Today I went to the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, Kent. It was my first visit there and the first time I have actually been to a Kent archive or record office, my Kent research previously being confined to online searching or the London Family History Centre.
There were three goals for today’s trip:
- See how easy it is to get to the Centre for Kentish Studies and find out where it is, what it is like and how it works.
- Try and find some details for John GASSON my 5x great-grandfather and his parents and siblings, possibly in the parish of Brasted, Kent.
- Locate the marriage of my 4x great-grandparents Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER, and the burial of Thomas between 1844 and 1851.
It wasn’t what you could call a successful day. I achieved only one of the three goals (actually getting there) and as opposed to most research trips where on a good day I will be able to add to my tree, on a bad day I would come away empty handed. Today, I came away with the realisation that I am probably going to have to unpick part of my family tree (more about that at another time).
On the positive side, it was a nice journey, the cheapest train route (avoiding London) is also the quickest (just under two hours), but it involves three different trains, Horsham to Redhill, Redhill to Tonbridge and Tonbridge to Maidstone Barracks. I can see that it is not an ideal way of getting there, because there are far too many opportunities for things to go wrong, with a long wait between trains.
Today the sun was shining and the trains reasonably quiet and running on time so there was no problem, in fact it was one of the best train journeys I have been on for months. I don’t think I have ever been to Maidstone before, and the train ride from Tonbridge to Maidstone is quite idyllic, following the River Medway for a large part of the route.
The Centre for Kentish Studies is ideally situated for the train station, better for Maidstone East station, but only a short walk (about five minutes for me) from Maidstone Barracks station alongside the railway and over the river.
Finding the entrance to the Centre proved slightly tricky, there didn’t appear to be any signs to the Centre itself, and the entrance to County Hall (where the Centre is housed) wasn’t obvious, but I soon found it to the right-hand side of the rather impressive building shown below.
The Centre was quite quiet, perhaps everybody else was outside enjoying the sunshine. It is not open every weekend, only the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, and even then only up to 1pm (make sure you check opening times).
The facilities were pretty much what you would expect from an archive. It is quite small, so booking a seat is probably a good idea. The microfilm room is well equipped and well organised, that was where I spent most of my time, searching parish registers.
I know I will be back there again, I have lots more Kent research to do, but in terms of practicalities, although it will cost me more (no one ever said family history was a cheap hobby obsession), it is probably better for me to go on a weekday when I can spend longer there.