Canterbury: Remarkable occurrences

Pages 127-135

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

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Remarkable occurrences

AMONG THE REMARKABLE OCCURRENCES which have happened here, in the year 1129, king Henry I. kept his court with much solemnity at Canterbury. (fn. 1)

It is said by some, that king Stephen died here in 1154. (fn. 2)

In the 1st year of king Richard I. anno 1189, William, king of Scotland, came to Canterbury, being conducted thither by the archbishop elect of York, and the bishop of Lincoln, and made his homage here to the king, who received him into his favor. (fn. 3)

King John, in the year 1204, kept the festival of Christmas with much solemnity at Canterbury. (fn. 4)

King Henry III. in his 47th year, anno 1263, kept his Christmas with great solemnity at Canterbury, and summoned the prelates and nobility of the realm, to attend him here to the celebration of it, and to proceed with him afterwards to Dover. (fn. 5)

In king Edward I.'s reign, anno 1272, there happened at Canterbury a great storm of thunder and lightning, and a sudden inundation; the waters breaking forth seemingly from the caverns of the earth, overflowed the greatest part of the city where they were never before known to come, insomuch that the violence of the current by its impetuosity overturned and laid level many houses and buildings in it, and drowned many men, women and children. (fn. 6)

In the same reign, anno 1299, there was an earthquake, which, though not very violent here, was felt as far as Hampton, in Middlesex. (fn. 7)

In king Edward II.'s reign, the inhabitants of this city were thrown into great consternation by the coming hither of Bartholomew, lord Badlesmere, that great and powerful baron, contrary to the king's inhibition to him, with nineteen knights, having their armour concealed under their surcoats, and his esquires carrying their swords openly, in which manner they visited St. Thomas's shrine; of which proceedings, some citizens were immediately dispatched to inform the king. But the lord Badlesmere, being afterwards taken prisoner elsewhere, was conveyed to this city in 1322, and was drawn from thence to the gallows at Blean, and was there hung, and his head being cut off, was fixed on a pole on Burgate, and then his body was hung up. (fn. 8)

In the 22d year of king Edward III. anno 1347, there was a great and famous tournament and justs held at Canterbury, in relation to which Dugdale says, that Thomas de Grey, of Codnore, being a very active person, had such great esteem with the king, that he received at his hands a hood of white cloth, embroidered with blue men, dancing, buttoned before with great pearls; and being to perform divers military exercises, in a tournament at Canterbury, had certain accoutrements of India silk, whereon the arms of Sir Stephen de Cosinton were painted, bestowed on him by the king. (fn. 9)

In 1361, there was so great a tempest of wind here, that the trees were overturned, and the roofs and steeples were thrown down, and so vast was the sury of it, that it seemed as if the whole frame of the universe was involved in ruin. (fn. 10)

In 1382, on May 21, at mid-day, there was an earthquake throughout all England Thorn tells us, it terribly shook and shattered the eastern window of the chapter-house, and the western window of the church, as well as other edifices of note, both within the monastery of St. Augustine, and without. (fn. 11)

It appears by an antient chronicle, that Edward IV. anno 1469, came to Canterbury, and there was Nicholas Faunte the mayor, and many others executed, for the aiding the bastard Falconbridge; king Edward went thence to Sandwich, and took Falconbridge there with him; and the lord Denham and Sir J. Fog and others, were left in Kent to sit on judg ment of the rebels, of whom there was a great number punished by the purse. Upon this offence the king seized the liberties of the city, and appointed John Bromton custos of it, from the feast of Penticost to the 20th of January following, when he restored them. (fn. 12)

In the year 1520, being the 12th year of king Henry VIII. Charles V. then newly elected emperor, came to Dover, where the king met him, and on Whitsunday accompanied him to Canterbury, and were received together, riding under one canopy, at St. George's-gate, cardinal Wolsey riding next before them, with the chiefest of the nobility of England and Spain. On both sides of the streets stood all the clerks and priests, that were within twenty miles of Canterbury, with long censers, crosses, surplices, and copes of the richest fort, and thus they rode under the canopy till they came to the west door of the cathedral, where they alighted from their horses, and were waited on by archbishop Warham, and having there paid their devotions, they went into the archbishop's palace adjoining, where, within a day or two afterwards the archbishop entertained them with a ball, and a royal and sumptuous banquet after it; of which further mention will be made in its proper place. (fn. 13)

In the year 1573, queen Elizabeth, in her royal progress, came to this city, and kept her court during her stay here, in her palace of St. Augustine's monastery; at which time she was magnificently entertained by archbishop Parker, at his palace of Canterbury.

