Of the inland towns in Kent, the first to be mentioned is the city of Canterbury, distinguished as the metropolitan see of all England. This honour it acquired in consequence of the mission from pope Gregory I of a body of Benedictine monks, with Augustine at their head, to Ethelbert king of Kent, for the purpose of converting to christianity the king who was still a pagan. The conversion of Ethelbert is dated in 597, which was followed by the installation of Augustine as bishop of the see of Canterbury; from which time that city has remained possessed of the primacy. The cathedral, as now existing, is a magnificent edifice, exhibiting beauties of different styles of Gothic architecture. It contains many monuments of prelates and other distinguished persons, among whom were king Henry IV and the Black Prince. At one of its altars was murdered that turbulent and ambitious priest, the archbishop Thomas-â-Becket, whom superstition afterwards made a saint; and his rich shrine in this cathedral was visited by pilgrims from all parts of Europe, till it was destroyed by Henry VIII.

Near the Cathedral are the remains of St. Augustine’s Abbey, an edifice once equal to that building in splendor. These relics, though continually diminishing since the dissolution, are still highly interesting to a student of ecclesiastical antiquities. There are also remains of the ancient castle of the city, and of the walls and gates; and likewise of several religious houses, and other old foundations. Besides the cathedral, there are within the precincts of the city eleven churches, and three more in the suburbs.

The abolition of religious houses occasioned a decline in the prosperity of a city so much dependent upon them; and it was not till the persecution of the duke of Alva had driven many manufacturers from the Low-countries to take refuge in England, that the settling of a body of them in Canterbury caused its wealth and population to revive. The revocation of the edict of Nantes brought a fresh influx of industrious workmen, and for a considerable time the silk manufacture was flourishing in this city. It having at length declined on account of the extension of the cotton branches, the latter were brought hither about the year 1789, and an ingenious citizen discovered a method of fabricating a new article called Canterbury or Chambery muslins. These have since been imitated in other places, but the manufacture still flourishes here.

The buildings of Canterbury are for the most part old and mean, but it has partaken of the modern improvements in that respect; and its extensive barracks have rendered it a great resort of the military, with all the consequences of gayety and free expenditure resulting from that circumstance. Canterbury is celebrated for its brawn; and the country round is abundant in fine hops.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D.

Map: Section from Kent by John Cary

Jane Austen References

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 15th September 1796

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 21st January 1799

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 30th November 1800

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 24th August 1805

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 27th August 1805

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 30th August 1805

Poem sent to Fanny Knight dated 24th July 1806

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 7th January 1807

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 15th June 1808

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 20th June 1808

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 26th June 1808

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 30th June 1808

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 9th December 1808

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 11th October 1813

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 14th October 1813

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated  18th October 1813

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 26th October 1813

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 3rd November 1813

Letter to Fanny Knight dated 23rd March 1817