The Village of Canterbury was founded in 1825, originally called Howard Settlement after Sir Howard Douglas (1776-1861), who served as the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick between 1823 and 1831. The name was changed to Canterbury in 1859 in honor of Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton (1814-1877), the third Viscount of Canterbury and the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick from 1854 to 1861.
The area’s early settlers included Loyalists, possibly former soldiers of the King’s American Regiment and their families, who were displaced after the American Revolution in the 1780s. They were later joined by immigrants from Ireland, primarily from Ulster and Donegal, around 1840.
In 1865, Canterbury became the center of military activity when around 9,000 British troops passed through the village en route to Ontario and Quebec, collectively referred to as “The Canadas.” Fears of a potential American invasion after the American Civil War prompted the British government to send reinforcements to the garrisons in The Canadas. With the St. Lawrence River closed for shipping during the winter, the troops had to travel overland from British colonies in the Maritimes. The nearest rail connection to Quebec was the New Brunswick and Canada Railway line, which went from St. Andrews through Canterbury to Richmond Corner. The British troops disembarked from passenger trains in Canterbury and then traveled by horse-drawn sleigh up the Saint John River before crossing to the St. Lawrence and reaching Levis, opposite Quebec City.
With its origins in the forestry and railway industries, Canterbury once had over 1,000 residents and served as a service hub for western York County. In 1866, the village was primarily a farming community with around 93 families, including six Dickinson families. By 1871, Canterbury had a population of 150 and was a station on the New Brunswick and Canada Railway.
In 1904, Canterbury was a station on the Canadian Pacific Railway and a settlement with one post office, five stores, three hotels, three churches, and a population of 400. The village was incorporated in 1966.
Before its incorporation, Canterbury was a local improvement district governed by a chairman, secretary, and three councillors. After becoming a village in 1966, it was led by a mayor, secretary, and three councillors. A fourth councillor was later added, and today the village office is located on Main Street.