powered by FreeFind




MARKET TOWNS OF KENT (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Canterbury in 1836

A city of Kent, and the metropolitan see of all England, stands on the river Stour, on the high road from London to Dover. On the west it joins the hundred of Westgate, on the north the jurisdiction of Fordwich, and, towards the south and east, the hundred of Bridge and Petham. At the time of the Roman occupation it was of considerable importance, as is evident from the Roman military roads to Dover and Lympne, their two principal havens. The ancient British name seems to have been Durwhern, which in Latin was changed into Durovernum, signifying a swift river, which was probably given to it from the circumstance of the Stour running through the city with some rapidity. By the Saxons it was called Caer-Cant, or the city of Kent ; whence we have Cantuaria, and Canterbury. There is no historical evidence to show what was its condition under the Britons or Romans, but there is no doubt that it was a place of importance; for at the beginning of the Saxon Heptarchy it was considered the chief city of the kingdom of Kent, and was the king's residence.

Canterbury is pleasantly situated between hills of a moderate height, the air is salubrious, and the neighbouring country fertile. The city extends about half a mile from east to west, and somewhat more from north to south ; the circuit is about a mile and three quarters, and there are four suburbs at the four cardinal points. Many Roman coins, and Roman and Celtic remains, have been discovered in the city and neighbourhood.

Canterbury, in early times, suffered repeated ravages. and particularly from the Danes in 1011, when a great part of it was reduced to ashes. It has likewise frequently suffered by fire, the most calamitous instances of which were in the reigns of Henry II and Henry VIII ; but it always recovered from these disasters, owing to its rank as the metropolitan city ; and the constant resort of pilgrims tended in no small degree to enrich it. At Canterbury was founded the first regular Christian establishment of Augustine, who, in the year 597, baptised Ethelbert, king of Kent, and 10,000 Saxons in the river Swale. Augustine was the first archbishop, and died here in the year 604. His body was first buried in the monastery of St. Augustine, and afterwards, in 1091, was removed into the cathedral. Among the most celebrated of the archbishops are Thomas a Becket, who was murdered before the altar by four of the attendants of King Henry II. in 1171, and Thomas Cranmer, who was burnt at Oxford in the reign of Queen Mary.

The cathedral, one of the most noble buildings in England, is of very ancient date ; indeed, it disputes priority of origin (a matter which it would he difficult to settle) with the church of St. Martin, near Canterbury, which is generally admitted to be the oldest Christian church in England. Augustine is supposed to have commenced his cathedral on the site of a church which was built, during the Roman dominion in Britain, for the use of the Christian soldiers. The various parts of this cathedral having been built in different ages, its architectural character is of course various ; but notwithstanding this, all the parts are so disposed as to produce a pleasing effect. The south side is most strongly marked by this diversity of style. The eastern end, called Becket's Crown, from having been finished during his tenure of the archbishopric, is circular ; and the northern bears some resemblance to the southern. The south porch is a handsome embattled structure, with a roof of stone. The great tower is considered to be one of the most chaste and beautiful specimens of the pointed style of architecture in England.

There are many windows of painted glass, of which the great western is the most remarkable, The stone screen behind the choir, and that behind the altar, lately erected, are much admired. The cathedral contains many monuments of regal and other personages. The choir is one of the most spacious in the kingdom, being nearly 200 feet in length, from the west door to the altar, and thirty-eight in breadth between the two side doors. The extreme length of the whole building, from east to west, is 514 feet, and the extreme breadth seventy-one feet. The height of the great tower is 235 feet. The cathedral has of late years undergone, and is still undergoing, great repairs and judicious restoration, at the expense of the dean and chapter. One of the two towers at the west end is now (1836) in course of being rebuilt with stone from Caen in Normandy, of which the whole cathedral is constructed, except those pillars which are of Purbeck stone. The present establishment consists of a dean, twelve prebendaries, six preachers, six minor canons, and the usual officers.

The grammar school, which is within the precincts, and is supported by the chapter, is called the King's School, having been re-modelled by Henry VIII. This school was originally founded by Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, who died about 690.

Among the ruins of ancient buildings may be noticed the walls of a castle, said to have been built by William the Conqueror, which is on the south west side of the city, near the entrance from Ashford. These remains appear to have been the keep, or donjon, of a fortress, within which it stood, and of which the bounds may still be traced, like those of the castles at Dover, Rochester, and the White Tower in London : the building, being much in the same style with those just mentioned, may be about the same age.

