Westgate Towers are the best preserved medieval gates of England. They had access to the town coming from London and other villages west of the town of Canterbury and today their height is sixty feet or a little bit more than 18 meters offering a precious view of the medieval heart of the town.
Only Westgate stands from the seven entrances Canterbury had when it was built in 1,379. Further back in history we know the city was already walled at the time of Romans around the third century of our era. From it the port of Londinium where Romans had placed their main fortress was accessible as well as today we can start our way to the capital through London Road. We also know that the tower and the walls were remade at the time of the Norman conquest and today we contemplate that construction ended around 1,380 to guarantee the protection of the city facing any attack.
Before these works in 1,380, the tower could have a small church or at least a small temple at its interior dedicated to the adoration for the pilgrims who arrived to visit the sanctuary of Saint Thomas Becket located in the Cathedral of Canterbury.
Its reconstruction and reinforcement at the end of the XIV th century was due to the threat of invasions during the Hundred Years War, present among the population during the confrontation between England and France. The proximity of the port of Kent that already during the time of the Viking invasions had suffered important attacks in the South East of the island of Great Britain, made the prosperous town of Canterbury need an important fortress to contain the possible attacks and invasions from the British Channel.
At its time, the towers were built with three floors: The lower floor refuge for the guards and equipped with loopholes for the defense with arrows as well as the first floor, and through a spiral staircase similar to the present, an open structure in the third level was accessible , provided with battlements and gunboats that propitiated equally a point to throw arrows against the enemy as well as the use of defensive weapons.
Already in the XV th century, till the end of the same century, all the towers ( the seven originals) were repaired and reinforced for fear of a possible new invasion from the continent. Towers and walls formed the defensive set that stood up till its dismantling in the XIX th century. From the XVI th till the XIX th centuries the Northside of our tower was transformed in a prison and already in the XIX th in police headquarters, reformed between 1,823 and 1,829 and till 1,965.
Also it has been, archive, aviation barracks during both World Wars and nowadays a museum. During its time as a prison, Westgate welcomed criminals who served their sentences inside a cage in full view. From that cage the condemned asked for alms and chatted with the public who entered and departed the city by the gate.
The museum occupying today the building of the Westgate Towers, was created in 1,906 and recently was reformed and reopened in 2.011. Dedicated to the history of the towers themselves, there we can contemplate the weapons used at different times, even the ones of the English Civil War and the two World Wars. There is a replica of an old medieval armour infant size which is disposed so children, boys and girls can feel themselves as real medieval knights! The views from the rooftop of the medieval town using the spiral staircase, and, the gardens of the gates and the River Stour surrounding the walls deserve the payment of the entrance (4 pounds adults/ 2 children from 5 to 17 years, or 10 pounds the family ticket)
Address: 1 Pound Ln, Canterbury CT1 2BZ, United Kingdom
OH SUNDAY SUNDAY!
One of the favourite dishes of the town of Canteebury is Sunday Roast also known as Sunday Lunch related to the Sunday´s celebration, which also can be eaten any day at any moment in the city center.
This dish has represented the utopian conception of the society and culture of England, based in a completely idyllic pastoral way of life supposedly from the Middle Ages till the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
There are two theories about its origin. The first places it in the Middle Ages. At that time servants attended nobles and people of power all week long, and so it is believed that in a Christian payment for it, the lords, invited servants to a rich roast on sunday. Little provable but very romantic theory.
Another theory, maybe the most correct, is that this tradition was born during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Families in Yorkshire, in the North of the country, left a piece of meat roasted at low fire in the oven before assisting to the sunday ceremony, and so, when they returned, that meat, probably not very noble, had softened enough to be a tasty bite for all the family.
The meat roast basically consist in meat with potatoes, being a piece of pork, veal or lamb meat, and as an accompaniment, aside from the potato, is normal to find the yorkshire pudding (boiled dough wafer bowl-shaped, where the meat is served with its sauce and the potatoes) and in its richest versions also sausages, beans, carrots, Brussel sprouts, and the essential sauce, gravy, being basically the juices the meat detaches being roasted.
