From a country town to boom city

During the “Great War” of 1914-1918 Canterbury was mobilised as the garrison for the Royal East Kent Regiment (the Buffs) and the Kent and Sharp Shooters Yeomanry, with hospitals handed over to the army, and for the mustering and training of thousands of horses for the carnage of the western front. To commemorate those who paid the ultimate sacrifice the Canterbury War Memorial, erected in the Buttermarket just outside the Cathedral’s Christ Church Gate, was unveiled by Field Marshal Earl Haig and dedicated by Archbishop Randall Davidson on October 21st 1921.

In the early decades of the century, inspired by the Tudor Village design featured in the 1910 Ideal Home exhibition, Canterbury’s suburbs expanded from the Victorian terraces in response to demand for the popular “Tudorbethan” style. In the interwar years the slopes to the north and south sides of the city were developed to build new semi and detached houses with two storey bay windows, bricks clad in hanging tiles, fake timbering and pebbledash. Suburban expansion with private and council housing continued after World War II, most obviously in the St Stephen’s area with the development of the former Hales Place estate.

Many old terraced houses in the main part of the city succumbed to bulldozers in the early post war years. Wincheap, by contrast, largely escaped this fate and retains terraced housing which from the late 17th century which has been lost elsewhere. Modern housing pushing out from the centre has respected the historic character and picturesque setting of St Stephen’s Church (which dates from the 12th century), the Green, 16th century almshouses and Olde Beverlie Inn. Since 1967 the designation of Conservation areas by character and appearance for built and natural heritage, helps us to admire the commitment of late 20th century planning to preserving Canterbury’s rich architectural heritage.

Probably the most visionary concept in Canterbury’s suburban development was the planned council housing development of the late 1940s originally called New Harbledown. Designed as a village on the outskirts and overlooking the old city, roads were named after Chaucer’s pilgrims and the development was complete with a village shop, a pub called “The Gentile Knyght” and a primary school. But in 1952 the council reneged on the name, New Harbledown, and gave the new village the name by which it has since been known, the London Road Estate. Land donated by a farmer and former mayor, Frank Hooker, made possible the adjacent building of the former high school now called the Canterbury Sports Academy.

Return to the homepage for 20th-century Canterbury, or explore Canterbury’s economic growth through the essays on Canterbury’s commerce and industrial heritage, or its retail industry and trading estates. You can also learn more about how Canterbury has been shaped by other facets of its transport infrastructure and the railway, planning decisions, as well as the significant impact of the Second World War.