History Of Canterbury, Kent
There has been a settlement in Canterbury since prehistoric times. Bronze Age finds, and Neolithic round barrows have been discovered in the area; and before the Roman arrival Durovernon (British duro "fort", verno "swamp") was the most important settlement in Kent.
Canterbury (known in Latin as Durovernum Cantiacorum) became a Roman administrative centre: it lay at the junction of three roads from their ports of Regulbium (Reculver), Dubris (Dover) and Lemanis (Lympne); and it stood on what has become known as Watling Street. The city walls and one of the city gates remain.
The name Canterbury derives from the Old English Cantwarebyrig, meaning "fortress of the men of Kent". The bury element is a form of borough, which has cognates in words and place names in virtually every Indo-European and Semitic language, as well as others. For a fuller explanation, see under borough.
A Motte and Bailey castle was constructed in Canterbury by the Normans soon after the Norman Conquest, but this was soon replaced by the stone keep of Canterbury Castle which still stands today.
In 596 Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine to convert England to Christianity. This was the first ever papal mission, and Augustine built a priory on the site of the present cathedral precincts in AD 597. He also built an abbey outside the city walls where he was buried: as were other early archbishops. Though St. Gregory had planned the division of England into two archbishoprics, one at London and one at York, Augustine's success at Canterbury explains how the southern archiepiscopal see came to be fixed there instead of at London. The first beginnings of the diocese are told by St. Bede (Hist. Eccl., I, xxxiii).
"When Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, assumed the episcopal throne in that royal city, he recovered therein, by the King's assistance, a church which, as he was told, had been constructed by the original labour of Roman believers. This church he consecrated in the name of the Saviour, our God and Lord Jesus Christ, and there he established an habitation for himself and all his successors".
The church was Saint Martin's, which is still in use today, and is considered the oldest church in England still in use. The Ancient Diocese of Canterbury was the Mother-Church and Primatial See of All England, from 597 till the death of the last Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Pole, in 1558.
In the 16th Century the Church of England split from Rome under Henry VIII.
St Augustine's Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered by Henry VIII, although ruins remain. During this time Canterbury became the centre of the new Church of England, although a Catholic shrine remains. At the same time, the ancient religious school was re founded as the King's School.
Canterbury Cathedral is the burial place of King Henry IV and of Edward the Black Prince, but is most famous as the scene of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. As a result of this event, Canterbury became a major pilgrimage site, inspiring Geoffrey Chaucer to write The Canterbury Tales in 1387. The Hospital of St Thomas was a place of lodging for pilgrims in the city. The city is also associated with the family of Thomas More (his head is buried at the church of St. Dunstan's, Canterbury, and his body at St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London).
The city is also the start/finish point for many pilgrimage routes, such as the Via Francigena to Rome, the Pilgrims' Way to Winchester and the route from Southwark taken in The Canterbury Tales.
The "Big Dig".
The city became a county corporate in 1461.
French Protestant refugees settled in the city during the sixteenth century: here they introduced silk-making.
As a historic county corporate, Canterbury was made a county borough under the Local Government Act 1888. It was the smallest such county borough, and never exceeded the 50,000 population limit initially required - the 1971 census reported a population of 33,175. Under the Local Government Act 1972 it formed part of the larger Canterbury district of Kent.
During World War II the city was severely damaged by bombing after it was targeted by the Luftwaffe in the Baedeker Blitz. There is footage of the devastated areas in the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale, by film directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film is a celebration of the city, the Pilgrim's Way, and the Chaucerian stories, not a re-telling of the original tales.
Post-war large scale redevelopment of the city centre started quickly with the rebuilding of much of the bomb damaged east of the city, including what is now the Whitefriar's development. The ring-road was constructed some time after in stages to alleviate growing traffic problems in the city centre, which was then pedestrianised.
Canterbury today is a major city for tourism with Canterbury Cathedral alone attracting 1.2 million visitors in 2001. It still contains many ancient buildings and modern building development within the medieval town centre is strictly regulated.
During 2004-5 the Whitefriars area of the city underwent major redevelopment and the associated archeological research was called the "Big Dig". Canterbury now has a much larger shopping attraction due to the Whitefriars development, many of the shops have undergone major redevelopment, as has the city's bus station. Locally, however, the development has been criticised for causing empty buildings in other parts of the town, due to shop movement and the closure of several local shops under competition from the increased chain store presence. For example, the Boots the Chemist seen in the 1944 A Canterbury Tale remained at that high street location until 2005, when it moved to Whitefriars.