Arriving at Canterbury
This 3D visualisation shows the north-west quarter of Canterbury in 1450. Around 3,000 people lived in the city, many working in jobs connected with pilgrimage to Becket's shrine.
Pilgrims needed places to stay, food and drink, and would often buy souvenirs or go shopping. The most valuable properties and shops were built along the streets that pilgrims took from the London road to the cathedral, entering the city at the Westgate on the left hand side of the screen.
Arriving at Westgate
Like most medieval cities, a thick wall and a moat surrounded Canterbury for defence. There were only a few gateways in, which would be closed at night. Pilgrims would have to arrive before sunset if they wanted to get into the city.
Westgate was the biggest and most impressive entrance to the city, and it still exists. Built in 1380, it was one of the first gateways in England to have guns.
The High Street
The High Street contained many shops, inns, and markets for pilgrims. It was a very ancient road, having first been built by the Romans as part of the way between Dover and London.
After Thomas Becket's murder in 1170, pilgrims came to Canterbury in their thousands. They needed places to stay, particularly the poor pilgrims who could not afford to pay for a bed for the night.
Wealthy men and women founded 'hospitals' such as this one dedicated to St Thomas Becket. Hospitals did not always look after sick people, as they do now, but were responsible for hospitality to pilgrims, travellers, and the poor. You can see where they slept as Eastbridge Hospital survives today.
Inns and Lodgings
Most pilgrims paid for accommodation in an inn, and there were many of these in Canterbury. The Cathedral owned some very large inns, including 'The Checker of the Hope' (the large U-shaped building on the High Street) and 'The Sun Inn' (shown as being under construction).
Some of these can still be found in Canterbury. Chaucer's pilgrims from the Canterbury Tales were said to have stayed in 'The Checker of the Hope.'
They toke her In, & loggit hem at mydmorowe, I trowe,
Atte 'Cheker of the Hope,' that many a man doith knowe.'
[They went to an inn and lodged there at mid-morning, I believe,
At the 'Checker of the Hope', that many people know]
The Tale of Beryn, Prologue, 13-14
The cathedral precinct
The walled area around the Cathedral was called the 'precinct' or 'close.' There would be shops selling badges and souvenirs for pilgrims to buy, and often there were fairs and other entertainments.
In this period the Cathedral and the precincts were closed at night and often for an hour at lunchtime as well, so pilgrims usually visited in the morning.
Than, as manere & custom is, signes there they bougte,
ffor men of contre shuld know whom they had ougte
Ech man set his silvir in such thing as they likid
[Then, as the custom is, they bought badges there
So that men throughout the country would know where they had been
Everyone spent their money on something they liked]
The Tale of Beryn, Prologue, 171-3