The playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the son of a shoemaker. His groundbreaking use of blank... more »
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The playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the son of a shoemaker. His groundbreaking use of blank... more » verse and dynamic plotlines paved the way for William Shakespeare, yet he is remembered also for his roistering lifestyle, a heady mixture of scandal, religion and espionage. Although it is widely believed he met his end in a brawl in Deptford, the truth may yet turn out to be stranger than fiction.
This walk covers 1.6 miles through Canterbury, passing many of its famous landmarks from the times of Christopher Marlowe. less «
Distance 1.6 miles (2.6km)
Terrain Surfaced pavements and roads
Parking/Transport Town parking as well as P&R. Canterbury East ... more »& West train stations.
Start/end point St Georges Church, (near bus terminal)
Please note: A section of this walk passes through Canterbury Cathedral where you will need to pay an entry fee. You can alternatively miss out POI 3.
You will also pass through King's School, please stick to the outlined route and obey any instructions by staff/security.
Walk provided by Explore Kent in partnership with Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives
Explore Kent is a Kent County Council Initiative
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.
The house, believed to have been the Marlowe family home and the workshop for shoemaker John Marlowe in the sixteenth century, was where Fenwick department store stands today. John became a freeman of Canterbury in 1564, the year of Christopher’s birth, which entitled him to trade in the city. Until leaving Canterbury for Cambridge, Christopher lived here with his parents who had nine children, six of whom survived into adulthood.Less
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 evening with a psalm, a litany and a prayer. As well as learning religion and music, the scholars sang Mass in the cathedral every morning. At the age of sixteen and a half, Marlowe won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, becoming Bachelor of the Arts in 1584.
His time at the King’s School is commemorated by a plaque.
Canterbury Cathedral Archives is on the site of the medieval dormitory of Canterbury Cathedral Priory and continues a tradition of record-keeping at the cathedral that dates back at least 1300 years. The collection contains several documents relating to Christopher Marlowe and his family. Visit the web page www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history/archives to plan a visit to Canterbury Cathedral Archives.
(PLEASE NOT - YOU WILL NEED TO PAY AN ENTRANCE FEE TO CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL FOR POI 3.
Alternatively you can follow Sun Street to reach POI 4.Less
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 Bartholomew’s Eve. Over three thousand French Protestants, or Huguenots, were murdered in Paris on the orders of Catherine de Médicis, mother of the king, Charles IX.Less
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 pedestal features characters from Marlowe’s plays: Tamburlaine, Dr Faustus, Barabas and Edward II.Less
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 irate landlords for unpaid debts.
Although the family were often forced to move home, John managed to avoid imprisonment here, going on to become warden treasurer of the city’s Company of Shoemakers.Less
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 sixteenth century to house Protestant refugees from the continent who brought their textile skills to Canterbury, would have been a familiar sight to young Christopher.
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 built their priory after their arrival in England in 1224. The friary was dissolved in 1538, four years after two of the friars were executed for treason after opposing Henry VIII. TheKing’s divorce resulted in a struggle for England’s soul between Catholics and Protestants that dominated Marlowe’s lifetime. The Greyfriars returned to Canterbury in the last century and now worship in the Greyfriars Chapel nonce more.
Take a walk round the Franciscan Garden and relax in this peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.Less
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 medieval poor priests’ hospital, the Museum of Canterbury has an interactive Marlowe exhibition where you can find out more about his life and work and investigate his mysterious death.Less
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 visit would later provide inspiration for scenes of lavish wealth and power in Tamburlaine.
The Queen would touch Marlowe’s life once again when he was recruited by the English secret service while a student at Corpus Christi College. His work for the government was acknowledged when the college attempted to withhold his master’s degree as punishment for mysterious periods of absence.
The Privy Council wrote a letter informing them that Queen Elizabeth did not wish to see her agent penalised for serving his country and Marlowe was awarded his degree.Less
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, overlooking the grand courtyard where players such as the Earl of Leicester’s men acted for their entertainment. No doubt young Christopher knew of this and may even have seen plays here that fired his imagination and ambition.
On Friday 15 September 1592, on a visit home to Canterbury, somewhere close to the corner of Mercery Lane, Christopher Marlowe attacked a tailor, William Corkine, with a staff and dagger. Corkine filed a case for assault in the civil court. In return, Marlowe pressed criminal charges against Corkine. Three hundred and sixty-five years after both cases were dropped, Canterbury’s Cathedral and City Archivist, Dr William Urry, discovered a rosebud pressed between the pages of the town sergeant’s plea book. Could this have been a peace offering between Marlowe and Corkine?Less