An exciting new heritage project for families and young people exploring East Kent's real and imaginary medieval animals starts this month.

Medieval Animals Heritage in East Kent has been developed by the Centre for Kent History and Heritage (CKHH) at Canterbury Christ Church University, thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £99,800.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project starts this month and will run for two years. It aims to bring enjoyment and a greater understanding of East Kent’s heritage and history, as well as enable local young people, families, and especially families with special needs children to discover their fascinating local history and heritage.

Dr Diane Heath, Research Fellow at CKHH and Project Lead, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding and support thanks to National Lottery players. Our project will bring to life East Kent’s neglected but wonderful and nationally important heritage by working with local communities.

“St Anselm and other medieval scholars specifically sought to engage people's feelings by making animals the bearers of emotional meanings. Real and imaginary animals in medieval books, paintings and sculpture expressed in their times’ such as St Anselm’s soaring eagle and Rochester Bestiary’s brave lions and angry dragons, brought a sense of wonder to their world. It was even believed that wolves could hypnotise you with their glowing eyes and spookily imitate your voice.

“For the project we researched how we could best help families with special needs children with fun heritage ideas and places to visit. Through reimagining the creativity of the medieval scholars, we hope to be able to aid children with special needs with understanding their emotions, bring communities together, and support everyone’s wellbeing by enthusing them about local heritage.”

Mrs Penny Bernard, Project Co-Ordinator, added: “‘We will focus on medieval animals and their rich heritage ‘afterlife’ in East Kent’s animal history and culture - think Fantastic Beasts and Pokemon but weirder and cooler!”

The project will provide fun, free days out for families with special needs children, learning about local heritage – from making mermaid sandcastles on Thanet beaches to hearing about the medieval backstories of Wildwood wolves, and making up new tales in ‘tailtelling’ sessions.

Trainee teachers from Canterbury Christ Church University will be rolling out Medieval Animals Heritage activities into local primary schools and Christ Church student volunteers will also assist and support family events and help run this sustainable heritage project.

The project is also looking for volunteers of all ages to help explore East Kent’s unique heritage. Could you undertake a ‘green’ journey to your local church (by foot, bike, bus, or car-share)? Or map and snap the medieval animals carved into the church’s stone and wood and found in the stained glass and wall paintings? Would you like to join the ARChive team adding this new research to the website? For more information on how to join in and work with the project team contact:


Notes to editors

  • The Centre for Kent History and Heritage are delighted to be working with the children’s charity SNAAP, the University of Kent School of Architecture, Wildwood Zoo, Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington, Franciscan Gardens, Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, Thanet Trust for Archaeology, Royal Harbour Academy, Ramsgate, Rochester Cathedral and local societies and communities.
  • The project will use inspirational medieval ‘green heritage’ traced in diverse sources such as local rare native animals, zooarchaeology, dioramas, medieval archaeology, manuscripts and folklore traditions to foreground local, regional, and national history and urgent ecosystem sustainability engagement.  

About the Centre for Kent History and Heritage (CKHH)
The Centre for Kent History & Heritage, in the Faculty for Arts, Humanities, and Education, was set up in 2014 to support research and outreach and is the only academic centre to focus on the county’s history and culture. Among other events, we host the popular Canterbury Medieval Weekend and Canterbury History Weekend: Tudors and Stuarts with talks from well-known historians. Money raised from these prestigious events supports our Ian Coulson Memorial Bursary awards for our postgraduate students.

For more details on the Centre visit here or see our blog

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund