Sort file:- Canterbury, March, 2024.

Page Updated:- Saturday, 23 March, 2024.


Earliest 1664


Open 2024+

62 (13) St. Dunstan's Street


01227 463187

Unicorn 1907

Above postcard, 1907, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Unicorn 1925

Above photo, 1925, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Unicorn 1935

Above photo, 1935, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Unicorn 1949

Above photo, circa 1949, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Unicorn 1965

Above photograph by Edward Wilmot 1965.

Unicorn drawing 1972

Above print from "City of Canterbury Streets and Buildings," drawing by John Berbiers. 28 May 1972.

Unicorn Unicorn Unicorn signUnicorn sign 1980

Above photos and sign left taken by Paul Skelton, 19 May 2012.

Unicorn sign right 1980.

Unicorn sign 1980sUnicorn sign 1991

Unicorn sign left 1980s, and the sign on the right July 1991

Above with thanks from Brian Curtis

Unicorn beermat

Above beermat 1960s, kindly sent by Mike L.

Drawing above taken from innsociety website, date unknown.

Unicorn painting

Painting above taken from a picture hanging inside the pub, date unknown.

Unicorn inside 2017

Above photo, circa 2017, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.


I believe this pub was called the "Star" from between 1740 and 1860 but started off as the "Unicorn" and changed back to the "Unicorn."

This was at one time a Flint & Son's tied house, whose St. Dunstan's Brewery was just over the road.


Information taken from their web site. A picture frame inside the pub also holds the same information

This inn known as the name and sign of the "Unicorn" was built in the 35th year of Elizabeth I, in 1593. Though this original structure has at different intervals of time undergone alteration.

When first built the property was a dwelling house, owned by one Robert Budden, a woollen drayper of Canterbury. He held title to this and two other properties in the City, a messuage in Burgate Street and another in Kingstreet (now Best Lane) until his death in the final year of James I, in 1625, whereafter only a 'widow Buddenne' is recorded here. By 1638, she had sold this house to one Solomon Buesden, a leather merchant of Canterbury, who it appears conducted the business of buying and selling hides from the house for many years to follow.

By 1661, Buesden had died and the property had been passed to his son Isaac a leather seller of St Dunstan's, who was carrying on the family business. However in 1664 he applied for and was granted a licence to sell ales from the premises, which at first bore no title other than that of an ale house in St Dunstan's and that Isaac Buesden, a leather seller and now tapster was of that house. He kept the house until his death in 1692, whereafter it passed to his son Jacob. In that same year he registered the house under the title of "The Unicorn"'.

Jacob Buesden kept "The Unicorn" until 1708. In that year he sold it to Thomas Snelling, a shoemaker of Canterbury. He kept it for only a short while before selling in 1712, and moving to Beercart lane, where he had a shoemaking business for many years to follow. "The Unicorn" was purchased by Henry Nat Vile. In that year he made a successful application before the justices at Canterbury and was granted a full licence for the house. He kept it until his death in 1736, where-after his daughter Susannah, inherited it and all it contained, by the terms of his will. She is recorded as a milliner by trade and appears to have conducted this business, beside the day to day running of "The Unicorn".

Susannah Sorrell sold "The Unicorn" in 1741, to Stephen Stokes who in that same year changed the name of the house to that of "The Star". However this proved unpopular, for in the following year he changed it back again to "The Unicorn". He kept the house until 1763, selling it in that year to Phillip Watson. A brewer of Longport and by 1765 one Zacharia Powell was keeping the house on a lease, he had purchased from him. Powell kept it until 1772, handing over in that year to Wiliam Norris, a cutler of North Lane. By the time he left in 1780, Phillip Watson had sold the house to Francis Giles who was also a brewer of Longport.

Nathan Salmone took over the lease and stayed until 1787, being succeeded in that year by James L. Fisher. Before the close of the 18th Century there followed three other innkeepers. In 1794, Thomas Sewell, in 1796, Frederick Solley and in 1799, Thomas Patcher. It was whilst in the hands of the latter that "The Unicorn" gained the reputation of being a 'bawdy house'. Between 1802 and 1808 certain affrays took place in this house and as a result of which complaints were made and the offenders charged as follows:- In May 1802, one called Venn described as a ruffian was charged with assaulting a women called Sedgegrove for which he was sentenced for three months in Canterbury Prison, in 1804 Timothy Johns was ordered to pay a fine of 4 pounds or go to prison for one month for insulting the landlord Patcher, in 1805 one called Rawlings was fined 5 pound for drunkenness and insulting behaviour, and on the last occasion in 1808 after an affray between a miller called Adams and a carpenter called Potter, over the repute of a women called Grissen, Thomas Patcher was himself brought before magistrates and fined 8 pounds for keeping 'a disorderly and bawdy house'.

