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Travel / Tours / England / Canterbury
Visit Canterbury
  Roman Museum
  St Martin's Church
  St Augustine's Abbey
  Canterbury Cathedral
  Canterbury Tales
  Christopher Marlowe
  Canterbury Castle
  Old Weaver's House
  Museum of Canterbury
  West Gate
  Tours and river trips
  Further information


Some of the attractions within Canterbury

(pocket guide book)
Publisher: Thomas Cook Publishing
Date: April 2011
The Neat and Nippy Guide to Canterbury
(guide book)
Author: Alan Major
Publisher: SB Publications
Date: December 2004
The Cathedral and City of Canterbury
(guide book)
Author: John Brooks
Publisher: Jarrold Publishing
Date: April 1998
Canterbury and Kent Groundcover
(photo guide to Canterbury and surrounding area)
Author: Geraint Tellem
Publisher: Jarrold Publishing
Date: April 2002

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The town of Canterbury grew in Roman times because of its position on one of the trade routes to London.
The Romans built a wall around the town in the 3rd century to defend it against attacks by Saxons: the medieval wall that can be seen today was built on top of the old Roman one. The Romans brought Christianity to the area in the 4th century, but paganism (a type of religion which worships many different gods) became established in the region after the Romans left.

You can find out more about the town's early history by visiting the Roman Museum in Butchery Lane, which includes the site of an excavated Roman house.

Entrance to the
Roman Museum

Mosaic at the entrance (made in 2000: "MM" in Roman numerals).
An original Roman mosaic can be seen inside the museum


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In about 590AD Kent was ruled by a pagan king called Ethelbert (at that time England was divided into many small kingdoms). He married Bertha, the daughter of a French king. Bertha was a Christian, and Ethelbert allowed her to worship in a small chapel which had been built by the Romans: St Martin's. In 597 Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine and 40 monks to England to try to convert the people to Christianity. Ethelbert allowed Augustine to use St Martin's, which was extended.

You can visit St Martin's on North Holmes Road, off Longport (it is about a 15 minute walk east of the city centre, past St Augustine's Abbey). It is a UNESCO "World Heritage" site, and is believed to be the oldest parish church in England that has been in continuous use. Opening times are limited, so check before going. There is no entrance charge, but a donation is welcome.

Front view of the church

Stained glass window

Norman font

"Bertha Regina" (Queen Bertha)

Statue of Bertha

View of Canterbury Cathedral from the church entrance

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Ethelbert converted to Christianity, and he gave Augustine some land in Canterbury on which to build a cathedral and an abbey. St Augustine's Abbey was founded in 598. Canterbury became the centre of the Church in England: the most important religious leader in England still has the title of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The abbey, which is now a ruin, is on Longport (it is about a 5 minute's walk east from the town centre, on the way to St Martin's Church). It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, managed by English Heritage. You can walk around the ruins and listen to an audio guide (in English, French, German, Spanish or Japanese). There is also a museum which shows some of the objects found on the site by archaeologists.

Entrance to the museum and abbey

Part of the abbey ruins

St Augustine of Canterbury
(history of St Augustine)
Author: Michael A. Green
Publisher: Janus Publishing Company
Date: April 1997

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Augustine created a cathedral in Canterbury. This burned down in 1067, but the Normans soon built a new one on the same site. About a hundred years later, King Henry the Second appointed his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. There were bitter disagreements between the two, however. While the King was at a feast in France he shouted out angrily, "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" Four of the king's knights heard this and travelled to Canterbury, where they murdered Becket inside the cathedral. The King was sad when he heard about the murder, because he had not wanted his former friend to be killed. Soon afterwards the Pope made Becket a saint, and many people started to go to Canterbury as pilgrims to see Becket's tomb. The arrival of many visitors helped Canterbury to become a wealthy town. However, King Henry the Eighth stopped pilgrimages after he created the Church of England, and Thomas Becket's tomb was destroyed. A candle is now lit at the place where the tomb used to be.

The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is the main visitor attraction in the town. Entrance to the cathedral is through the Christ Church Gate on Sun Street. There is an entrance charge for visitors (worshippers can enter free). Audio tours are available in a variety of different languages.

View of the cathedral tower from the town.
It is known as Bell Harry Tower

Enter the cathedral
through Christ Church Gate

Murder in the Cathedral
Author: T.S. Eliot
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Date: June 1968

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The 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a series of amusing stories about the journeys of various types of pilgrims from London to Canterbury. These are called the Canterbury Tales. The stories are one of the most famous early examples of English literature, and provide interesting insights into life at that time.

There is an exhibition based on the Canterbury Tales in St Margaret's Church in St. Margaret's Street. Commentary is available in several languages - a visit usually lasts between 40 minutes and 1 hour.

The Canterbury Tales exhibition:
inside St Margaret's Church
(c) The Canterbury Tales
One of the exhibits: pilgrims accompany Geoffrey Chaucer
on their journey from London to Canterbury Cathedral

The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics)
(modern version of the text)
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer, Nevill Coghill (Translator)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: January 2003
The Canterbury Tales: a selection (Penguin Classics)
(Chaucer's original text, with notes)
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: February 1996

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The first castle in Canterbury was a "motte and bailey" castle at Dane John. This was replaced by Canterbury Castle, which was completed during the reign of King Henry the First (1100 - 1135). The keep of Canterbury Castle is the fifth largest in England and was one of the first ones to be made of stone.

The Dane John mound still exists, surrounded by an attractive park. The ruins of the castle (next to Castle Street) can be visited free of charge. Both of these attractions are to the south of Canterbury, near Canterbury East train station. Large sections of the Norman wall around Canterbury still exist: you can obtain a guide to a city trail along the walls from the Tourist Information Centre.

