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A Canterbury Tale
Location Walk, Sunday, August 25th, 2002
Itinerary and Notes
By Paul Tritton
NB: Richard Fraser owns the copyright to all the photographs reproduced below. No copying without written permission.
At Canterbury West Station
Bob: "Pilgrims for Canterbury, all out and get your blessings."
We met our guide Paul Tritton (standing on the yellow line) at 11.19 am, when the 11.10 from Chilham ('Chillingbourne') arrived, and began our walk from the platform where on Monday, August 30, 1943, Alison, Peter, Bob and Thomas Colpeper JP arrived in Canterbury on the 8.57 am train from Chillingbourne.
St Dunstan's Street
We paused at the level crossing to admire the classic view of Westgate Towers on the last mile of the pilgrims' road to Canterbury Cathedral - a view captured in A Canterbury Tale as the train from Chillingbourne arrived.
We also paused at The Falstaff Inn, which in medieval times was one of the inns outside the city walls where pilgrims stayed overnight if they arrived in Canterbury after the Westgate closed for the night.
We learned more about The Falstaff's role in A Canterbury Tale later.
At Westgate Towers, west side
We regrouped at the location where 'the pilgrims' and Mr Colpeper parted company.
Mr Colpeper (Paul Tritton): "You know the way?"
Alison: (Pat Tritton) "Yes thanks, I'm taking Bob to the Cathedral. He's got a date there with his buddy."
Other members of the group re-enacted the rest of the scene.
Peter: "Military secret. We're off today."
Bob: "No! Where to?"
Peter: "Don't worry. I'll be seeing you."
We saw where Peter sets off ahead of Bob and Alison. Like them we walked through the passage between the Westgate and the former City Police Station, after seeing where the military parade marched off through the Westgate into the city centre.
In Pound Lane, on the east side of the Westgate
From here we looked across the road to the City Police Station, noting features that have survived since Michael Powell's film unit was here in 1943.
Peter: "I'm looking for the police station ...Superintendent Hall wants to see me."
Inspector: "He's not here. He's got a job on. Special service at the Cathedral .He won't be back til the soldiers have gone."
Peter: "When the soldiers have gone, I'll be gone too."
Inspector: "Well, you might find him round the Cathedral."
We moved on to St Peter's Street, paused opposite the site of The Archers' office, and recalled the exciting scene filmed here in 1943 when the soldiers marched to the Cathedral
At the Marlowe Theatre
Paul Tritton: sitting at centre; Belinda Price: standing on same step, immediately to Paul's right.
All 25 members of Paul's party are seen here at what was once the Friars Odeon Cinema, where the world premiere of A Canterbury Tale was presented in 1944. The theatre doors were locked so we peered through them for a glimpse of the plaque unveiled in the foyer in October 2000 by Sheila Sim (now Lady Attenborough), who played Alison; and John Sweet (Bob Johnson).
In Canterbury High Street
Paul declaimed from the steps of Canterbury Public Library (still known as the Beaney Institute by old Canterburians) and read from page 45 of Michael Powell's A Life in Movies ('my temple was the Beaney Institute'). Across the street we saw the County Hotel, where Sheila Sim and John Sweet stayed in 1943; [They stayed there again when they returned in 2000 as well] further up the street we passed the site of the Fleur de Lis Hotel, where other members of the cast and crew stayed, and the shop that was once Goulden's Lending Library, Michael Powell's mother's 'temple'.
On the corner of Mercery Lane
One of the members of our group (and an invaluable 'assistant guide') was John Clark. He appeared with his mother in the crowd scene when the soldiers marched down the lane to the Cathedral and during our walk stood in the very same place while he told us his memories of the film. [John is also seen sitting on the wall at the Horton's yard]
In the Buttermarket, outside the former Cathedral Tea Rooms
Paul Tritton & Trevor Williams play at being GIs
Paul read Michael Powell's description of this area from page 78 of A Life in Movies and with another member of the group re-enacted this moving scene ...
Micky Roczinsky: "Hi! Why you home sick sad sack GI ... and what in Canterbury have you been doing with your three days' leave?"
Bob: "Learning, sergeant, learning ..."
Micky: "Let's have some tea first ...hey babe, what's cooking? ...now let's get this straight. You came here by road, not by train."
Bob: "I came by train but the pilgrims used the old road."
Bob: "For blessings, you character, for blessings."
Micky: "OK. Where's yours?"
Bob: "They don't work nowadays. That was 600 years ago."
Micky: "It don't work nowadays huh? Well I, Micky Roczinsky, have a blessing for you. I've been carrying these around for two days. They came the afternoon you left, from your girl."
Bob: "Give me those letters. What stamps are these?"
Micky: "Australia. She certainly gets around."
Bob: "These were mailed in Sydney, Australia.
