The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868


1868 - The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland

"CANTERBURY, comprises the parishes of All Saints, St. Mary-in-the-Castle, St. Mildred, St. Alphage, St. Mary Northgate, St. Andrew, St. Mary Bredman, St. George the Martyr, St. Mary Magdelene, St. George the Great, St. Margaret, St. Martin, St. Paul, St. Mary Bredin, St. Peter, Holy Cross, and St. Dunstan. It is a cathedral city, being the seat of the primacy of England, a municipal and parliamentary borough, and a county of itself, locally situated in the hundred of Bridge and Petham, lathe of St. Augustine, in the county of Kent, but exercising an independent jurisdiction. It is 16 miles distant from Dover and Margate respectively, and 55¼ miles S.E. from London, or 65 miles by the London, Chatham, and Dover railway, on which it is a station. It is also a station on the Ramsgate branch of the South-Eastern railway. Another branch of the same railway connects the city with the port of Whitstable, which is 6 miles off on the Thames side; while Fordwich, 3 miles below on the Stour, serves as its river port, though now but little used.

Canterbury is a very ancient city, and was a place of importance even before the Roman invasion. It was called by the ancient Britons, Dwrwhern; which name it continued to bear under the Latinised form of Durovernum, after it became an important Roman station. It was a station on Watling Street, which commenced at Richborough, and was a point of meeting of several other great Roman roads, including those to Dover, Lympne, and Reculver. The town was early occupied by the Saxons, by whom it was named Cantwara-byrig, or "town of the Kentish men; "and was made the capital of the Saxon kingdom of Kent, and a royal residence. At the same period the abbey was founded by the Roman missionary, St. Augustine, and his royal convert, King Ethelbert. Canterbury was then made the seat of the metropolitan see, and Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a dignity which it has ever since retained. The cathedral was commenced, but not completed, in his lifetime. The city suffered severely and repeatedly from the attacks of the Danes, and especially in the year 1011, when, after a siege of several weeks, they stormed it, slaughtering immense numbers of the inhabitants, and carrying off many prisoners; among the latter was St. Alphage, the archbishop, whom they afterwards murdered at their camp on Blackheath. The city owed its restoration to Canute. At the period of the Norman Conquest it was a large and flourishing place, and it is called in Domesday Book, Civitas Cantuariæ. The castle, of which the keep still remains, was probably erected by William the Conqueror. The city was several times nearly destroyed by fire.

In 1170 the cathedral was the scene of the murder of Thomas a Becket, then archbishop, who was afterwards canonised, and had a splendid shrine erected to his honour. From that time Canterbury attracted pilgrims in large numbers from all parts of Christendom, and their rich offerings contributed greatly both to the prosperity of the city and the wealth of the church. A more durable result of these famous pilgrimages we still possess in the "Canterbury Tales" of Chaucer. Henry II. made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the saint, and submitted to a scourging at the hands of the monks. Richard I. and Richard II. visited the city. A jubilee or festival of the Translation of St. Thomas was instituted, which was celebrated by an incredible number of pilgrims. The festival was held for the last time in 1520. Henry VIII. occasionally resided here, part of the monastery being converted into a royal palace, in which he entertained the Emperor Charles V. for three days, in 1519. In 1573 Queen Elizabeth held her court and kept her birthday here. In 1625, the marriage of Charles I. with Henrietta Maria of France was celebrated at this city, and the royal visitors were entertained by the Wottons, to whom the abbey then belonged. Charles II. held his court at Canterbury in 1660, on occasion of his restoration to the throne. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. the wealth and importance of the city, mostly dependent on its religious foundations, began to decline. It now exists by its ancient foundations and its traffic as the capital of East Kent, which its natural situation ensures to it.

Measured by the test of population, the condition of the city is at present prosperous, showing an increase of no less than 2,925 in the decennial period, the population in 1851 being 18,398, and in 1861, 21,323. Canterbury is situated in a picturesque and fertile country on the banks of the Stour, which here forms several islands. The city is about a mile in length and the same in breadth, standing on its original site, and portions of the old wall built by the Romans are still standing. Westgate is the only one of the city gates now remaining; it is built of squared stones, and the upper part is used as a gaol. The Stour, which runs here in two channels, is crossed by several stone bridges; but its navigation is much impeded by the mills on its banks. In the town there are several streets of modern date; but many of the houses are ancient and timber-framed, with projecting upper stories, an interesting example of which will be found in Mercery-lane, where there is an old-fashioned house, formerly an inn, affording a genuine specimen of hostelry of olden times, such as Chaucer so graphically describes in his " Canterbury Tales." The streets are paved and lighted with gas, and there is a good supply of water. The gas-works and water-works, established soon after 1820, are situated near the ruins of the castle.

