Canterbury in the spotlight
PUBLISHED: 16:33 14 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:52 20 February 2013
October is festival time in Canterbury, with more than 200 events including walks, literary talks, concerts, cutting-edge comedy, dance and fringe theatre.
Canterbury in the spotlight
October is festival time in Canterbury, with more than 200 events including walks, literary talks, concerts, cutting-edge comedy, dance and fringe theatre. If youve never been to the city before, you couldnt pick a better time than during festival fortnight
The magic of Canterbury adds up to more than just the splendour of the cathedral, the timelessness of the architecture and the spellbinding riverside scenery. It is said that however depressed you might be feeling, going into the cathedral for a few minutes can banish your blues; and there are peaceful open spaces where centuries concertina into seconds.
The centre of town is pedestrianised, and everywhere you look youll find beautiful buildings of every era. Its a vibrant lively town with fine musical and literary traditions, with one of the finest shopping centres in Kent, not to mention the Kings Mile caf culture community of individual charismatic shops and eateries.
There are plenty of convenient car parks and three park-and-ride areas. Start your tour at the excellent Tourist Information Office in the Butter Market. This is a lovely pedestrianised square just behind the town centre, with a fine war memorial at its centre. Two sides of this area are bordered by shops and the Old Buttermarket pub, while opposite is the elaborately sculptured stone Christ Church Gate, leading to the cathedral.
Turn down cobbled Sun Street and youll find The Sun Hotel (founded 1503), a marvellous building with jettied upper storeys. Continue along here, and to the right is Palace Street, and left is Guildhall Street, this entire locality referred to as The Kings Mile part of town, an area characterised by many fascinating individual shops and pavement cafs.
Return down Sun Street back to the Butter Market and turn right down Mercery Lane, alongside the Steam Trading Cookshop store. This leads to the (pedestrianised) High Street. Turn left onto Parade and youll soon come to Butchery Lane, a beautiful little street dominated dramatically by the spires of the cathedral above the rooftops behind along here is the Roman Museum. Returning to the Parade, if you turn left youll come to St Georges Street and the Whitefriars Shopping Centre on the right, the modern part of Canterbury. Otherwise, turn right (or return to this point after seeing the shops) and turn left down St Margarets Street.
Shortly you come to The Canterbury Tales Visitors Attractions, which was once the medieval St Margarets church. Go back to the main road (now the High Street) and turn left. Youll pass The Royal Buffs Regimental Museum and Art Gallery on the right.
Almost opposite here is Stour Street. Go down here until you get to Greyfriars Guest House (dated 1267). Follow the signs to the Greyfriars estate, leading across a bridge over the river. The chapel is a beautiful ancient building in the middle of a field, and services are held here regularly. Nearby is the Museum of Canterbury. Back at the High Street you next come to medieval Eastbridge hospital museum on the left, its grey flint stone incongruous against its more conventional neighbours.
On the opposite side of the road is an ancient building called the Old Weavers Inn, now a large Restaurant. To the right of the Weavers, the road acts as a bridge over the river, and through the railings you can see the river and the quayside departure point for the Weavers boat trips.
The High Street becomes St Peters Street and on the corner of Black Griffin Lane on the left dont miss the lovely Hobgoblin pub, which is almost opposite the Sidney Cooper Art Gallery. Now you can see the twin towers of West Gate Tower (originally the town gaol), which marks the end of town.
Open spaces, walks and river trips
Westgate Gardens (01227 378100) wonderful landscaped gardens that border the scenic river Stour. Theres a 200-year-old plane tree.
- Greyfriars (01227 471688) The chapel here is the only remaining building of the first English Franciscan Friary, dating back to 1267, and still in regular use today. Set in incredibly peaceful gardens filled with wild flowers.
- Dane John Gardens (01227 378100) Huge gardens with the Marlowe memorial, Dane John Mound and a bandstand with summertime concerts, central fountain, childrens maze and tearoom.
- St Augustines Abbey (01227 767345) Sensational atmospheric religious place, part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site. Vast ruins of the AD 598 abbey to explore, with museum computer graphics that recreate the abbeys original appearance. Guided tours. Set in beautiful, spacious, restful gardens.
- Official daily guided walks with blue badge guides around the city from Canterbury Guild of Guides (01227 459779)
- Canterbury Historic River Tours (07790 534744) the only way to see hidden Canterbury and view many sights you cant see from the town, because the river runs at a lower level than many of the streets. Departs from the quayside beside the Old Weavers Inn, who coordinate the tours.