"She's joined the WAACs."
In Canterbury Cathedral Precincts
Paul explained how the scenes showing the soldiers marching into the Buttermarket and through the Christchurch Gate were filmed.
In the Precincts, discussing the Cathedral scenes
The South Door, through which Peter entered the Cathedral, is on the right. As we congregated here, Paul read Michael Powell's description of the Cathedral from page 67 of A Life in Movies.
We learned that the organist whom Peter meet on the pilgrims' steps was named 'Mr Kelsey' [Played by Eliot Makeham, just listed as 'organist' in the credits] - a detail not covered in Paul's book though on page 56 he mentioned the Kelsey family of Wickhambreaux.
Peter: "Have you seen Superintendent Hall anywhere?"
Organist: "This is Canterbury Cathedral, not the police station."
Peter: "I thought he might be here. He wants to see me urgently."
Organist: "Urgency: Hmmpphh!"
Peter: "Are you the organist?"
Organist: "Do I look like the charwoman?"
The group made a self-guided tour of the Cathedral, having been warned to take no notice if one of the official guides told them that he was in the south west transept with his father when the scene showing the mayoral procession entering the Cathedral was filmed! [Because that was really all filmed in the studio but with an amazing set that looks so like the Cathedral it fools many people]
Standing in the nave, we recalled Bob's line: "And my Dad's pa built the first Baptist church in Johnson County. Oregon red cedar ... 1887. That was a good job too."
Later we regrouped in the Cloisters outside Beckett's Doorway, through which the four knights who murdered Thomas Becket entered the Cathedral on Dec 29, 1170. We walked through the Dark Entry, described on page 66 of Michael Powell's A Life in Movies, and across the Green Court, where we learned that this was where one of the barrage balloons glimpsed in A Canterbury Tale was tethered.
At the King's School
About three hours had now elapsed since we left Canterbury West Station and we had lost about half a dozen members of the party!
Here Paul read Michael Powell's description of his old school from page 67 of Powell's A Life in Movies), then led us on to ...
The corner of Rose Lane
Alison: "Excuse me, would you mind telling me, is this Old Canterbury Lane?"
WVS Lady: "No, this is Rose Lane, Canterbury Lane is further up."
Alison: "I haven't been here since 1940. The Rose Hotel used to be here."
WVS Lady: "Right where we're standing. This is The Parade and this is St George's Street ... it is an awful mess, I don't blame you for not knowing where you are. You get a very good view of the Cathedral now."
We heard that only the opening line in this scene was filmed at this spot and went on to Burgate, where the conversation continued. Next, we moved on to ...
St George's Street
Here we did our best to follow Alison's route to Rose Lane Garage, passing the shops built on the 1942 Blitz bomb sites and checking the time on the clock that was seen in the film.
Paul and Sally Juniper re-enact the Rose Lane Garage scene
Alison: "Excuse me. is this Rose Lane Garage?"
Arthur: "Yes. You don't want to take her out, miss, do you?"
Alison: "No. I just want to look at her. She's a good friend of mine."
Arthur: "We haven't touched her since the blitz."
Alison: "What happened to the tyres?"
Arthur: "Requisitioned. You know the regulations. Mr Portal couldn't let you know, as he had no address for you ... he'll be glad you're here. I'll go and tell him."
Alison: "Hello Mr Portal, how are you?"
Mr Portal: "Why didn't you leave us your address?
"Two weeks ago Mr Geoffrey's father came here.
"He came here all the way from Oxford"
Alison: "He doesn't want the caravan. He can't have it. It was Mr Geoffrey's wish that I should have it ..."
Mr Portal: "It's quite all right Miss Alison, he doesn't want the caravan.
"He wants to get in touch with you.
"I told him I'd received a letter from you and that you were coming here.
"He's waiting for you.
"He's staying at the Falstaff.
"For over two weeks now he's waited for you here, in Canterbury.
"Because he has news, Miss Alison ... about Mr Geoffrey.
"He's in Gibraltar."
The site of Rose Lane Garage
From a staircase overlooking the site of Canterbury's recent "big dig" we saw the numbers 18 and 19 painted on the foundations of the new Whitefriars Shopping Centre and realized that they marked the site of the Rose Lane Garage!
At "Culpeper, the Herbalist"
Richard Fraser (2nd left with camera round his neck)
Trevor Williams (centre), Paul Tritton (right)
The walk ended at this appropriately named shop in St Margaret's Street, some four or five hours after we set off. Paul raffled a copy of his book and is seen here with the lucky winner.
If using the above notes as a self-guided walk we recommend that while in Canterbury you visit the 'Canterbury Tales' visitor attraction in St Margaret's Street and see the reconstructions of 14th century England and Geoffrey Chaucer's pilgrims' journey from London to St Thomas Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. Tel 01227 454888 for details.
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