Canterbury
The ancient and present state of the city

Sponsor

Institute of Historical Research

Publication

Author

Edward Hasted

Year published

1800

Supporting documents

Pages

67-69

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'Canterbury: The ancient and present state of the city', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11 (1800), pp. 67-69. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63643 Date accessed: 17 September 2014.


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The ancient and present state of the city

THE CITY OF CANTERBURY is situated in a pleasant valley about two miles wide, surrounded by hills of a moderate height, and easy ascent, with several springs of fine water rising from them. Besides which the river Stour runs through it, the streams of which, by often dividing and meeting again, water it still more plentifully, and forming islands of various sizes, in one of which the western part of the city stands, contribute to purify the air, and make the soil fertile. Such a situation could hardly be destitute of inhabitants, nor was any spot more likely to unite numbers together to form a city, than one so well prepared by nature as well for defence as cultivation.

That the present city stands in great measure on the same spot that the antient one did, may be plainly proved by the druid beads and celts, and the many remains of Roman antiquity, as coins and vessels in great plenty, which have been dug up in it; (fn. 1) by their several buildings still remaining, and by the tesselated pavements, of curious workmanship, which have been at times found at the depth of eight or ten feet in the very centre of it, the certain work of that nation. A fine Roman vase, of red earth, of elegant shape and pattern, with the inscription, TARAGET DE TEVE, was found near this city in 1730, and a brass lacrymatory with it, and a gold pendant with a stone, and two small pearls, were likewise found near it. (fn. 2)

Whoever would search for the Roman antiquities of this city, must seek for them, says Mr. Somner, from six to nine feet under ground, where their discoveries will probably abundantly satisfy their labour. Among several other instances of Roman works found under ground within the city, was a strong and well couched arched piece of Roman tile or brick, five or six feet below the floor of a house in Castle-street, which stopped the progress of the workmen in sinking a cellar about the year 1630.

Mr. Somner mentions some pits discovered about the place where the market is now kept, which probably were Roman cisterns. At the beginning of this century, in digging a cellar in St. Alphage parish, the workmen came to an old foundation of Roman bricks, so strongly cemented, that they could not break it without much difficulty. It was indent wife, broad four feet four inches, deep about four feet, and about eight feet under ground. Several of the bricks were taken up whole, seventeen inches and an half long, and eleven inches and three-quarters broad; and a Roman pavement of mosaic work was discovered in digging a cellar in St. Margaret's parish. Several other remains have been found, as far as the depth of nine or ten feet under ground; but as they cannot be ascertained to be Roman, the further mention of them is deferred till I come to treat of the river Stour. However, I shall add to the above, a still later discovery made in 1739, near Jewry-lane; where, in digging a cellar, there was found, not more than three or four feet below the level of the street, a fair mosaic pavement of a carpet pattern, the tessela of burnt earth, red, yellow, black, and white; their shape and sizes different, some near an inch over, others very small, laid on a bed of mortar, of such hardness, and so thick, that with care it might have been preserved entire, but for want of that, it was broken into three or four pieces, some of which were afterwards carried away and joined; what was saved of it was perhaps three feet broad and five long; but party walls prevented the size of the whole from being ascertained.

Footnotes

1 The curious and numerous collection of Roman coins in the possession of Mr. Faussett, of Heppington, near this city, was almost all dug up in the close vicinity of it. These were so numerous, that his father, who collected them, sorted out one most capital series of them from the rest; and the remainder, which would have been esteemed an exceeding good collection in the hands of any one besides, and together filled more than a bushel measure, he caused to be melted into a bell, which now hangs on the roof of his son's house of Heppington.
2 See Gough's Camden, p. 256.