Canterbury’s big three museums The Beaney, Heritage Museum and Roman Museum hold a wealth of treasures found in Kent and around the world. All are great family friendly museums with lots going on for children and they sit in the heart of the city centre. The Beaney on the High Street is free to enter (charges may apply for special exhibitions). Child discounts and joint saver tickets for entry to the Roman and Heritage Museums are often available – check the Canterbury Museums website for the latest offers. Special changing exhibitions and a packed programme of family events, workshops, talks and more feature year round and each of the three venues offers a range of themed events and free activities as part of major annual festivals like the late May Canterbury Children’s Festival.
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
A museum and gallery hub in the heart of the city centre, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge features state of the art exhibitions and is where to see some of Kent’s most precious archaeological finds. Permanent collections include ancient Egyptian finds, numerous Greek artefacts and Anglo-Saxon artefacts found in Kent including beautiful Kentish brooch work. The Beaney also holds the definitive collection of artwork by Canterbury born Thomas Sidney ‘Cow’ Cooper, so called after his many famous paintings of animals particularly cows. Head to the ‘People and Places’ gallery to see prints, paintings, sculpture and ceramics all with a focus or link to Canterbury depicting everything from the Cathedral to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and local views.
Essential visiting for discovering the many stories of Canterbury, the city’s Heritage Museum on Stour Street sits within a stunning medieval Poor Priests’ Hospital with its great medieval beamed roof and flint exterior. Cutting edge modern museum exhibits mix with original medieval architecture to great effect.
The Heritage Museum guarantees a fun day out for children, with feature exhibits on iconic characters from the world of children’s books and TV including Rupert the Bear and Bagpuss. All these characters it emerges have fascinating links with Canterbury. Mary Tourtel who studied art in the city was the original illustrator of Rupert the Bear whilst Oliver Postgate filmed his famous children’s TV classics including Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers and the Pogles in Firmin’s barn at Blean near Canterbury.
Exhibits also feature on the Polish born author Joseph Conrad who lived in Canterbury for many years and rare treasures on show include an Elizabethan painted plaster from a Canterbury home, a collection of medieval pilgrim badges depicting St Thomas Becket and the ultimate treasure – the original Canterbury Cross dating from AD850. Canterbury was also hard hit by bombing during Hitler’s targeting of landmark cities. Find out more in the Canterbury Blitz exhibition.
Canterbury (Durovernum Cantiacorum) was one of Roman Britain’s major centres and here at the recently renovated Roman Museum you can get a real insight into Roman Canterbury. This family friendly museum on Butchery Lane is constructed around the remains of a Roman town house with an underfloor heating system and beautiful mosaic work. A timeline shows how Canterbury developed as a Roman town and many rare Roman tools, jewellery, glass and deities to Roman gods are on display here.