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Places to Visit in Canterbury

The information presented on these Canterbury pages is based on the Canterbury City Centre Street Map and Guide

A Canterbury Museums Ticket allows entry to Canterbury Heritage Museum, the West Gate Museum, and the Roman Museum at a reduced price. Ask for details when you first visit one of these attractions.

ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH: North Holmes Road, follow Longport (off F4). This church was founded during the Roman occupation, and is the oldest known Christian site in England. Stained glass windows illustrate the history of this church, and Roman bricks can still be seen in the chancel walls.

ST. AUGUSTINE'S ABBEY: Longport (F3). Tel: 767345. Open April to October 10.00-18.00 daily, November to March 10.00-16.00. Closed 13.00-14.00 each day. 
In 597 Augustine, a papal missionary, came to Kent to convert the heathen English. King Ethelbert of Kent, encouraged by his Christian wife Queen Bertha, was baptised a short time later. With King Ethelbert's support Augustine began work on a monastery, now known as St. Augustine's Abbey, and founded England's first cathedral on the site of the present one. Until their monastery was completed Augustine and his monks joined Queen Bertha for worship at her chapel, St. Martin's Church.
The Abbey founded by St. Augustine flourished and became famous for its illuminated manuscripts. Many new buildings were added but after the Norman Conquest the Abbey was largely rebuilt. Although much of the Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, the remains, including the Norman crypt, the early 7th century Chapel of St. Pancras, and part of the 11th century great nave of the Abbey Church, are well-worth seeing. Henry VIII built a royal palace, completed one night by candlelight, using the one wall of the great nave.

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL: The Cathedral is open to visitors weekdays Easter to September 8.45-19.00, October to Easter 8.45-17.00, Sundays 12.30- 14.30 & 16.30-17.30. The Precincts are open 7.00-21.00. Information is available from the Welcome Centre, and notice boards give details of daily services. Disabled facilities are provided. Guided tours are available.
Within 100 years of Augustine's arrival Canterbury had become the centre of Christianity in England. The city was sacked repeatedly during the following centuries, and the Cathedral had to be rebuilt many times. Backed by the wealth of the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury became an increasingly important figure in matters temporal and spiritual. In 1162 Henry II appointed his chancellor and loyal friend Thomas Becket to the position, hoping to make an ally of the Church. Instead Becket put the interests of the Church before his friendship with the King, and a long and bitter dispute over Church privileges led to Becket's death in 1170. Four knights, believing that they were acting with the King's authority, brutally murdered the Archbishop in the Cathedral. After the martyrdom of Becket, Canterbury became a major centre for pilgrimage, attracting people from all over Europe. The original site of Becket's martyrdom in the north-west transept is marked with an evocative memorial. In 1220 Becket's body was transferred from the crypt to a new Shrine in the Trinity Chapel, covered in gold and jewels.
Archbishops, architects and stone masons throughout the centuries have contributed to the creation of this wonderful Cathedral. Inside you will see many interesting features including the fan vaulted ceiling of the Bell Harry Tower, the beautiful carved pulpitum which divides the nave from the choir, the striking black and white marble font, the tomb of the chivalrous Black Prince, surrounded by reminders of his achievements, and a 13th century replica of St. Augustine's Chair, the original chair having been lost in a fire. The undercroft has the largest Norman crypt in the world, a collection of silver and other rare ecclesiastical treasures, and contains the 14th century Chapel of Our Lady, built by the Black Prince. Canterbury Cathedral, along with St. Augustine's Abbey and St. Martin's Church have been declared a World Heritage Site.

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BLACKFRIARS: The Dominican friars arrived in Canterbury in 1221, and were granted land by King Henry III on which to build their friary. Only the refectory (C2) and guest hall (C2) have survived. The refectory has been restored and is used by the King's School.

GREYFRIARS: The Franciscan monks, or Greyfriars, who arrived in Canterbury in 1224 made the Poor Priests' Hospital (B3) their home until their Friary was built. Although it looks precarious straddling the river, Greyfriars House (B3) completed about 1267, is the oldest Franciscan building in Britain and all that is left of the Friary. Visits by arrangement only. Contact the Chapter Office in the Cathedral Precincts (D3).

CHRIST CHURCH GATEWAY (D3) with its intricate carvings and colourful heraldic shields forms a splendid main entrance to the Cathedral precincts. It was built to mark the marriage of Henry VII's eldest son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon in 1502. Arthur's death ended the marriage a few months later, but the gate took almost twenty years to complete. The gate was damaged during the Civil War but it has been restored by The Friends Of Canterbury Cathedral.