In 1810, Patcher gave up "The Unicorn" to Thomas Wraight, and in 1815, Mrs Eliza Giles sold to Flint and Kingsford brewers of St Dunstan's. Wraight in 1817, was succeeded by John Holmes who kept the house until 1833, being succeeded by Isaac Ratcliffe, whose brother Richard was a bootmaker of St Dunstan's. Ratcliffe was succeeded in 1851 by Alfred Foreman, he in 1865 by James Partiss, he in 1873 by James Roberts, he in 1889 by George Jordan, he in 1894 by William Benson, he in 1897 by George Blackman, he in 1902 by James Draper and whilst in his hands the Flint Brewery sold to Leney's in 1923 who were eventually taken over by Whitbread, Fremlin. Draper left in 1912 being succeeded by George Minter, he in 1921 by Charles Fisk, he in 1923 by William Best, he in 1932 by Henry Callow and he in 1937 by Cyril Gerrard. He Stayed until 1958 when he was succeeded by Edward Evans, he in 1959 by Frederick Evans and he in 1960 by Donald Stanley White, and he in 1961 by Stanley Newman, he in 1967 by Bernard George Acton, being succeeded in 1982 by John Frank Balcombe, who was succeeded 1997 by the present keepers Lorenzo Domenico Carlo and Emma Louise Carnevale-Maffe', joined by David and Donatella Wilkinson in 2006.


The qualities attributed to the "Unicorn" caused this animal to be used as a sign both by chemists and goldsmiths. It was believed that the only way to capture it was to leave a handsome young virgin in one of the places where it resorted. As soon as the animal had perceived her, he would come and lie quietly down beside her, resting his head in her lap, and fall asleep, in which state he might be surprised by the hunter who watched for him. This laying the head in the lap of a virgin made the first Christians choose the Unicorn as the type of Christ born from the Virgin Mary.

The horn, as an antidote to all poison, was also believed to be emblematic of the conquering or destruction of sin by the Messiah. Religious emblems being in great favour with the early printers, some of them for this reason adopted the Unicorn as their sign; thus John Harrison lived at the UNICORN AND BIBLE in Patercoster Row, 1603. Again, the reputed power of the horn caused the animal to be taken as a supporter for the apothecaries arms, and as a constant signboard by chemists.

Whatever it was that passed for Unicorn's horn (probably the horn of a Narwhal), it was sold at an immense price. "The Unicorn whose horn is worth 7 city," says Decker in his Gull's Hornbook; and Andrea Racei, a Florentine physicist, relates that it had been sold by the apothecaries at 24 per once, when the current value of the same quantity of gold was only 2 3s. 6d. In a MS table of Customs entitled, "The Book of Rates in ye first years of Queen Mary 1531," we find the duty paid upon "Cornn unicorni ye once 20s."

An Italian author who visited England in the reign of Henry the Seventh, speaking of the immense wealth of the religious houses in the country says:- "And I have been informed that, amongst other things, many of these monasteries possess unicorns' horns of an extraordinary size." Hence such a horn was fit to be placed among the royal jewels, and there it appears at the head of an inventory taken in the first year of Queen Elizabeth, and preserved in Pepys's Library. "Imprimis, a piece of unicorn's horn," which, as the most valuable object, is named first.

There was no doubt that the piece was seen by the German traveller Hentzner, at Windsor: "Wewere shown here, among other things, the horn of a unicorn of about eight spans and a half in length, valued at above 10,000." Peacham places "that horne of Windsor (of an unicorne very likely)" among the sights worth seeing. Fuler also speaks of a unicorn's horn - "in my memory shown to people in the Tower" and enters on a long dissertation about its virtues; but it seems to have been lost, or at least, no longer exhibited in his time.

The belief in the efficacy and value of this horn continued to the close of the seventeenth century; for the Rev. John Ward in his diary, p.172 says:- "Mr. Hartman had a piece of unicorn's horn, which one Mr. Godeski gave him; hee had itt att some foraine prince's court. I had the piece in my hand. Hee desired Dr. Willis to make use of itt in curing his agne; but the Dr. refusd because hee had never seen itt used. Mr. Hardman told me the forementioned gentleman had as much of itt as would make a cup, and hee intended to make one of itt. I approved ittself as a true one, as hee said by this; if one drew a circle with itt about a spider she would not move out of it."

