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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Realm of Vortigern > Kit's Coty

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The Realm of Vortigern
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The Grave of Catigern
Robert Vermaat

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Kit's Coty House

Kit's Coty House
Neolithic chambered tomb
Good access for the disabledFree access to the monument
Nearest town: Maidstone
Nearest village: Kit's Coty
Map reference: TQ 745608
Location of Kit's Coty House by UK Streetmap

We have a very vague idea of how or where Vortigern died, but his sons's graves are more known to us. Catigern's grave is securely attached to Kent.

Kit's Coty HouseA well-known site in the south-east of England, Kit's Coty House is a neolithic chambered tomb. Kit's Coty House stands in a field to the west (you can't see it from the road) of the A 229 from Maidstone to Rochester. A footpath, app. 0.25 miles (0.5 km) long, leads towards it. The tallest stone of which is 8 feet (2.4 metres) high and the capstone 4 by 2.7 metres, which was once covered by an earthen mound of 180 feet (55 metres) long, as aerial pfotographs have shown. Side ditches were once up to 3.8 metres deep. This site was already famous in the seventeeth century. The diarist Samuel Pepys described it as:

"Three great stones standing upright and a great round one lying on them, of great bigness, although not so big as those on Salisbury Plain. But certainly it is a thing of great antiquity, and I am mightily glad to see it."
Unfortunately not all people felt this way. A large stone shown on a sketch by Stukely in 1722 and known as 'the General's Tomb', was blown up in 1867. The large mound, also visible on that sketch, has also all but vanished.

Little Kit's Coty House with the trees still thereSome call it simply Kit's Coty, because 'coty' means the same as 'house'. The story explaining the name tells us that Kit is Catigern, who, together with his brother Vortimer fought Hengist and his brother Horsa here around 455, which is recorded both in the Historia Brittonum as well as in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:.

Historia Brittonum, chapter 48

He had three sons: the eldest was Vortimer, who, as we have seen, fought four times against the Saxons, and put them to flight; the second Categirn, who was slain in the same battle with Horsa; the third was Pascent, who reigned in the two provinces Builth and Guorthegirnaim, after the death of his father. These were granted him by Ambrosius, who was the great king among the kings of Britain. The fourth was Faustus, born of an incestuous marriage with his daughter, who was brought up and educated by St. Germanus. He built a large monastery on the banks of the river Renis, called after his name, and which remains to the present period.


tres filios habuit, quorum nomina sunt guorthemir, qui pugnabat contra barbaros, ut supra diximus; secundo categirn; tertius pascent, qui regnauit in duabus regionibus buelt et guorthegirniaun post mortem patris sui largiente ambrosio illi, qui fuit rex inter omnes reges brittannicae gentis. quartus fuit faustus, qui a filia sua genitus est illi, et sanctus germanus baptizauit illum et nutriuit et docuit et condidit locum magnum super ripam fluminis, quod uocatur renis, et manet usque hodie. et unam filiam habuit, quae fuit mater fausti sancti.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records Horsa's death at the battle of Aylesford in 455:

455   This year Hengist and Horsa fought Vortigern the king, in the place called Aegelesthrep, his brother Horsa was killed, and after that Hengist and Aesc received the kingdom. Her Hengest 7 Horsa fuhton wiț Wyrtgeorne țam cyninge, in țære stowe țe is gecueden Agælesțrep, 7 his broțur Horsan man ofslog; 7 æfter țam Hengest feng to rice 7 Æsc his sunu.

Both Horsa and he were killed. We don't know who won, but Catigern was supposedly buried here. Indeed, this site is just a few miles north of Aylesford, which is usually identified with the Episford of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. That a battle once raged here may be supported by another reference to this place as the battle of 'Cit Coit'. This battle is also a legendary Celtic battle ('Battle of the Woods'), but not connected with any specific site. A possibility therefore remains that both are the same thing, as 'Cit' (or 'Kit') is in fact the same as 'Cat', the Celtic word for 'battle', which is of course the first part of Little or Lower Kit's Coty House todayCatigern's name. We could imagine a stand-off between two bloodied armies on either side of the river, the ford having been the contested object. That a memory of Catigern could have lingered on for so long in a region that was settled so early by the Saxons seems doubtful, but the nearby presence of an Eccles- villagename (which usually points to a surviving nucleus of a Christian British population) makes it sufficiently acceptable.

Across the road is another neolithic chambered tomb, or rather the sorry remains of it. It was once also a burial chamber, but today the stones are a confused tumble. This is Little (or Lower) Kit's Coty House (TQ 744604), also called the Countless Stones because it is one of those megaliths whose stones can supposedly never be counted twice.

To top things off, I should say that the place is haunted; ghostly re-enactments of a (this?) battle are said to have taken place at one time or another. Another tradition is that at full moon you may place a personal object on the capstone, walk around the dolmen three times, after which the object will have disappeared. No guarantees, though.

Kit's Coty House and Little Kit's Coty are situated in the Medway valley, just north of Maidstone. If you pass by on your way to or from London, don't hesitate to visit them. This valley is one of the very few places historically linked with Vortigern and his family, maybe the only one outside Wales.


  • Bord, Janet and Colin: A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain, (London 1979).*
  • Dyer, James: The Penguin Guide to Prehistoric England and Wales, (Penguin 1981).*

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