Weekly City Spotlight: Canterbury


Canterbury Cathedral

Located on the River Stour, Canterbury is a beautiful and historic city situated in the county of Kent.  Canterbury has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as the Cathedral, there are ancient ruins to explore, an abundance of picturesque buildings together with an amazing array of shops and restaurants. It combines the historic with the modern, offering a popular destination for a city break.

Canterbury – A History
Canterbury was originally the home of the Cantiaci, a Celtic tribe, and was named by the Romans as Durovernum Cantiacorum – “stronghold of the Cantiaci by the alder grove” after they seized it.  The romans significantly developed the area and also built the famous city wall, evident today, to protect the settlement. Following the departure of the Romans, the area became and Anglo-Saxon settlement.  Jutish refugees (Jutland refers to an area which covered Denmark and parts of Germany at this time), referred to the area as Cantwaraburgh which translated to “Kent people’s stronghold.

With the conversion to Christianity in 597 AD, a cathedral and an abbey were built, after Canterbury was chosen to be the location of the episcopal see (the official seat of the Bishop), and Augustine who had been sent by Pope Gregory the Great to carry out the conversion, was named as the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 672, further importance was placed upon the Canterbury see when it became the authority of the whole of the English Church.

The Danish attacked Canterbury repeatedly over a number of years, and in 1011 during one of these attacks the cathedral was burnt down.  Canterbury became a place of pilgrimage following Thomas Becket’s murder, who was Archbishop at the time, and killed by followers of Henry II, following disputes over the rights of the church. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales were inspired by the pilgrim’s journeys.

Popular Culture
The beautiful and religiously significant city has been the inspiration for many books as well as films.

Films & TV
A Canterbury Tale – (1944), Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, – This film follows 3 main characters, an American GI, a Land Girl and a British Soldier as they travel to Canterbury during World War II, and takes it origins from Geoffrey Chaucer’s stories. The film was shot in Canterbury and the surrounding area.

The Calling – (2009), starring Brenda Blethyn, Susanna York and Emily Beecham, the film which was written and directed by Jan Dunn was filmed in Canterbury, and follows the story of Joanna and her journey to become a nun.

Last Orders – (2001), the all-star cast for this film included Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings, Helen Mirren and Ray Winstone and tells the tale of a group of friends trying to honour the dying wishes of their friend, Jack Dodd, who has passed away and wishes for his ashes to be scattered in the sea.  The film was shot in various locations including Canterbury and its cathedral.

The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer, dating back to the 14th century, Chaucer tells the stories of pilgrims travelling from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral and St Thomas Becket’s shrine.

Murder in the Cathedral – (1964), awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature, the murder of Thomas Becket is the focus for this TS Elliot work.

A Canterbury Crime – (2013) Part of the Belinda Lawrence Mystery series of books, written by Brian Kavanagh, this tale follows the investigation in the death of Professor de Gray, who before his death was writing a book on the death of St Thomas Becket.

Social Media
Canterbury has its own official tourism website, Visit Canterbury, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts.

Famous Faces
Orlando Bloom – born in Canterbury on 13 January 1977, Orlando Bloom is an actor, famous for his role in The Lord of the Rings when he played Legolas, and the Pirates of the Caribbean during which he played Will Turner.

Mary Tourtel – the creator of Rupert Bear, was born in Canterbury on 28th January 1874.  Tourtel attended the Sidney Cooper School of Art in Canterbury, and created Rupert in 1920’s.

Sir Freddie Laker – born in Canterbury in 1922, Freddie Laker worked in the airline industry throughout his life.  He was known for establishing Laker Airlines in the 1960’s, which was one of the first “no-frills” airlines offering passengers cheaper travel. Sir Freddie was knighted in 1978 for his contribution to the industry.

Canterbury Cathedral – the beautiful cathedral at Canterbury was first constructed in 597, when Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  This magnificent building, which features gothic styling, has remained a place of pilgrimage, following the death of St Thomas Becket, and is viewed as one of the most significant Christian buildings in England.


Canterbury Westgate

The Westgate – one of seven original city gates built in Canterbury, the Westgate, which dates back to 1380 is the last remaining gatehouse in the city wall. Visitors can drive through the gatehouse, with its distinctive towers and learn more about its history at the West Gate Museum.

St Augustine’s Abbey – In addition to the cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey was built in Canterbury in 598 on the site of 3 churches, the ruins of 1 can still be seen today.  The stunning Abbey was to be a place of burial for both Archbishops and Kings and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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