River Medway Facts

Located in South East England, the River Medway flows through East Sussex and Kent before reaching the River Thames Estuary at Sheerness. It is 113 km (70 miles) long.

Facts About the River Medway

  • Some of the River Medway’s tributaries are River Eden, River Bourne, River Beult, River Len, and River Grom.
  • There are more than ten locks on the River Medway (for example Sluice Weir Lock, East Farleigh Lock, Hampstead Lane Lock).
  • There has been a bridge over the River Medway in Rochester since Romans were in Britain.
  • In 1981, a flood barrier was constructed downstream from Leigh to protect the town of Tonbridge from floodwaters.
  • From Rochester to Tonbridge, the Medway Valley Walk follows the course of the river.
  • The Medway Megaliths, a collection of megalithic monuments and long barrows from the Early Neolithic period, are located in the River Medway’s lower valley.
  • The Medway valley is home to several castles including Rochester Castle, Allington Castle, and Leeds Castle (near the town of Maidstone).
  • The Battle of the Medway took place in 43 AD, and it was probably fought on the banks of the River Medway between the Cantiaci (an Iron Age tribe) and the army of the invading Roman Empire. The conflict resulted in a Roman victory.
  • In 1667 the Dutch navy launched a successful attack on British warships anchored in the River Medway. This conflict was known as the Raid on the Medway or the Battle of Medway, and it took place during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Raid on the Medway 1667
Raid on the Medway 1667
  • In 1853, 30 hop-pickers drowned in the River Medway when a wagon they were travelling in crashed through the side of a bridge at Golden Green near Hadlow. This event is known as the Hartlake Disaster.
  • The Maidstone River Festival has been held annually (in July) since 1980 to celebrate the River Medway.
  • The folk singer George Gilbert wrote a song about the river in the 1960s called Medway Flows Softly.
  • There are more than 200 historical sites along the River Medway that would once have been the location of waterwheels or turbines.
  • Traditionally, the River Medway is thought to divide the people of Kent. Those born north of the river call themselves Kentish men or Kentish women, whereas those born south of the river, refer to themselves as men of Kent or women of Kent.
  • In 1942, the world’s first underwater pipeline was trialed to supply oil to Allied forces. This effort was codenamed, Operation Pluto.
  • Charles Dickens grew up in the region around the River Medway. As a child, he lived in Rochester and Chatham. His father was transferred to Chatham Dockyard in 1817 in his role as a clerk in the Royal Navy pay office.

Check out our Rivers resources page, or discover more facts about some of the UK’s longest rivers.