Christopher Marlowe walk in Canterbury
- Credit: Archant
Christopher Marlowe is best remembered for his heady lifestyle – a mix of scandal, religion and espionage. This walk through Canterbury will allow you to see the history behind this fascinating character
Location: Canterbury, CT1 2JT
Distance: 1.6 miles (2.57km) linear.
Time: Allow 1 hour 30 minutes
OS Explorer Map: 150
Terrain: Mostly flat surfaces suitable for buggies and wheelchairs with dropped kerbs and tactile paving.
Public Transport: For directions by public transport from your home address to Canterbury please visit www.kentconnected.org
Parking: There are several pay and display car parks in Canterbury. The nearest is Queningate, a 3 minute walk away.
Refreshments & facilities: The Sun Hotel & Tearooms, the Bell and Crown Pub and Chequers of the Hope Inn are all located on the walk.
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Christopher Marlowe is best remembered for his heady lifestyle – a mix of scandal, religion and espionage. He was also at the forefront of Elizabethan drama, writing blank verse and dynamic storylines. Marlowe received a good education at the Kings School in Canterbury but was a rebel at heart holding strong opinions against religion and even attacking a tailor over a disagreement in the street. His demise is equally mysterious at the age of 29 apparently from being stabbed to death; however other reports suggest he spent the rest of his life in exile penning sonnets under the name of William Shakespeare...
Your walk begins near to the site where Marlowe’s home stood at St George’s Church. Christopher Marlowe was baptised here on Saturday, 26 February 1564, his father was a shoemaker and he shared the family home (where Fenwick’s department store now stands) with nine siblings, six of whom survived until adulthood.
Although Canterbury is now a beautiful city steeped in history, in Marlowe’s time it was somewhat different. Canterbury was then a small dirty town rife with squalor and disease. There were probably about 700 wooden framed houses in existence then too.
From the clock tower, go down the High Street. After 160 metres, turn right into Butchery Lane towards the cathedral then turn left at the end towards the Buttermarket. You’ll see the Sun Hotel and Tea Rooms; stop to admire the beauty of this building which was once the home of writer John Lyly, Marlowe’s contemporary from the Kings School. Shortly you’ll arrive at the cathedral entrance, you might like to stop and visit this iconic cathedral.
If you go into the cathedral precinct, head through the gates and follow the path to the left of the cathedral round towards the cloisters. Continue straight ahead through the cloisters, where you will find Kent Archives through the third entrance. There are several documents relating to Marlowe and his family here. You’ll also see the entrance to the Kings School. Christopher Marlowe was 14 years old when he gained a scholarship to Kings. The school day started at 6 in the morning and ended at 5 in the evening. Pupils were expected to speak in Latin at all times including playtime.
Leaving Archives turn left into the covered walkway, at the end turn left again, out into the grounds of Kings School. Continue round the green towards the gate in the far-left hand corner. Leave the precinct and turn left down Palace Street. Once you reach the Bell and Crown pub, turn right to find St Alphege Church.
The church housed Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution in France until their numbers became so great they were moved to the Cathedral crypt.
Continue past St Alphege Church. At the end of the road turn left. Take the next road on the right, The Friars you’re now at the Marlowe theatre, during Marlowe’s era it was an offence for not acting in religious plays. Here you’ll find The Marlowe memorial, fondly known as Kitty, which depicts the Muse of Poetry, the pedestal features characters from Marlowe’s plays. After the Marlowe Theatre continue to the High Street, then turn right towards the Westgate Tower.
The Westgate Tower is the only surviving section of the City Gaol and is also the only gate to the city. There is evidence of Marlowe’s father spending time in the gaol for petty offences and not paying rent to the landlord.
Retrace your steps back along the High Street to the Canterbury Pilgrims Hospital, then turn right down Stour Street to the Greyfriars guest house, then go right through the black gates and into the gardens, relax in the peaceful oasis of the Friars gardens.
Marlowe’s time was a troubled religious era with Protestants seeking power over Catholics. Marlowe himself was not a fan of religion and convinced people to convert to atheism, such an act could result in execution for holding religious views that did not agree with state opinion.
Upon leaving the priory turn right towards the Museum of Canterbury which contains an interactive Marlowe exhibition and it is here on Stour Street that Marlowe was a witness to his Aunt’s will. His signature, the only surviving example is on display at Canterbury archives outside the cathedral.
Leaving the museum, follow Hawks Lane then turn left at the end past The Canterbury Tales into the High Street. Turning left on the High Street you will see the Queen Elizabeth’s Guest Chamber which is now a coffee shop.
Queen Elizabeth I spent several days in the guest chamber and touched Marlowe later in life when Corpus Christi College attempted to withhold his Master’s degree. He was eventually awarded his degree after the Privy Council wrote advice that the Queen did not wish to see her agent penalised for defending the country.
Shortly you’ll arrive at Mercery Lane. It was here on n Friday 15 September 1592 that Marlowe attacked a tailor, William Corkine with a staff and dagger. Both parties tried to file a case for assault and the court dropped all the charges.
Marlowe’s premature ‘demise’ happened as a possible result over a disagreement over the ‘reckoning’ of a bill for a meal. Marlowe was apparently fatally stabbed on the 30th May 1593 aged just 29 at a house in Deptford. The other explanation was that he fled the country and lived the rest of his life in exile writing plays under the name of William Shakespeare.
No one will ever know what happened to Marlowe, but he will never be forgotten for his work in Elizabethan drama and the English language. If you like an air of mystery this is definitely a walk to for you.
To find out about other walks in Kent including our rainy days ideas walks, please visit the Explore Kent website www.explorekent.org. Follow @explorekent on Twitter and Facebook and share your experiences with us!