~THE CHEQUERS INN~
CORNER OF HIGH STREET AND MERCERY LANE
Built by Prior Chillenden about the year 1400? ..much of this building was burnt down in 1865
On August 18, 1865, the building was effected by a fire, which destroyed quite a few buildings on High Street
Chequers of Hope Inn Deeds available at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives (1790 -1842)
A photograph in my collection showing High Street (old Chequers Inn) on the left
"Under a statute of the reign of King Edward VI., only four innholders within the City could enjoy this privilege at the same time. Between 1660 and 1685 the following inns received a licence. The Crown in St. Mary Bredman, the Sun in St. Alphege, the Chequers in St. Andrews, the Red Lion (formerly the Lion at Hoop) in the High Street, where the licensee is described as a Surgeon; the Three Kings in All Saints, the White Heart in St. Margarets, the Seven Stars in St. Alphege, the Saracen's Head in All Saints and the Rose in St. Andrews"
September 1802, died at Canterbury, Mr. Crothell of the Chequers public house - The Monthly Magazine 1802
Chequers of Hope, a drawing from Felix Summerly's Handbook for the city of Canterbury, 1843
1503 Leased by Ralph Preston, "The Chekyr" in St. Andrews Parish, leased for a term of 7 years
Chaucer's Inn in Canterbury
"Not a fragment of it is still an inn, or we would recommend it, out of old associations' sake. In Mercery Lane, and the little court at the west of it, however, he may still trace out some of its remains. Year by year it has lost more and more of its features, from the unsympathetic pressure of modern circumstances. Within a short time, the upper part of a room was to be seen, as we here present it, through the kindness of R. Frend, Esq., who has allowed us the use of an original drawing, representing the room before it was filled with the tools and shavings and litter of a cabinet-maker's workshop. On the opposite side of the court was another portion of the inn, the original dimensions of which have been divided and altered in consequence of the requirements of our publisher, Mr. Ward, who wanted three more bed-rooms for his family. Let us here mention, as we are so close to his establishment in Mercery Lane, that he has still one copy of this work left for sale."
Felix Summerly's Handbook for the city of Canterbury, 1843
"The streets of Canterbury still present many interesting specimens of old domestic architecture, but their chief riches in this class of monuments have perished within the last half century. We might point out as worthy of attention several houses in Northgate Street, a good corner house in Palace Street, a house in Burgate Street, with some interesting wood carving, and the picturesque stack of buildings in St. Dunstan's Street, near Westgate formerly known as the Star Inn. The most interesting house in the town is, however, the famous Chequer Inn, the supposed place of lodging of Chaucer's motley troop of pilgrims, now subdivided into tenements, and sadly altered and defaced, but bearing many marks of its ancient character. It forms the corner of High Street and Mercery Lane.
In the early municipal documents, this inn is sometimes mentioned as being used on public occasions, and among the extracts read before the historical section it was stated that in 1546 the prince's players acted in it before the mayor and corporation. Its proximity to the cathedral naturally made it the resort of such pilgrims as were able to pay for good lodgings. The description of the arrival of Chaucer's party, given by the author of the supplement to the "Canterbury Tales," printed by Urry (written apparently not long after Chaucer's death), is too good a picture of "Canterbury in the olden time" to be passed over in silence. The writer of this rather unpolished performance tells us how the pilgrims arrived in Canterbury at "mid-morowe" (in the middle of the forenoon), and took up their lodgings at the Chequer:
"They toke their in and loggit them at mydmorow I trowe
Atte Checker of the hope, that many a man doth knowe:
and how, mine host of Southwark having given the necessary orders for their dinner, they all proceeded to the cathedral to make their offerings at the shrine of St. Thomas. At the church door they were sprinkled with holy water:
Then at chirch dore the curtesy gan to ryse,
Tyl the knyght, of gentillnes that knew right wele the gayse,
Put forth the prelatis, the parson and his fere.
A monk, that took the spryugill with a manly chere,
And did as the manere is, moilid (wet) al their patis.
Everich aftir othir, righte as they were of statis.
The frere feynyd fetously the spryngill for to hold
To spryng oppon the remnaunt, that for his cope he nold
Have last that occupacioune in that holy place,
So longid his holy conscience to se the nonnis fase."
