A disgraceful exhibition of bad behaviour happened at Guildhall Street in the City of Canterbury in 1832 - and the cause of the uproar? It was none other than William Howley, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. gentleman had been invited to a grand dinner with the Corporation members, but, unfortunately for them, William Howley had other ideas.
In any case, the local people were furious with the Archbishop because he had refused to be enthroned at Canterbury a few years earlier. He preferred to hang out at his two other homes, Lambeth Palace, and his country residence, Addington Park, near Croydon in Surrey. So he was not too keen on dragging himself away to dine with a bunch of boring Corporation people either, least of all to be a captive audience to all their tiresome complaints.
The cunning Archbishop got out of the commitment by sending a proxy, but this only caused further aggravation since it deprived his subjects of a fine, rowdy party. Some of them wrote angry letters to the local rag, the Gazette. But that wasn't enough revenge for the disappointed inhabitants of Canterbury. Soon, a mob began to gather outside the Guildhall and, as soon as the Archbishop arrived, they pelted him with stones and lumps of mud, yelling abuse and blasphemy. The frightened Archibishop leapt from his carriage and rushed inside the Guildhall.
This unhappy event was recorded as the Archbishop's first visit to the Guildhall - maybe also his last.
More Trouble at the Guildhall
The fate of the medieval Guildhall attracted a lot of controversy, but it was demolished around 1950 on the grounds that it was unsafe. The authorities decided, at the time, that it would be too expensive to renovate the building. Unfortunately, the demolition was carried out some time after it had infected its neighbour, Curry's, a large retailer of electrical equipement, with death-watch beetle. The 7mm long woodboring beetle is known for making tapping noises in the rafters of old buildings in order to attract a mate. So it hadn't taken long before there were enough death-watch beetles to give Curry's a severe headache.
The street where the medieval Guildhall was located is now named Guildhall Street. The original Guildhall was built in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century and was known as the Church of the Holy Cross.
· Adapted from: Cameron, Janet, Canterbury Streets, Tempus Publishing, 2004.
· Canterbury Heritage Museum.
· The Beaney Institute