34 St Margaret’s Street
Tiny Tims Tearoom was lucky enough to open its doors in 2007 at 34, St Margaret’s Street, one of Canterbury’s most beautiful and historic buildings on the most haunted street in Canterbury. Originally built in the 1600′s it has had many residents.
The first recorded history of the building was the thousand year lease of the plot of land to Sir Geoffrey Newman, whom it would appear made his money conducting piracy off the coasts of France and Spain. He developed the house on the site of a previous Roman town house after being convicted of piracy in France and banished. On his return to England he met with the Dean of Canterbury who offered a lease for 999 years on the condition that no father living at the house outlived his only son.
The picture above shows the back facade of the building showing the leaded windows and the jacobean architecture. It has been suggested that the original bay window on the first floor was taken from the ship captained Sir Geoffrey in c1600. Now, careful restoration and reproduction shows how the building would have looked during our medieval heritage.
The property was originally larger and Sir Geofrey lived here with his wife and 12 children. Over the years the Newman family passed the property down through the generations. Eventually the property was split into four seperate residences with 34, St Margaret’s Street remaining as the main house.
It took until the German bombing raids of World War 2 for the Newman family to breach the conditions of their lease when the only living son was tragically killed, but by then, the arrangements governing the lease had long been forgotten and in 1957, the last of the Newman line died. His wife, who lived a further 12 years sold the properties back to the Chapter and Dean of Canterbury for a substantial sum of money and moved away to live in the Virgin Islands. It was a little while later when an archivist uncovered the original lease indicating that the properties already belonged to the Chapter and Dean, but by now the widow had disappeared without realising any law had been broken.
The devastating fire
In the 1980′s, the building was leased as a Chinese restaurant but a devastating fire destroyed a substantial portion of the building. Amazingly the fire uncovered many of the original features of the building that were previously hidden from view. These exciting discoveries persuaded the council to reinstate the property to its original glory with a full restoration project.
The council conservation officer was keen to restore the building using as near original materials as possible and using authentic building techniques. Many of the walls including the rear outside walls are made of lathe and plaster. The photo shows the amount of work involved in recreating the rear of the building during the restoration. The whole building has been given a makeover including the reinstatement of the oak staircase and the revealing of 7 fireplaces.
Since then the buildings’ inhabitants have included the Visitor Information Centre and a furniture store. Now, Tiny Tim’s Tearoom has taken on the property, and has spent time replacing the dark blue colour scheme and hoping to show it in all its splendour from the sloping walls, rustic beams, and leaded windows… to the quirky assortment of rooms and staircases that we have carefully adapted to suit our purpose with the full backing of the conservation department. We hope that our refurbishment project gives this building the respect that it has long deserved and that you enjoy exploring the many nooks and crannies during your visit.