The principal buildings are the ancient guildhall, situated in High-street, rebuilt in the reign of Queen Anne, which contains some ancient portraits and armour; the corn and hop exchange, in St. George's-street, a handsome edifice, fronted with stone, and erected about 1830; beneath it is the public meat office. In Burgate-street are the poultry and butter markets, and in St. Margaret's-street the fish market. Without St. George's-gate is a spacious cattle market, which is held every Saturday; and in the Starry-road are extensive cavalry, infantry, and artillery barracks, established at the close of the last century, with new barracks, erected in 1811; the latter capable of accommodating 99 officers, 1,841 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 481 horses. In the rear of the barracks is the military infirmary. The Philosophical Institution, situated in Guildhall-street, was founded in 1826; it is a handsome structure with an Ionic portico, and contains a museum; the Literary and Scientific Institution also requires to be mentioned. The sessions house and county gaol is near St. George's and the Kent hospitals. The theatre, built in 1861, is situated in Guildhall-street. The public assembly-rooms are in St. Margaret's-street. The Mint, which is situated within the precincts, once belonged to the Knights Templars. It is an extra-parochial place, under the jurisdiction of the Board of Green Cloth. Canterbury is not the seat of any manufacture or important branch of industry, but carries on a steady trade, especially in wool and corn. Soap, candles, whiting, tobacco-pipes, bricks and ropes, are made in various establishments. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth silk-weaving was introduced by the persecuted Walloons, who settled here, and at a later date the manufacture of the fabric called "Chamberry" muslin, a mixture of silk and cotton, was carried on extensively. At present the workpeople are chiefly employed in agriculture. There are numerous hop-grounds in the neighbourhood, and many flour-mills on the river. Canterbury brawn is in high repute, and is largely exported.

Previously to the reign of Henry III., the city, being a royal demesne, was governed by a prefect, or provost, appointed by the crown. That monarch conferred on the citizens the privilege of electing two bailiffs for themselves. Henry VI. granted them further privileges, and a mayor was chosen in place of the bailiffs. Edward IV. confirmed previous charters, and constituted the city a county of itself. Various charters were granted by later sovereigns. Under the Reform Act the borough comprises the 13 parishes composing the city, with several precincts and extra-parochial districts, part of Holy Cross, and the borough of Longport. It was formerly divided into six wards, named after the six ancient gates, but is now divided into three. The municipal government is vested in a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, bearing the style of the "mayor and commonalty of the city of Canterbury," and they have the right of electing the sheriff. The citizens first received the elective franchise from Edward I., since whose reign the city has regularly returned two members to the imperial parliament. The borough has a revenue of about £3,700, and contains within its municipal and parliamentary limits, which are co-extensive, 3,250 acres, and 3,919 inhabited houses. The city forms a Poor-law Union of itself, and although under the jurisdiction of the Poor Law Commissioners, is exempt from the provisions of the New Poor Law Act as regards the election of its guardians, who are chosen by a majority of the ratepayers, and not by the property qualification. It is the headquarters of the East Kent militia, and the head of County Court and Excise districts. Quarter sessions are held by the recorder, and petty sessions regularly once a month by the commission of peace for the city, consisting of eight justices. Assizes are held for the county of the city, which is included within the Home circuit. The elections for the eastern division of the county of Kent take place on Barham Downs, at a short distance out of the town.

