”..a very old house bulging over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…” Charles Dickens, 1849
The Crooked House, sometimes known as Sir John Boys House, King’s Gallery, or Old King’s Shop, looks as if it is about to tumble over. Its skewed facade stops many visitors in their tracks.
Built in the 17th century, the Crooked House’s strange appearance has sparked a few stories. Some claim that it inspired a passage in Dickens’s David Copperfield. Others say it was the house of MP and recorder of Canterbury Sir John Boys; this has been discovered to be unfounded. Nonetheless, the house often takes his name.
The Crooked House is perched at the end of Palace Street, near the center of Canterbury and within earshot of the bells of the Cathedral. An internal chimney slipping gave the house its asymmetrical appearance. Today a steel frame keeps it in place, but the sight gives the building a dizzying effect.
It changes hands frequently: In recent years it has been a gallery, a bookshop, a school outfit shop, and an instrument shop. The severely crooked door has changed colors often, but has always remained askew. The Crooked House is a whimsical surprise just a little down from the high street and worth tilting at. Today, it is the home of Catching Lives Bookshop, which sells second-hand books to raise money for the homeless and vulnerably housed.