In the year 1593, Thomas Long being then mayor; a great plague raged in this city; (fn. 14) and it appears by the parish registers, that the plague raged in it in the years 1544, 1564 and 1595, and in 1635 again with great violence, from the beginning of August to the end of October.

On June 12, 1625, king Charles I. with his queen Henrietta Maria, of France, came to Canterbury to his palace of St. Augustine's monastery, and there consummated his marriage with her.

On Christmas day, in the year 1648, (fn. 15) there were great tumults raised in this city by the means of Michael Page, the puritanical mayor, who encouraged the people to insult and molest those who were going to observe the festival at church, which were with much difficulty appeased by Sir William Man, alderman Sabine, and Mr. Lovelace, a lawyer; but upon this the committee of the county sent forces in form to attack the city; who, though they heard by the way that all was quiet, chose to march in as conquerors, and finding the gates open, took them down and burnt them, threw down several parts of the wall, and committed many to prison upon suspicion, among whom were the three peace-makers. (fn. 16)

King Charles II. at his restoration in 1660, in his way to London, lay three nights at the late palace of lady Wotton, in St. Augustine's monastery, as did his two brothers the dukes of York and Gloucester.

In the autumn of the year 1798, his royal highness George, prince of Wales, honoured this city with his presence, passing through it on Sept. 17, in the evening, towards his temporary residence at Charltonplace, near Barham Downs, in the neighbourhood of it, where he was waited on next day by the mayor and corporation, and presented with the freedom of the city, which be most graciously accepted, and afterwards attended by several of the general officers, and others, rode to Canterbury, where he was received with every demonstration of loyalty and respect, being welcomed by the discharge of artillery, the ringing of bells, &c. as he passed through the city, both to and from the royal barracks, where his own regiment, and the rest of the military were drawn up in readiness to receive him; and having condescended to accept of an invitation to dine with the mayor, (M. W. Sankey, esq.) on the 29th, being the day of his being sworn into office, his royal highness on that day arrived in the city, where the three companies of Canterbury volunteers were drawn up ready to receive him, and passed on to the assembly rooms, where the mayor and aldermen, the lord-lieutenant, the members of the city and county, many of the nobility, general officers, and principal inhabitants of the city and neighbourhood, were in attendance, ready to receive him, with whom, in number about 220, he afterwards partook of a most elegant and sumptuous entertainment, which had been prepared for him by the mayor, (fn. 17) and departed in the evening, expressing the highest satisfaction at the reception he had met with, and having gained the love and admiration of every one present by his gracious condescension and affability. After which his royal highness patronized a public ball, for raising a subscription for the relief of the wives and children of those brave men, who fell, and those who were wounded in the glorious naval victory gained in the Mediterranean by admiral Nelson, over the French fleet. It was attended on Oct. 15, by a numerous and brilliant company of nobility, gentry, military officers, and principal families, and inhabitants of the city and neighbourhood. His royal high. ness and prince William of Gloucester, condescending to be present at it, and to promote, by their liberal examples, the intention of the meeting; and they afterwards partook, with the company, of a most elegant supper, provided for the purpose, the whole entertainment of the evening being conducted with such taste and regularity, as to give them the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. The prince of Wales during his continuance in the neighbourhood, also visited the cathedral, at which he expressed much admiration, and before his departure sent a contribution of fifty guineas to the Kent and Canterbury hospital.

On September 8, 1692, a great shake of the earth was felt in this city.

In 1663 and 1698, the assizes were held in Canterbury; and in 1737, there was a special commission granted to try John Bell and his wife, the master and mistress of the city workhouse, for embezzling the property intrusted to their care, which was opened in this city before Sir Edward Probyn, one of the judges, being appointed by it, to try the cause. When the judge was received in form by the mayor and corporation, and the expence attending it was fifty-four pounds, and they have been held once since, in the year 1741.

In the year 1776, on January 8, there happened a great inundation in Canterbury, insomuch that some persons were drowned by the vast impetuosity of the current, which overflowed across the road at the west end of Westgate-bridge, and directed its course down North-lane, with great force; and in the autumn 1785, there was a most tremendous storm of wind, which overthrew houses and barns in the environs of this city, and destroyed the greatest part of the hop plantations near it.

