The History of Canterbury Cathedral Lodge

The current Lodge buildings (previously known as the International Study Centre, and also the Education Centre) were designed by Sir William Whitfield (1920-2019) and his architectural practice. Sir William was approached in 1990 for proposals for developing a site on the south side of the Cathedral precincts. This site was occupied by 1960s residential buildings, which had replaced buildings lost during the bombing of World War II. In the decades after the end of the war, there had been various discussions about the provision of buildings for education and hospitality on this site.

In addition to an ‘Education Centre’, the proposal from Sir Whitfield included a residential element for conference and course delegates and for visiting groups. From 1995 onwards, funding was sought for the project. Much was raised by a campaign in the US. The then Heritage Lottery Fund gave a grant of £2.25 million in 1997. Various bodies were approached for permission for the new buildings, the existing buildings were demolished, and archaeological digs were carried out. Construction started in 1998, with George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, laying the cornerstone during the Lambeth Conference of that year, as recorded on a carved stone slab. The first phase was completed in 2000, with the buildings opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent on 18th January. This phase of buildings included the auditorium, the audio-visual lecture theatre and the buildings now housing the Schools Department.

The residential block was opened in 2002. It included a refectory, a common room and a library. For the construction of this block, a roadway was inserted linking the site to the Postern Gate entrance along the back of Burgate house. This roadway remains in use for deliveries.

The buildings were designed to fit with their surroundings in the precincts. Sir William studied architecture at the Newcastle School of Architecture, then part of the University of Durham. From 1985 to 1990, Sir William held the position of Surveyor of the Fabric of St Paul’s Cathedral. In 1981, he designed the new Chapter House for St Albans Cathedral and in 1996 the Mappa Mundi Library at Hereford Cathedral. The design of the Lodge buildings shows Sir William’s interests in late gothic and Tudor architecture, with stylistic references to the Cathedral buildings themselves. The roofing of most of the buildings is of lead, reflecting the lead work on the Cathedral itself. The octagonal shapes mirror the octagonal shape of the Water Tower on the northern side of the Cathedral. The ‘Barn’ adopts a Kentish vernacular style and has a tile roof. Traditional materials were used in the construction and fittings, with the conference centre clad with bands of grey and buff stone and brick, and the residential block clad with yellow brick.

The Clagett Auditorium is named after C Thomas Clagett junior of Washington, who died in 2001. Another memorial to a member of the Clagett/Claggett family is in the Cloister: this is the memorial to Thomas John Claggett, consecrated as Bishop of Maryland in 1792, who was a direct descendant of George Claggett, three times Mayor of Canterbury in the early 17th century. In the Auditorium Foyer is a glass window etched with the names of figures from the arts who have a connection with the Cathedral. ‘The Barn’ is also known as the ‘Dean John Simpson Room’, after the Dean of the Cathedral at the time of the project’s development.

The Schools Department housed within the Lodge buildings welcomes school groups from the UK and beyond, offering a hands-on activities room and a lunch room. Amongst the residential courses held at the Lodge (disrupted during the Covid pandemic) are courses for new clergy and seminarians and for newly appointed bishops from across the Anglican Communion. When not in use for such courses, the Lodge is open to all as a hotel with high-quality accommodation, and as a venue for events and conferences.