- Ghostly tour of Canterbury (0845 519 0267) (www.canterburyghosttour.com) Every Friday and Saturday at 8pm, meet outside Alberrys Wine Bar in St Margaret Street. Also tour and meal offer, for groups of 15 or more. John Hippisley, who leads the tours, has now written Haunted Canterbury (9.99 + 2.50 p & p), a fascinating read.
- Goodnestone Park Gardens (01304 840107) A few miles outside the town. 14-acre garden with roses, walled garden and an arboretum.
Buildings, museums, theatres
- Christ Church Cathedral (01227 762862) Truly sensational working and living church, with spectacular architecture and indescribably uplifting atmosphere. Also a venue for concerts. Kents largest tourist attraction.
- Eastbridge Hospital (01227 471688) Medieval pilgrims hospital with undercroft, two chapels and a refectory.
- The MarloweTheatre Arena (01227 787787) Marlowe Theatres temporary home pending completion of the New Marlowe Theatre next year.
- Gulbekian theatre (01227 769075) on the University of Kent campus.
- St Martins church (01227 462686) the oldest parish church in England.
- Royal Museum and Art Gallery with Buffs Regimental museum (01227 452747).
- Sidney Cooper Gallery (01227 453267) Offering lectures, workshops and exhibitions.
- Roman Museum (01227 785575) reconstructions of a Roman market town, with excavated artifacts.
- The Canterbury Tales (01227 479227) exhibition celebrating Chaucers pilgrims, where life-sized character models reconstruct the stories. Experience sights, sounds and smells of those days.
- Museum of Canterbury with Rupert Bear museum (01227 475202). Exhibits dating from pre-Roman days.
- Westgate Towers Museum (01227 789576) Armaments dating from the civil war.
- Orange Street Music Club (01227 760801) Music of all kinds, plus comedy, art exhibitions, poetry and more.
PAST AND PRESENT
In 510 AD the abandoned Roman city of Durovernum Cantiacorum had reinvented itself as Anglo Saxon Cantwareburh (meaning Kent Peoples stronghold), populated largely by Jutes, then nearly a century later St Augustine, who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, converted Kent to Christianity, and the town became the centre of the episcopal see in Kent, and the abbey and cathedral were built. Danish raids decimated the town, but stability returned after the Norman invasion. After Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral in 1170, Canterburys fame spread throughout Europe as a Mecca for pilgrims. In the 14th century its large population, was reduced by two-thirds by the ravages of the black death. In 1448 Canterbury was granted a City Charter, giving it a mayor and a High Sheriff. The dissolution of the monasteries caused widespread carnage in the town: the priory, nunnery and three friaries disappeared. St Augustines Abbey was surrendered to the King and its cloisters and church demolished, followed by remainder of the abbey. Then Thomas Beckets shrine was demolished and the gold, silver and jewels removed to the Tower of London, heralding the end of Canterburys magnetism for pilgrims. However in the 17th century there was a very welcome influx of protestant Huguenots, who introduced silk weaving to the area. The biggest expansion of the town in the last century was the arrival of University of Kent and Christ Church College in the 1960s, while the noughties saw the completion of the spectacular Whitefriars shopping centre redevelopment.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The cathedral has a million visitors per year, and is one of the most visited places in England.
- Sir Christopher Marlowe had many connections to the town, hence the eponymous theatre.
- The Sidney Cooper Gallery is named after Thomas Sidney Cooper, the Victorian animal painter.
- Rupert Bear was created by Canterbury resident Mary Tourtel and theres a Rupert Bear museum in town.
- In 2003 Franciscan monks returned to live and work in Greyfriars Chapel after many centuries.
- Whitefriars Shopping Centre is absolutely splendid, with all the key names in retailing represented.
- The city wall was founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century.
- In 1620 Robert Cushman negotiated the lease of the Mayflower ship for the purpose of transporting Pilgrims to America.
- Gandhi, the famous Indian leader, helped rebuild part of the cathedral after a fire following lightning storm damage.
- Dane John Mound, within Dane John Gardens, was originally part of a Roman cemetery.
- There are a number of saints connected with the town, including Saints: Augustine, Anselm, Dunstin, Alphege and Aethelberht of Kent, plus of course St Thomas Becket.
