History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 30 August 2009. Updated 13 May 2010



Canterbury Part 4: Churches of Canterbury

St Alphege Church

St Alphege Church is on the south-west corner of St Alphege Lane and Palace Street. As with the two similarly named churches in Seasalter, this Saxon church gained its name because the body of Archbishop Alphege, who was killed by Vikings in 1013, was landed at Seasalter as part of its procession to Canterbury Cathedral, and it rested here overnight before being taken through the cathedral gates. The dedication of the church before this is unknown.

St Alphege Church

The church was described as 'ancient' in 1166, although the current building, with two gables facing Palace Street, and knapped flint walls, is probably Norman. The octagonal font is Perpendicular, and the font cover is seventeenth century. In 1974 the parish of St Peter the Apostle, and St Alphege with St Margaret, and St Mildred with St Mary de Castro, was formed. In 1982 the church of St Alphege was declared redundant and now houses the Canterbury Environment Centre.

Guildhall Street Congregational Church

Guildhall Street Congregational Church was built to a design by John Green Hall (designer of St Thomas Catholic Church) in 1876, the year after the Presbyterians broke away to found St Andrew's Church. In 1942, the members merged with those at Watling Street Church. In 1948 the building was declared unsafe and closed. It was purchased by William Lefevre to incorporate into his shop, removing the top of the building. It was later taken over by Debenhams.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, Canterbury Corps, is located on Whitehorse Lane, a narrow turning off the High Street. The Salvation Army have maintained a centre here for 123 years (in 2009), being opened on 3 February 1886 in what was described by a local newspaper as being 'an old rag cutting factory'. Their first meeting was plagued by a large and unruly mob who tried to trip people as they left, and hustled and knocked them about as they made their way to the station.

Poor Priests Hospital

The Poor Priests Hospital stands on the north-western side of Stour Street, bordered by Water Street to the west, and opposite Hawk's Lane. It was founded in 1220 by Archdeacon Simon Langton to aid clergy who fell sick while visiting Becket's shrine, and was dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary. The chapel and part of the hospital were rebuilt in stone in 1373 by Thomas Wike, and all of it escaped suppression by Henry VIII, probably due to its hospital character.

Poor Priests Hospital

In 1575, the hospital was surrendered to Queen Elizabeth, and immediately granted to the mayor and commonality of Canterbury. The buildings became a workhouse in 1727, as well as a bride well, and a blue-coat charity school, for the use of sixteen poor boys of the city, to be called Blue Coat boys. In later years the building was a regimental museum for The Buffs until 1979 and then the Canterbury Heritage Museum, although this was threatened with closure in 2010.

Greyfriars Chapel

The remnants of Greyfriars Chapel lie over the Stour between Water Lane and St Peter's Street. The Franciscans, or Minorite Friars, settled near the Poor Priests Hospital in 1224. Alderman John Diggs moved them to the small island above Water Lane about 1270, where they built the priory and chapel, remaining there until the Dissolution. A workhouse and a pig-fattening farm used the site afterwards, but the surviving building is now back in the hands of the Franciscans.

First Church of Christ Scientist

The First Church of Christ Scientist lies in this small building on the northern side of Beercart Lane, close to Stour Street in the western part of the city. The Beer Cart Arms pub is to its immediate right as shown here. In the late seventies the Christ Scientists were using the former Blackfriars Monastery hall at the top of St Alphege Lane, but the date at which they moved into their present premises, which appears to be part chapel and part bookshop, is unknown.

Parish Church of St Mildred

The Parish Church of St Mildred is also known as the City Centre Parish, Canterbury. Despite being located within the city walls, the church, which dates back to the Saxon period, is in a very sleepy area between Gas Street and Church Lane, close to Canterbury Castle. St Mildred was the daughter of Merewald, king of Mercia, and became abbess of Minster Convent. The church is first recorded in the 1070s, but was virtually destroyed by fire in 1246.

Parish Church of St Mildred

Built into the original eighth century construction are huge quoin stones on the south-west corner (to the right here), which may have come from the ruins of Roman Canterbury. The windows were added in the 1300s along with the tower on the north side of the church. The tower was demolished in 1836 and just a stump remains (visible in the previous photo). The north aisle was built in 1486. The parish was merged with St Mary de Castro's when the latter was closed.

In Depth
In Depth


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