The ruins of the palace, which was originally built by Archbishop Lanfranc, are adjoining the borough of Staplegate, a suburb of the city. The ruins of St. Augustine's Monastery, so called either as having been built by or dedicated to him, are in the eastern suburbs : this abbey and its precincts occupied sixteen acres of ground, which were enclosed by a wall. The fine gateway of St. Augustine, which formed the chief entrance, was in a dilapidated state, but has been repaired within these few years by public subscription. The Pilgrims' Passage, by Mercery Lane, on the north side of the High Street, is towards the cathedral. Canterbury contains fourteen parish churches, and several dissenting chapels. The charitable institutions, for education, for the maintenance and relief of the aged and infirm, and other purposes, are numerous. The city and county hospital, a valuable and well-conducted establishment, was completed in the year 1798, and was erected and is now supported by voluntary contributions.

The undercroft of the cathedral was given to the Walloons by Queen Elizabeth in 1568 ; who introduced the art of silk-weaving, which was afterwards prosecuted to a very considerable extent. This manufacture is now extinct. Canterbury city has long been noted for its brawn, an article of delicacy, which is sent to all parts of the kingdom. The trade in wool is large, but the chief trade is in corn and hops ; for the cultivation of which latter article the soil of the neighbourhood is particularly favourable. There are many mills on the banks of the Stour, some of which do a great deal of business. Frequent attempts have been made to render the Stour navigable from the sea to the city for ships of 100 tons burthen ; but the probable smallness of revenue has always prevented the undertaking.

A railway, constructed within the last five or six years, from Whitstable to Canterbury, is in full work, and has rendered very considerable benefit to the trade of the town. The carriage of coals and heavy goods has been reduced one-half. Of the public buildings, the guildhall, the fruit and vegetable market, the new corn and hop exchange, the butter and fish markets, the philosophical museum, and the assembly rooms, are the chief.

At the south east corner of a field, close to the city wall, is a large artificial mound, or circular hill. In the year 1790 Mr. Alderman James Simmonds, to whom the city is much indebted for many improvements, converted this place into a city mall ; the sides of the hill were also cut into serpentine walks, so as to admit an easy ascent to its summit, and were connected with a terrace formed upon the rampart within the wall, extending in length upwards of 600 yards ; additional walks were also made in the field in which it is situated, called the Dane John or Donjon field, and a double row of limes was planted on the sides of the principal walk. The public-spirited conduct of this individual is commemorated by a pillar placed on the summit of the mound. Some springs of mineral waters were accidentally discovered in 1693 on premises now used as nursery ground, and have from that time to the present been highly esteemed for their medicinal properties. One is purely chalybeate, and the other contains a portion of sulphur in combination with the iron. During the severest seasons these waters never freeze.

The city of Canterbury was in ancient times part of the royal demesnes, and was under the government of an officer appointed by the crown, styled the prefect, portreeve, or provost, who had all the civil authority, and accounted yearly to the king for the several profits arising from the city. In the last year of King John two bailiffs appear to have been appointed for these purposes, and to have continued till the 18th of Henry III, when the citizens were empowered to choose bailiffs for themselves. This constitution of the city remained until the 26th of Henry VI, when a charter of further liberties and privileges was granted, and that form of municipal government established which existed until the operation of the Municipal Reform Act. By the charter of Henry, and a subsequent one of the 31st of his reign, the governing body consisted of a mayor, recorder, twelve aldermen, twenty four common councilmen, a sheriff, town clerk, and other subordinate officers. This charter was confirmed and enlarged by Edward IV., who settled the boundaries of the jurisdiction, and formed the city into a county by the name of the county of the city of Canterbury. There were subsequent charters by Henry VII, Henry VIII, James I, Charles II, and George III. The city was divided into six wards, named from each one of the six principal gates, each ward being presided over by two aldermen. The style of the corporate body is that of the mayor and commonalty of the city Canterbury. Under the new act it has six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Quarter-sessions are held by recorder; and capital offences are removed to the assizes Maidstone. The city has sent two members to parliament since the 23rd of Edward I. The present parliamentary borough comprises, in addition to the city and its precincts, what is called the borough of Longport, and parts of some other parishes. The number of acres within the city jurisdiction is 2,780; rather more than 1,470 have been added to the parliamentary borough. The division of the city under the authority of the Municipal Act, is into three wards only, Westgate, Dane John, and North Gate. Canterbury has the advantage of a regular post, good markets and excellent inns. There are two banking-houses in credit. The neighbourhood abounds in gentlemen's seats.

From the situation of Canterbury on the main-road from London to the Continent the traffic is large, constant, profitable. The distance from London by the road is 56 miles, from Sandwich 12, from Ashford 14, from Dover 16, and from Folkestone and Deal 17. The markets are daily for provisions of all kinds ; but the principal one, which is for cattle, corn, hops, and seeds, is holden on Saturday, and is toll free for corn. A market for fat stock is held every alternate Tuesday with Ashford. The annual fair, which commences on the 11th of October, and lasts from eight to ten days, is very numerously attended ; being chiefly for pedlery and toys. The population, according to the census of 1831, is 14,463.