Conflict formed between the people of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor over new British Puritan rule on Christmas Day, 1647.

Shopkeepers forced to keep their shops open on Christmas Day fought back against the new rule imposed by the Puritans. The enforced closure, part of the Puritan aim to cancel Christmas, was a rule that was championed by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, William Bridge, who walked along the streets encouraging shopkeepers to stay open.

As he moved through the streets, the Lord Mayor was affronted by a gathering crowd and after ordering his pikemen to remain where they were, a mob started, with goods from shops being thrown over their heads and landing on the ground.

A shopkeeper who closed his shop was told by the Lord Mayor to stay open under the threat of the stocks. The mob retaliated by throwing the Lord Mayor to the ground, where he was covered in mud and his clothes ruined. After getting to his feet and silencing the crowd, a game of football broke out in the streets with two inflated pig bladders!

The festivities of Christmas were believed by the Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell to be a Roman Catholic celebration and to encourage unnecessary celebration and debauchery. The riots were a ‘last-straw’ reaction against all the restrictions imposed upon the citizens of Canterbury, including the removal of food thought to be for feasts by soldiers. Canterbury citizens shouted “For God, King Charles and Kent!”1

The aftermath was that the citizens were to be tried and punished – however Kent’s grand jury refused to indict them. The following celebrations and protests led to a petition hoping to reconcile the Royalists and the Parliamentarians, which did not succeed. The spirit of rebellion continued and would lead to the battle of Maidstone, which ended in a terrible defeat for the people of Kent and the Royalist cause.


  1. Chandler, John W. (2019) ‘Keeping it in the family: Interdisciplinary kinship and association studies of the Stanley family within the corporation oligarchy in seventeenth century Canterbury’, The Journal of Genealogy and Family History, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 79-96.