th Century to voice popular opinion or to amass the public, in particular during Wyatt's rebellion. George Goring, Earl of Norwich and leader of the Kent Royalists during the Second English Civil War, gathered an army of 7,000 men on Penenden Heath in May 1648 in his unsuccessful defence of the town of Maidstone from the Roundhead army of Lord Fairfax. Executions took place at the site from the Saxon period through to the 17th Century. The heath held witch trials between the 12th and 17th Centuries, and when found guilty the witches burnt at the stake. In the 1830’s Penenden Heath ceased to be used for executions, which moved to new gallows built outside Maidstone Prison.

In the 19th Century, 
Penenden Heath slowly came to be enveloped by the growth of Maidstone, developing as a residential area at the junction of the main routes to Sittingbourne and Boxley. In 1882, following landscaping, the Earl of Romney presented the heath to the people of Maidstone for use as a recreation ground.