A Canterbury tale - and trail

August 12, 2010
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Henry Hart (1833-1921), three times the local mayor, was instrumental in founding the Beaney Institute, which is currently being renovated

Henry Hart (1833-1921), three times the local mayor, was instrumental in founding the Beaney Institute, which is currently being renovated

A heritage trail of Jewish Canterbury has been launched online as a precursor to organised tours in 2011.

The service is being made available through JTrails, the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, along with a history of Canterbury Jewry and photographs and articles on famous Canterbury Jews.

Contributions are also invited from those with knowledge of Jewish connections to the city, particularly from the Second World War and beyond.

Taking around two hours to complete, the tour starts in the High Street at the County Hotel, which was once the home of Jacob, Canterbury's best known medieval Jew. Canterbury was a major Jewish centre in the Middle Ages and the trail takes the story forward by covering the recent discovery and excavation of part of its 1762 synagogue and the surviving 1847 Egyptian-style shul building, described as looking like "part of a Cecil B de Mille film set".

It was supposedly designed this way, rather than in Gothic revival style, because the community felt the Gothic appearance evoked "recollections of persecution".

Another feature is the little known Jewish cemetery, the burial place of explorer Nathaniel Isaacs (1808-1872), one of the first white men on the African continent in the 1820s and 30s and one of the founders of Natal.

JTrails director Marcus Roberts said the Canterbury initiative was "a perfect example of the rich and unexpected Jewish heritage which can be found away from the modern centres of Jewish population.

"It has a fascinating Jewish heritage, including medieval depictions of Jews in the cathedral, its 18th century cemetery and unique Egyptian-style Victorian synagogue, with its rare mikveh building."

In a separate development, the synagogue will be open to visitors on September 12 as part of the European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage.

    Last updated: 11:32am, August 12 2010