CANTERBURY EAST and CANTERBURY WEST The city of Canterbury charmingly combines modernity and tourism with its medieval heritage. Parts of the centre were bombed in the Second World War and nasty Sixties’ infills are now being replaced. Beneath the modern shopping precinct lie Roman mosaics, which are open to the public. The central area is pedestrianised, which makes it a pleasant place to shop, and the new Whitefriars shopping centre has boosted choice. Much of the beautiful medieval city remains in the narrow streets of timber-framed houses around the cathedral, where Thomas Becket was murdered. The most sought-after area is within the city walls, close to the Cathedral and King’s co-educational public school. The latter occupies many of the buildings that were formerly part of the monastery attached to the cathedral. Grade Two listed houses here are snapped up quickly. Anything with a garage sells at a premium, as parking in Canterbury can be a nightmare. At the cheaper end of the market, a tiny late-Victorian terraced cottage within the city walls would be likely to fetch between £140,000 and £170,000. An over-supply of smart high-spec flats in the city centre has led to a drop in prices and now they fetch £150,000 to £200,000.
The city margin is ringed with roomy Victorian detached and semi-detached houses. In Ethelbert Road, to the south, haunt of doctors and academics, the houses have as many as ten bedrooms and sell for around £600,000.There are also plenty of modern developments from the Fifties, Sixties and Eighties. An end of terrace cottage with two within the city walls in the south of the town would cost around £300,000.
The University of Kent, built in the Sixties high on a windy hill just outside the city, attracts a lot of students to the St Stephen’s area. Many of the bay-windowed Thirties’ semis here are rented – some are bought by the parents of wealthier students. A three-bedroom house could cost around £200,000. Investors and professionals also buy in the area around St Peter’s Grove, where a flat-fronted turn-of-the-century house may be picked up for £150,000.
In the countryside around people prefer to look to the south where the landscape is prettier. Two-and-a-half miles south-east is the village of Bridge, which is extremely pretty and commensurately expensive. It has a butcher, baker, post office and primary school and offers a mix of late-Victorian and modern houses, but remains compact. A four-bedroom period cottage on the outskirts would cost £430,000. On its eastern side is Patrixbourne, which is tiny and pretty and so popular that half-timbered houses and thatched cottages often sell by word of mouth. Period houses here start at £500,000. The Nail Bourne river runs through Patrixbourne, though it fills only after heavy downpours and for most of the year it is dry.
Looking east from Canterbury you find Wickhambreaux, a typical Kentish village with a green and an old church on one side, a manor house, and the Little Stour river with a watermill that has been converted into flats. The village once formed part of the Kentish estates of Joan Plantagenet, the Fair Maid of Kent, wife of the Black Prince. There are no shops and a minimal bus service, but the village does have a pub and a Church of England primary school. Two summer fêtes on the green bring the villagers together. There has been little new development for 40 years. A large village house would cost from £700,000. One way of telling old villagers from new is by the name they give to the main street. Incomers rather grandly call it The Street, but to old villagers it is Gutter Street.
At Stodmarsh, slightly to the north of Wickambreaux, the landscape becomes very rural, with good views across the Stour valley. Stodmarsh itself is a small village with an excellent pub. Properties rarely come on the market and prices are much the same as in Wickhambreaux and Bridge. The old coal-mining area has been turned into a nature reserve with man-made lakes to attract birds and wildlife.