The great value set upon Unicorn's horn caused the goldsmiths to adopt the animal as their sign. There is one recorded in Machyn's Diary: the first of May, 1561, "at afternone dyd Mastyr Godderyke's sone the goldsmyth go hup into hys father's gyldng house, toke a bowe-strynge, and hanged ymselff at the syne of the Unycorne in Chepewyd." In 1711 the UNICORN AND DIAL was the sign of the watchmaker near the Strand Bridge.


Originally a dwelling house in the 16th century and owned by Robert Budden, a woollen draper. The ale licence being granted about 1650.

Listed in the 1692 licensing list and the following year offering billeting for 4 soldiers.

1763 the building was sold to Longport Brewer, Philip Watson but in the 18th century it was twice mentioned as being a "Bawdy house" and it gained a bad reputation.


Oxford Journal, Saturday 28th August 1756.

Country News. Canterbury, August 21.

Thursday evening, about 7 o'clock, the mistress of the "Unicorn" Ale House in this city, carried her child to bed, which was about 15 months old; and about 9, the Maid Servant hearing the child cry very much, went to see what was the matter; when, to her great surprise, she found it very bloody; and, on searching of it, discovered that it had been bit in several places, which, all that have seen the child, conclude to be done by rats; the quantity of blood was found in the bed.


From the Kentish Gazette, Friday 5 September, 1865.


John Partis, landlord of the "Unicorn" public house, St. Dunstan's was charged with having company drinking in his house at 10.55 a.m. on Sunday, the 27th ultimo. Superintendent Davies stated that he visited the house at the time named, and found seven men and one woman drinking. There were eight men, but one of them turned out to be a lodger. Mrs. Partis, who appeared for her husband, produced a list of the names of the people in the house when Mr. Davies called, to show that they were travellers who had just arrived in the city by train. Some of them were from Pluckley, others from Ramsgate, and two from Preston. Mr. Davies said the case was one in which he wished to obtain a conviction, as the house was generally conducted in an unsatisfactory manner. After a brief consultation the Magistrates decided that, as there was some doubt about the case, they would dismiss it.


From the Kentish Gazette, Friday 5 September, 1865.


Yesterday, at the City Police Court (before William Plummer, Esq., William Masters, Esq., Edward Holttun, Esq., and Alderman Philpott) an old man named James Thorpe, charged, on remand from Friday, with stealing a lace shawl, value 1, the property of Mr. Partis, landlord of the "Unicorn," St. Dunstan Street, was sentenced to be imprisoned a month with hard labour.

It appeared that on Thursday night the prisoner obtained lodgings at the "Unicorn," and on Friday morning left early, between seven and eight o'clock on Friday morning the prisoners went into the "Kent Arms" public house, and asked a little boy named William Martin, if he would sell him a paper to wrap a parcel in. The lad refused, and seeing the prisoner had a shawl similar to the one he knew belonged to Mrs. Partis, he suspected it was hers, and gave her information of the fact. She, on searching her house, found the shawl was missing, and went after the prisoner and found him in the "Falstaff." She accused him of taking her shawl, and he said he had not got it, he then went away, and Mr. Smith, the landlord produced her shawl to her, which the prisoner had left in his care. Information was given to the police, and P.S. Elvey took possession of the shawl, and apprehended the prisoner in St. Peter's Street.


From the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald. 29 June 1867. Price 1d.


At the City Police Court, on Monday, Thomas Ockford, who stated that he was traveller to a firm of book publishers, was charged with wilfully breaking a pane of glass in the house of Mr. Partis, landlord of the “Unicorn,” St. Dunstan's. The case was dismissed, on payment of amount of damage.


From the 30 July 2016.

Firefighters called to St Dunstan's Street, Canterbury, after blaze in pub.

Four fire engines were called to St Dunstan's in Canterbury after a fire broke out in one of the street's pubs.

The fire service rescued a man in his 50s from the first floor of the Unicorn close to the level crossing.

They had been called at 3.45am on Saturday after reports of a fire on the ground floor, which is believed to have started in the kitchen.

Paramedics treated the rescued man for minor smoke inhalation.

He was given oxygen therapy, but did not need to go to hospital.


From the 30 July, 2016.

Fire ravages kitchen of CAMRA award-winning pub.

"Firefighters rescued a man from a Kent pub after its kitchen burst into flames early on Sunday morning (30 July)."

Four fire engines raced to the Unicorn Inn in Canterbury after reports came in that the pub was on fire and a man was trapped in the building.

The man, reported to be in his 50s or 60s, was retrieved from the building and treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics. However, they deemed hospital treatment was not required.