IN THE PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS, vol. xxi. p. 26, for 1699, is an observation of some parhelia, or mock suns, seen by Mr. Stephen Gray, at Canterbury, on Feb. 26, 1699; and in vol. xxii. No. 261, p. 507, is another letter from the same, dated May 4, following, giving an account of another phænomenon, still more rare and curious, which happened here on April 7, that year, between four and five o'clock. He says, that there appeared on each side the sun a parhelion connected by a halo of the usual diameter; they had each of them a tail of a whitish colour, extended opposite to the sun, of about fifteen or twenty degrees in length; the upper part of the halo was touched by the arch of a circle, which had the colours of the iris with greater vivacity than the former.

On the 19th of December, 1741, another parhelion, or halo was seen here, being two mock suns and an inverted rainbow, of the most lively colours; the former were at times almost too bright to look on, and then they seemed round, but were often fringed with prismatic colours; the appearance ended about noon. See an account of it, sent to the secretary of the royal society, by the Rev. Mr. H. Miles, in Philosophical Transactions, vol. xlii. No. 462, p. 46. (fn. 18)

On December 11, 1741, a fire-ball appeared soon after noon-day, and the sun shining, but few people saw it, and they could only guess at its course; which, however, was observed to be from north-west by north, to south and by south, and right over Littleborne from Westbere, and towards Ratling, near which place lord Cowper, who was hunting, heard but one explosion (for there were two); the other most probably happened at such a distance, as to be in one with that so near him. Mr. Gostling, of the Mint yard, who gave the account of it to the secretary of the royal society, says, that he found his house violently shaken for some seconds of time, as if several loaded carriages had been driving against the walls of it, and heard a noise at the same time, which he took for thunder, yet of an uncommon sound; though he thought thunder, which could shake at that rate, would have been much louder, therefore he concluded it to be an earthquake; the sky, he found, was cloudy, but nothing like a thunder cloud in view, and there was a shower of rain from the eastward presently after, the coldest that he ever felt.

The noise, he afterwards found, proceeded from the above fire-ball, which passed with great rapidity over our county; how far he could not tell. It began with two great blows, like the reports of cannon, and then rolled away till it was heard no more; and he afterwards heard, the appearance was like that of a very large shooting star, and the train of light it left soon disappeared, from its being noon day.

This fire-ball was seen and the explosion heard in Sussex, and it appeared about three miles from Newport in the isle of Wight, which seems to be the first land it touched; at the same time its course was south-west by south, to north-east by north; and its motion nearly parallel to the horizon. It appeared different in shape to people at different places. See Philosoph. Transact. vol. xli. No. 461, p. 872; vol. xlii. No. 462, p. 60.


  • 1. Rapin, vol. i. p. 199.
  • 2. Ibid. vol. i. p. 210; others say, he died at Dover.
  • 3. R. de Diceto, col. 649. Fox, vol. i. p. 388.
  • 4. Madox's Exchequer, p. 17.
  • 5. Fx Bund. Literatum de an. 47 Hen. III. in Turri London. Prynne, vol. iii. p. 121.
  • 6. Leland's Col. vol. iii. p. 419. Ex Annal. T. Wike. Thorn. col. 1920. Knighton, col. 2460, says it happened anno 1271, xiv. Cal. Octob. and that a great famine followed throughout the country.
  • 7. Camden's Ann. of Ireland.
  • 8. Leland's Col. vol. i. p. 274.
  • 9. Dugd. Bar. vol. i. p. 231, 711.
  • 10. Thorn, col. 2122.
  • 11. Ibid. col. 2158.
  • 12. Leland's Col. vol. ii. p. 507.
  • 13. Battely, pt. 2, appendix, No. Xe. See Rapin, vol. i. p. 742.
  • 14. Battely's Somner, p. 184.
  • 15. A great riot happened at Canterbury on Christmas-day, 1648. See Rushworth, vol. viii. p. 948, 957, 976.
  • 16. History of Independency, 4to. 1648.
  • 17. At the expiration of his office, the corporation, impressed with a high sense of the liberality of their late chief magistrate, in the handsomest manner voted him their thanks in the court burghmote, for the credit he had done their body, and the honor he had rendered to the city.
  • 18. Descartes, in his book of Meteors, calls such phænomena, parhelia, or mock suns, and gives us the history of five seen at Rome in the year 1629, March 20, and demonstrates that there may sometimes, according to the rules of refraction and reflection, appear six at one time, viz. five mock suns and the true one.