Canterbury: Population and public amusements

Pages 101-102

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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Population and public amusements

THIS CITY is very populous, containing with its suburbs, by estimation, more than nine thousand inhabitants, which are still increasing. (fn. 1) Its citizens are wealthy and respectable; many gentlemen of fortune and genteel families reside in it, especially within the precincts of the cathedral, where there are many of the clergy of superior rank and fortune belonging to it; and throughout the whole place there is a great deal of courtesy and hospitality.

For the amusement of the inhabitants and neighbouring gentry, there is a theatre erected not many years since, and a public assembly room, in the Highstreet, which will be further mentioned hereafter.— There are two elegant public libraries and reading rooms, in the high-street, which are commodiously fitted up for the purpose, and where all novel publications, and the public newspapers from London are daily received, so that they are much resorted to by all the genteel families of the town and neighbouring country; and there are horse races yearly on Baiham Downs, at which the king's plate is run for, and which, from their nearness to thiscity, are called Canterbury races; these are attended by most of the Kentish gentry and a great number of people from the neighbouring parts; and this city being their usual rendezvous, it brings a vast concourse of them to it for the time, when there are assemblies, plays and other entertainments, during the whole time of the race week.

There are in this city and its suburbs, several meeting houses for religious worship for the inhabitants, who are of different persuasions; such as those of the Methodists, Anabaptists, Quakers, and Presbyterians, of all which, the followers, of the first especially, are not a few; besides which the Walloons and French resugees have their meeting for worship in the undercrost of the cathedral, as has been mentioned before; and in the suburb of Westgate, there is a synagogue for the Jews, who are very numerous, especially in that part and about St. Peter's, the number of them being estimated at more than four hundred. (fn. 2)


  • 1. Mr. Duncombe, in a letter published in the Gentleman's Magazine for the year 1770, p. 565, says, from the calculations he makes in it, that the number of inhabitants in this city and suburbs may fairly be computed at 9000; the number of houses appearing by a then late survey, to be 987 within the walls, and 851 without; in all 1838 houses.
  • 2. At the further end of this suburb, on the right hand, at the entrance of the road to Whitstaple, is a burial place for the Jews; and another, not far from it, for the Quakers.