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The Saxon Cantuaria, or City of the Men of Kent, is one of the most interesting and most ancient of English cities. In the words of an old native historian, “ It is seated in a pleasant valley, about a mile wide, between hills of a moderate height and easy ascent, with springs rising from them; besides which, the river Stour runs through it, whose streams, by often dividing and meeting again, water it the more plentifully, and forming islands of various sizes, in one of which, formerly called Binnewith, the western part of our city stands, make the air good, and the soil rich. Such a situation could hardly want inhabitants, while these parts had any inhabitants at all; nor was any spot more likely to unite numbers in forming a neighbourhood, or a city, than one so well prepared by nature for defence and cultivation."*
It was a city or great town in the time of the ancient Britons. The ancient British name seems to have been Durwhern, signifying a swift river ; and the Stour, which runs through and by the city in two branches, was rather a rapid stream. Ancient British weapons made of copper, and commonly called celts, as well as various personal ornaments, are still occasionally found in turning up the soil ; and it is probable that the tumulus or mound in the Dane John was of British origin. The Romans latinized the name of the city into Durovernum ; and in their time it was a place of considerable importance; it was here that the Roman military roads to Dover and Lympne, their two principal havens on the Kentish coast, united. Very many Roman coins have been discovered ; and the flat, hard Roman brick is to be detected in many of the old buildings. Durovernum is marked conspicuously in the Itinerary of Antoninus, which is now nearly 1600 years old.
At the beginning of the Saxon Heptarchy it was the head or chief city of the kingdom of Kent, and the king's residence. The venerable Bede calls it (597) “the chief city of King Ethelbert.” Matthew of Westminster styles it “ the head of the empire;" and in the close of a charter of Kenulph king of Mercia, dated A.D. 810, it is called “ the famous city, which of ancient name was called Durovernia.”
King Ethelbert was certainly residing at Canterbury when St. Augustine arrived on his holy mission; and it was in some one of the pleasant green fields, which lie between this city and the Isle of Thanet, and the debarking place at Richborough, that the Gospel was first expounded to this Anglo-Saxon prince. Having embraced Christianity, Ethelbert gave up his palace as a residence for St. Augustine and his successors, and retired himself to Reculver, where he built another palace over the ruins of the Roman Fort, and hard by the twin towers which we now see in descending the æstuary of the Thames. The palace in Canterbury became a splendid monastery, and bore the name of St. Augustine. It expanded, in the course of ages,
'A Walk in and about the City of Canterbury,' &c., by William Gostling, M.A., a native of the place.
to an immense size; but somewhere within the walls which yet exist, must have stood the palace of King Ethelbert. It would appear, however, that the first Christian church was not erected here, but in the suburb of St. Martin's.
Canterbury was much frequented by pilgrims many ages before the death and canonization of Thomas à Becket. The place was venerable as the fountain-head of Christianity in England; and it had its saints, martyrs, and miracle-working relics, in the Saxon times. The body of Saint Mildred, the second lady abbess of Minster, who died in the odour of sanctity, was given by King Canute to the monks of Christ Church ; a chapel and a shrine were devoted to this royal Saxon saint; and the lame, the halt, and the blind flocked to it, as ages afterwards to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket, in the hope of recovering the use of their limbs and sight; and the afflicted, and the conscience-stricken, and the devout of all classes swelled these pilgrimages in the days of the Heptarchy, and subsequently. In the Saxon Chronicle, sub anno 1011, it is told how the Danes“ between the nativity of St. Mary (Sept. 8) and St. Michael's Mass (Sept. 29) besieged Canterbury, and got it through treachery; because it was betrayed by Elfmar, whose life the Archbishop Elphage had before saved. And there they took the Archbishop Elphage and Elfward, the king's steward, and the Abbess Leofruna and Bishop Godwin. But Abbot Elfmar they let go away. And then there within they took all the men in orders, and other men and women; it is not to be told by any man how many there were. And they remained within the city afterwards as long as they wished. And when they had thoroughly spoiled the city, then went they to their ships and carried the archbishop with them, and they kept him with them until they martyred him." Alphage was soon afterwards canonized, and his name is still retained in the English calendar. Yet notwithstanding this rough treatment, at the date of the Norman conquest the city was in a thriving condition; and it occupies an important place in the Domesday-book.
