The Canterbury Sculpture Trail

The Canterbury Sculpture Trail - explore the city and experience public art, parks and gardens and the riverside.

Enjoy a free outdoor trail in the city of Canterbury, combining art and historic open spaces in one themed packaged aimed at encouraging people to actively explore the wider city. Since the late 1990s Canterbury City Council together with other organisations, including Canterbury Commemoration Society and Whitefriars Management Company have introduced public art into the city. Public art adds delight, creates memorable landmarks and in some instances, such as in the case of a seat, serves a practical purpose.

Total distance: 3.2 miles
Total time to walk: Approxmately 1 hour 30 minutes
Difficulty level: Surfaced paths, mostly flat with some gentle gradients. Some paths are shared with cyclists. Suitable for wheelchairs with some exceptions.

Download the leaflet

map of the Canterbury sculpture trail

Don't forget to tweet as you go along the trail and share photos and your thoughts with us using #canterburysculpturetrail

bronze queen bertha sculpture at lady woottons green in canterbury

1. 'Ethelbert and Bertha' by Stephen Melton

2006, Lady Wootton's Green

The statues symbolise the powerful political union between Ethelbert, the powerful English King, and his wife Bertha, a prominent figure in a dynasty that controlled much of what is now northern France. As King of Kent (Cantia), Ethelbert married Bertha, a Frankish princess and devout Christian creating a formidable trans-Channel alliance. The two sculptures capture the moment Ethelbert received news of the arrival of Pope Gregory’s emissary, St Augustine from Rome on 26 May 597. The statues serve to remind us of Canterbury’s importance; the cradle of Christianity and one of the first places where the spoken word was written down. It was during Ethelbert’s reign that language was first written down to record laws and customs. Canterbury Commemoration Society came up with the original idea for the statues, raised the funding needed and appointed the artist Stephen Melton. Canterbury City Council provided the site and carried out enhancement works (landscape design), to help bring the project to fruition in 2006.

lamb sculpture in whitefriars, canterbury

2. 'Lamb' by Kenny Hunter

2005, Whitefriars shopping centre

This bronze work addresses a diverse range of historical, religious and contemporary social issues through its singular sculptural form, a lamb standing on a tree stump. This organic, pastoral composition contrasts strongly with its location. The result is an intimate, tactile and ancient form placed within a busy public environment of modernity. Kenny Hunter's inspiration for the work includes William Blake's 'Jerusalem', the hymn being synonymous with English identity and a yearning for social justice.

drawings on the floor of Whitefriars shopping centre

3. 'The Pits' by Janet Hodgson

2005, Whitefriars shopping centre
York stone

Janet's permanent work celebrates the artistry of archaeology that records and interprets on-site archaeological finds. It consists of sandblasted ‘drawings’ in the Yorkstone paving slabs of Whitefriars Square. These drawings are exact copies of the stratigraphic archaeological drawings of the pits or holes that were found on the site during the excavations, enlarged to full size and positioned exactly where they were discovered. The work was developed during more than a year's observations of the archaeological excavation. Janet was fascinated not only in what the archaeologists found, but also in the detail of the excavation process, what the archaeologists considered important and how they 'drew' time. She was also struck by the archaeological practice of removal - a direct inversion of the normal process of construction.

'Silent Table' by Joss Smith in Canterbury

4. 'Silent Table' by Joss Smith

1999, Dane John Park
Portland Stone

A nearby Roman Guard Chamber set into the city wall close to Riding Gate Bridge inspired Joss to carve a still life composition with Roman connotations. Portland stone was used to produce a bright white focal point at the end of the avenue. Often focal points have a tall, vertical emphasis. In this instance the piece is predominantly horizontal. The enlarged scale gives the sculpture a monumentality and strong, calm, reflective presence.

close up of the font in dane john gardens, canterbury

5. 'Font' by Joss Smith

1999, Dane John Park
Portland Stone

Canterbury's religious importance in relation to the birth of Christianity in Britain inspired Joss to call the fountain 'Font'. The form of the fountain was inspired by a poppy seed. The grooves on the top of the seed emanate from a central point, slope down and serve to channel water in all directions. Like 'Silent Table', this piece was carved from light coloured Portland stone. Joss wanted to strengthen the connection between both pieces by using the same type of stone, even though the original inspiration for each was very different. This beautifully crafted piece is bold, and because of its gentle, monumental form, it contributes to the grace and tranquillity of the park.

