History Files


Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Kent

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

Canterbury Part 3: Churches of Canterbury

Blackfriars Monastery, Canterbury, Kent

The remains of the Blackfriars Monastery lie on both banks of the River Stour, reached by St Peter's Lane on the north bank and by St Alphege Lane on the south. The building shown here is the former hall while on the north bank is the former convent building (next photo). Of the religious houses in Canterbury, that of the Dominicans, or Black Friars, was one of the smaller. The house is said to have been the first the Dominicans possessed in England (Oxford is a rival).

Blackfriars Monastery, Canterbury, Kent

They were established here about 1221 by Henry III (1216-1272) and the surviving buildings date to that period. In 1658 the monastery was owned by Peter de la Pierre, a Huguenot surgeon, and was used by the Baptists as a place of worship. In 1732 the Unitarian General Baptists bought the property and the cloister garth which they converted into a cemetery. The building was restored about 1905, which is probably when part was converted into apartments.

Unitarian Baptist Chapel, Canterbury, Kent

The Unitarian Baptist Chapel, one of two general chapels in the immediate area (the other being the lost Orange Street Independent Chapel), used the Blackfriars hall on St Alphege Lane. The Baptists purchased the property in 1732. It was always well-filled, with many influential families attending, but small tenements sprang up, blocking in the chapel, making it difficult to find, and numbers declined. Canterbury Baptist Church's opening probably sealed its fate.

Jewish Synagogue, King Street, Canterbury, Kent

The Jewish Synagogue, King Street, lies on the north-western side, set well back from the street in its own gardens. It replaced the St Dunstan's Street synagogue, which was lost to the building of the railway station. In September 1847 Sir Moses Montefiore was invited to lay the foundation stone of the new synagogue on a site which was once occupied by the Knight Templar. The synagogue closed in 1947, the last operating synagogue in Canterbury to do so.

St Mary Northgate, Canterbury, Kent

St Mary Northgate was built into the North Gate and city wall. Its tower was one of the wall's bastions. The chancel was fully over the road which led out of the city, while the building was no wider than the tower, which was encased in red brick in 1702 and extended upwards by two stages. In 1832, the North Gate was demolished, leaving the tower, north and south walls and nave roof propped up. A new east end and south aisle were built to make up for the lost chancel.

St Mary Northgate, Canterbury, Kent

The old south wall was then demolished and iron pillars erected to provide a large space for the congregation. The 1832 work is all that can be seen from the main road; yellow brick and large, plain, pointed windows. It was closed in 1888, and became first a hall for St Gregory the Great and then a restaurant for a time before being reclaimed by the church until 1975, when it became King's School Music Centre, while the school's observatory has a viewing dome in the tower.

Primitive Methodist Chapel, St John's Place, Canterbury, Kent

The Primitive Methodist Chapel, St John's Place, sits on the north side of the street, just off Northgate in the area known as The Borough. Its date of construction is unknown, but the Primitive Methodist split from the mainstream occurred in 1811, and a minister was lodging in Broad Street in the early 1850s. A new property in Palace Street was purchased in 1876 (see below), so this chapel was sold to St John's Board Schools in 1876 for use as an infants school.

St John's Hospital, Canterbury, Kent

St John's Hospital used to stand on the northern side of Northgate, opposite the modern Lanfranc House. A black arched gateway in the Tudor-period buildings on Northgate now marks its existence, with the stone building shown here (possibly the chapel) visible through the hatch. The hospital was founded in 1084 by Archbishop Lanfranc. It survived the Dissolution, but in 1747 the chapel bells were sold off, and the north wall, steeple and north aisle were removed.

St Gregory's Priory, Canterbury, Kent

St Gregory's Priory stood on the southern side of Northgate, founded about 1074 by Archbishop Lanfranc. The priory was damaged by fire in 1145, and was closed during the Dissolution. The churchyard continued in public use until inclosed by Sir John Boys. The priory remains were torn down about 1848 and the area used for pottery-making, but the Chapel of St Thomas stood until about the 1940s. Lanfranc House, near the Victoria Row corner, now occupies the site.

Primitive Methodist Chapel, Palace Street, Canterbury, Kent

The Primitive Methodist Chapel, Palace Street, lays back from the street and is hemmed by surrounding buildings. Intended as a replacement for the old building on St John's Place, it was built in 1876 as a response to the Methodist split of 1811, with Primitive Methodism more akin to evangelism and concentrated more on the working classes, especially in the north of England. The 1932 Methodist union ended the split and the building is now a classroom for King's School.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler.



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