And the leftovers of the meat and the vegetables are served the next day accompanied by pickles as an extension of the delicious and familiar Sunday Roast!
The most interesting is that Sunday Roast used to have a second life next day, what has always been called Bubble and Squeak, or simply Bubble. It is made by frying the leftover vegetables of the Sunday Roast, served with its cold leftover meat (if there is any) or with other cold meats and preserved pickles we might have at home. In case there are not many vegetables, a sauté is made with what is left, together with cabbage, carrots, beans or any vegetable we have at hand, as in reality there is not a unique recipe.
King´s Mile is a group of streets placed at the back side of the Cathedral, they are the ones including independent and minorist shops and of course also there are places to eat and drink.
These streets, placed under the spires of the old Cathedral and beside King´s School, are a refuge for anyone searching the taste and sensation of the real Canterbury. The "independent " neighbourhood includes the historical Sun Street, Palace Street, Guildhall Street, Orange Street , taking its name from William of Orange, The Borough and Northgate, previously a gate of the walled town.
King´s Mile also is full of history, it is only one step from the crowded main street. It is here where we will find independent shops and traditional businesses offering jewelry, arts, crafts, games and presents made by hand, new original clothes and more.
In the old Norman basement of Canterbury from the XIIth century in Conquest House, where the four Templar Knights Reginald Fitz Urse, Hugh of Moreville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton knew each other December 29 th 1,179, before murdering Thomas Becket in the Cathedral of Canterbury. The famous crooked door gives access to the bookshop where you could look for second hand books inside the also crooked house of the XVII th century, known as Sir John Boys House, probably the second most photographed historic building in Canterbury, and supposedly mentioned in the romance David Copperfield of Charles Dickens.
While you are there, why not taste a hand made chocolate in a traditional fruit shop, cut your hair or comb it in a variety of hairdressers and barbers, make your bicycle be checked and dry laundry or investigate your ascendance? Also it is possible to relax with a massage or an organic facial treatment, repair the nails and recover the balance with a little bit of acupuncture.
In this area, the new meets the ancient, with second hand books and clothes and original antiquities together with modern works of art. Clothes and fair trade presents, leader coats and traditional or running shoes, here is something for everyone. But it is not only the great quality and variety of what is offered that makes King´s Mile to be so special, it is also about the persons attending and working in the places who are very close and familiar.
THE CROOKED LINES OF CANTERBURY.
Aside from its famous Cathedral, Canterbury has another photogenic model: it is called the Crooked House to which different nicknames have been given as Sir John Boys House, the King´s Gallery, or the Old Kings Shoop (these last ones for its location). And it is a facade, the facade of this house that draws a lot of attention, as it is completely inclined.
The same way as if it was a twist dancer, the house has its "heep" ( the first floor) sharply inclined to the right.
It is said that the construction was good, but the addition of a new chimney is what caused the problem. The building, dating from the XVII th century is a typical Breton building of timber framing, located at the end of Palace Street. When the contractor of the modification of the chimneys did his "work" (we don´t know if he got paid) the whole building bent at one side.
When its owners tried to recover the original position of the house, it seems it bent even more, so, for not losing it, they decided to reinforce it from inside so it didn´t continue its "dance", and helped with metallic structures securing the moved woods they achieved to leave the building just how it is nowadays.
The most striking probably are the door and the windows of the lower floor, that being completely inclined had to be cut and adapted to the new position.
It is possible to enter to know the interior, as nowadays it is a bookshop belonging to a Charity ( charity organization) but maybe the most fun is to take a picture "Pisa Tower ´´ style and observe the extrange architectural phenomenon.
Address: 28 King St, Canterbury CT1 2AJ, United Kingdom
MY CASTLE IN RUINS!
Only a few ruins remain and as everything in this town is eclipsed with the splendor of the Cathedral but even so it is a very visited tourist attraction. It is located beside the South gate of the town or Worthgate and its construction went through different phases between 1 066 and 1,135 during which it went from being the first wooden tower, to the stone building from which we see the remains today.
