The village of Fordwich and the building of Canterbury Cathedral

The name Fordwich comes from the Old English ‘ford’ meaning a ‘a place to cross a river’ with ‘wic’ as a ‘dwelling, building or group of buildings for specific purposes or industrial settlement’; therefore, a ‘trading centre at the ford’

The church in the village, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin was built by the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury in the 11th century.  This was the same time as Canterbury Cathedral was built.

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The River Stour at Fordwich.

Although many miles inland, Fordwich was the main port for Canterbury, which traded directly with London and Channel ports and indirectly with the near Continent.  The Wantsum Channel slowly silted up and ships couldn’t pass down it by 1672 making the Isle of Thanet part of mainland England.

Transport by river was the easiest and safest form of transport for both people and goods, so for building a cathedral like Canterbury, stone had to be transported by river as close to the town of Canterbury as possible.  William the Conqueror, became king of England on Christmas Day 1066 and insisted that the stone for the churches and cathedrals being built in England (often replacing Anglo-Saxon ones) was Caen stone from Normandy.  Caen stone is a light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone and is homogeneous, and therefore suitable for carving.

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The Wantsum Channel in the Middle Ages.

All the stones and supplies to build Canterbury Cathedral came down the Wantsum Channel and then onto the River Stour where they were landed at the port of Fordwich.

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