Ville and precincts of the cathedral

Pages 304-306

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

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The VILLE OF THE PRECINCTS OF CHRIST-CHURCH is situated in the north-east part of the city within the walls of it; though within the jurisdiction of the county at large, it is not amenable to the court leet of the hundred of Westgate, to which it does no suit, having the privilege of a constable of its own, who is appointed yearly at the quarter-sessions for East Kent, from among the inhabitants of it, usually by recommendation from the dean and chapter, who are possessed of the entire freehold of it. (fn. 1) The cathedral church stands nearly in the south west part of it, adjoining to which, on the north side, stood most part of the Benedictine priory of Christ church, the remains of which are converted into dwellings and offices for the use of the dean and chapter, and the other members of this church.

THE HISTORY OF THIS CHURCH AND PRIORY has been so accurately and minutely investigated, both by Mr. Somner and his continuator Mr. Battely, (fn. 2) that it would be very difficult to avoid a frequent repetition of what they have already published concerning it; so far from avoiding it, continued use has been made of their ingenious labours throughout the greatest part of this account, as the means of rendering the greatest justice to it. Not that the following history of them has been confined to their labours only, it is compiled from other authors likewise, who have since written on this subject in particular, and from various other authorities, as well as from personal knowledge, and has been extended as far as the nature of this work would admit. Every history and chronicle has much in it relative to the concerns of this church, and its prelates, nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider how much both were connected with the public affairs of the realm, and that it has ever been the metropolitical church; a church, which has from the earliest antiquity, been universally revered for its sanctity, and rendered illustrious by a series of prelates who have presided over it, of high estimation for their piety as churchmen, and for their eminent abilities, when in trusted, as they frequently were, with the highest and most important offices of the state. (fn. 3)


  • 1. These precincts were about forty years ago erected into a ville, so that now in like manner as a parish, it has its own parochial officers, and maintains its own poor. This ville is now charged to the county rate.
  • 2. Mr. Somner published his History of Canterbury, quarto, in 1640, and intended a new edition of it, but he did not live to execute that design; upon which the booksellers, to forward the remaining copies of it, caused a new title to be printed, anno 1662, and added to the book, which has made some suppose that there has been two impressions of it, which is certainly a mistake. Mr. Battely, the old impression having been long since sold off, published in the year 1703, a new edition of it, in folio, in which, whatever Mr. Somner had corrected or altered, with his own pen, in order to a second edition, was observed by him, and he added to Mr. Somner's History, a second part, which he stiled Cantuaria Sacra, or the Antiquities of the Cathedral, Archbishoprick, Priory, Dean and Chapter, Archdeaconry, the Monastery of St. Augustine, the parish churches, hospitals, and other religious places, in or near this city; after which in 1726, Mr. Dart published the History of this Cathedral in folio, with beautiful plates of the building and the monuments in it, engraved by Cole. Mr. Gostling next, in 1777, published his Walk, in which this church and the priory with the precincts of them, are accurately described; and plates are added of the several parts of them. as they appear at present. Lastly, Simmons and Kirkby published a description of this church, with the lives of the several archbishops, in 1783, being a new and much enlarged edition, of a smaller and more confined pamphlet, before printed by J. Burnby, on this subject.
  • 3. In this see, since its first erection, there have been eighteen archbishops sainted, nine made cardinals, twelve lord chancellors, four lord treasurers, one lord chief justice of England, and nine chancellors of the university of Oxford.