Visit to The Deanery, Canterbury

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Members of the Rotary Club of Dover and their partners were given a very special treat when they were guests of the Very Reverend Doctor Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, at his residence The Deanery in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral.

Dean Robert is the 39th Dean of Canterbury since the Reformation and was installed in July 2001 having previously been Dean of Hereford for nine years. He is an honorary Doctor of Divinity of Yale University and Doctor of Civil Law of the University of Kent and is a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent. He had been a guest speaker at the Rotary Club in 2016 and invited the Rotarians to a tour of his house to view the unique collection of portraits of all his predecessors in post since the Reformation beginning with Nicholas Wotton who in 1541 became the first post-Reformation Dean of Canterbury and who survived in post during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, one of the most unsettled and dangerous periods of English Christian history.

The evening visit, organised by Past President of the Rotary Club the Reverend Peter Sherred in conjunction with The Dean’s PA, began with Rotarians and their partners attending evensong in The Crypt of the Cathedral after which the Dean conducted them on a tour of the Chapter House and Cloisters  before providing refreshments in The Deanery and taking his invited guests on a tour of the building. He described its history and talked of some of the differing characters of the men who had held the post currently held by him. These included some of his more recent predecessors such as Hewlett Johnson, Dean from 1931 -1963, whose nickname "The Red Dean of Canterbury" was given for his support for the Soviet Union, and Dean Robert’s immediate predecessor John Simpson who lives in retirement in Folkestone.

The unique collection of the oil portraits of all the post Reformation Deans, including that of Dean Robert, occupies the walls on all three levels of The Deanery. Following a tour of the building and its exquisite gardens President Dave Smith thanked Dean Robert for his kindness in offering the invitation to club members and for his hospitality adding that it was “a unique and wonderful occasion.”