A visit to Norman

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Photo: @scuba_beer

“Norman who?” says the mrs.

“Norman castle” I reply. “Shall we go?”

“Where is it?”

“Castle Street”

“That’s a coincidence”.

She thinks she’s hilarious.

And there it was, tucked away in the back streets, squatting behind some temporary fencing.

We wandered up, had a quick look, and then headed off for a coffee, slightly underwhelmed. It’s not the castle’s fault, it’s a perfectly good ruined castle. I’ve seen many worse examples, and I really don’t spend a lot of time looking for castles. What struck me was the fact that it feels so totally and utterly ignored.

Maybe it’s because of the cathedral, it’s flashy cousin, right in the heart of the city. How can you compete with that? It’s got kings, princes stained glass windows, choirs and is the site of one of the most dramatic moments in world history.

What can the poor castle do to drag a tourist away from all that majesty? Well, probably slightly more than it currently does. There’s no rule that says you’re only allowed to offer one historic building for the public to visit.

I may be missing something, or I may be stumbling into a long running issue that I don’t know about.

Maybe people like the castle as it is, and there’s definitely some charm in the fact that Canterbury can effectively ignore something that would be the envy of towns and cities all over the country.

The same goes for Westgate towers, which is barely mentioned. I lived in Southampton for a long time and they’ve got a gate not much more impressive, the Bargate, and it’s used as the council’s logo. Imagine if Milton Keynes had a 12th Century stone castle, built by Henry I (thanks Wikipedia!). They’d never shut up about it.

It does seem to me, in a time when tourism is increasingly important to the local economy, that we’ve got an incredible asset being woefully under used. Not to mention the fact that I’d have quite liked to have a look round, and maybe learn a bit more about it.

It’s all about me, naturally. I’m not suggesting we go mad, but maybe, make it safe and open it to the public, perhaps a small visitor centre. Or a plaque of some sort. Maybe that would ruin it. Well, ruin it a bit more.

Perhaps it’s fine as it is? Hell, it’s got a street named after it, what more can it ask of us?

Obviously I’m not offering anything substantial, I’m not the National Trust, and as you can tell, I’m not big on detail.

I’d just like to see an interesting and ancient building given a bit more respect, and maybe it could contribute to the local economy. Or maybe we could sell it to Milton Keynes? Anyone got a price on well used Norman castles, several careless owners?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Quite agree, so neglected, no information about it , just ignored, have been here 20 yrs and often wondered why it’s so abandoned.

  2. It’s because it belongs to the Council which long ago got rid of the kind of people who did information panels around the City wall walk and encouraged tourism. Tourist turn up to view the Cathedral, good that’s ticked that box, no need to bother with that one …… tourists are viewed as an income stream and if that income stream is coming to Canterbury anyway we don’t need to lure them in with a derelict castle.

    Anyway its better than it was when it was coke store for the gas company ……. at least the Council restored the site before it got rid of anybody with an interest in the heritage of the City.

    As to the Westgate, presumably you weren’t here when the Council came up with a plan to close the Westgate to traffic, something that had been along term aim for tourism and heritage officers? That meant the traffic going elsewhere and you should have heard the protests, actually if you were in London you probably did!

  3. I did read that the walls to the side of the Westgate were knocked down as going through the gate itself was impeding stagecoach traffic. Seems like Canterbury has been having this debate for a long time.

    At least that could have been viewed as making way for progress, I can’t see anything progressive in neglecting the castle.

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