Canterbury: The borough of Stablegate

Pages 292-294

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

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The borough of Stablegate

THE BOROUGH OF STABLEGATE, or STAPLEGATE, as it was afterwards spelt, is a small district, situated in the northern extremity of the city, which is by name excepted in the charter of king Henry VI. made to the city, from the franchise of it, as being a parcel of the hundred and ville of Westgate, and of the see and liberty of the archbishop, to whom at one time it is said to have belonged. (fn. 1)

It is generally conjectured to have derived its name from the Saxon, in which language it signifies the resting-place or end of a journey, or the laying down of a burthen; for it was, says Darel, the place appointed for strangers and travellers; and Thorn, the chronicler of St. Augustine's, assures us, that this was the reason why it was called Stablegate; where those wearied with carrying their burthens in the way, were unladen and stabled; (fn. 2) so that this was the very place, as is generally conjectured, where Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury and his company, on their being first received by king Ethelbert, were entertained and seated by him, before he resigned to him his own palace, and retired to Reculver.

Thorn is very particular in his relation of it. He says, the king granted to them a place of residence, situated in the city of Canterbury, viz. within the parish of St. Ælphage, on the opposite side of the king's highway towards the north, along which the wall of the archiepiscopal palace extended itself, in which Augustine with his associates were entertained till the time of the king's conversion. It was, continues he, at that time, as an oratory, for the king's family, who there adored and sacrificed to their gods; but the king, desirous of enfranchising this spot of his hospitality, and to acquit it from all exactions whatsoever for ever, granted, that the inhabitants should not answer to the citizens in any tallages or assessments, or contribute any subsidy to them, but be subject to the archbishop in all things, and to enjoy in like manner as his palace, uncontradicted liberty, the privilege of being a sanctuary, a place of refuge for criminals, even after they were indicted, should they flee into this place of Stablegate, where they should enjoy the same privilege equally as in a church. (fn. 3)

This borough has for many years past been in a state of ruin and poverty; the houses in it being inhabited only by poor and unprincipled people, who fly hither as to a sanctuary, and shelter from the liberty of the city. It was some time past erected into a ville, in order to maintain its own poor; but at present there being but few in it, who do not receive relief from the ville, the rates for that purpose are not only almost insupportable, but there are hardly any persons to be found to serve the office of collecting them, and to go through the other official duties of the ville.

There was formerly a family in this city, who from their residence in or near this place, were surnamed De Stablegate, of whom one Edmund Stablegate, the same person, probably, that Lambarde speaks of in his perambulation, under Bilsington, was in the 42d year of king Edward III. a bailiff of this city, as appears by a deed made to the hospital of Eastbridge, to which, by the title of one of the bailiffs of it, he signs himself, among others, a witness. (fn. 4) He had also a manor and seat, which was called after him, at Nackington, just without the liberties of this city, of which mention may be found under the description of that parish, in the History of Kent; and I find some of this name and family, who dwelt in the parish of St. Alphage as late as Henry VIII.'s reign, for anno 1524 Robert Staplegate was of St. Alphage, and possessed several tenements in this hamlet, and dying that year was buried in the cemetery of St. Augustine's monastery.


  • 1. This district at present is bounded on the east by the street leading from Northgate to Palace-street; on the south, by the end of Palace-street, and a part of King's street; on the west, by Knott's-lane; and on the north, by that part of the parish of Northgate within the walls.
  • 2. See Thorn, col. 1759.
  • 3. See Thorn. col. 1759.
  • 4. By inquisition taken anno 46 Edward III. Edmund Staplegate was found to die possessed of the manor of Bilsington, held in the manner, as is therein mentioned, and likewise nine messuages, one grange and 15 acres of arable, with appurtenances in Canterbury, and the suburbs of that city, held of the king in burgage, according to the use and custom of gavelkind, and that Edmund Staplegate was son and heir to the former: and the said Edmund, John and Thomas, were sons and heirs to the latter.