"The inn now offers externally few features which would be recognised by Chaucer's pilgrims. The most remarkable part is row of stone arches on the ground floor, which now form the windows and door of the corner shop, and which appear to have been a kind of open portico, serving as the grand entrance to the inn. Gostling tells us, that in his time people remembered more of these arches running along the street, which had been demolished to make new fronts to the houses. This probably is the oldest part of the building. Beneath it is a cellar, with a very flat-arched stone roof, represented in the cut in the margin. Proceeding through an arched passage from High Street, we see from the yard many intereseting remnants of the woodwork of the old building. In Gostling's time, a staircase led to a wooden gallery, which ran round the building to the right in the view in our engraving (which looks from the yard towards the street), and old men still remember its existence. The large room at the top, which occupied the whole upper part of the building, until cut up into small rooms and lofts, is supposed to have been the one which the poet had in his mind as that occupied by his pilgrims, and it is still called the hall of the hundred beds. We might cite many passages from old writers, shewing the general prevalence of hte custom of lodging a number of guest indiscriminately in one room filled with beds. One end of the great room of the Chequer, of which the exterior is seen in our view from the yard, and an interior view is given below in the same plate, still retains its original appearnce, and is occupied as a cabinet-maker's workshop, but many of its features are concealed by the tools and lumber of the workmen........
The well-stored garden of the Chequer was no longer there to invite the attention of the ladies, although, instead of it, the superb nursery-ground of Alderman Masters was opened to the visitors.
......It was a very large inn, as was necessary for the enormous resort of votaries to the shrine of this pugnacious saint. It is now divided into several houses, and has been modernized externally, bearing no longer traces of having been an inn. The way to the court-yard is through a narrow doorway passage, and round the court you see the only evidences of its antiquity - remains of carved wood-work, now whitewashed over. 1863
Noted on a sign in the doorway or doorframe is "Chaucer's Inn 1383"
The Chequers Inn 1858
"Mr Beresford-Hope, in the course of his interesting explanations of the wonderful restoration of the monastery, exhibited an encaustic tile, forming a sundial, found near St. Ethelbert's Tower. It was encased in an oak frame carved from a beam of the ancient Chequers Inn, and was presented to the college by Mr. Pout.
The Pilgrims' Inn - In spite of the variety of other attractions, a number of ladies and gentlemen, at different periods of the afternoon, found leisure to call on Mr. Pout or Mr. Wood, in the High Street, with a view to inspect the famous Chequers Inn, mentioned in Chaucer as the resting-place of the pilgrims who came to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket.
The gentlemen in whose possession is this curious relic of the past were most obliging in leaving their business every few minutes to conduct their visitors over the famous sleeping-room of the pilgrims. It is however, best to be content with the view of the exterior, which remains as it always was, for the modern furniture of an auctioneer's warehouse is a hindrance to completely realising its ancient features. The Chequers was built in the form of a quadrangle, with an open courtyard: the suites of rooms projected in front over each other, and were supported by pillars forming a colonnade. The vaulted cellars under Mr. Wood's shop were found to be perfect, and in the same condition as Chaucer's time."
The Gentlemen's Magazine 1858
"The same kind of friend who furnished the drawing has, at our request, supplied us also with a few miscellaneous recollections of Ancient Inns in England, which, from his long acquaintance with most parts of the kingdom, cannot fail to be acceptable to our readers, especially to those who are interested in ancient architecture.
The ancient Inn at Canterbury, which was used by the pilgrims to the shrine of St. Thomas, remains, converted into houses and shops, and is described in the various works relating to that city."
The Gentlemen's Magazine 1845
"The greater part of the old Chequers Inn, mentioned by Chaucer as frequented by pilgrims visiting Becket's shrine, has been converted into a range of dwellinghouses, extending from St. Mary Bredman's church nearly half-way down Mercery-lane;"
"Antiquarian Researches - Mr. Brent exhibited an oak carving found last year at the Chequers Inn, Mercery Lane, Canterbury, where Chaucer and his companions lodged when they wended their way - The holy blisful martir for to seke." The Gentlemen's Magazine 1855
"In the High-street, at the corner of Mercery-Lane, is the site of the Chequers Inn, mentioned by Chaucer in his "Canterbury Tales," as being frequented by the pilgrims of his time. A great portion of the building is in the occupation of Mr. G. Wood, draper."
The Old Chequers Inn on the left c. 1877
"Mercery-lane, leading off the High-street, was named from the mercery-stalls at which pilgrims bought memorials of their visit, and contains some window arches of the "Chequers of the Hope," noted by the lively and laughter loving Chaucer; and the first opening west of this lane shows part of the court into which the pilgrims rode."
The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, Vol. I. 1872
© T. Machado 2007