Been working on this for a while, obviously starting with my favourite of the class, but I'll try to represent all 10 members with at least one drawing in due time. Constructive feedback is welcome!
This class of smaller armoured cruiser had an armament at commissioning of 14x 6", 10x 12-pdr and 2x 3-pdr, which for the ships displacement of 10,000t drew some criticism for being under-armed. Kent and Essex were ordered under the 1898/1999 supplemental program, and completed in 1903. The ships badge is based off of that found on a period postcard (admittedly of poor quality). Kent spent her first years in home waters before being put in reserve at Chatham in 1905.
Kent is represented here as she was while assigned to the China station in 1910, where Kent was based from 1906 to 1913. As such, she bears a single funnel band on the fore funnel, while in the Channel Fleet she had two bands on the fore and aft funnels. The main changes since this time are the addition of fire control tops to the masts, which in Kent's case necessitated a new searchlight platform beneath on the fore mast. The topmasts where also lengthened to full height during this time, and the aft superstructure built up. Kent would change very little before the outbreak of war.
I have tried to picture Kent as she would appear during the Battle of the Falklands and resulting search for SMS Dresden. The outbreak of war found Kent in refit, which was so hastily completed that Kent was reportedly only able to manage 10 knots on her way to the South Atlantic. This would make her 24/25 knot dash to catch SMS Nürnberg in the battle all the more remarkable. Kent suffered 8 fatalities to Nürnberg, nearly all occurring in A3 casemate (lower gun of the fore starboard casemate). Being the assigned guard ship for the 8th December meant Kent had little coal to spare, and she limited her speed while en route back to the Falklands. During the battle three ensigns were hoisted, the flags made by the ladies of Kent who subsequently repaired them when they arrived in the namesake county in 1916.
I am unsure about the exact shade of grey used on Kent during this time, it appears lighter than the pre-war dark grey at least, so I have coloured the ship in 507A although this is unlikely to be used since Kent left the UK a month before this paint was first used.
This is my current best interpretation of the ship as she could have appeared in late 1917 after a refit at Simon's Town. 507C has replaced the darker grey. The 6" (152mm) guns were relocated to the main deck, beginning with the two amidships guns in 1915/6, and then at a later date the four other lower guns. All but two of the 12-pdrs were removed at this time too. The aft superstructure has again changed, war rigging and rafts fitted, and a 3-pdr AA gun is mounted on the quarterdeck. This would later be removed by the time Kent returned to the Pacific in 1918. The ship was sold for scrap in 1919 in China, being the first of the Monmouth-class not lost to be retired.
I'm not sure if Kent actually retained all fourteen of her 6" guns after her lower casemates were plated over, the period photographs aren't decisive in that regard. The location of the remaining two 2-pdrs and another 3-pdr AA gun are also unknown to me at this time. I can put my mind at ease for now though, until something new comes to light.
Essex as she would have appeared in 1908, when assigned Home Fleet based at Portsmouth. Minor detail differences to steam pipes, funnel caging and aft superstructure. I have done a small fix job to Kim's Essex badge, reclaiming it from photobucket, not perfect, but it will do.
A port side view based on two photographs of Essex in Canada while preparing to escort a troop convoy in February 1915. She carries an unusual camouflage scheme of chequered turrets, although this was when the captain's of RN ships had free reign over camouflage patterns. Come the end of 1915 Essex would have her amidships guns moved onto the upper deck on new cutouts that overhang over the ships slight tumblehome. After mainly escort duties during war, Essex would be paid off, become a training/accommodation ship before being sold for scrap in 1921.