Walk of the month: Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury
PUBLISHED: 18:20 15 February 2014 | UPDATED: 18:20 15 February 2014
Discover the birthplace of the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe on this peaceful city amble
Location: Canterbury (CT1 2JT)
Distance: 1.6 miles (2.6 km)
Time: Allow 1 hour
OS Explorer Map: 150
Terrain: Mainly surfaced paths and pavements
Parking: Parking in Canterbury city centre
Refreshments & facilities: Canterbury city centre
Public Transport: For local bus and train services in Kent, contact Traveline 0870 6082608, www.traveline.org.uk
Discover the birthplace of the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe on a peaceful amble through Canterbury. This short trail will tell the story of Marlowe, taking you through his life of dynamic plotlines, religion and scandal.
St George’s Church marks the start of your walk and the early days of Marlowe’s life; it was here that he was baptised in February 1564, the details of which can still be seen in the parish register at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives.
From the clock tower head down the High Street, turning into Butchery Lane towards the foot of the grand cathedral and then turn left at the end of the lane to the Buttermarket.
In Marlowe’s time Canterbury was a small town, packed with wooden framed buildings like the Sun Inn. Seven hundred households were crammed into these streets, rife with dirt and disease.
As you’re passing, why not explore more of Canterbury’s heritage and visit the cathedral for a small fee? Wander through the gates and follow the path to the Kent Archives. King’s School lies along your trail; Marlowe spent two years here, helping to pave his way to a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
An alternative tour away from the cathedral will take you down Sun Street and into Palace Street.
As a child Marlowe would have witnessed religious plays in courtyards, inns and private houses. The Marlowe Theatre is a celebration of Canterbury’s famous resident, but also the city’s long standing theatrical tradition.
The sixteenth century was a dangerous time to speak out against state held religious beliefs and Marlowe was among those arrested for heresy, accused of joking about the Bible and even converting others to atheism.
From heretics to Friars, the peaceful Franciscan Garden of the Greyfriars Chapel offers an oasis from the city centre. Today the gardens offer a calm retreat, but during Henry VIII’s reign this was shattered when two of the friars were executed for treason.
Leave the priory and you’ll soon reach the medieval priests’ hospital in Stour Street. Since transformed into the Museum of Canterbury, the museum is a fantastic distraction from your walk and comes complete with a Marlowe exhibition and the chance to investigate his mysterious death.
Make your way back to the High Street and you’ll find Mercery Lane, the site of the Chequers of the Hope Inn. In its time the vast inn was a money-spinner, making large amounts from the city’s visitors and packing pilgrims into lodgings above a sprawl of shops, edging the courtyard where players performed.
Another scene of Marlowe’s turbulent life was played out near the corner of Mercery Lane. In 1592 Marlowe attacked tailor William Corkine with a staff and dagger, resulting in Corkine filing for assault in the civil court and Marlowe pressing criminal charges against Corkine.
Finish your walk and continue exploring Marlowe’s birthplace; have lunch in one of the traditional pubs or wander the historic streets, or even investigate another of Canterbury’s literary legacies and visit the Canterbury Tales museum.