Westgate Parks Timeline

Since 2013 a weekly survey has been conducted of the birds in Westgate Parks. The survey includes the 4.3ha Whitehall Meadow, immediately south-west of Toddler’s Cove, which is not part of the Westgate Parks but is owned by Canterbury City Council and managed as a nature reserve. A total of 93 species have been recorded.

  • 3500BC : Neolithic pottery found in 1987 in Whitehall Gardens, adjoining Westgate Gardens
  •   550BC : Late Iron Age finds in the Whitehall Gardens area, indicative of a settlement that predated Roman Canterbury. Also evidence of metal-working on Bingley Island. Celtic tribe, the Cantiaci, occupied most of Kent, with their capital on the site of modern –day Canterbury.
  •    43AD : Roman invasion. City renamed Durovernum Cantiacorum.
  •  280AD : Romans build stone wall around the city. Part of it ran south-west the length of Westgate Gardens from Westgate Towers, with London Gate near the south-west end of the Gardens, through which passed Watling Street, the main road to London.
  •  410AD : Romans abandon England and Canterbury falls into decay. Saxon invaders recolonise the city in the sixth century.
  •  597AD : St Augustine lands in Kent, bringing Christianity to England.
  •   1066 : Norman invasion. An archway in the Gardens contain zigzag stonework typical of the Norman period, though the structure itself is a folly, as is another arch closer to the river. Both were built using material scrounged from genuine Norman buildings in Canterbury.
  •   1348 : Black Death reaches Canterbury, and its population falls from around 10,000 to 3000.
  •   1379 : Westgate Towers built next to what is now the main entrance to Westgate Gardens.
  •   1380 : City wall rebuilt, to include a bastion house (a defensive tower built into the wall) which later became Tower House.
  •   1838 : Tannery established near present-day St Peter’s roundabout. Waste material was dumped in present-day Tannery Field (open Tannery Field page), where rails for a simple trolley system used for transporting the greasy by-products were dug up in 2015. The tannery finally closed in 2002.
  •   1876 : Swimming pool built in Toddler’s Cove – now a car park!
  •   1914 : Outbreak of First World War.
  •   1936 : Westgate Gardens and Tower House gifted to the city by the Williamsons (owners of the tannery), who lived in Tower House until 1935.
  •   1939 : Outbreak of Second World War. Rubble excavated in recent archaeological digs may have been dumped in the Gardens when bombed sites were being cleared. Burma Star and Italy Star Association memorials (open Memorial Field page) in the Gardens commemorate those who fought in the 1941-5 Burma campaign and the 1943-5 push through Italy.
  •   2013 : City Council gains £770,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund Parks for People Project. Anna Bell, the project officer, oversees the creation of Toddler’s Cove play area, Physic Garden within Westgate Gardens, Tannery Bull, wild flower meadow in Tannery Field and much more besides.
  •   2018 : End of HLF project. The Friends of Westgate Parks develop some of the work that the project officer had carried out in the previous five years.
  •   2020 : Covid 19 reaches Canterbury. Huge increase in popularity of the Parks during lockdowns.
  •   2022 : Wild flower meadow in Tannery Field extended.

Westgate towers
14th Century Westgate Towers at entrance to the Gardens

Folly incorporating Norman arch
Folly incorporating Norman arch

all roads lead to Rome
Information panel in Westgate Gardens showing how Watling Street was constructed

Education programs

Available related education programs include river and bat walks, archaeological digs, and forest school activities for children and adults.

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Canterbury Festival

This year's Canterbury Festival runs from 26th September to 4th November 2023. There's walks, talks, art, performance, music & much more.

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Help the Westgate Friends

We urgently need new volunteers to help maintain the physic garden, assist with collecting litter and also need new trustees – and funds to keep up our activities.

Email us at Westgate Parks friends