'Bull' by Stephen Portchmouth in canterbury

6. 'Bull' by Stephen Portchmouth

2016, Tannery Field
Westgate Parks - Railway track

The Bull sculpture provides a unique form of interpretation linked to the past use of the site as a 'Slub Bank' for the disposal of waste from St Mildred's Tannery. Other connections include the Westgate Gardens cow kept by the Williamson family (who formerly owned Tower House and Westgate Gardens) to provide fresh milk, and Thomas Sidney Cooper who painted rural scenes featuring cows by the river in this location. Whilst creating the wildflower meadow at Tannery Field, part of the old Tannery Railway track was unearthed. This sculpture interprets all of this past history in an innovative and fun way.

location of alluvia in the river stour in canterbury

7. 'Alluvia' by Jason de Caires Taylor

2008, bed of the River Stour, visible from the bridge by Westgate Towers
Concrete and glass resin

Two female figures are lying horizontally, fixed to the bed of the river and visible from the bridge by the Westgate Towers, looking towards the Westgate Gardens. The sculptures are made of cast cement combined with glass resin. The title relates to the alluvial deposits of sand left by the rise and fall of the river. The sculptures act as environmental barometers, algae accumulating on their surface being indicative of eutrophication levels in the river caused by the release of chemicals and phosphates currently used in modern agriculture. The work draws reference to Sir John Evertt Millais' celebrated painting Ophelia (1851 - 1852).

Read more about the artist -

millers seat in canterbury

8. 'Millers Seat' by Tim Norris

2015, Millers Field, The Causeway
Sweet chestnut and flint

The design for the Millers Field seat was inspired by its surroundings. This is the site of a former water mill, an area just outside the city wall and an island enclosed by the river. The concept was to create a seating area made from wood, earth and flint. Its cirrcular wooden structure is reminiscent of an up-turned bevel gear commonly found in historic mills. The structure rises from the ground and contains a napped flint gabion under the seat. This provides ballast and solidity and pays homage to the architecture of the city's defensive walls. The seat is slightly raised with a grass bank enclosing the outside. This small grassy hill with a path up to it reflects the defensive features of a Motte and Bailey castle. Although designed as a slightly elevated seat, it is multi-purposed and provides a sculptural focal feature, a sitting space for up to five people and a play event for children.

Stainless Steel XXV by Richard Jones in canterbury

9. 'Stainless Steel XXV' by Richard Jones

1977, Kingsmead Riverside, opposite Sainsburys
Stainless steel 

This was designed by architectural student Richard Jones to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the enthronement of Queen Elizabeth II. It was originally installed in the Longmarket in the centre of the city in 1977. When the Longmarket was redeveloped in the 1990s, the sculpture was repositioned close to the river at Kingsmead, opposite Sainsbury's supermarket. Richard was studying at Canterbury School of Architecture when he designed it. The clever vertical form using Roman numerals to mark 25, the meaning of which is not immediately obvious, was made by students at Canterbury College.

Four Sculptural Sitting Decks by Angus Ross in canterbury

10. Four 'Sculptural Sitting Decks' by Angus Ross

2011, Kingsbrook Park, Riverside
Steam bent oak

The artist was commissioned by Canterbury City Council, in association with Berkley Homes, to enhance the experience of using a previously neglected riverside walk on the banks of the River Stour, alongside a new housing development. Angus' idea was that the platforms themselves become art works that would actively engage the public and enable them to spend time close to the river to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity. Angus was inspired by the meanderings of the river with its ripples and eddies, to generate the concept of sculptural seating which reflected these features in a series of differently shaped decks. Long thick planks of solid Scottish oak were steam-bent and shaped to create a series of dynamic places to sit, and possibly fish, alongside the river. Angus was involved in the crucial siting of each platform. He wanted to create the impression of the decks floating over the water (as far as river levels will allow). Quotes by Isaak Walton, known to have fished the Stour at Fordwich and author of the first recognised book on angling entitled ‘The Complete Angler’ (first published in 1653), were inscribed into step risers.

Abbots Seat by Andrew Lapthorn in canterbury

11. 'Abbots Seat' by Andrew Lapthorn

2015, Millers Arm Sluice
Sweet chestnut

Inspiration for the seat came from the components used to hold a water wheel in place and also the form of the existing bridge which supports the road crossing. Abbots Mill was one the city's largest manufacturing mills. The space was once the inside basement of the busy mill, however today it is a place to pause and enjoy the view. The sound of rushing water is a reminder of the once great importance of harnessing water power. The seat was crafted from a single piece of sweet chestnut found lying on the ground in a wood close to Canterbury.

Bulkhead by Rick Kirby in canterbury

12. 'Bulkhead' by Rick Kirby

2011, Marlowe Theatre, Riverside
Mild steel

The original title was 'Bulkhead' , however, the Marlowe seems to have adopted 'The Mask' as a reference to the symbolic masks associated with drama and the theatre. The piece was created around 2007, as part of a series of works produced by Rick of classically inspired images seen in their dying throes. Further information relating to this portfolio of work can be found in an interview by Neeta Borah that can be seen on the artist’s website at
Extract from interview - “Industrial influences loom large in his life. The giant heads he creates are reminiscent of the old ships he had seen when his family lived in Portsmouth. He would take the ferry to go to primary school and would see them, listing in the water, the great wasted hulks of timber and steel, skeletons that had once ruled world's oceans - the huge-ribbed "oak Leviathans" of Byron's Childe Harold. It left a profound impression. What he was witnessing then was Britain's great shipping industry in its dying throes. The ribs of the ships he had seen as a child are echoed in the structure of his sculptures, in particular in the make-up of the huge heads lying on their sides.” The sculpture was part of a show of large scale works exhibited throughout Canterbury in 2008, curated by the University of Kent. Bulkhead was installed as a temporary exhibit outside the old Marlowe Theatre. The local authority liked it so much they decided to purchase it for the city. The new Marlowe Theatre opened in 2011 when the sculpture was moved and installed in its present position beside the theatre overlooking the river.

