History of River Medway

Posted: 03 November 2020


Rver Medway.jpg

The River Medway is an iconic river that rises in High Weald, Sussex and runs 113 kilometres across the south east of England. It continues to flow through Tonbridge and Maidstone before emptying into the Thames Estuary near Sheerness. 

The river has witnessed countless historical moments over the years. Here are just a few of them.

Origin of the name Medway

Also known as Medwege, River Medway was given the name Vaga by the ancient Britons. Later, the Saxons added the syllable mad, meaning “middle”, as the river ran through the middle of the kingdom of Kent.  

Interesting details about River Medway

There are several tributaries of the River Medway. The best-known include River Eden, River Bourne, River Teise, River Beult, Loose Stream and River Len. 

The main source of the river is Turners Hill in West Sussex. From here, the river continues to flow until spilling into the Thames Estuary, becoming tidal after Allington Lock.  

Historical value

Areas around Aylesford are notable Stone Age sites, and home to a group of Neolithic chamber tombs. There are also bronze age ornaments that have been found along the river, as well as pre-Roman Iron age finds. 

The river was a site of historical significance during several wartime moments. Specifically, the Roman invasion of Britain which was named Battle of the Medway, and the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667 named Raid on the Medway. 

River Medway played a key role in the history and development of communities. For example, over 200 sites exist along the Medway where the river’s power was harnessed to mill corn, make paper, generate electricity and pump water. One of these mills is still working for commercial trade today. 

In a cultural sense, the river has been a source of inspiration and success. Local man George Gilbert wrote a song called Medway Flows Softly, the 1999 film The Mummy used the site for filming and the river hosts the annual Maidstone River Festival every year.

Finally, the River Medway is also a contributor to innovation and progression. In 1942, the world’s first test of a submarine oil pipeline was conducted, with one being laid across the Medway. The project was called Operation Pluto. 

Modern-day value

Today, River Medway continues to offer wonderful value to various communities in and around Kent. In addition to fun watersport activities, the river flanks castles and forts where moments of this history can be enjoyed in the present. 


With so much activity on the water, it’s convenient to have a storage facility nearby. When you keep your fishing rod or paddle boat at one of our conveniently located stores in Gillingham and Aylesford, then a trip to the river becomes a breeze. Call us at 0800 0852 954 to find out more about our flexible unit sizes or get a quick quote online.


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