Maidstone began as a Saxon village. From the 10th century it was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Maidstone was a large village with a population of perhaps 250. (Most villages would have 100-150 inhabitants). At that time Maidstone had 5 watermills, which ground grain to flour.
By the 13th century Maidstone grew into a town. Situated on the Medway it was ideally situated for transporting vegetables and fruit from Kent by water to London. It was also the market town for a large part of Kent. As well as a weekly market Maidstone also had annual fairs. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year. People would come from all over Kent and from London to buy and sell at a Maidstone fair.
As well as the fair and the market there were many craftsmen working in Maidstone. Dyers dyed wool and stonemasons worked the local Kentish ragstone. There were also shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, butchers, brewers and bakers. There was also a tanning industry in Maidstone and hides were brought from London along the Medway to be tanned in the town.
In 1261 Maidstone was given a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). By the early 14th century Maidstone probably had a population of around 2,000. By the standards of the time it was a fair sized market town although its population was devastated by the black death of 1348-49.
In 1396 a College of Secular Canons was formed (secular canons were like monks but they lived by less strict rules). All Saints Church was erected by the College.
The Archbishop obtained a residence in Maidstone in the 13th century. The present Archbishop's palace dates from the 14th century. In the Middle Ages Maidstone had a religious guild, the Guild of Corpus Christi. The members of the guild employed a chaplain who said prayers for their souls when they died. The guild also looked after its members in old age and in times of sickness. The guild was dissolved at the reformation.