Historians have confirmed its construction was due to the Norman control of England after the last invasion and conquest of the island in 1,066 by William the Conqueror who also was the first king of a unified England. It was then one of the first castles that were ordered to be built by William in the county of Kent, a historical region, susceptible to a new invasion. So, together with those of Dover and Rochester it is considered the oldest Norman heritage of the island of Great Britain.
Those visiting the ruins of the castle discover from very near the beautiful Dane John Gardens where outstands an artificial hill that could have been the location of the first of the Norman Towers or Norman castral motas, probably the first one made out of wood. At its feet we will also find an amusing wooden labyrinth for the enjoyment of the youngest or not so young…
It was during the reign of Henry I between 1 100 and 1,135 when the main tower of the castle was built, having a base of 30 by 25 meters and a height of another 20 meters, giving the castle the shape of a great defensive cube.
At the end of the XIV th century the castle became the prison of the County of Kent and before its destruction in the 1,800´s the owner was a gas company that used it as a storehouse.
Nowadays it belongs to the municipality and the local authorities are the ones permitting the access to the lower level of the homage tower and to enjoy the nearby gardens of Dane John. If we climb to the top of the artificial mound of the gardens we will have beautiful views of Canterbury to be photographed.
Address: Canterbury CT1 2PW, United Kingdom.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN PHANTOMS…?
Talking about Canterbury is talking about Curses, witches, deaths and revenges in the Fantasy tour, terrible stories waiting for us if we decide to take the tour "Phantoms of Canterbury": Only suitable for the most daring!
We are going to explore the streets of Canterbury while travelling more than 1,000 years back to reveal some of the stories of witches and phantoms that have sowed panic in the English town. We will discover the accommodation of Matthew Hopkins, witch hunter who arrived in Canterbury in 1.643 to expel this women from the town. Hopkins called himself "Witch-Finder General", sowing terror between the village who indulged in a collective hysteria against women between 1,645 and 1,647. During this time the "hunter" was responsible for the execution of two hundred women accused of being witches, although the lack of records of these lynchings didn´t go through a court with any official registration, making it difficult to know the real numbers. For the Encyclopedia Britannica a number of 230 is estimated while the web page ichistor says 200, and even in other web sites as the web headgathertheater.co.uk the estimation doesn´t arrive to one hundred.
Elisabeth Clarke was the first victim in 1,645. The mother of Clarke had been accused of witchery and hanged for it and Hopkins accused the daughter of continuing with the evil arts of the mother. With terrible torturestortures he made her not only confess but to accuse
many other women of Canterbury. So this "hunter" started to make a huge fortune taking over the goods of the poor women he murdered under the pretext of religious purity. The fear and the populus hysteria around this Inquisitor against women made the rest to create the fame of Matthew Hopkins. This collective hysteria against women made many miserable villagers with scarce resources hire Hopkins to accuse and execute them to seize their goods and share a big booty.
This fanatic didn´t work alone and nowadays we know that together with him a John Stearne, both shared the town searching for those they called "evil persons" for accusing, killing and stealing them.
He didn´t stop his "activity" until 1,647 when a spring cold developed into tuberculosis taking him to the grave in august that same year. Nevertheless and given the desolation his "task" left in the town, his methods and motivations had started to be questioned by many inhabitants of the town who were afraid Hopkins could turn his rage against them.
The stories of the old tea rooms, war phantoms and strange episodes in churches would be other of the protagonists of thistour. Also we will discover some of the most recent and surprising events taking place in Canterbury, as the toombs malediction.
Our last stop will be the Cathedral of Canterbury, an indisputable symbol of the town. There we will know about the death of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.
It is said that King Henry II, who as a good Anglo Norman King wanted the religious power as well the political, totally exasperated by Thomas Becket shouted in front of the court: "Isn´t it anyone who is going to liberate me from this turbulent priest?" to what he added "It is convenient Becket to disappear". Immediately, four of the knights of his court rode to Canterbury to find Becket at the atrium of the Cathedral, where they murdered him on December 29 th 1,170.
