Canterbury is a cathedral city that was established by the Romans 2,000 years ago. It is best known for its long involvement in the religious, political, and secular history of England. Along with its rich past of Christianity and pilgrimages, there are some great literary giants who hail from Canterbury. Most notably Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales.
But it also has a quirky side which was pleasantly surprising and since we love the odd and unique we found lots of cool little visual treasures around town. Enjoy!
Gossipers and Witches Beware
This is Canterbury’s ducking stool. Women who talked too much were humiliated here. And if they thought you were a witch you were drowned. If by some miracle you survived the ‘drowning’–then that meant you really were a witch. And because only a witch could survive a drowning you were killed anyway.
It’s the classic case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’.
LOCATION: Where the High Street meets the River Stour
Will The Real Orlando Bloom Please Stand Up?
This statue of Geoffrey Chaucer was donated to the town by the local residents and Orlando Bloom, the famous actor. He is actually portrayed on the statue but you would be hard-pressed to find him. Some kind locals took pity on me as I was walking around the statue in circles and kindly pointed him out to me. I don’t see it, do you?
LOCATION: The corner of Best Lane and the High Street
You’re Not Drunk, It’s The House
Its official name is Sir John Boys House. The Crooked House is perched at the end of Palace Street, near the center of Canterbury and within earshot of the bells of the Cathedral. An internal chimney slipping gave the house its asymmetrical appearance. Today a steel frame keeps it in place, but the sight gives the building a dizzying effect.
LOCATION: The far end of Palace Street away from the city center. A very easy stroll from the High Street.
FEEL FREE TO ‘PIN IT’ ON PINTEREST
You Don’t Scare Me
It’s not necessarily old or steeped in history but definitely worth a photo op. It’s a giant steel mask, made from old ships, officially named ‘Bulkhead’. The sculptor is Rick Kirby and his inspiration came from a line in Christopher Marlowe’s play Dr. Faustus, which reads: “The face that launched a thousand ships.”
LOCATION: Right outside the Marlowe Theatre
David Lee was a comedian and pantomime star who raised millions of pounds for charity before his death at 64 from pancreatic cancer in January 2012. In his honor, this lifesize bronze statue was erected outside the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where he starred in more than 1,000 pantomime performances
LOCATION: Right outside the Marlowe Theatre
The Tomb of The Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock was known as the Black Prince and was the eldest son of King Edward III of England. Origins of the name are uncertain but many theories have been proposed—usually falling into two main themes:
- He wore a Black shield, and/or black armor.
- He had a brutal reputation, particularly towards the French in Aquitaine.
LOCATION: Inside the Canterbury Cathedral
MOO-ve Please You’re Blocking My View
Our Mr. Bull is not photographed often because I had a hell of a time finding his location–so he’s a good one to get. He’s protruding above the Timpson’s Shoe and Key Shop and is a nod to the lane’s past when it was literally a row of butcher’s shops. It marks the days when Butchery Lane was just that – full of butcher’s shops.
LOCATION: Above the key shop on 9 Butchery Lane
Peace, Love, and Cool Threads
Oddly, there are lots of cool vintage and retro clothing stores in Canterbury. It was completely unexpected, even for a tourist town. You just don’t expect top hats and leather fringe in an old medieval town.
LOCATION: St. Peters Street
Church Gate Hermaphrodite
Look at the figure in the 3rd section from the left, bottom row. Its location is on the interior arch over the public (not clergy) entry through the Christ Church gate, under the large carving of the Tudor Rose well hidden in the intertwined foliage. According to legend, its only significance is a bored mason with a sense of humor.
LOCATION: Canterbury Cathedral Entrance Gate
A Faded Memorial
I don’t know how quirky it is but inside the Canterbury Cathedral is a beautiful memorial to the Royal East Kent Regiment, The Buffs. They were an infantry regiment of the British Army traditionally raised in Kent and garrisoned at Canterbury. They are one of the oldest regiments in the British Army.
The wonderful display of flags against the backdrop of stained glass is lovely. The old flags have only been cleaned a bit in keeping with their desire that the colors should be left to fade away.
LOCATION: Inside Canterbury Cathedral