Wednesday, 12 June 2013
The Master’s visit to Canterbury Thursday 6th and Friday 7th June
Our home in Kent lies on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way from St Margaret’s Bay to Canterbury, and we own an adjacent property called Pilgrim’s Cottage. We are therefore constantly reminded of Canterbury’s role in the history of our country and particularly its international importance as a place of pilgrimage. Travel to Canterbury in the modern era is quick and speedy by high speed train or Motorway and Canterbury continues to attract huge numbers of visitors, particularly with its close proximity to France and Belgium.
A group of us greeted each other on the platform at King’s Cross on Thursday and in just over a hour were whisked to Canterbury, in good time to walk to the Abode Hotel, check in and prepare ourselves to meet our city guide, Philippe Lecampe. Philippe, himself a Liveryman of the Blacksmith’s Company, gave us a most amusing and seriously educational tour of the noisy City centre and the quieter Cathedral precincts. Encouraging us to look up at the buildings atop the usual modern shops, we gained a real understanding of how Canterbury must have looked in former days, and to use to which buildings were put as pilgrim hostels. Despite heavy bombing in the war, Canterbury has retained many interesting medieval buildings – and in some ways reflects how London must have looked prior to the Great Fire and the greater move to redevelopment.
After the tour, conducted in a rare bout of sunshine, we returrned to our hotel for a cream tea that was most welcome and went down very well. Several of us then left for Evensong in the Cathedral Quire and listened to the boy choristers singing the responses, psalm, anthem etc. Always a relaxing and uplifting way to spend a half hour. On our return we got together for drinks in the hotel bar prior to being joined for dinner by our good friends the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull and his wife, Brenda. Michael kindly said grace and later regaled us with some interesting aspects of the Church of England.
After dinner we walked in the gathering darkness back to the Buttermarket to meet the Very Revd Robert Willis DL, Dean of the Cathedral. Robert was waiting for us at the Christ Gate and invited us in to the unlit Cathedral. Presenting each of us with a candle as our only illumination the Dean eventually guided us to the place where Thomas a Becket had been murdered. We next moved down to the atmospheric Crypt where many services are conducted and then later up into the Quire and climbing up several steps eventually reached the Chair of St Augustine into which Justin Welby was recently installed and enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury by the Dean. It was a memorable visit into a cathedral in the peace of the night which everyone found an emotional experience.
Friday morning found us at The Tower House visiting the newly installed Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Mrs Heather Taylor. Women power was alive and kicking in Canterbury for the Deputy Mayor and Sheriff was Mrs Ann Taylor – no relation, and the Lady Mayoress was Mrs Linda Taylor, daughter in law to Heather. TheThree Taylors! The Lord Mayor gave us an introduction to the regalia and treasures of the City, including a really fine sword and Mace. The visit included coffee and later we were shown the Guildhall where the Council meets. Our next stop was the Freemasons Museum of Kent for a quick visit and then on to the Beaney Institute where there are some fine oil paintings of cattle and sheep by Thomas Cooper.
We met for lunch at 12.30pm in a private room overlooking the exquisite 16th Century Weavers Houses on the river. After a lunch in which we enjoyed fine fellowship I had to say my goodbyes and depart with the Consort in an effort to reach Telford by road in good time for a Black Tie Dinner.