Canterbury in rain and sun

Ancient gate

Saturday’s expedition was to Canterbury. My cold, as usual, had migrated down onto my chest and as well as the snuffles, I was developing an irritating cough. Nothing daunted, we set out bravely and were glad we did. We bussed it to London Bridge and while Tigger bought tickets I bought baguettes and coffee. We had to do the journey in two stages, London to Ashford International and from there to Canterbury West. The picture shows the first object of note that we saw on reaching the town.

Choughs on Coat of Arms

I took this picture of the coat of arms over the door of the Sidney Cooper Gallery because I believe the birds shown are choughs (pronounced “chuffs”). They are a kind of crow with red beak and legs and are now fairly rare. They are considered by many to be the “symbol of Cornwall”, so it is interesting to find them here, in Canterbury.

Mask sculpture

We were intrigued by this big sculpture in the form of a mask, standing outside the Marlowe Theatre. The car beside it looks as if it has eyes, too. Do you think we were childish enough to photograph one another with our head in one of the eye-holes? Of course we were! Christopher Marlowe was an important Renaissance poet and playwright who had connections with Canterbury, so there are several vestiges of him in the town.

All Saints Lane

Because Canterbury is such an ancient city, it contains many narrow roads, lane, passages and “twittens”, like All Saints Lane pictured here. These give it an old world atmosphere. The city was also bombed during WWII and the demolished areas have been used to make wide, modern thoroughfares and open prospects so that today there is a mixture of old and new.

Pilgrims' hospital

From the beginnings of Christianity in Britain, Canterbury has been the spiritual centre and a destination of pilgrims. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer, also celebrated throughout the town, immortalized pilgrimages and pilgrims in his Canterbury Tales. The photo shows a pilgrims’ hospital, one of the many that must have lined the roads to Canterbury.

Library & Museum

Unsurprisingly, in a city of education and culture, we soon came upon the library which also houses a museum, the Beaney Institute. The library seems neat and well kept, though a little on the small side, while the museum houses an interesting collection of old and new exhibits and holds regular special exhibitions.

Dutch window Window detail

On the staircase between the ground-floor library and the museum, there is this beautiful Dutch stained glass window. The photo cannot do full justice to the magnificence of this treasure but the accompanying detail may give some idea of its complexity and beauty.

Timbered building Gargoyle

In such an historic city, there is no shortage of old buildings of which this one, now a cafe and sandwich bar, is an example. These buildings are often lavishly decorated with carvings and a favourite feature is gargoyles. This one, which resembles a female demon cupping her voluminous breasts in her hands, appears in several places in the city.

Black clock

As you know, I am very fond of clocks, especially old clocks with character and a history behind them. Here is a fine example from the city centre.

Canterbury Cathedral

I suppose one cannot really finish describing a tour of Canterbury without mentioning the Cathedral. So here is the obligatory picture, an evening shot across rooftops. I must admit to having a jaundiced attitude to this symbol of the power and corruption of the Church of England. Perhaps in some happy future when that hypocritical and interfering institution has lost its power and insidious influence, I will be able to see this edifice just as an interesting historical relic.

Once again, our trip was dogged by the weather but this is England, after all. The day started off sunny but the clouds soon gathered and the rest of the day alternated sunshine and showers. The trick is to do the outside activities when the sun shines and have indoor activities lined up for when the rain – and sleet – begins to fall. There are plenty of interesting shops to explore and cafes where you can have tea and toasted teacakes until the sun comes out again. The rain always looks better seen through the window of a teashop!

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to Canterbury in rain and sun

  1. Chris says:

    Re. those choughs on the coat of arms: apparently they are also known as ‘beckets’ and are associated with Thomas Becket, so there’s your Canterbury connection.

    I notice there’s no mention of the archbishop anywhere in your post. You don’t mean to say you didn’t pop in and see him while you were in town? How disgraceful of you🙂

  2. SilverTiger says:

    Thanks very much for the information on choughs alias beckets. I had hoped that something like that might emerge.

    You’re right that I didn’t meet the Archwizard. I have no desire to meet a man I consider a hypocrite and a deceiver who, given the chance, would increase, not diminish, the church’s influence on politics and society.

  3. athinkingman says:

    Although I have never been there, from your description Canterbury does seem quintessentially English, but when you mentioned tea and toasted teacakes that really sealed it for me. Teacake first, then possibly the Cathedral …

  4. SilverTiger says:

    When out and about, we often stop for tea and toasted teacakes. Quintessentially English as they might be, the cafe where we consumed them on this occasion was run by Turkish people, I think.

  5. Big John says:

    Although I pay my council tax to the City of Canterbury I rarely visit the place. Agreed there are some fine buildings and interesting little ‘backwaters’, but the whole place is just too much of a ‘Ye Olde Worlde” tourist trap for me.
    Sometimes it’s hard to walk a few yards without being pestered by the ‘tourist tat’ sellers and touts for various ‘must see’ attractions. I’m surprised that the bloke on the hot dog stall hasn’t yet come up with a ‘Becket Burger’.
    At times the place is full of French school kids who are more interested in pissing about than visiting the cathedral, but you can at least get a laugh out of Elmer and Wilma from Boise, Idaho and their buddies. “Hey ! Look Honey, they sell genuine Pilgrim’s Pizza”. 😀

  6. SilverTiger says:

    The problems you describe afflict any city of historic interest – including my beloved London, of course. Not that sharing a misery necessarily lessens its impact, I grant you.

    I have often noticed that when a place becomes attractive, the result is that the introduction of “facilities” and retail outlets to “enhance the visitor’s experience” destroy the very thing that made the place attractive in the first place.

    There is a very real risk of turning cities like Canterbury into theme parks which imitate themselves and submerge what is genuinely historical and of real value.

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