The River Darent and hence its surrounding valley was an important feature in Roman Kent. Archaeologists are already aware of at least eight Roman villas along the valley, but this is a rather incomplete picture of its occupation during Roman times. The best known and most notable example is the villa at Lullingstone which is in the ownership of English Heritage and is a popular tourist attraction within the valley.
Lullingstone Roman Villa represents a remarkable survival, both in terms of the preservation of some structural elements of the main villa-house, but also, and more significantly, with respect to the evidence for Romano-British Christianity that it produced. Built perhaps as early as the AD 80s, Lullingstone Villa reached the peak of luxury in the mid-4th century when its spectacular mosaics were laid. It is also important for its possible imperial associations, as well as the enigmatic nature of the wider site and the challenges that presents to our interpretation and understanding (English Heritage, 2016).
The River Darent was an important Roman supply route, probably carrying grain downstream and possibly bringing back materials for construction and other purposes. The peak of Roman activity in the valley was probably between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when probably all the known villa sites were operating at the same time. There may have been as many as thirteen Roman sites between Dartford and Kemsing, although all may not have been villas. These include:
- Dartford – Tenter’s Field
- Horton Kirby
- Farningham – possibly three villas
- Shoreham (Preston Farm)
- Otford (Progress)
- Otford (Church Field)