In its ecclesiastical relations, Canterbury is the seat of the metropolitan see of England, the head of a diocese, of an archdeaconry, and a deanery. The primacy conferred on the archbishop by the Pope was not finally established without considerable opposition, both on the part of the prelates and the archbishops of York. The primate ranks as first peer of the realm after the royal family, and at the coronation places the crown on the head of the sovereign. He is a privy councillor, and has an income of £15,000 per annum. He holds the patronage of about 150 livings, and has seats at Lambeth and Addington Place, in Surrey. The province of Canterbury includes 21 episcopal sees, viz., those of St. Asaph, Bangor, Bath and Wells, Canterbury, Chichester, St. David's, Ely, Exeter, Gloucester and Bristol, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, Llandaff, London, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Rochester, Salisbury, Winchester, and-Worcester. The diocese of Canterbury comprises the greater part of the county of Kent.

The cathedral, sometimes called Christ Church, is one of the largest and most magnificent ecclesiastical structures in England. It is said to have been erected on the site of the palace of King Ethelbert, and of a still older church. After being burnt by the Danes, it was restored in 1023 by Canute; and being again burnt, was rebuilt shortly after the Norman Conquest by Archbishop Lanfranc and his successor, Anselm, partly under the direction of Prior Conrad. It was subsequently enlarged, and frequently improved and enriched by succeeding archbishops. Hence it exhibits an extraordinary diversity of architectural styles, from the earliest Norman to the latest perpendicular. It forms a splendid object in the view of the city from every side. The whole structure is so finely proportioned, and its parts so exquisitely disposed and combined, that, notwithstanding the great variety of styles exhibited, the impression produced is harmonious and grand. The building has the form of a double cross, with a lofty, massive, yet elegant tower arising from the intersection of the nave and the western transepts, and two smaller towers at the west end. The following are its dimensions: -Length from E. to W., 514 feet; length of the choir, 180 feet; height of the choir, 71 feet; breadth through the eastern transept, 154, and through the western, 124 feet; breadth of the nave, 94, and length, 178 feet; height of the central tower, 235; of the western towers, 130 feet. The nave, western transepts, and central tower are in the perpendicular style, and the tower, called Bell Harry Tower, is one of the finest specimens of that style existing in England. It is crowned with a pierced parapet and four beautiful turrets. The Norman style is seen in the western towers and the choir; the latter, however, being partly early English. A fine screen, in the decorated style, separates the nave from the choir. The roof, both of the nave and choir, is groined, that of the former very richly. At the E. end is Becket's Crown-which part of the cathedral is circular in form, and was completed in the lifetime of Becket. Here was kept the ancient throne of wood for the archbishops, the place of which is now filled by one of grey marble. The S.W. porch, the work of Prior Gold-stone, is a singularly beautiful example of the perpendicular style, richly ornamented, and with a groined roof. It forms the principal entrance to the cathedral.

From the eastern part of the nave are the approaches to numerous chapels, among which, especially interesting and beautiful, are the Lady Chapel erected by Prior Goldstone, and those of Holy Trinity, Henry IV., and St. Michael. Trinity Chapel is in the N.E. transept, and formerly contained the splendid shrine of St. Thomas a-Becket. In St. Andrew's Chapel are kept the ancient charters and grants of lands, some of them signed with a cross by the Saxon kings a thousand years ago. Here are no less than ten tombs of archbishops, one of them the original tomb of St. Thomas, to which Henry II, came barefoot to do penance, and where Louis VII. of France, afterwards canonised as St. Louis; watched a whole night. The cathedral has many fine stained windows; those in the eastern part being of very great antiquity and complicated in design, those in the transepts of later date, and that at the W. end the largest and most admired. The great S. window is a patchwork of ancient glass, but magnificent in effect. The monuments of the archbishops and other illustrious persons interred in the cathedral are very numerous. Among the most splendid and interesting are those of the Black Prince, a canopied effigy, recumbent and in armour; of Henry IV. and his queen, and Arch-bishop Courteney, in Trinity Chapel; those of archbishops Chicheley and Bourchier in the choir; that of Dean Wotton in the Lady Chapel; and those of the Earl of Somerset and the Duke of Clarence in St. Michael's Chapel. In Becket's Crown is the tomb of Cardinal Pole, the last archbishop interred in the cathedral.

The crypt, or undercroft, is the finest in England, extending under the whole building, and having a vaulted roof supported by columns. It contained a chapel of the Virgin, with several others, and numerous monuments. The western part of the crypt was appropriated by Queen Elizabeth, in 1568, to the use of the Walloon congregation, for whose benefit Divine service was there performed in the French language, whence it acquired the name of the French Church.

