Canterbury Uncovered

Curious Canterbury: The Old Crooked House

A kooky place to visit….

Location: 32 Palace St, Canterbury CT1 2DZ

Rumour has it that the building was leant on by a giant passing through the city. Perhaps the door was leaning to whisper a secret and couldn’t get back up again. Perhaps a strong wind knocked it sideways in the great storm of 1892. Or maybe that’s the way it was built, forged by an eccentric carpenter with an eye for parallelograms.

The truth is, nobody really knows the exact history of the wonky door found at the Northgate entrance to the city. Over the years it’s changed hands on many occasions; it was once believed to be the former house of the MP of Canterbury, Sir John Boys, but this has since been disproved. Regardless, the house still holds his name, along with all of its other personalities. Since the 17th century, it’s been host to a bookshop, a gallery, a school uniform shop and an instrument shop, and the building has sold many songs and told many stories, both spoken and unspoken. Its appearance has even led some onlookers to draw parallels with a passage in Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield:

..a very old house bulging over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…

Cold, fastidious, factual people will tell you that an internal chimney slipping gave the house its asymmetrical appearance and that today, a steel frame keeps it firm in place. For now though, I would prefer it if we all agreed to suspend our disbelief until proven otherwise; after all, for many it will always be a building that belongs to a magical rather than a material world; to alchemists rather than chemists, to little boys full of wonder rather than John Boys, the former MP.

It is a building with character and is, therefore, a local spectacle, often cited as being the most photographed building in Canterbury. Take a look and take a picture next time you meander through the city streets. Perhaps the house will whisper another secret.

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