The wall around Canterbury and the old castle

Remember when we tried to go to Dover Castle? When we took a bus, walked up and down hills, and walked across the town of Dover to get a bus back to Canterbury? Yeah, that was only the first half of our adventures that day.

Once we arrived back in Canterbury, it was time for a lunch break. We went to lunch at a restaurant we’d never been to before, called Deeson’s Restaurant. It was a delight. Wanting to treat ourselves, but not being that hungry, we opted for light appetizers, along with some very lovely desserts. The food was creative and delicious. Considering what you got on your plate, it was a bit over priced, but a tasty meal is a tasty meal. And dessert! Oh, dessert! In Portugal they make something called “pera bebde” which translates to “drunken pear”. Deeson’s Restaurant made a version of this that was oh so fancy and oh so delicious: a pear soaked in mulled wine, served with crunchy toffee, salted caramel, and a brownie! See the photo for full effect.

And after lunch, we kept going, as we do. We walked along the ancient city walls, and explored the ruins of a castle was built hundreds of years ago, and was part of the inner city walls.

The Canterbury city walls are another thing that dates back to the days of the Romans. While little of the Roman construction remains today, the location of the Roman walls was maintained as later medieval and modern civilizations built and re-built the walls in the same spots. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Canterbury city walls are a sequence of defensive walls built around the city of Canterbury in Kent, England. The first city walls were built by the Romans, probably between 270 and 280 AD. These walls were constructed from stone on top of an earth bank, and protected by a ditch and wall towers … With the collapse of Roman Britain, Canterbury went into decline but the walls remained, and may have influenced the decision of Augustine to settle in the city at the end of the 6th century. The Anglo-Saxons retained the defensive walls, building chapels over most of the gates and using them to defend Canterbury against Viking incursions.

The Norman invaders of the 11th century took the city without resistance, and by the 12th century the walls were ill-maintained and of little military value. Fears of a French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War led to an enquiry into Canterbury’s defences in 1363. The decision was taken to restore the city walls and for around the next thirty years the old Roman defences were freshly rebuilt in stone, incorporating the older walls where they still remained … Parts of the wall were deliberately damaged by Parliament during the English Civil War of the 17th century and the doors to the city’s gates burnt; with the restoration of Charles II in 1660, new doors were reinstalled.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Canterbury’s city walls came under extensive pressure from urban development. All the gates but one, West Gate, were destroyed and extensive parts of the walled circuit were knocked down to make way for new roads and buildings. German bombing during the Second World War caused further damage. Despite this, the remaining walls and gatehouse survived post-war redevelopment intact and some portions were rebuilt entirely. Over half the original circuit survives, enclosing an area of 130 acres (53 ha), and historians Oliver Creighton and Robert Higham consider the city wall to be “one of the most magnificent in Britain”.

Again, that’s some pretty old stuff! After lunch we walked through a lovely park to reach the walls, and then walked along the walls towards the ruins of an old castle. On the way there, I took a quick detour to walk up the Dane John Mound. A former Roman cemetery, it’s now a mound/mini-hill in a lovely park. I jaunted up to the top of the mound to catch a good view, but as you’ll see in the photos, it was  mostly a view of surrounding suburbs on the one side, and then a view of Canterbury (and the cathedral,obviously) on the other. As a tourist destination, it wasn’t great, but it was obviously a favourite relaxation spot with the locals, because it was packed with students hanging out and enjoying the view.

From there, we carried along on our walk. We walked all the way to the ruins of Canterbury Castle. Fortunately, this one was open. Canterbury Castle is a Norman castle that dates back to 1066, when William the Conqueror (according to my Nana Ev’s research, my 82nd great grandfather) was busy conquering England. King Henry I then turned that lowly wooden castle into the fancy stone castle that stands today.

Of course, it’s not standing too fancy, and here’s one of the reasons why:

By the 19th century it had been obtained by a gas company and used as a storage centre for gas for many years, during which time the top floor was destroyed.

Yikes. Smooth move, gas company.

Anyways, the castle ruins are open, which means we were able to walk around inside, seeing the remnants of a well which brought water throughout the castle; the remaining few stairs to once took you to the top of the castle, and I even climbed the last remaining sets of stairs, enjoying a heightened view of the whole place. All that and more in the photos below!





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