The cathedral was thoroughly repaired and restored a few years ago. The precincts, comprising an area about three quarters of a mile in circuit, contain many venerable remains of ancient architecture. The beautiful gateway built by Prior Goldstone in 1517, in the perpendicular style, consisting of two archways flanked by octangular towers, now covered with ivy, forms the chief entrance to the precincts. Within are the cloisters, the chapter-house, the library, the prior's chapel, the remains of the old palace of the archbishops, the treasury, the grammar school, &c. The cloisters are on the N. side of the cathedral, and form a large quadrangle 134 feet square, with beautiful windows, and a groined roof ornamented with nearly 700 shields. The cloisters have been restored. The chapter-house is an elegant building, partly in the early English and partly in the perpendicular style, with panelled oak roof, richly ornamented windows, and stone seats. It is 92 feet long, 37 broad, and 54 high. In the library, which contains the MSS. of Isaac Casaubon, Rooke, and others, are a curious marble table, inlaid with mythological figures, and an ancient copy of the charter of Archbishop Dunstan. The treasury has a curious Norman staircase in very good preservation. In the Green Court is the deanery, formerly the priory, containing portraits of the deans of Canterbury.

The city comprises 13 parishes, the livings being all in the diocese of Canterbury. The living of All Saints is a rectory consolidated with those of St. Mary-in-the-Castle and St. Mildred, value £150, in the gift of the lord chancellor. The church of St. Mildred is partly in the perpendicular style, and contains several old monuments. The church of All Saints has been rebuilt. St. Alphage's is a rectory united with the vicarage of St. Mary Northgate, value £189, in the gift of the archbishop. St. Andrew's is a rectory united with that of St. Mary's Bredman, which now form but one parish, value £223, in the patronage of the archbishop for two turns, and of the dean and chapter for one. The church was rebuilt in 1764. St. George the Martyr is a rectory united with that of St. Mary Magdalene, value £140, in the patronage of the dean and chapter. St. George the Great is a perpetual curacy, the church, which is a Norman building, was restored a few years ago. It has a wooden tower, and contains an ancient font and a monumental brass of the year 1531. St. Margaret's is a rectory, value £120, in the patronage of the Archdeacon of Canterbury. The church possesses a brass of 1479, and a monument to Somner, author of the "Antiquities of Canterbury." St. Martin's is a rectory united with the vicarage of St. Paul's, value £300, in the patronage of the archbishop and the dean and chapter alternately. The church of St. Martin is the most interesting of the old churches in Canterbury, and, according to tradition, is the most ancient in England. It was here that St. Augustine first preached Christianity, before the cathedral was built. In it Bertha, the pious queen of Ethelbert, was both baptised and buried. The present structure stands on a hill without the city, on the site of the one erected in the time of St. Augustine, or earlier, having been first built about A.D. 187. It is a small plain structure, with a tower covered with ivy. It contains a very old font, three monumental brasses, and windows of stained glass, and has been carefully restored. Roman bricks are observable in the walls of the chancel, which is probably the most ancient portion. The churchyard commands a good view, and is adorned with yew trees. The church of St. Paul is in the early English style, and contains the tomb of Admiral Rooke, a font supported by pillars, and two monumental brasses. The living of St. Mary Bredin is a vicarage, value £149, in the patronage of the Rev. IT. L. Warner. The church is very ancient and has a wooden tower. St. Peter's is a rectory united with the vicarage of Holy Cross, value £120, in the patronage of the archbishop and the dean and chapter alternately. The church of the Holy Cross is a cruciform edifice of great antiquity, and had once a chantry attached to it. St. Dunstan's is a vicarage, value £120, in the patronage of the archbishop. The church, which stands without the walls of the city, is a very ancient building, with a western tower and a semicircular tower close to it. It has been much altered, and has lost part of its original character. It contains an old font, a piscina, and the vault of the Roper family, where was deposited the head of the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More by his daughter, Mary Roper. The head was discovered, during some repairs in 1835, in a leaden box in the vault. Two chantries were formerly attached to this church.

Besides these churches the city contains nine chapels, of which three belong to the Baptists, and the others to the Independents, Quakers, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, Walloons, and Lady Huntingdon's Connexion. There is also a Jewish synagogue.

