"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on June 5, 2017 by Sioux under General


We were up early the next day to explore the quaint little town, walking to the Great Stour River and ambling along the picturesque Westgate Gardens and through the grounds of Tower House. The house and the 11-acres of Westgate Gardens were bequeathed to the council by the Williamson family in 1936 for public use. The house was built around one of the 21 bastions of Canterbury’s medieval city wall, but there have been buildings on the site since at least the 1400s. 

From the gardens we headed over the road to the Museum of Freemasonry. Fascinating! Although the history of the museum can only be tracked back to the latter part of the 19th century, masonry has been present in Canterbury since 1730 when the city’s first lodge began meeting at the Red Lion Tavern which adjoined the old Guildhall in the High Street. The museum came into being when the collection of historic artefacts began to outgrow the space available at the various Masonic Lodges in Canterbury. The collection has continued to grow and now boasts more than 3,000 pieces of masonic paintings, literature, regalia, glassware and ceramics.  

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The existing house with its narrow arched windows was built during Victorian times around 1850. It is now used as a function venue. 

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The Old Weavers House, possibly one of the most photographed historic buildings in Canterbury other than the cathedral, is a gorgeous half-timbered building right on the edge of the River Stour. Despite the date 1500 which can be seen displayed above the front door, the house more than likely dates back to the 14th century. The current building is a reconstruction dating back to the second half of the 16th century. It got its name from the Flemish and Hugenot weavers who settled in the area after fleeing from religious persecution during the 16th and 17th centuries.

At the rear of the

Old Weavers House is a

medieval ducking stool,

jutting out over the river.

This stool was used as a

method of punishing

‘scolds’ – women accused

by their husbands of

talking back too much! The stool may also have been used as a more severe punishment for suspected witches. The suspected witch was dunked under the water and held there for several minutes. If she (it was usually a female) did not drown, she was proved a witch. If she drowned, at least her name was cleared!  

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The Pilgrims Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr was founded in the 12th century to provide overnight accommodation for poor pilgrims visiting to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett. It is now one of the ten alms houses still providing accommodation for elderly citizens of Canterbury. 

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From there we headed back into town as we wanted to do a river trip. 

A 2m high bronze statue of Geoffrey Chaucer stands on the High Street, erected to commemorate his association with the area. The plinth depicts the characters featured in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

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Built on medieval foundations, this stone marker is on the High Street, just a few paces away from where the bridge crosses the River Stour. 

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We booked a river “cruise” – for want of a better word – more like a “row” than a cruise, but it was perfect as we had only the sound of the oars dipping in and out of the water, and the guides’ voices telling us about the history of the area. A fabulous experience. 

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                                                                                                                    At a point there was a chain over the river 

                                                                                                                    and we had to turn back. The guide

                                                                                                                    informed us that the building in the distance was the remains of the Dominicans, or Black Friars house, which is said to have been the first they possessed in England. The remains date back to the time of Henry VIII. The refectory is now used as a Unitarian Chapel. In the gardens stands an enormous Lombardy poplar tree which was planted 1758. We didn’t get to tour the inside of the building, so I’m sure a return visit for me will happen at some stage!  

From the boat trip we headed for The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, which is an Art Gallery, Library and Visitor Information Centre. The building takes its name from its benefactor, Dr J G Beaney, a Canterbury-born man of modest background who studied medicine before emigrating to Australia. Upon his death in 1891, Dr Beaney left money in his will to the city of Canterbury to build an ‘Institute for Working Men’ with amenities for men from poor backgrounds such as his own.

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From Beaney House we strolled through the streets, headed for the main attraction in the town, Canterbury Cathedral. 

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Sir John Boys House (sometimes known as Crooked House, King’s Gallery, or Old Kings Shop) is a delightful looking skewed 17th century half-timbered building. The most noticeable feature is the front door, which has had to be built with severely skewed corners to fit the door frame. The house apparently skewed look after alterations to an internal chimney caused the structure to slip sideways. Attempts to rectify the tilt caused the whole structure to skew further sideways, although the building is now stabilised internally by a steel frame. It is still in use by Kings School and is not open to the general public. 

Once we had sated our thirst for the uniqueness of the cathedral, there were thirsts of a different kind that needed sating and we headed off in search of a venue where food and liquid refreshments were readily available!


We settled on a pub with a pavement table so we could still take in the sights and sounds of Canterbury. Once done, we wandered around the city, absorbing as much as possible, and yakking as we went. There was so much to catch up on! 

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3 responses to “Birthday fun #7 – Tales to be told, fun to be had – part 2!”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    Interesting story about the Old Weavers House.. Didn’t you relax during your rowing “river cruise”? Love the crooked house too. And again, the sunset is beautiful

  2. Ursula Evans says:

    beautiful pics

  3. Chez says:

    As always soooooooo interesting! Tx for the lovely pics and history!

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