Spotlight: The Catching Lives Crooked Bookshop

Just across from the King’s School, on the corner of Palace Street, is a whimsical little building that looks as though it might just topple over from the gentlest of breezes.

Built sometime in the early 17th century, this half-timbered, three-story building wasn’t always crooked. At some point in its history, the once-straight structure underwent a chimney renovation, which resulted in a slip somewhere in its frame. The outcome of the accident is the delightfully skewed lean that can be seen today.

Not to worry, though; the building has been perfectly safe ever since a steel frame was inserted to maintain its status as a standing structure.

Also known as the Sir John Boys House (an old MP of Canterbury who was said to have occupied the home at one point), the Crooked House has been many things during its life, including an art gallery, a school outfit shop, and even a store for musical instruments.

Today, the most photographed building in Canterbury (okay, besides the Cathedral) houses the Catching Lives Bookshop, whose profits go to helping those without homes. It also serves as an iconic feature of the early modern city, providing tourists and residents alike with the perfect funky photo op.

Through the wonky front door are walls swelling with second-hand books of all varieties. Up the narrow and winding stairs, where the children’s books are kept, is a peaceful chair for those who want to relax and peruse a title or two. And just above the entrance you’ll find a quote:

”..A VERY OLD HOUSE BULGING over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…” Charles Dickens, 1849

While we’re not sure if this little leaning house did, in fact, inspire Dickens, we do know that it surely inspires us.


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