The Kent county club was founded in Canterbury on 6 August 1842 and played its first match against All-England three weeks later. On 1 March 1859, a substantial reorganisation was performed to establish the present county club.
Teams called East Kent and West Kent played each other twice in 1856 but in minor matches only. Those two matches are the last known to involve an East Kent team. West Kent became the name of a 19th-century club which played minor cricket only and was for a long time based at Chislehurst Cricket Club, with which it ultimately amalgamated in 1980 as the Chislehurst and West Kent Cricket Club.
The earliest known record of a "West Kent" a.k.a. "West of Kent" team is in a match against Chatham on Tuesday, 7 August 1705 which was played at a place called "Maulden" in the primary source. There is no such place, and the name is perhaps a primary source error for one of Maidstone, East Malling or West Malling. The result and details of the teams are unknown. The next mention is a match on Friday, 22 September 1769, played on Sevenoaks Vine between West Kent and Surrey. The original report merely states that the wickets will be "pitched soon after 10".
The earliest known match involving an "East Kent" team is one played against West Kent at Sevenoaks Vine on 20 and 21 June 1781. The question of nomenclature arises here because with at least three "given men" (i.e., borrowed players) on each side, the match is more correctly known as Duke of Dorset's XI versus Sir Horatio Mann's XI after the two patrons John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset and Sir Horatio (Horace) Mann. The "East Kent" team, Mann's XI, included John Small, Richard Aubrey Veck and Lamborn of Hambledon and Hampshire. The "West Kent" team, Dorset's XI, featured the Hambledon players Noah Mann and Tom Sueter with the Chertsey and Surrey players William Bedster and Lumpy Stevens. Noted Kent players in the match were Joseph Miller, William Bullen, William Bowra, Robert Clifford and Thomas Pattenden. Sevenoaks Vine was Dorset's home ground and there was a return match at Bishopsbourne Paddock, adjacent to Mann's Bourne House seat, from 8 to 11 August. This also featured guest players with Surrey's William Yalden and Hampshire's James Aylward joining Small, Lamborn, Sueter, Bedster, Mann and Lumpy. Dorset's West Kent XI won both matches, the first by 10 wickets and the return by 106 runs.
Part of the confusion around match titles emanates from Haygarth himself. He calls the June match "West Kent with Mann, Sueter & Lumpy versus East Kent with Small, Veck & Lamborn", but then calls the August match "Sir Horace Mann's Side versus the Duke of Dorset's Side". In its "Important Cricket Matches" guide, the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) follows Haygarth by using the abbreviated titles "East Kent with 3 gm v West Kent with 3 gm" for the June match (this should be the other way around as West Kent were at home); and "Duke of Dorset v Sir H. Mann" for the August match (again, Mann was at home so the order is wrong). Note that "gm" means "given men".