The city was walled in; and among the most picturesque of the fragments of ancient times are large portions of these walls. With one short break, these walls, covered for the most part with ivy and with flowers, and rising some twenty-five feet above the level of the road, run from the Dane John to North-gate, skirting the Cathedral Precincts. The city was for many ages divided into the wards of Westgate, Newingate, Northgate, Worthgate, Burgate, and Ridingate; each taking its name from a gate which gave entrance into the city; but by the Municipal Corporations Reform Act it has been divided into three wards only, Westgate, Dane John, and Northgate. Except Westgate, all these gates have disappeared. Burgate was levelled with the soil in our own days, by men who had no veneration for antiquity. In the year 1703, all the gates were standing. In the castle-yard there stood a most perfect Roman arch, built with Roman bricks, and supposed to have been the original Worthgate; it was barbarously destroyed in the latter part of the last century. Many portions of the old walls, which ran between these gates, still show patches of ancient Roman brick-work. In addition to the great gates, there were several posterns, some opening on the river, and some on the open country. Until a comparatively recent period, Canterbury could boast of the finest old walls, and the most complete, that existed anywhere in England. At irregular distances there were a great many turrets or small watch-towers, which are now, like the greater part of the walls, all decayed and in ruins. The great Westgate, which has been left, and which the improved taste of the nation would not now suffer to be destroyed, was built by Archbishop Sudbury during the reign of the unhappy Richard II. in the room of a very ancient one which had become ruinous. It is a striking and picturesque object, standing between two lofty and spacious round towers, and being embattled, portcullised, and machicolated. Near to the Ridingate, which was destroyed in 1782, stood the church of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, “now so clean gone, that the least vestigium of it appears not.” It had begun to decline as early as A.D. 1349. “Over this Ridingate,” says Somner, “was sometime, and that in the memory of many yet living, a bridge lying upon the under-props or buttresses yet standing on either side the gate, by which, when it stood, a man might have continued his walk from the lesser to the greater Donge Hill, and a contra ; but it is decayed and gone." But in 1791, “ a spacious arch was thrown over its remaining piers, forming a bridge by which the communication from the little to the great Donge Hill was restored. This was done at the sole cost of James Simmons, Esq., alderman and banker of the city, to which he proved in many ways a benefactor." This gentleman spent liberally, and with good taste, the money which he had made by industry. Before becoming a banker, he had been a miller, and he was also a printer, and the editor of the Kentish Gazette. Mr. Simmons planted and laid out that delightful promenade the Donjon, or, as it is commonly called, the Dane John. Since we first saw the spot, the beautiful lime-trees have grown and flourished amazingly, and numerous flowering shrubs and foreign trees have been added. We scarcely know a pleasanter walk, or one, considering its extent, so varied. The tumulus or mound within this enclosure, is a most interesting object, carrying the mind back to the very earliest periods of our history, or to the regions of tradition when history was not. No doubt it may have been enlarged and applied both to offensive and defensive purposes; as well by the Saxons as by the Danes; and a Donjon, or keep, may have been built upon it by the Normans, although no traces of such a work are now to be found. The popular name, Dane John, may be but a corruption of Donjon; or the Dancs, during their sieges and attacks, may have made this pleasant mound the scene of some of their barbarous exploits. But let the etymology be what it will, the Dane John, in the warm and joyous summer time, is a charming place, and carefully and beautifully kept. We have flowers growing on all sides of us, and a cool and shały promenade under the lime-trees, which meet over head, and form a long alcove. It is skirted on the southern side by the ancient walls; and a smooth terrace, 15 feet wide, and 1840 feet long, is formed on the top of the rampart within the wall, which has been repaired and raised into a parapet, and which passes in its course four of the old watch-towers. These towers are very picturesque ; the areas of them are planted with trees and flowering shrubs, and defended by palisades; and at each of them there are commodious seats, whence the eye can embrace nearly the whole of the verdant enclosure. The mound springs up from a beautiful lawn to the height of about fifty feet; serpentine walks lead to its summit, which is crowned by a spiral monument, recording that “this field and hill were improved, and these terraces, walks, and plantations made, in the year 1790, for the sole use of the public, at the sole expense of James Simmons, Esq." From the summit you may obtain a fine panoramic view of the city and suburbs, the river Stour, and the pleasant valley through which it winds.
