LIFE IN THE 16TH CENTURY - THINGS WHICH AFFECTED THE RESIDENTS OF CANTERBURY

 

Ah what a century.

At the beginning of the century, the population of Canterbury was increasing and by the end of the century it was further boosted by the first waves of Huguenots and Walloons fleeing religious persecution from what is now Belgium. Many of these were weavers.

It was a time when the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. During this century about 50% of the population had just about enough food, clothes and shelter to survive. Luxuries for them didn’t exist.

During the reign of Queen Mary, many were martyred in the centre of Canterbury for their faith.

Homes were lit by rush lights (rushes dipped in animal fat) unless either tallow or beeswax candles could be afforded.

Queen Elizabeth I ruled for most of the century – and she passed through Canterbury several times during her reign. She spend her 40th birthday in Canterbury. On one occasion she travelled to Canterbury to interview the Duc d'Alencon with a view to marriage - she is said to have met him in what is now the Queen Elizabeth Tea Rooms in the High Street (which has a well-preserved Elizabethan ceiling in the first-floor tea-room .

William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe were the leading playwrights of their day. Marlowe was born in Canterbury, the son of a shoemaker.

In 1588 the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English Navy.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May. Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to cover the smell of body odour.
Houses had thatch roofs. And the floors were dirt.

It was definitely not a good period to be a nagging wife. Husbands could pay for their wives to be publicly strapped into the ducking stool and dunked into the River Stour. It can still be seen today next to the Old Weavers House. The ducking stool was also used for public punishment for cheating business men and of course for women suspected of being a witch.