Canterbury: Wards, aldermanries and parishes

Pages 78-81

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

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Wards, aldermanries and parishes

THE CITY is divided, for the civil government of it, into SIX WARDS, each named from one of the six principal gates above-mentioned. The whole city, as appears by the survey of Domesday, as mentioned before, being in the Conqueror's time esteemed but as one hundred, called the hundred of Canterbury.— Each of these wards had an alderman, who presided over it, and kept within his ward, a court, holden every three weeks, called a wardmote. Their office, from their name, was called an aldermanry, which seems was not, as now, elective, but held by persons in fee, as an inheritance, (fn. 1) and descended by will as to the next heir at law; some of them continuing in one name and family for several generations; as that of Burgate, in the Chiche's; of Northgate, in the same family, and in the Polres and Pollers; of Ridingate, in the Handloe's; of Newingate, in the Diggs's; of Worthgate, in the Cokyn's, and afterwards in the Tierne's; and of Westgate, in the Browne's. (fn. 2) In the 2d year of king John, Baldwin de Warewal had a charter for this aldermanry of Westgate, (fn. 3) but it appears by the pleas of the crown, before the justices itinerant, in the 21st year of king Edward I. anno 1293, in relation to the sergeantrys in this city, that William de Lynstede, rector of the church of Stureye, then held the aldermanry of Westgate of the king in capite, by the fergeantry of one Sore sparhawk, and that it was worth ten marcs; and in like manner John, son of John Handlo, held the aldermanry of Redingate of the king in capite, which was worth yearly two shillings, performing nothing further to the king yearly from thence; and in like manner Ed mund de Tyerne held the aldermanry of Worthgate, worth yearly two shillings, of the king in capite, performing nothing further yearly to the king from thence; and in like manner Thomas Chicch held the aldermanry of Burgate, which was worth forty pence yearly; and Stephen Chicch held the aldermanry of Northgate, which was worth two shillings yearly, and John de Holt held the aldermanry of Newingate, which was worth two shillings yearly, performing nothing further to the king from thence yearly; but by what right each of them held the same, was not known; upon which, on writs of quo warranto, the said Stephen Chicch, and the others, except master William de Lynstede, pleaded, that the aforesaid aldermanrys were belonging and annexed to the ferme of the city, viz. sixty pounds, which they paid to the king for the city yearly; all which was accordingly found by the jury; and the aforesaid master William de Lynstede pleaded, that he held the aforesaid sergeantry of one William de Godstede, paying to him from thence yearly one hundred shillings, which William, last-mentioned, pleaded, that he held the said sergeantry of the commonaltie of the city, paying from thence yearly forty pence to the ferme of the city, and this from time which was beyond the memory of man. (fn. 4) All which was allowed by the jury before the said justices, J. de Berewyk and his sociates itinerant, at Canterbury as aforesaid. (fn. 5)

These aldermanries were at first held of the crown in capite, and continued so till king Henry III. granted the city to the citizens, to hold in fee ferm, as has been noticed before, to hold in capite by burgage; from which time these offices being annexed, and appertaining to the fee ferm above-mentioned, became vested in the citizens, of whom they were held in like manner afterwards, and continued so till these offices were in course of time all bought in, or otherwise became the property of the city; from which time they became eligible by the mayor and commonaltie, with this difference, that in future they were held only by those who were freemen and inhabitants of the franchise; whereas before they were held neither by one, nor the other, to the great inconvenience of the city; but this does not appear to have been until about the time of the new ordination, made by Henry VIII. which appointed two aldermen to every ward, making in number, twelve, as they continue at this time.

The six wards above-mentioned, were divided into twelve parishes, as they remain at present, in which are the several churches of All Saints, St. Alphage, St. Andrew, St. George, St. Mary Bredin, St. Mary Bredman, St. Mary Magdalen Burgate, St. Mary Northgate, St. Mildred, St. Margaret, Holy Cross Westgate, and St. Peter, by which names the twelve parishes are called. Besides these there were formerly five other churches, within the walls, viz. of St. Edmund. St. John, St. Mary de Castro, St. Mary Queningate and St. Michael Burgate, all long since demolished, and the profits united to the other churches and there are now in the suburbs the three parishes and churches of St. Dunstan, St. Paul, and St. Martin; the first of which is not within the bounds of the city; all which will be further mentioned hereafter, under the ecclesiastical account of this place.


  • 1. See Madox's Firtna Burgi, p. 14.
  • 2. Battery's Scinner, p. 53.
  • 3. Philipott, p. 93.
  • 4. This aldermanry of Westgate was the most of consequence of any of them. Thorn tells us, col. 1926, that it was in the above reign, by grant from the crown, in the possession of the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, who in the year 1278, being the 6th year of it, gave it to Nicholas Doge, to hold of them for ever, paying yearly into their treasury, 10l. sterling, in lieu of all services, saving the suit of the burghmote of Canterbury, which for that reason he was bound to hold. After this, in the 10th year of king Richard II. one Henry Garnate died possessed of it, and devised it to Sara his wife; after which it came to the Brownes, who were the last that held it before it fell into the possession of the city. See Battely's Somner, p. 53. Anno I Richard III. an act passed for the city of Canterbury, touching the aldermanry lands and aldermanry of Westgate, and other things in the city of Canterbury, &c.
  • 5. Battely's Somner, appendix, No. vi.