The grammar school, called the King's School, was founded at the close of the 7th century, and refounded by Henry VIII. for 50 scholars. It has one annual exhibition, tenable for four years at Oxford and Cambridge alternately, and two smaller ones for descendants of particular families. The boys in the school are divided thus:- 5 senior scholars, £30 per annum; 15 junior, £15; 30 probationers, £10; and about 35 commoners. The remains of the old buildings were pulled down in 1863, to be replaced by modern structures. The building is within the cathedral precincts, and occupies the site of the almonry. Harvey, who discovered the circulation of the blood, and Tenterden, lord chief justice of England, were educated at this school. The blue-coat school was founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, on the foundation of a very old hospital for poor priests endowed by Simon de Langton. It is for 16 boys, who are clothed, maintained, educated, and afterwards apprenticed. The revenue of the school is about £500 per annum. There are also grey-coat, Sunday, National, British, and infant schools. The hospitals, almshouses, and other institutions for charitable purposes are numerous. Jesus Hospital, founded by Sir John Boys in 1596, has an endowment of about £600 a year, part of which is applied to the education and clothing of 20 children. Eastridge Hospital, said to have been founded by Archbishop Lanfranc, has a revenue of £510, and a school annexed to it founded by Archbishop Whitgift. Maynard's Hospital was established by Maynard le Rich about the beginning of the 14th century, and has an income from endowment of about £240 a year; Cotton's Hospital is united with it. St. John's Hospital, also founded by Lanfranc, for infirm and blind men and women, has a revenue of nearly £500. There are several other almshouses. A missionary college, in connection with the Church of England, has been established on the site of the ancient abbey, which was sold by the Wottons to Mr. Beresford-Hope in 1844, and by him given to the archbishop for that purpose. The college was incorporated in 1848, and is built in the form of a quadrangle. It comprises apartments for 45 students, rooms for the fellows, chapel, cloister, library, and crypt. Twenty exhibitions are already endowed in connection with it. As far as was practicable the remains of the abbey have been preserved. The annual value of the charitable endowments of the city is about £5,000.

The monastery of St. Augustine was the most important of the religious foundations anciently existing at Canterbury. It was founded in 597 by St. Augustine for monks of the Benedictine order, and rose to the dignity of a mitred abbey. It was enlarged and enriched by the gifts of kings and nobles, holding 12,000 acres of land in various parts of England, and was valued at the Dissolution at £1,432. The abbey and its precincts occupied about 16 acres of ground on the eastern side of the city, and many kings and archbishops were buried in it. The remains consist chiefly of the beautiful gateway, which has been repaired, part of St. Ethelbert's tower, and the remains of the chapel of St. Pancras, said to have been built before the time of King Ethelbert I. They are now rescued from the vile uses to which they had once been appropriated, and no longer serve for a public-house, a brewery, or a cockpit. Among the other ancient remains are those of St. Lawrence's hospital for lepers, and the Dominican and Franciscan priories. The remains of St. Gregory's priory have been taken down. Only the wall and an archway remain of the once sumptuous palace of the archbishops in Palace-street. To the S.E. of the city, near Oatenhill, was the nunnery of St. Sepulchre, founded about 1100 by Archbishop Anselm. One of the nuns was Elizabeth Barton, the "holy maid of Kent," who was hung at Tyburn for her denunciations of Henry VIII. on account of his meditated divorce of his queen.

The remains of the castle are in Castle-street, on the S.W. side of the city, near the gas and water-works. A fine Roman arch formerly stood at Worth-gate, but was removed some time since to Lee Priory. South of the city is the Dane John, or Donjon field, containing a large artificial mound, laid out in public walks and terraces, tastefully planted. A pillar is erected in memory of Alderman Simmons, to whom the city is indebted for the promenade. There are some highly esteemed mineral springs in the large nursery-grounds near the city. The newspapers published in Canterbury are the Canterbury Journal, Kentish Gazette, Kentish Observer, and Kent Herald. Saturday is the market day for corn, hops, meat, and cattle, but provision markets are held daily. An annual pleasure fair, called "Jack and Joan fair," commences on the 10th October and lasts nearly a fortnight; another fair is held on the 4th May, and there are several minor fairs. Races are held on Barham Downs in April and August."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 by Colin Hinson ©2010]