13. 'Chaucer in Canterbury' by Samantha Holland and Lynne O'Dowd

2016, junction of Best Lane and High Street

When Canterbury Commemoration Society completed the Ethelbert and Bertha statues at Lady Wootton’s Green, it seemed appropriate to build on this commitment to celebrate Canterbury’s heritage and their successful track record by taking on another project – a statue of that giant of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales reflect another period of Canterbury’s rich history. There are two pieces of sculpture: the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer, created by Samantha Holland, and the horse-hoof shaped plinth on which it stands, created by Lynne O'Dowd. The plinth relief depicts around its circumference all the pilgrims in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ Prologue, each of them bearing the face of a modern Canterbury character. The sculpture is called the 'Chaucer in Canterbury Project' because it is essentially a celebration of Chaucer's writing of the Canterbury Tales. The narrative of the sculpture is of Chaucer greeting his fellow pilgrims as they emerge from their overnight stay at the Eastbridge Hospital on their way to Thomas Becket’s shrine in the Cathedral. 


Chaucer in Canterbury – The Figure by Samantha Holland Chaucer in Canterbury – The Figure by Samantha Holland

Facing the Eastbridge Hospital, and at a height of just over 2m, stands the bronze figure of Chaucer. Rather than representing Chaucer as author and poet, I’ve placed him within the context of this city by creating Chaucer - the character recorded in the verse of the Canterbury Tales. Dressed as a devoted pilgrim of the time, Chaucer leans against a staff, while offering his fellow travellers the observations made about them on their journey down from London. Chaucer holds out the first vellum page of the Canterbury Tales for everyone to read, referencing him as the first master of English literature. Using his own words from the text, I’ve tried to imbue the sculpture with the man’s characteristics: stoutness, wit, modesty and humanity. Looking at the figure straight on, he appears dignified and wise but by walking around the figure, it is possible to see a wry smile appear on the right hand side of Chaucer’s face, indicating perhaps his greatest trait – a sense of humour.

The Pilgrims’ Plinth by Lynne O’Dowd in canterburyThe Pilgrims’ Plinth by Lynne O’Dowd

Located between the new Beaney Library and the Eastbridge Hospital, the plinth relief portrays the thirty characters from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Prologue in the re-enactment of the pilgrimage from the Tabard Inn in London to Thomas Becket’s Shrine in Canterbury. The design incorporates symbols illustrating six of the 24 stories they told each other on the way, along with the only one Chaucer actually invented, The Canon Yeoman’s Tale. Artefacts set between the beginning and end of the procession of Pilgrims – a scrolled manuscript, quill, woodcut and metal letterpress blocks bearing Geoffrey Chaucer’s name - represent the technical progress of written stories gradually being made available to everyone. In homage to Chaucer’s lifetime of travel, the silhouette of the plinth evolved from an image of his astrolabe, the latest navigational instrument of the day, which you can just see inscribed into the floor under his feet. His passion for collecting stories on these journeys eventually brought us all ‘The Canterbury Tales’.

'Greyfriars Seat' by Alun Heslop in canterbury

14. 'Greyfriars Seat' by Alun Heslop

2016, Greyfriars Garden
Cast concrete and oak

Greyfriars is a contemporary seat providing a central meeting place. Although made using common materials, a great deal of thought went into the detailed design to protect against vandalism and weathering. The seat itself has been sculpted to create comfortable individual seating positions. The cast concrete curvilinear forms are a literal take on the colour grey, and of course in time, the oak seat will weather to a complimentary silver grey. The paved base anchors the seat in the soft grassed area and is also reminiscent of the stone floor of a building, such as an old chapel or church. The native oak timber for this piece was sourced and milled at 'Willows Sawmill', Uckfield, East Sussex.’

Parks and Gardens featured on this trail

The Dane John

Westgate Parks

Millers Field

Abbots Mill

Sollys Orchard

Greyfriars Garden

There are a number of excellent cafes, pubs and restaurants conveniently located along the route for refreshments. On a fine day why not take advantage of one of the sculptural seats with park or river views for picnic snacks (please respect the environment and put all waste in litter bins). There are public toilets along the trail at Whitefriars, Dane John Park, Toddlers Cove (Westgate Parks) and at Kingsmead Coach Park.

Don't forget to tweet as you go along the trail and share photos and your thoughts with us using #canterburysculpturetrail


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