Sittingbourne today, its origins
Sittingbourne sprang to prominence in about 1170 following a single event of national significance, the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket and the canny business acumen of a handful of local residents, giving rise to Sittingbourne becoming a centre of hospitality with inns lining the road. With more and more travellers using the old Roman road, Watling Street, it was found that Sittingbourne was a good day’s march from either Canterbury or Rochester. At first the only overnight accommodation that could be offered was at Schamel in West Street and Swainestrey, the Church of the Holy Cross at Snipeshill. There was money to be made, so those locals with a large house on the main road offered a bed for the night and so was born the concept of Sittingbourne being a street of inns. No doubt others seized the opportunity to set up road-side stalls to sell essential commodities to travellers passing through. By 1340 Sittingbourne had become a well-established and accepted principal overnight halt on the journey to and from London. Indeed, it is one of the few places mentioned by name in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Alternatively, according to Alan Abbey, an inn of some description could have been here long before many other buildings and prior to Christianity. The site is perfectly placed for any traveller. For example we have only to look at the Ferry Inn to the north of Murston at Elmley where there is nothing else all around it, other than the ferry. He thinks it was the same at Sittingbourne, a very old history of a simple inn that grew as the population grew and the number of travellers increased. This is perhaps why Sittingbourne was chosen for the new parish as it was already used and known for its holy site/spring and stopping place.