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CANTERBURY ROMAN MUSEUM: Butchery Lane (D3). Tel: 785575. Open all year Monday to Saturday 10.00-17.00 (last entry 16.00), and from June to October on Sundays 13.00-17.00 (last entry 16.00). Closed Good Friday and at Christmas. Disabled access. Guided tours are available in several languages -- book in advance. Canterbury flourished during the Roman occupation because it was served by three ports and lay on the direct route to London. The Romans changed the Celtic name "Durwhern" to Durovernum Cantiacorum and erected many buildings such as a townhouse, baths and a large amphitheatre. This Museum takes the visitor on a journey through the wonders of Roman Canterbury. Follow in the footsteps of the archaeologists through their excavations beneath the Longmarket Shopping Centre. Authentic scenes from Roman life are recreated, and a computer simulation explains how this Roman house may have looked. Roman artefacts from Canterbury digs are displayed including a unique set of silver spoons. Highlights include the hypocaust room and mosaic floor.

CANTERBURY HERITAGE MUSEUM OF THE CITY: Stour Street (B3). Tel: 452747. Open Monday to Saturday 10.30-17.00 (last entry at 16.00), and from June to October on Sundays 13.30-17.00 (last entry 16.00). Closed Good Friday and at Christmas. Disabled access to the ground floor and garden only - at a reduced price. A visit to this Museum will take you on an exciting "timewalk" through 2000 years of history, with some of the city's most precious objects on view, including two pieces of Saxon jewellery, the "Canterbury Pendant" and the "Canterbury Cross". History is brought to life in a computer display of Viking raids, and the murder of Becket is captured in a ghostly hologram. The Rupert Bear Gallery celebrates this loveable childrens' favourite, created by author Mary Tourtel, who lived in Canterbury. The Museum also displays Stephenson's Invicta, the first passenger steam engine in the world, which ran on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, opened in 1830.

The Museum is housed in the Poor Priests' Hospital, founded in 1220 to provide care and shelter for sick and needy priests. This attractive Medieval building has been restored, and the magnificent oak-beamed roof helps to create a lovely atmosphere in which to enjoy Canterbury's past.

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WEST GATE MUSEUM: St. Peter's Street (B2). Open Monday to Saturday 11.00-12.30 and 13.30-15.30. Closed Good Friday and at Christmas. The West Gate, completed in 1381, was one of eight gateways built into the medieval wall around Canterbury. Such impressive fortifications were vital, especially during the turbulent 14th century, when peasant uprisings were widespread. It was used as a prison until the early 19th century. The Museum has displays on the city's defences, and weaponry from the Civil War onwards. The prison cells can be inspected, then clear your head with great views across the city from the battlements. No disabled access.

ROYAL MUSEUM, ART GALLERY AND BUFFS REGIMENTAL MUSEUM: High Street (C3). Tel: 452747. Open all year from Monday to Saturday 10.00- 17.00. Closed Good Friday and Christmas. The Beaney Institute, opened in 1897, was provided by Dr. Beaney, who was born in Canterbury. The Public Library occupies the ground floor with the Museums on the first floor. The Art Gallery has changing exhibitions throughout the year, with a major exhibition to coincide with the annual Canterbury Festival. Museum displays include military uniforms and paintings by local artist Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902). FREE ADMISSION.

CANTERBURY TALES VISITOR ATTRACTION: St. Margaret's Street (C3). Tel: 454888. Open March to June and September to October 9.30-17.30 daily, July and August 9.00-18.00 daily, and November to February 10.00-16.30 Sunday to Friday, 9.30-17.30 on Saturdays. Closed Christmas Day. Access and assistance for disabled visitors is provided. This award-winning attraction is inspired by "The Canterbury Tales", written in the fourteenth century by Geoffrey Chaucer. These stories are told by a group of pilgrims as they travel from London to Canterbury to see Becket's shrine. The colourful characters that Chaucer describes, and the stories they tell make Medieval England come alive. Here you can walk through medieval scenes alongside Chaucer's pilgrims and enjoy the humour and wisdom of five of the "Tales". The stories are told by famous actors, and there is a special commentary for children. The gift shop includes a Medieval Wine Merchant, Market and Mint. You can buy a medieval Groat, newly-minted especially for you, as a souvenir. Refreshments are available in the restaurant.

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THE GREAT STOUR BREWERY & MUSEUM: 75 Stour Street (C3). Tel: 763579. Open 7 days a week. Make your own beer in a miniaturized version of a commercial brewery. The museum part of the complex, on the History of Brewing in Kent, opens at the end of 1996. Shop.

