Fri 24 Jan 2020 10:51

Having seen off the Kentish Men,this week we entertain the Men of Kent, in the form of Canterbury - who should be bringing two teams.

Canterbury is of course the destination of the Pilgrims in Chaucer's Tales. They were heading there to venerate the shrine of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop murdered by four knights on orders from Henry II.

St Augustine had been sent by the Pope to convert the Kingdom of Kent at the end of the sixth century. He established a cathedral and a monastery - which would become St Augustine's abbey. From here Roman Christianity spread throughout England and the Bishop of Canterbury became Primate of All England. At the end of the 10th century, during the reign of Aethelred the Unready the original structure was replaced by a larger stone structure and a new abbey was added. A Vikings raid killed the Archbishop and did significant damage to the structure, but its life ended in fire in 1067.

It was of course rebuilt bigger and better by the Normans. It was in this Cathedral that in 1170 Becket was murdered.

The shrine of Thomas Becket was a place of pilgrimage until 1539. In that year Henry VIII not only dissolved the monastery that had existed since 900AD, he summoned Thomas to court on a charge of treason. When the dead saint refused to appear - he declared him guilty and confiscated the chapel's wealth.

Three more Archbishops were to be murdered, Simon Sudbury was killed during the Peasant's Revolt - he had been appointed Lord Chancellor and imposed a poll tax. This was so unpopular that the guards at the Tower of London opened the gates to let the mob in to find him.

Thomas Cranmer was Archbishop under Henry VIII and Edward VI and was responsible for shaping the early Church of England. He supported Lady Jane Grey in an attempt to preserve the reformation - but support for Mary was unstoppable and he became one of the English Martyrs.

William Laud was archbishop under Charles I and he was charged with treason by the Puritans of the Long Parliament.

Today the Cathedral still survives from the income it makes from tourists buying giftsin the shop, just as it use to from selling pilgrims badges.

The history of Canterbury Rugby Club is shorter - They were founded in 1929, so were celebrating their 90th birthday when we visited earlier this year. They were a typical rural side relying on farmers. They entered the leagues in London 3 South East but dropped to Kent 2 before staging a revival. They first made National 2 in 2010, were relegated and then promoted straight back. Last season they came second and won the play-off. They have kept the same squad and it has found life in National 1 tough. They have a single win - over Cinderford. So it looks like they will be returning to National 2.

Unfortunately Canterbury have called off the Wanderers match. The 3rd XV have a week off as the schedule for the latter part of the season is finalised. They will be playing Hadleigh, Ipswich, Norwich and Diss with the results against Bury carrying over.

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