Canterbury: The modern state of the city

Pages 99-101

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

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The modern state of the city

THE HEALTHY AIR, and pleasant situation of this city, has been already taken notice of; but the houses in it, from the length of time since they had been rebuilt, were grown antient again, and from want of any improvements being made to them, were become unsightly, and the whole city was perhaps esteemed the most so of any in the kingdom. At length, the necessity of improvement became obvious to every one, and a general emulation for it took place among the citizens, and under the authority of parliament in 1787, the city was new paved, and all annoyances were removed. It was lighted with upwards of 240 lamps; a watch was appointed for the safeguard of the inhabitants, and the houses throughout it were altered to a chearful, and more modern appearance; and most of the shops were fitted up in a handsome style, in imitation of those in London; and the improvements would have been carried still further, had not the short tenure by which most of the houses in it were held under church leases, (which is in every place the bane of all industry) deterred the lessees from hazarding more on such uncertain property; and had not this stopped their ardor this city would in all likelihood have been second to few others in the kingdom. However this obstacle has been in some measure since temoved by the power given in the late act for the redemption of the land tax to corporate and ecclesiastical bodies to alienate their property for this purpose, the dean and chapter, and corporation of Canterbury, last year having disposed of many of their houses, gardens, and other possessions within the city, and the suburbs of it, to their lessees and others, a circumstance which will no doubt add fresh encouragement to future improvements here.

All this was scarcely finished, when still further alterations took place, for in 1790, the road to Ashford, which at the entrance into the city at Wincheap, was both dangerous and inconvenient, was changed, and a new one made in a strait line through the Old Castleyard and the antient Worthgate, and at the same time the Dunjeon-hill and field (fn. 1) were, with much labour, levelled and planted with trees, and beautifully laid out in walks, for the use and amusement of the public, and this at the expence of upwards of fifteen hundred pounds, by James Simmons, esq. an alderman of this city, to whom the corporation granted it for this purpose, for his life, rent free; but the court of guardians of the poor having assessed his public spirited improvement, he has since resigned it back to the corporation, who now appropriate it solely for public use; but the shameful depredations which have since been continually committed on the shrubs, fences, &c. already advance with the most hasty strides towards its ruin. The great high road at another entrance into the city, at St. George's-gate from Dover, being narrow, with several dangerous turns, an act of parliament was obtained that year, entirely to alter the course of it, by making a new one, in a strait line from that gate for more than a mile and a half through Barton-field; on each side of which several genteel houses are already built; and the commissioners are further impowered, by the aid of a turnpike, to keep in repair and improve the high road from hence to the further end of Barham Downs, where the Dover turnpike ends. To this may be added, that a new bridge for carriages has been built by Mr. Simmons, over the river Stour, near Abbot's mill, at the opening in the city wall, where the three arches were pulled down in 1769, as has been already mentioned before.


  • 1. See some account of the Dunjeon field and hill hereafter.