Copyright Kent Past 2010
The History of Kent
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History of Canterbury
Canterbury comes from the Old English ‘cantware’ meaning the dwellers of Kent’ with ‘burh’ as a ‘fortified place’; therefore, ‘fortification of the people of Kent’. The Domesday Book records Canterbury as Cantuaria and Iensis.
The Canterbury area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Lower Paleolithic
axes, Neolithic and Bronze Age pots have been found in the area. Canterbury was first
recorded as the main settlement of the Celtic tribe, the Cantiaci, who inhabited
most of modern day Kent. In the first century AD, the Romans captured the settlement,
and named it Durovernum Cantiacorum, meaning 'stronghold of the Cantiaci by the alder
grove'. The Romans rebuilt the town, with new streets in a grid pattern, a theatre,
a temple, a forum and public baths. In the late third century, to defend against
attack from barbarians, the Romans built around the town an earth bank and a wall
with seven gates, which enclosed an area of 130 acres.
After the Romans left Britain in 410 AD, Durovernum Cantiacorum was abandoned, apart from a few farmers, and gradually decayed. Over the next 100 years, an Anglo-
In 842 and 851, Canterbury suffered great loss of life during Danish raids. In 978, Archbishop re-
After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Lanfranc (1070-
After the murder of Archbishop at the cathedral in 1170, Canterbury became one of the most notable towns in Europe, as pilgrims from all parts of Christendom came to visit his shrine.
The Black Death hit Canterbury in 1348. At 10,000, Canterbury had the 10th largest population in England; by the early 16th century, the population had fallen to 3,000. In 1363, during the Hundred Years' War, a Commission of Inquiry found that disrepair, stone-
During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the city's priory, nunnery and three friaries were closed. St Augustine's Abbey, the 14th richest in England at the time, was surrendered to the Crown, and its church and cloister were levelled. The rest of the abbey was dismantled over the next 15 years, with part of the site bring converted to a palace. Thomas Becket's shrine in the Cathedral was demolished and all the gold, silver and jewels removed to the Tower of London. Becket's images, name and feasts were obliterated throughout the kingdom, ending the pilgrimages.
By the 17th century, Canterbury's population was 5,000; of whom 2,000 were French-
In 1620, Robert Cushman negotiated the lease of the Mayflower, at 59 Palace Street, for the purpose of transporting the Pilgrims to America.
During the English Civil War in 1647, riots broke out when Canterbury's puritan mayor banned church services on Christmas Day. The rioters' trial the following year led to a Kent revolt against the Parliamentarian forces, contributing to the start of the second phase of the war. However,
By 1770, the castle had come into disrepair, and many parts were demolished during the late 18th century and early 19th century. In 1787, all the gates in the city wall, except for Westgate and the city jail, were demolished, as a result of a commission that found them impeding to new coach travel. By 1820, the city's silk industry had been killed by imported Indian muslins. The , the world's first passenger railway, was opened in 1830. Between 1830 and 1900, the city's population grew from 15,000 to 24,000. Canterbury Prison was opened, just outside the city limits, in 1808.
During the First World War, a number of barracks and voluntary hospitals were set up around the city, and in 1917, a German bomber crash-