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Canterbury Facts

Welcome to our Canterbury facts page! On this page we intend to provide you with some interesting facts and trivia about Canterbury! 

 
  • Canterbury has always received a large number of pilgrims; however, after the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and his subsequent sainthood, the number of pilgrims visiting the city greatly rose. It is from these pilgrimages which Pilgrims takes its name!
  • The equestrian term 'canter' is derived from the Canterbury Pace, a speed at which the Pilgrims visiting Canterbury would adopt where their horse would move faster than a trot but slower than a gallop.
  • St Martin’s Church, the oldest church in the UK, the oldest church in the English speaking world and the oldest church still in continuous use is located in Canterbury!
  • During the Second World War, teams of fire watchers patrolled the Cathedral roofs and disposed of incendiary bombs which were dropped from enemy aircrafts. 

  • Canterbury was originally a walled city with approximately seven gates providing access to the city. Of all these gates, only Westgate remains. However, Westgate was very nearly demolished in the 1800s in order to allow a travelling circus to march a parade of elephants into the city. Thankfully, Westgate was saved from destruction by the casting vote of the mayor of the time!

  • Canterbury's city walls were first constructed by the Romans in the third century. Since then, the walls have been repaired and altered many times; however, over half of the original wall’s circuit still remains.
  • In 1834, the world’s first railway season ticket was issued in Canterbury! The tickets were sold so that residents could travel to Whitstable’s beach over the summer season.
  • Close to Canterbury’s city centre is a public park called Dane John Gardens and within this park lies an exceptionally large mound. This mound originally served as a Roman burial site and later, a Norman motte and bailey castle was built atop of it. It is thought that the name of the park comes from the French, donjon, meaning the keep of a castle. The English word dungeon can also trace its origin to this word!

  • Due to the prominence of Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales, and its direct relationship with Canterbury, it is unsurprising that there is a permanent exhibition just off the high street which reconstructs 14th century England and allows visitors to witness Chaucer’s story firsthand! 
  • Placed in the centre of the city, The Sun Hotel, a 15th century building, still stands. Charles Dickens is one of the most famous visitors to this hotel!

  • Another of Canterbury's buildings is directly named by Dickens in one of his novels, David Copperfield, in which he makes specific reference to the House of Agnes, a 15th century building which is still in frequent use to this day!
  • Canterbury high street used to be a part of the A2, a main road which connects Canterbury to Dover and to London. There are two of the original road signs still displayed in the centre of the high street!

  • At the rear of the Old Weaver's House in the high street lies a medieval remnant; an original ducking stool! These stools were used as a type of punishment and more importantly, as a test for those who were suspected of being a witch! The ‘witch’ was tied to the stool and then submerged underwater. If the suspect died, then all charges were dropped, yet if they lived, they were found guilty of witchcraft and most likely executed shortly after.

  • Prior to the filming of the Harry Potter films, the church was asked if Canterbury Cathedral could be used as the set for the wizarding school, Hogwarts. The Cathedral authorities chose to decline the offer as they feared that the apparent “pagan theme" of the story would offend Christians.
  • Canterbury is home to King's School, an independent day and boarding school. The school was established in 597AD by St Augustine, making it one of the oldest and longest surviving schools in the UK and the world. Christopher Marlowe and Orlando Bloom are two of the most famous of Canterbury’s locals who attended the school!