THE BUTTERMARKET: A market place where bulls were baited before being slaughtered in Butchery Lane. Canterbury's War Memorial stands here.

THE CANTERBURY ENVIRONMENT CENTRE: St. Alphege Lane (C2). Tel: 457009. Open 10.30-17.00 daily. This 12th century church now contains exhibitions, slide shows and videos about the past, present and future of this beautiful city.

THE CHAUCER HERITAGE CENTRE: 22 St. Peter's Street (00). Tel: 470379. Open Monday to Saturday 10.00-17.30. A multi-activity centre based around the life and work of Chaucer. Art Gallery and gift shop. Easter and Summer festivals, music and exhibitions.

CHEQUERS OF HOPE: Mercery Street (C3). A 14th century pilgrims inn.

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COGAN HOUSE: St. Peter's Street (B2). This building was an impressive home for Canterbury's Mayors and Bailiffs. It has Norman stone walls 2 feet thick, a 12th century aisled timber hall, and Tudor carved panelling.

CONQUEST HOUSE: 17 Palace Street (D2). This is supposedly where the four knights rested before they murdered Thomas Becket. There is an 11th century stone cellar and 13th century timber-framed gallery. Now an antique shop.

DANE JOHN MOUND: (B5). The Norman name "donjon", suggests that this might have been an ancient burial mound. During the 18th century the mound from the Norman motte and bailey castle (1070), was reshaped and a monument built at the top by Alderman James Simmonds.

EASTBRIDGE HOSPITAL: (C3). Open Monday to Saturday 10.00-17.00, Sunday 11.00-17.00, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day. Founded in 1180 to shelter needy pilgrims (it still gives refuge to pilgrims today). It is one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury with a 12th century stone crypt and an 800 year old fresco on the refectory wall. Changing exhibitions. FREE.

FYNDON GATE: Monastery Street (E3). This grand entrance to the Abbey and Royal Palace was built between 1300-1309 under the direction of Abbot Thomas Fyndon. Charles I and his bride Henrietta Maria are thought to have spent their wedding night in one of the rooms.

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HOUSE OF AGNES: 71 St. Dunstan's Street (A2). This timber-framed house belonged to Agnes Wickfield in "David Copperfield" written by Charles Dickens. David's friends, the Micawber family, stay at the Sun Inn (C3), while visiting him.

KING'S SCHOOL: Mint Yard (D2). This is the oldest school in Britain, its foundation may have been during the time of Augustine, and its academic achievements have been admired since the 7th century. Many famous people were educated here including Christopher Marlowe, botanist John Tradescant (1608-62), and the cricketer David Gower.

MARLOWE MEMORIAL: (B2). Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), the Elizabethan poet and playwright was born in Canterbury and educated at the greatly respected King's School.

NORMAN CASTLE KEEP. (A5). One of Kent's three Royal castles. Not open to the public, but you can walk along part of the Norman city walls.

NORMAN STAIRCASE. This staircase, built c.1153, led up to a Poor Pilgrims' Hall, where they could stay for three nights free. Now part of the King's School (D2).

QUEEN ELIZABETH GUEST CHAMBER, High Street (C3). This was an inn for pilgrims. Elizabeth I met a suitor, the Duc d'Alencon here in 1573.

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ROPER GATEWAY, St. Dunstan's Street (A1). Margaret Roper was Thomas More's daughter, and this gateway is the only remaining part of the Roper family's home. After More's execution Margaret brought his head back to Canterbury to rest in the Roper Chapel at St. Dunstan's Church (off A1).

ST. GEORGE'S TOWER (D4). The rest of this church, where Christopher Marlowe was baptised in 1564, was destroyed with all the surrounding historic buildings by bombing raids during the Second World War.

ST. MILDRED'S CHURCH, Church Lane (A4). This Saxon church is the oldest church within the city walls, much of it date from the 8th century. Mildred was a popular local saint and the great-great-granddaughter of King Ethelbert.

SIR JOHN BOYS' HOUSE, Palace Street (D2). This attractive crooked house, built about 1612, was once The Old King's Shop. It was also the home of Sir John Boys, an M.P. and Recorder of Canterbury.

THE WEAVERS' HOUSES, St. Peter's Street (C3). During the 16th century many Flemish and Huguenot families, fleeing from religious persecution on the continent, found a safe home in Canterbury. Their weaving skills complemented the growing importance of Canterbury as a wool market. Many attractive Flemish houses with their high gables can still be seen in the city.

For further information about Canterbury, including a free visitor pack, please contact the Canterbury Tourist Information Centre.

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