Published: 12:25, 29 July 2011
by Alex Claridge
The new Westgate Towers and City Gaol Museums have officially opened.
After a year of work on the medieval and Victorian buildings, were finally unveiled during a gala reception in front dignitaries and members of the public last Thursday.
The re-opening of Canterbury’s second most famous building was the culmination of almost a year of work after the buildings were bought by entrepreneur Charles Lambie.
It consists of the towers and gaol plus a brand new cafe restaurant on the ground floor, where the reception was held.
“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge number of people, but there are a few people without whom this would not have been possible,” Mr Lambie said.
“Without council leader’s John Gilbey engagement straight, we would not be where we are today. The council has done so much work to help us.
“We have had so much support from private individuals as well.”
Amanda Cottrell, the chairman of Visit Kent, added: “Even in this county of such historic importance, extraordinary things happen.
“And here today we are witnessing something extraordinary with an entrepreneur bringing his business head to this project and I look forward to seeing many of you here often.”
The new City Gaol Cafe features a glass frontage which is built on the felons’ former exercise yard.
Cells occupied by the felons are also now able to be viewed for the first time – and historian Marjorie Lyle had a fascinating fact to reveal.
She told the Gazette: “The cells feature the first flush toilets in Europe. The prisoner would do his thing in little loo in the corner of the cell and then he would alert the warder who would have to pour water over it to flush it away.”
In June, the Westgate Towers was awarded the Cultural Landscape Award in the first ever Canterbury Cultural Awards for its “significant positive impact to the district’s environment and architecture”.