The Parrot was almost demolished in the 1930s

Canterbury’s oldest pub might not have been here today

“There are old pubs in Canterbury and then there are old pubs, and then there is The Parrot in Church Lane, which declares itself the oldest of them all.”

So begins writer Johnny Homer in the section on the St Radigund’s watering hole in his 2015 book Canterbury Pubs.

There is evidence, Homer says, that ale has been served at the building for at least 600 years and that sections of it date back to 1370.

Today, the pub screams history as soon as you enter. Its low ceiling, wooden beams and fixtures and great solid doors to the garden are hallmarks of its age.

But it might not have been standing today. In the late 1930s the building, known for a time as St Radigund’s Hall, was listed for demolition.

The Parrot is renowned for its dining experience

Workmen tasked with the project discovered its fascinating architectural features and it was saved.

The building was put to various purposes until it was reopened as a pub called Simple Simon’s by Mike Patten in 1987.

Simple’s, as it was known, became hugely popular with students and young people to the point that it was full to bursting on a Friday night.

Renamed The Parrot in 2008, the pub is now in the hands of Faversham brewers Shepherd Neame.

It has acquired a reputation for its food, serving everything from Kentish beef and lamb to crab and crayfish linguine.

Francis Williamson has been manager of The Parrot for six years. He said: “It’s a great pub, full of old world charm.

“And it’s a Shepherd Neame pub, Britain’s oldest brewer, so you know they understand the licensed trade inside out.”

The final say, however, belong to Johnny Homer: “Beguiled by The Parrot’s antiquity, the fancy sometimes takes me to visit the delightful rear garden and, armed with a pint naturally, admire this lovely old building from the rear as the sun sets on another day.

“It is possibly as close as you’ll come in modern day Canterbury to time travel.”

3 responses to “Canterbury’s oldest pub might not have been here today”

  1. rory kehoe says:

    Re: The Parrot “Canterbury’s oldest pub”
    Great article, with some interesting facts, of which nearly 100% are incorrect!
    Your source, Johnny Homer, needs to get his facts straight, not straight off Wikipedia!
    Nice pic though.
    Rory

  2. Agree with Rory, much of the early history is not known. As far as I can ascertain it first became a pub in 1987. The Old Gate Inn at the top of New Dover Rd has been a pub since the late 18th century, so can claim bragging rights over the Parrot!

  3. rory kehoe says:

    I’ve done a little digging into the relative age of Canterbury’s 50 odd pubs and come up with some quite interesting facts. Using continuous trading, at the same premises but not necessarily under the same name, as the benchmark, the Cricketers (late 17th c) is in with a shout, as are the Falstaff Hotel (mid 15th c) Bishop’s Finger (late 17th c) King’s Head (early 15th c) Seven Stars (mid 16th c) and Maiden’s Head (late 16th c)
    I’m sure there may be a few more contenders, so feel free to add to this list.
    Had it not been for the Luftwaffe there would probably be no real argument. The Royal Fountain Hotel, which stood on St. Margaret’s Street, traded for >900 years, prior to its destruction in the 1942 Baedeker Raids. The Royal Fountain was already older than most of Canterbury’s current pubs are now, when four knights popped in for a pint, en route to the Cathedral for a rather one-sided meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury: one Thomas Becket.
    Rory

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