Canterbury in Kent is a famous place of pilgrimage, immortalised in the 14th century by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site is consistently one of the UK’s most-visited cities, and is home to almost twice as many residents as a century ago.
See the twentieth history of Canterbury spring to life with this collection of vintage films.
The Canterbury Tour 1920
Back in 1920, a camera was mounted onto the back of a lorry. It recorded the journey, as the lorry drove around the city.
Posted to YouTube by The National Archives UK
The opening scene is Butchery Lane, formerly Angel Lane, with views of Bell Harry Tower.
Then the camera tracks through streets where pedestrians and bicycles mingle with early motor vehicles and horses and carts! It is an exceptional film.
Almost at the end, there is some sort of procession. Two men process with sandwich boards, with some sort of flag or material held between them. Women and children walk alongside. A cyclist turns to look at them, unaware that a camera recorded this moment for us to watch a century later.
The journey continues with motor vehicles weaving across the road to avoid all the cyclists travelling in each direction. It would be another 15 years before driving tests were introduced on 1 June 1935. In 1926, when national road casualty data was first collected, a shocking 4,886 died in UK road traffic accidents despite the relative rarity of cars at the time.
At the junction, a policeman tries to keep traffic in order, but even the man with a small daughter happily walks out across the junction.
After watching a cyclist balancing a large package in front of him, we’re suddenly confronted by a bus struggling to weave between the parked cars and pedestrians! And in the next moment there are two traders pushing their carts along the road.
The camera now shifts to one side, and you get a quick look at the wide range of shops. Then suddenly some cows appear.
“Canterbury, Kent, England.1980”
Take a trip back to a warm summer’s day in 1980. Includes lots of people and many retail units of the time, in addition to the tourist hotspots.
Posted to YouTube by Mackenzie Rough
“1983: Canterbury street scenes and Cathedral, Kent, UK”
Dr Stanley Solomons shot this footage on Kodak Super 8 film back at Easter time in 1983.
Posted to YouTube by Burl Solomons
A lovely panoramic view of Canterbury Cathedral is followed by morris dancers outside the Cathedral Gate. Then it’s a look at the lanes and open spaces around the Cathedrals, where tourists mill around.
Finally, we see a teenager enjoying the tiny caravan on the campsite.
“Canterbury: 1990. The Old Long Market Shopping Centre: The last Sunday”
The Old Long Market Shopping Centre was redeveloped in two stages in the 1990s. This video was taken in 1990, on the last day before the Longmarket was shut off. Then the demolition builders moved in.
Posted to YouTube by geoffstrange
Although it was a quiet day, there are a number of pedestrians walking by. They look like local residents, rather than the tourists milling around the Cathedral.
It’s a great chance too to look back an an age where small shops dominated the high street, rather than the big chains today.
The redeveloped retail units opened by 1992.