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Garden, free entry

Westgate Gardens, Canterbury

Westgate Gardens, Canterbury

© Tim Stubbings


Canterbury Visitor Centre

01227 862162


Westgate Grove,

Events at this Venue


The Westgate Gardens can be found close to the City centre, just next to the West Gate Tower.

The eleven acres of public gardens provide an ideal setting for a gentle stroll along the banks of the River Stour, while the less energetic can sit back, unwind and absorb the tranquil beauty of the garden and its wildlife.

The meandering river provides the perfect environment for swans, ducks and moorhens to settle and raise their young. In the summer, the garden provides an ideal setting for open air events, exhibitions or as a picnic area.

This site has been a public space since the Middle Ages, although late Iron Age and early Roman pottery has been found on site.

During the 1400s, this area was called the Rosier - with five gardens and meadow land. Throughout this period many disputes arose between the residents and the Prior of Christ Church concerning the site's ownership.

In 1427, the Prior claimed that the townspeople had stolen hay from the meadow lands. They in turned accused the Prior of diverting the course of the river to feed one of the mills.

Judgement was made by Archbishop Chichele, who decided that they hay had been stolen and the monks should return the river to its natural course.

Disputes over issues such as who owned the fishing rights continued until 1500 when the mayor and residents took up arms and seized the area by force.

The mayor was formally charged by the highest court in England, the Star Chamber. This was run by monarchy and was considered more influential than Parliament. Historic records show that no expense was spared on the amount of entertainment used to bribe the lawyers, ensuring that the town won its case and kept the land.

In 1641 Oliver Cromwell's army destroyed part of the city walls situated in the gardens. A parchment factory was built between the Norman arch and the Westgate entrance in the early eighteenth century and was pulled down in 1850.

In 1886, Stephen Williamson, a prominent Canterbury businessman and owner of the tannery, bought Tower House. Two ornate Victorian wings were added in 1870 but taken down to provide a suitable setting for the riverside walk and pleasure gardens. He and his family lived there happily from 1886 until 1935 and cultivated the gardens into what you see today.

In 1936, his grandson Stephen Williamson and his wife Catherine Ellis Williamson, gave the house and gardens to the city corporation. During this time, Catherine was a city councillor and was responsible for the redevelopment of the house and gardens in conjunction with the city architect. Catherine Williamson subsequently became Canterbury's first woman mayor and served for two years from 1938 to 1940. The deed which preserves the site as a public space and garden for the benefit of Canterbury's residents is still upheld by the present day city council.

What to see:

The 200 year old and 25 foot wide, Oriental Plane (Platanus Orientalis), is rumoured to contain a circular cast iron seat which used to stand around it. Other plants worth looking out for are the Copper Beeches and the Magnolia Stellata.

The Norman archway and other medieval ruins probably taken by the Victorians from St Augustine's Abbey and used as grand garden ornaments can still be seen today.

The war memorials of the Burma Star Association and the Itay Star Association.

The site of the foundations of the London Gate of the Roman City of Canterbury (Durovernum Cantiacorum)

Disabled accessPicnic sitePublic toiletsAccepts groups

Children welcomeDisabled accessDogs accepted

Play area for children called Toddler's Cove.

Opening details

Please be aware that the gardens close at dusk. Check signs on site.


Free entry



See location of Westgate Gardens on Google mapsSee location on Google maps

Map reference: TR 144579  Lat: 51.28069 Long: 1.07413

10 minutes walk from the main bus station. 5 minutes walk from Canterbury West

Parking: with charge

Accessible by Public Transport: 1 mile from Canterbury West station


  • Disabled accessDisabled access
  • Picnic sitePicnic site
  • Public toiletsPublic toilets
  • Accepts groupsAccepts groups
  • Children welcomeChildren welcome
  • Disabled accessDisabled access
  • Dogs acceptedDogs accepted

Play area for children called Toddler's Cove.

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