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Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury

Literary Walks from Kent Libraries & Archives

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Unknown
Length: 1.6 miles
Duration: Unknown
Family Friendly

Overview : 
The playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the son of a shoemaker. His groundbreaking use of blank... more »

Distance 1.6 miles (2.6km)
Terrain Surfaced pavements and roads
Parking/Transport Town parking as well as P&R. Canterbury East ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. St George’s Church

Marlowe’s home:

Christopher Marlowe was baptised at the church of St George the Martyr on Saturday, 26 February 1564; the entry in the parish register is held at Canterbury Cathedral Archives. Christopher’s parents, John and Katherine Marlowe, were married here on 22 May 1561, a union that lasted nearly forty-four years until their deaths in 1605... More

2. The Buttermarket and The Sun Inn

Marlowe’s Canterbury:

At the time of Christopher Marlowe’s birth, Canterbury was a small town of about seven hundred households, with wooden framed buildings like the Sun Inn. This was the home of Marlowe’s contemporary from the King’s School, the writer John Lyly. The city was crowded, dirty and full of disease.

Marlowe’s school days:

When he was fourteen, Marlowe became a King’s Scholar, one of “fifty boys both destitute of the help of friends and endowed with minds apt for learning”.

Pupils were expected to speak in Latin at all times, even when playing. The school day began at six in the morning with a psalm and litany and ended at five in the... More

4. St Alphege Church

Marlowe’s influences:

When Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution on the continent first came to Canterbury, St Alphege was the church allotted for their use until their numbers became so great they moved to the cathedral crypt. In 1572, when Marlowe was eight years old, the city would have been abuzz with reports of the Massacre of St... More

Celebrating Marlowe:

Canterbury has a long theatrical tradition. In the early sixteenth century the city’s craftsmen could be fined or gaoled for not acting in religious plays. In Marlowe’s lifetime, players would have performed in courtyards, inns and private houses. The Marlowe memorial, fondly known as Kitty, depicts the Muse of Poetry. The... More

6. The Westgate Tower

The Marlowe family:

Westgate is the only gate to the city that still stands. At one time it had a portcullis and drawbridge, and in Marlowe’s time it was the city gaol, imprisoning debtors, thieves and murderers. Marlowe’s father John appears frequently in the city archives, taking neighbours to court over petty squabbles and being chased by... More

Marlowe’s early life:

In 1569, Archbishop Matthew Parker established a school for twenty boys in the chapel and endowed two scholarships at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Christopher Marlowe may well have been a pupil here before attending the King’s School and becoming a Parker Scholar at Corpus Christi.

The Weavers, built in the early... More

8. The Greyfriars

Marlowe the heretic:

The sixteenth century was a dangerous time. People could be executed for heresy – holding religious beliefs that were not sanctioned by the state. Government informers claimed that Marlowe converted people to atheism and made jokes about the Bible. He was arrested on 18 May 1593 and released on bail.

The Franciscan friars... More

9. Stour Street and the Poor Priests' Hospital

Marlowe’s signature:

Christopher Marlowe came to Stour Street on 30 of September 1586 as a witness to the will of his aunt, Katherine Benchkin. Marlowe’s brother-in-law, John Moore, told how Marlowe read the will aloud:

The will is the only surviving example of Marlowe’s signature and is kept at Canterbury Cathedral Archives.

Housed inside a... More

10. Queen Elizabeth’s Guest Chamber

Marlowe the spy:

Adorned with elaborate plasterwork, this building was the focus of great excitement in 1573 when Queen Elizabeth stayed here for several days, including her fortieth birthday, which was celebrated with a feast at then Archbishop’s Palace. Christopher Marlowe was then nine years old and the pageantry and majesty of the Queen’s... More

11. Chequers of the Hope Inn and Mercery Lane

Marlowe the rebel:

The vast Chequers of the Hope Inn stretched ninety metres from the corner of Mercery Lane. Built to make money from the influx of visitors to the city, the ground floor contained shops selling all manner of goods. Poorer pilgrims were squashed into dormitories on the top floor, while rich pilgrims took suites on the first floor... More