Canterbury Castle

Medieval wall around Canterbury

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Huguenot refugees came to south England from Flanders (now part of Belgium), escaping from persecution by Catholics. Many of them settled in Canterbury, where they were given the right to trade by Queen Elizabeth the First. They brought with them their weaving and other textile skills. The wealth generated by these new industries helped to replace the income which had been generated by visiting pilgrims (a custom which was stopped by King Henry the Eighth after he took over control of the Church in England).

There are several Tudor-style houses along St Peters Street which used to be used by the weavers. The buildings are now used as restaurants.

One of the branches of the River Stour runs next to the weavers' houses. Guided boat tours leave from next to the Ducking Stool in the garden of The Old Weavers House. A ducking stool was a form of punishment and also a way of testing if someone was a witch. The person was strapped into the chair, which was then submerged under the water. If the person was a witch, she would survive, and she would be killed. If she wasn't a witch, then she would drown, but at least her name was cleared ...

This Tudor building was used by Flemish weavers

Boat trips leave from the Ducking Stool

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Canterbury was the birthplace of the poet and dramatist Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593, often known as Kit Marlowe), who was educated in the town at King's School. He was a very talented writer but died aged only 29: during his life was more successful than William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year. His works include Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward II and Dido - Queen of Carthage. In 1593 Marlowe was arrested and charged with being an atheist, for which he would probably have been burnt alive. However, the day before his trial he was killed in mysterious circumstances. One theory is that he was killed because he had previously worked for Elizabeth I's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and could have revealed secrets when being tortured.

Marlowe was baptised at St George's Church in Canterbury. Only the clocktower remains (in St George's Street). The rest of the church was destroyed by German bombing in 1942 during one of the so-called "Baedeker" air raids, which were directed against historic cities (the targets were selected from a German tourist guide to England called Baedeker). The theatre in Canterbury is called the Marlowe Theatre (in The Friars) - a new theatre opens on this site in October 2011. Nearby there is a statue dedicated to Marlowe.

Sculpture outside
the Marlowe Theatre

The tower of the church
where Marlowe was baptised

Entrance to King's School
(where Marlow was educated)

The Complete Plays (Penguin Classics)
Author: Christopher Marlowe
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: October 2003
The World of Christopher Marlowe
Author: David Riggs
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Date: May 2004

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The Museum of Canterbury (formerly known as the Canterbury Heritage Museum) is located in Stour Street. It contains a range of exhibits bringing to life the whole of the town's history. This includes a museum dedicated to Rupert Bear, a children's character created by Mary Tourtel, who was born in Canterbury. There are also displays for Bagpuss: a pink and white cat made of cloth which was the main character in a popular children's TV series. Bagpuss was created in 1974 by an animator from Canterbury called Peter Firmin, who together with writer Oliver Postgate created TV characters such as the Clangers, Basil Brush, Ivor the Engine and Noggin The Nog (most British people who were parents or children in the 1960s or 1970s know these characters).

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The West Gate, built in about 1375, was one of eight gates through which people could enter the town. There is a small museum inside. The public gardens nearby are decorated with colourful flowerbeds. The West Gate is close to Canterbury West train station.

View of West Gate from the town

West Gate Gardens

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Guided walking tours of Canterbury can be booked at the Information Centre (opposite Christ Church Gate). In 2011 these were daily at 11am, and also at 2pm from April to September.

Self-guided audio tours of Canterbury can be rented from Kent Tours in Burgate.

Guided cathedral tours can be booked and paid for at the Cathedral Office (there are no tours on Sundays). Alternatively, self-guided audio tours are available in several languages.

Chauffeured punt trips along the River Stour are offered by the Canterbury Punting Company. A punt is a flat wooden boat which is steered using a long wooden pole, also found in Oxford and Cambridge.

Guided boat tours (lasting about 40 minutes) are offered by Canterbury Historic River Tours. These start from near the Old Weavers' House in the High Street.

Guided walking tours

Chauffeured punt trips

Guided boat tours

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* Visitor information
Canterbury tourist information:
Street map:

Roman Museum:
The Canterbury Tales:
Museum of Canterbury with Rupert Bear Museum:

Canterbury Cathedral:
St Augustine's Abbey:
St Martin's Church:

Walking tours: walks.htm
Kent Tours (audio tours):
Canterbury Punting (punt trips):
Canterbury Historic River Tours (boat tours):

Marlowe Theatre:

* Independent travel to Canterbury
- The quickest way to travel from London to Canterbury is by train. The journey takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, leaving from either Charing Cross or Victoria station. Note that there are two train stations in Canterbury (called Canterbury West and Canterbury East), but it is easy to walk into the town from either of these. For train timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/TheTrainline.
- It takes about 1 hour 50 minutes to travel by coach from Victoria Coach Station in London to Canterbury. For timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/NationalExpress.

* Weather forecast
BBC weather forecast for Canterbury:

Lonely Planet verdict: Canterbury
"The city of Canterbury is one of the top tourist attractions in England, and for very good reasons. The medieval centre is simply gorgeous, while the cathedral that towers above it all is one of the most impressive you'll see anywhere in Europe"
(extracts from "Lonely Planet Great Britain - 2003 edition", used with permission)
Lonely Planet Great Britain
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: May 2009
Lonely Planet England
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: March 2009
Other Lonely Planet publications

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Places in this region:
Dover Castle: Travel/Tours/England/Dover
Leeds Castle: Travel/Tours/England/LeedsCastle
Rochester: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester

Cathedral cities:
Durham: Travel/Tours/England/Durham
Lincoln: Travel/Tours/England/Lincoln
Winchester: Travel/Tours/England/Winchester
York: Travel/Tours/England/York

Other topics related to this page:
Religion in the UK: Personal/Religion
A brief guide to British history: Britain/History

Home page: Home

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