16 30 October inclusive
Tickets are available online or from the Box Office, 01227 787787.
This is Kents main international Arts Festival, including over 200 events across all types of art form: theatre, classical music and dance, world music, comedy, literary talks, visual arts, walks and the youth-driven Festival Fringe. Canterbury Cathedral is at the heart of the festival and is the setting for many of the classical musical highlights, and one of the other principal venues will be Shirley Hall, in the grounds of the Kings School. The festivities begin with a Carnival Parade through the city streets.
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, with talented violin soloist Alena Baeva, Canterbury Operatic Society, Alea Quartet, Sacconi Quartet Concert, The Dream Kitchen Quartet, Willard White, Armonica Consort with the choir of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, Festival Chamber Orchestra, Idil Biret, Gerard McChrystal and Craig Ogden, Stile Antico, Freddy Kempf and Canterbury Choral Society.
Peatbog Faeries, The Magnets, Xenon, Turin Brakes, Geno Washington, Stacey Kent, Rick Wakeman.
Jenny Eclair, Stephen Frost, Kit and the Widow, Sean Lock, The Funny Side Comedy Club, Faulty towers The dining Experience.
Patricia Routledge (in Admission One Shilling), Chris Bradley, Antony Beevor, Kevin McCloud, Marina Lewycka, Philip Ziegler, Roy Hattersley, Sarah Waters, Crime Scene Canterbury, John Hare, Peter Owen Jones, Andrew OHagan, Sue Birtwhistle, Philip Hook, Sarah Raven, The Canterbury Slam.
Linda Marlowe (The Worlds Wife), Hit me! the Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury, Roger McGough, Ballet Black and Swan Lake, presented by dancers from the Rudolf Nureyev Russian State Ballet Academy, Poetry City.
CONSIDERING A MOVE?
Property prices are below those of London, starting at a one-bedroom flat being around 120,000 125,000, two- bedroom flat 130 200,000, a three-bedroom semi approximately 235,000 and a four-bedroom detached house upwards of 380,000.
Canterbury is approximately 61 miles from London and near to the M20 and M2 motorways. There are two mainline stations linked to London and the main Kent towns and a coach service (call Traveline 0871 200 2233) for coach and rail enquiries. Satnav postcode for the town centre is CT1 2UD.
David Pentin, chairman of the Canterbury Festival
Tell us about your role as festival chairman
My responsibilities include acting as chairman at the board meetings when we decide policy matters. Together our experienced board members have to ensure the long term sustainability of the festival and help the team secure funding through brokering introductions to businesses, trusts and funding bodies. All of our members are doing a magnificent job.
What do you like about the festival?
The variety of events (more than 200), that suit all tastes, ages and incomes. You can shrug off worries for two weeks of the year and totally immerse yourself in another world of arts, culture and entertainment. And its a chance to meet many old friends who you havent seen during the year.
What would you say to potential festival-goers?
Festival fortnight is the perfect time to visit our town. Local hotels and guest houses are offering specially attractive rates and you can enjoy quality entertainment from leading international artists at all kinds of interesting venues. There really is something of interest to everyone.
Do you have any special favourite performers?
Alicia and I are looking forward the opening concert by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, as well as performances by the violin soloist Alena Baeva, as well as hearing the bass baritone singer Willard White. That fine actress Patricia Routledge is going to comment on her life and work in Admission One Shilling and Stacey Kent is one of the worlds foremost jazz singers.
Do you have a favourite place nearby?
When we had a dog I used to love walking through Nailbourne Valley from Bridge to Barham. Bourne Park and Charlton Park are wonderful places of outstanding natural beauty.
Do you have a favourite restaurant?
The Old Coach and Horses at Harbledown (01227 761330) theres always a friendly welcome and excellent food. Strada (01227 472089) is also perfect for a quick and moderately priced meal, and its bang in the city centre.
What do you like most about Canterbury?
The history, the cathedral, the picturesque nearby villages, the easy access to the coast and Europe, and the wide variety of shops. Our facilities for arts will have a huge boost in the next few years with the opening of the new theatre, museum, gallery and library. Alicia and I also have numerous interests and hobbies and we have many good friends. Oh, and cricket is one of my passions, so Im delighted that St Lawrence's Cricket ground is the home of Kent County Cricket Club.