Being a beautiful city with cobblestone lanes and streets, Canterbury is the cathedral city in east Kent in South East England and the seat of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and nominal head of the Anglican Communion. Nowadays Canterbury is Kent's premier tourist destination.
The well-known Canterbury sight is the impressive Norman Cathedral where was murdered Thomas Beckett (1170) - turning Canterbury into a place of pilgrimage. Canterbury is also world-famous due to numerous Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This city is famous with its fabulous nature that is the home of 70 acres animal park - Howletts Wild Animal Park. Visitors to this park will be able to see a lot of fascinating and captivating animals, including a family of gorillas, a herd of African elephants, Siberian tigers, antelopes, wolves, and tapir. Every year this
wonderful city attracts millions of tourists boasting with the vide range of fortifications and variety of attractions, such as the Roman Museum, the Heritage Museum, the Museum of Canterbury and the Royal Museum and art Gallery with Buffs Regimental Museum. But today we'll talk about the largest surviving city gate in England - Canterbury West Gate Towers (St Peter's Street, Canterbury, Kent, England).
After the Cathedral, the West Gate Towers is Canterbury's next eye-catching landmark. These England's finest medieval gates were built from Kentish rag stone as a part of the city defenses in the 1380s.
The West Gate Towers have stood for six centuries on guard over the road to and from London. Being a place of pilgrimage, for one and a half centuries hundreds of thousands of medieval pilgrims passed through this arch into the city to visit Saint Thomas Becket's tomb and Geoffrey Chaucer was among the first of the pilgrims. West Gate Towers consist of two huge drum towers, 60 feet in height, flanking a great entrance, which even nowadays is large enough to accommodate the biggest double-decker bus. The entrance was originally protected by wooden doors, a portcullis and a draw-bridge.
Unfortunately, this defensive structure stood for nothing when the Peasant's Revolt led by Watt Tyler broke out because the Gate was opened and the rebels let into the City. Why is this rebel worth of mentioning? Watt Tyler and the rabble of peasants beheaded the Archbishop made an essential contribution to the Canterbury architecture, because of a very unpopular "poll tax" that he had introduced. A disappointing end for such individual!
From the 15th century the West Gate Towers became the City prison. For four centuries every prisoner was incarcerated here. At that time in front of the Gates there were carried out public hangings. It's a little bit terrifying to pass through the Gates knowing that just a century ago prisoners were punished capitally. But despite this fact, The West Gate Towers received many Kings of England, including King George VI, in 1946.
The use of the gate as a prison ended a century back, and it became a museum of the City arms and amour. West Gate Towers are well preserved. The spiral access stair is brightly lit. A rope guard-rail leads you safely and easily to the Museum displays. Here you can see guns and armaments, from the Civil War to World War Two, used by the defenders of Canterbury. Prisons cell can be also visited and there one can feel himself as a condemned. You will have the possibility to see through the murder holes onto the road below. Brass rubbings and hands-on body amour displays are also available. From the museum building you can easily get to the tower roof, which affords excellent views of the city.
Today's Canterbury West Gate Towers is the beautiful museum with the rich history. Nowadays it welcomes not only pilgrims and prisoners, but all comers!