Ecclesiasticals turned the tragedy into an advantage. Thomas Becket was proclaimed a martyr who died in defense of the Chuuch, and because of the ecclesiastical prerogatives that were being attacked by nosy secular rulers. Pope Alexander III canonized him in only three years in 1,173 making the Cathedral of Canterbury become one of the most popular sanctuaries of the European Catholic Church.
Will you be able to sleep after this tour?
Alberrys Wine bar, 38 St Margaret´s street, Canterbury, CT1 1TY.
The author of Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, said: " There is nothing, absolutely nothing, not even half worthy to be done, that simply travelling by boat". And we have no doubt that once you have experienced a boat tour by the River Stour across Canterbury, you will know exactly what he meant.
For this reason, one of the most beautiful tours we can do in Canterbury is not walking, but by boat, hiring any of the tours offered by the boatmans. They are not expensive at all, they are very entertaining and last about forty minutes in which we will get to know some of the important places of the town at the sides of the Stour.
Normally we will start visiting the small river island located at the end of the town which is known as the Franciscan Island or Greyfriars Island where a grey and white stone chapel of the XII th century shows us one of the oldest buildings of Franciscan architecture in the country.
Our boat will pass after under the Saint Thomas Hospital using the so-called Eastbridge and next under King´s Bridge built in 1,134. Following down the river we will leave behind some of the industrial buildings of the medieval era such as the Royal Mills, the Old Weavers house, today reconverted into a traditional wooden British pub, an iron forge of the time of Oliver Cromwell.
We will continue enjoying more views from the river, as the Cathedral of Canterbury and some chappells founded by Dominic monks during the XIV th century to finish sailing by a very green area where nowadays the reconstruction of the Abbots Mill is preserved, where the boat will turn to return to the starting point.
We must know that each boat has a boatman/guide who will narrate everything we see. The tours depart regularly every 15 or 20 minutes and a reservation is only required for groups of more than 12 persons. If we want to take the tour we only have to approach King´s Bridge and at the exterior of the nowadays Old Weavers House pub you could hire it.
Address: by ASK restaurant, The Kings Bridge, St Peter´s St, CanterburyCT1 2AT, United Kingdom
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY!
A place to rest, either laying down on the grass or sitting down in one of the benches of the riverbank are the so-called Westgate gardens located North West of Canterbury, and the Westgate Towers form the main entrance to the parks. The park is made of four different areas. Westgate Gardens, Tannery Field, Toddler´s Cove and Bigley Island Local Nature Reserve.
The River Great Stour crosses the center of the park joining the urban landscape with the rural landscape, full of heritage and wildlife.
Most of these gardens were originally submerged under the river Stour along the edge where the Roman wall ran. On the Western extreme was the London Gate, by whichWarling Street passed on the way to London. The wall was substantially reconstructed in flint between 1,378 and 1,402, including the bastion that now is the Tower House. The wall between Westgate and the castle was demolished in 1,647 after the unrest in Canterbury during the English Civil War, something that caused the town to surrender to the parliamentarians in 1,648. The bastion probably became a living place in 1,850 and two wings were added in 1,870. In 1,886 it was bought by Stephen Williamson, owner of the local tannery that later on bought the gardens and his family lived there until 1,935. In 1,936 his grandsonStephen and his wife Catheeine Williamsond gave up the house and the gardens to the town by virtue of a deed requiring the space to be preserved as a public space for the benefit of Canterbury´s residents. Catherine was councilor of the city and later on she became the first mayoress of the town between 1,938 and 1,940. She was responsible for the demolition of the Victorian wings of the building and the design of the eleven acre gardens with a park and a walk beside the river. The house now is used as the mayor´s hall.
At the entrance of Westgate to the gardens is the Townhall of the town. This building is the redundant Church of the Holy Cross built at the present place at the end of the XIV th century. The original church was placed originally over Westgate in a similar layout to other gates of Canterbury. The church was fired in 1,973 and delivered to the town by the Church Commissioners, to convert it into its present use in 1,978.
Address: St. Peter´s St, Canterbury CT1 2BQ, United Kingdom
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