The Major Value of Canterbury’s UNESCO Status
In December 1988 UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation based in Paris, inscribed Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church as a three domain World Heritage Site.
The project was to help highlight the story of the reintroduction of Christianity to England starting with St Augustine’s AD 597 arrival on a mission from Rome.
In addition to its cultural value, the designation has also had a knock-on effect of significantly boosting the area’s tourism with its enhanced status.
In 1987 English Heritage opened the bespoke UNESCO Abbey Visitor Centre in time for the 1,400th anniversary of Augustine’s mission.
The tiny ancient parish church of St Martin’s, which is said to be England’s oldest church and where Augustine arrived at when he first came, continued to open its doors on a regular basis to visitors from all around the world. These two rather hidden sites outside the ring road and city wall were predominantly put on the map because of UNESCO.
In 2002 a Management Plan and partnership agreement was issued. Other partners included the King’s School, Christ Church University (both on parts of the overall site) and the City Council. The council’s remit is to create a three-site trail and ensure the city is welcoming and easily navigable.
Since 2002, the Cathedral has successfully sought Heritage Lottery Fund money to complete a large building project, which includes a new visitor centre, due to open this year. With the opening of this cathedral facility, around £5 million in today’s terms has been spent on visitor improvements across the sites.
Currently 7.2 million visitors come to Canterbury district annually and generate an estimated £454 million for the local economy.