Speaking to the Kent & Sussex Courier, Blue Watch manager Mike Godden said the whole street had been filled with smoke.

Godden told the local paper: “Another crew put in a search of the building but there were no other people inside. The fire was brought under control pretty quickly, but crews remained at the scene until 7am to damp down and cut away damaged areas of the building.”

A fire investigation crew called to the scene reported that an electrical fault in a kitchen appliance was to blame for the blaze.

The pub’s kitchen was completely destroyed.

Following the fire, a post on the Unicorn Inn's Facebook page read: Thank you for all your kind words and offers of help. We now have power restored and we are cleaning up as much as we can.

We will be open tomorrow as usual, but with a slight whiff of smoke in the air. As for food, it's bring your own until things are sorted.

The Unicorn Inn was previously named CAMRA pub of the year in 2014 for the Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable area and featured in the organisation’s 2016. Good Beer Guide

Above photo, Circa 2012 showing David Wilkinson behind the bar, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe. I am told Dave was the man who was rescued from the pub fire and is now retired and missed by his regulars.


During the Covid 19 crisis of 2020, this pub was able to offer a take away service in June, possibly earlier.



BUESDEN Isaac 1664-92 (Ale house no name)

BUESDEN Jacob 1692-1708 (Son of above and named pub "Unicorn.")

SNELLING Thomas 1707-12

VILE Henry Nat 1712-36

SORRELL Suzannah (daughter of above) 1736-41

STOKES Stephen 1741+

STOKES Stephen 1742-63

WATSON Phillip 1763-65

POWELL Zacharia 1765-72

NORRIS William 1772-1780

GILES Francis 1780-87

SALMONE Nathan 1787

FISHER James L 1787-94

SEWELL Thomas 1794-96

SOLLEY Frederick 1796-99

PATCHER Thomas 1799-1810

WRAIGHT Thomas 1810-17

HOLMES John 1817-33 Pigot's Directory 1824Pigot's Directory 1828-29

FURNER Richard 1832-40+ Pigot's Directory 1832-34Stapletons GuidePigot's Directory 1840

RATCLIFFE Isaac 1833-51 Bagshaw's Directory 1847

FOREMAN Alfred 1851-65

PARTIS Richard James 1858-74+ Melville's 1858Post Office Directory 1862Greens Canterbury Directory 1868Post Office Directory 1874(Historic Canterbury web site John)

ROBERTS James 1873-89 (age 53 in 1881Census) Post Office Directory 1882

JORDAN George 1889-94 Post Office Directory 1891

BENSON William 1894-97

BLACKMAN George 1897-1902

DRAPER James 1902-12 Post Office Directory 1903Kelly's 1903

HARVER Frank 1913 Post Office Directory 1913

MINTER George 1912-21

FISK Charles Henry 1921-23 Post Office Directory 1922

BEST William Henry A 1923-32 Post Office Directory 1930

CALLOW Henry 1932-37

GERRARD/GERARD Cyril W 1837-58 Post Office Directory 1938

EVANS Edward 1958-59

EVANS Frederick 1959-60

WHITE Donald Stanley 1960-61

NEWMAN Stanley 1961-67

ACTON Bernard George 1967-82

BALCOMBE John Frank 1982-97

CARLO Lorenza Domenico & CARNEVALE-MAFFE Emma Louise 1997-2006

CARLO Lorenza Domenico & CARNEVALE-MAFFE Emma Louise & WILKINSON David and Donatella 2006-16+


Pigot's Directory 1824From the Pigot's Directory 1824

Pigot's Directory 1828-29From the Pigot's Directory 1828-29

Pigot's Directory 1832-34From the Pigot's Directory 1832-33-34

Stapletons GuideStapleton's Guide 1838

Pigot's Directory 1840From the Pigot's Directory 1840

Bagshaw's Directory 1847From Bagshaw Directory 1847

Melville's 1858From Melville's Directory 1858

Post Office Directory 1862From the Post Office Directory 1862

Greens Canterbury Directory 1868Greens Canterbury Directory 1868

Post Office Directory 1874From the Post Office Directory 1874


Post Office Directory 1882From the Post Office Directory 1882

Post Office Directory 1891From the Post Office Directory 1891

Post Office Directory 1903From the Post Office Directory 1903

Post Office Directory 1913From the Post Office Directory 1913

Post Office Directory 1922From the Post Office Directory 1922

Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903

Post Office Directory 1930From the Post Office Directory 1930

Post Office Directory 1938From the Post Office Directory 1938

Historic Canterbury web siteHistoric Canterbury web site


If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-