Westgate Parks has been at the centre of history in Kent since the Iron Age. You can read more about this history at the bottom of this page, or explore this community attraction through the Westgate parks website.
In 1936, Catherine Ellise Williamson gave the the house and gardens to the city corporation. Catherine was a city councillor and was responsible for the redevelopment of the house and gardens with the city architect. Catherine was also Canterbury's first female mayor and served for two years, from 1938 to 1940.
The entrance to the park is opposite the Westgate Towers, North Lane, Canterbury.
Heritage Lottery Fund success
You may have heard about the plans to transform four parks at Westgate in Canterbury. The application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG) was successful and the Westgate Parks project was awarded £770,000. With other funds the total cost of the improvements is £1.1 million.
Westgate Gardens, Tannery Field, Toddlers Cove and Bingley Island will be linked together to form a larger, major park.
What will be improved?
Westgate Parks Development Officer - this post will be the main point of contact for the public and volunteers using the parks. Local people will work with the development officer to create a learning programme, run activities and events and recruit volunteers for task days to improve the environment.
New Play Area at Toddlers Cove - a destination play area with a natural setting will replace the existing equipment. The play area will have a historic theme and be in tune with its setting next to the River Stour. Local children will be involved in designing the play area. There will also be a new toilets, a cafe concession (seasonal) and picnic area.
Rebuilding and replacing the bridges across the River Stour throughout the parks, refurbishing the path network, replanting the border areas, working with Simon Langton Girls School to create a Physic Garden and creating an events space.
Underpass gallery space - improving the surfacing and installing decorative lighting at the underpass. Working with young people and the community to provide interesting artwork using historical themes.
The Friends of Westgate Parks meet regularly and have helped develop the HLF application. The Friends are now working towards increasing community involvement and recruiting volunteers for the next stage. The Friends Group is open to new members and regularly attends events such as the Food Festival.
For further information please visit the Westgate Parks website
History of Westgate Parks
Iron age carts transporting salt from the North Kent Coast are thought to have crossed the river at the area now known as Westgate Parks. The ancient activity at this crossing point of the the river may well have been the foundation of the settlement that became Canterbury.
Not far away in Tannery Field, a hoard of Roman silver, including spoons, rings and ingots were discovered. When the Victorians built an outdoor swimming pool beside the river in the area we know as Toddler's Cove, they found numerous early religious artefacts.
In the middle ages water mills run by the monks from Christ Church were dotted along the river. The mills declined in number as the river silted up and had disappeared by the twentieth century.
In 1886, Stephen Williamson, prominent Canterbury businessman and owner of the tannery, bought Tower House. He lived happily there with his family from 1886 until 1935 and cultivated the gardens into what you see today. In 1936 his grandson, Stephen Williamson, and his wife, Catherine Ellise Williamson, gave the the house and gardens to the city corporation. Catherine was a city councillor and was responsible for the redevelopment of the house and gardens with the city architect. Catherine was also Canterbury's first female mayor and served for two years from 1938 to 1940.