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Former Baptist chapel in Canterbury relaunches as quirky wedding venue where even dogs can tie the knot

One of Kent's quirkiest and most intimate new wedding venues has opened – and even dogs can get married there.

The bijou venue is an historic former chapel embedded in the medieval city wall in Canterbury.

Julia Williamson-Sinclair in her new wedding venue (54901525)
Julia Williamson-Sinclair in her new wedding venue (54901525)

Now called the City Wall Tower, the business in Burgate Lane is the brainchild of Julia and Aleasha Williamson-Sinclair who bought the historic building in 2019.

They paid a little over £160,000 for the Grade II-listed property and have spent £20,000 giving the interior a makeover to make it brighter and more welcoming.

But their launch plans were thwarted by the pandemic and they have only now started to take bookings.

Their venue offers a variety of civil services and small gatherings from weddings and blessings, to baby-naming ceremonies and even dog weddings.

"The dog weddings is a bit of a quirky thing that we just put in there because it's all the rage in America and could come here too," said Julia, 38, who also runs a dog grooming business.

The City Wall Tower has a luxury dressing room (54901514)
The City Wall Tower has a luxury dressing room (54901514)

"We haven't had any inquiries yet but, of course, would accommodate one because it is a dog-friendly venue."

The couple, who live in Ashford and have a 10-month-old son, say they always had ambitions to run a wedding venue. Aleasha has experience in the industry, having previously worked as a registrar, although now runs a flooring company.

But most locations were far too big to contemplate financially.

"When this came on the market we just thought it would be perfect because of its size, character and location," said Julia.

"We had to submit a sealed bid to the Baptist church owners who I think had decided to sell because it had become so little used.

The former Zoar Baptist Chapel in Canterbury (54901519)
The former Zoar Baptist Chapel in Canterbury (54901519)

"Apparently, there were offers from people who wanted to open a shop or cafe.

"But we were chosen because they liked the fact that we are keeping the integrity of the building, although technically we cannot still call it a chapel because it's for civil services."

While the city wall foundations are thought to date from around 1140, the tower and stonework that creates the main area is thought to be late 14th Century.

Its varied and interesting past includes the tower becoming the conduit and water supply for Canterbury for nearly 25 years from 1801 to 1825.

The old water tower was eventually sold by Canterbury Council to the Strict Baptists in 1845 and re-named 'Zoar Chapel'.

"We like that it's such an interesting, historical building with a fascinating past."

The main hall measures just 30ft x 21ft and is licensed to accommodate up to 80 people, but Julia says about 50 is a more comfortable number.

They have also just applied for a premises licence so that couples and guests can enjoy a glass of champagne after the ceremony, before moving on to their reception.

"We like that it's such an interesting, historical building with a fascinating past," said Julia.

"Marriages have been held here in the past, including that of Edmund Reed in 1846, who was the leading police investigator in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and later moved to Herne Bay.

"Already we are getting interest and bookings and our first wedding is in May, which will be very exciting."

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