The ancient castle still shows its great keep on the south-west part of the city, at the end of Castle-strect. The earliest mention of it is in the Domesday-book ; but there is little doubt that part of it was very old before that survey was made by William the Conqueror. Such of its walls as remain are truly Cyclopean. There are gasworks close by, and a part of the machinery of this establishment has been built into the very ruins. The interior also serves as the centre of some water-works, by which the water of the Stour is forced into the city; and a reservoir projects beyond the old and immensely thick walls of the keep.
As well within the town as without, the Stour affords some most picturesque views. As you cross the branch by King's Bridge, in ascending from Saint Peter's to the High-street and towards the Cathedral, the view on your left hand along the river, with old houses rising on each side of it perpendicularly from the bank and close to the water's edge, you have a picture at once quaint, foreign-looking, and picturesque-you might fancy yourself in some old town of Holland or of Belgium. But the best inside town view of the Stour is to be obtained from the Blackfriars, looking upwards to the tower of All Saints' Church, and over the old arches of the antique bridge which spans the narrow stream, and affords communication between King-street and St. Peter's.
No English city can show anything like the same number of ancient unaltered churches as Canterbury. You meet them whichever way you turn. On arriving by the London-road, the church of St. Dunstan meets you in the suburb; and on crossing the threshold of the city, to the right hand of old Westgate, and almost touching it, you have the still more ancient church of the Holy Cross. St. Dunstan’s, which stands on gently rising ground, belonged to the Convent of St. Gregory in Canterbury. Its most marked architectural feature is a semicircular tower adjoining the western square tower. The church has suffered much from the barbarism of the last century; but it was four or five years back much improved by the incumbent, the Rey. B. B. Bunce, who removed most of the whitewash daubing which spoiled the interior. And here we may say that, generally, the clergy of the present day have shown, and are showing, a laudable desire to make up for the want of taste and want of liberality of their predecessors. What is now the vestry-room was once a little chapel, founded by one Henry, the king's chaplain, in 1330. There are two altar-tombs of Bethersden marble, and these belonged to the family of the Ropers, who, in the time of Henry IV. founded the chapel where they are placed; and below your feet, in the family vault of the Ropers, still lies the head of Sir Thomas More. That great man's beloved daughter Margaret, it will be remembered, married one of the Ropers, who afterwards wrote that well-known account of the sayings and doings of the great and honest Chancellor of Henry VIII. which is one of the most delightful pieces of biography to be found in any language, or of any period. It had been upon record that the head of More had been placed here, “with great devotion,” by his daughter Margaret Roper ; but people had almost forgotten the fact, when, in the year 1835, the chancel of the church being newly paved, this Roper vault was opened, and several persons descending into it, there saw a head which had evidently been severed from the body. It was in a niche in the wall, in a leaden box, something of the shape of a bee-hive, open in the front, and with an iron grating before it. Thus reported a correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine, in which work (in the number for May, 1837) may be found the proofs which identify this skull with the once brilliant witflashing head of Sir Thomas More. Close by, in St. Dunstan’s-street, there yet stands the old gateway of the house of the Roper family. The old Chancellor must ofttimes have gone through it; for, if not a resident, he was surely a frequent visitor at Canterbury, as his affection for his daughter was boundless. As late as the year 1842, there stood a very fine old mber house, in a yard or close called “ Dancing-School Yard,” in the centre of the city of Canterbury, which was traditionally called Sir Thomas More's house. For many years it had been the warehouse of some woolstaplers. The proprietor, a man of Ramsgate, and no true man of Kent, knocked it down in 1842. Whether it were Sir Thomas More's house or not, it was a quaint and