Explore Downstairs


Explore the collections and displays on the ground floor of Canterbury Heritage Museum.

1. Prehistoric to Roman Canterbury

Fossils from tropical sea and Ice Age periods in Canterbury and East Kent with images of what the area was like 100 million to 20,000 years ago. Displays include a fish, ammonite and mammoth tusk. Early hunters shaped flints into tools 600,000 to 5,000 years ago. Their flint tools and arrowheads are displayed, along with the skull of an Aurochs or giant ox like those hunted for food. Early settlers worked metal into tools, first bronze (Bronze Age) then iron (Iron Age).

2. Post-Roman invasion

After the Romans left in AD 410, Britain was invaded by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Many local people fled or were killed. Settlers in the sixth century were mainly pagans. The king of Kent, Ethelbert, married a Christian princess, Bertha, and in AD 597 they welcomed Augustine, who baptized 10,000 people. A wooden Cathedral was built and Canterbury became a centre for learning. Vikings raided the area in the ninth and tenth centuries, murdering Archbishop Alphege.

8. Eighteenth to early-twentieth century Canterbury

Displays here focus on Canterbury in the eighteenth century, Victorian technical innovations and dining, the First World War and Canterbury heroes, and decorative items for the homes from the 1920s to 1930s.

9. Joseph Conrad's study

Polish-born Joseph Conrad, regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, lived in Kent after working at sea, and spent his last five years at Bishopsbourne, near Canterbury. A recreation of his study includes his writing table, typewriter, favourite pen, chess box and hatbox. Memorabilia and photographs are also displayed, along with a bronze bust of Conrad made by Sir Jacob Epstein in 1924, a few months before the writer died.

10. Second World War and Canterbury Blitz

In the medieval Great Hall of the Poor Priests Hospital are displays commemorating the devastation of Canterbury during the 'Baedeker Blitz' and aspects of everyday life, from rationing to 'Make do and Mend', during the Second World War. The Great Hall has a magnificent medieval oak-beamed roof, blackened by smoke from the open hearth you can see outlined on the floor: there was no chimney and smoke seeped through the roof.

11. Stephenson's 'Invicta' steam engine

A key highlight at Canterbury Heritage Museum is the real 'Invicta' steam locomotive, one of Britain's railway icons. It was designed and built by Robert Stephenson for the Canterbury and Whitstable railway, which opened on 3 May 1830 and was the first railway in the world to operate a dedicated steam-powered passenger service. Displays include a cross-section of the railway route, showing how wagons were hauled up the hills by stationary winding engines.

12. 1950s to 1970s home life

Go back in time and see what items from the 1950s to 1970s homes you can remember. Objects displayed range from cutlery and ceramics to lamps and other electrical goods. Spot familiar faces among famous Canterbury residents recalled in album covers, newspaper cuttings and photographs, from Orlando Bloom to members of the band Caravan.

13. Bagpuss and Friends

Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin both came to live near Canterbury and began collaborating in 1958. Their Smallfilms productions celebrated with real props include Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pogles Wood, The Clangers and Bagpuss. See the real original Bagpuss in a recreation of Emily's shop window with lots of the real objects Emily found. There is a 3D flying boat for Noggin the Nog and some of the real Clangers, as well as the Pogles family.

14. Images of Canterbury

Oliver Postgate's 'Canterbury Chronicle' presents a light-hearted view of some of the more incongruous and occasionally absurd incidents in the city's long history. Other images of Canterbury on display include views of the Cathedral and city streets. There is also a selection of interpretations by various artists of Canterbury pilgrims, inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'.

15. Rupert Bear

Rupert Bear was created by Canterbury-born artist Mary Tourtel for the Daily Express in 1920. Fun-packed activities for the family feature alongside a recreation of Tourtel drawing one of her Rupert stories, surrounded by mementoes of her artist family, the Caldwells. There are various illustrated books by Tourtel, early editions of Rupert strip cartoons and Annuals, and merchandise from past to recent. Tourtel was succeeded by Albert Bestall and there are some of this elaborate illustrations for Annual endpapers displayed.


Follow the Museums on:

Opening Times 

Find out the latest opening times.



Adults £8.00

Discounts £6.00

Children free to a maximum of two children per paying adult

Group tickets available

Joint ticket for Heritage Museum and Roman Museum (Wednesdays to Sundays until 28 September 2014)
Adults £10.00
Discounts £8.00

Admission free to MyTownMyCity users, except for some special events.


How to find us

Canterbury Heritage Museum
Stour Street, CT1 2NR

Phone: 01227 475202




Have details of our latest exhibitions and events sent straight to your inbox.