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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

(36,000 in 1991)
City in Kent on the river Stour, the seat of the archbishop of Canterbury and centre of the *Anglican church. There was a heavily defended settlement here as early as 200 BC, and under the name of Durovernum it was important in the Roman period. It then became the capital of Ethelbert, king of Kent, whose conversion to Christianity by St *Augustine was the origin of Canterbury's ecclesiastical pre-eminence. Some of the foundations of Augustine's abbey, destroyed in the *dissolution of the monasteries, can still be seen. The medieval city walls survive round half the old town.

The cathedral stands on the site of the small church provided by Ethelbert for Augustine, and on the foundations of a Norman cathedral built in the decades after the Conquest. The crypt of this cathedral remains, with some magnificent carved animals on the capitals of the columns, but the present structure above ground was begun after a fire in 1174. It was a most propitious moment for rebuilding. In 1170 the archbishop, Thomas *Becket, had been murdered in the cathedral, and by 1173 he was already canonized; a large number of pilgrims, an important part of the medieval economy, could be expected.

The new work was the introduction to England of the *Gothic style. The cathedral went on being altered and enlarged, past the time of Chaucer's pilgrims (see The *Canterbury Tales), until the great central tower, Bell Harry, was finally completed in 1503 (and so named because it contained just a single bell, known as Harry). Becket's shrine was appropriated by Henry VIII in 1538, when 26 cartloads of precious materials were transferred to his treasury. But the windows of the choir, including scenes of Becket's miracles, are the finest collection of 13C stained glass in the country.

Attached to the cathedral are the buildings of the *King's School, an independent boys' school which claims to be the oldest in the country, deriving from a monastic school founded by St Augustine in about 600.

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