or many centuries at Canterbury Cathedral, a Gate Keeper was employed and lived, at both the north and south side of the Cathedral Precincts. One at the Christ Church Gate (South) and the other at the Mint Yard Gate (North). They originally were paid a small sum, but supplemented by quantities of free ale.


The current security office is located in the former Gate Keepers cottage at Christ Church Gate. It operates very much like a small police station, with a reception/operations room with a lost property store, and offices for the Security Supervisor, Security & Risk Manager, and Health & Safety Assistant.


Constables' security office in the Precinct



The Close Constables


Times change and so does society. In more modern times it has become necessary to employ security guards to man the gates and also patrol around the Precincts, to prevent trouble caused by the local undesirables who tended to congregate in the grounds, out of sight, and well away from the local city police. The security was previously undertaken by a contracted security firm who ran the security for a number of years. However, there was no consistency in manpower, and the quality of service provided adhoc, mainly due to the fact that the Cathedral and its Precincts take a long time

to become familiar with. It was the then security officer (an ex-police officer), who proposed to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, the formation of its own security team. This was accepted and collectively they are now known as close constables. However, their individual title or rank is that of warden, a title used for many years at the Cathedral.


So the 12 man team of Wardens was formed and the new Warden Supervisor (formerly the security officer), introduced some police practices and training methods, many of which are still in use today. In 1999, the Warden Supervisor retired. His post was taken up by a former Royal Navy (RN) serviceman who spent much of his time in the RN as a Navy Regulator. In March 2002, the current Security and Safety Manager was appointed. He introduced some military, as well as more up to date practices, from the security industry.


Today's Close Constables are an integral and important part of the Canterbury Cathedral now. They man the Precincts 24 hours a day and they are familiar figures, both to the congregation members, and also the King’s School pupils, who are also located within the Precincts. But they don’t just stand on the gates. They have an important and varied role, monitoring and responding to the various fire and intruder alarm systems throughout the Precincts; monitoring the CCTV surveillance cameras situated throughout the Precincts; dealing with problem visitors; crime prevention; and also dealing with any accidents, which require first aid treatment. In the past they have had to deal with people brandishing firearms, knives and have assisted the local Police in the pursuit and arrest of suspect criminals.


They work very closely with the local police, and are always looking at new ideas to maintain the security, and protect those within the Precincts. Looking to the future, the constables have now undertaken training and have a SIA license, which allows them to perform their everyday tasks, but this is a plus, as this will ensure that the constables play an important role within the Cathedral and local community.




The Close Constables are a uniformed force and wear very similar uniforms to the police. The parade or best uniform consists of a police navy blue tunic with epaulettes and enamelled collar badges, a white shirt and black tie is worn, along with a peaked cap with a detachable pale blue band (Cathedral livery colours). A silver and enamelled badge is worn on the crown of the cap. This is a shield shaped device, with a pale blue enamelled background, over which a silver cross is formed with black lettering 'IX', from the Greek for 'Jesus Christ.'


Every day duty wear consists of: In winter, the Close Constables wear a navy blue police trousers, a NATO style navy blue pullover, white shirts with black epaulette slides (with embroided/metal devices), black tie, service cap and a black police style blouson jacket (with Cathedral heraldic shield sewn onto the upper left breast). In summer the uniform worn is as above except without the pullover. Severe weather clothing consists of black Metropolitan police style anorak and waterproof over trousers. General equipment consists of police style nylon utility belt with pouches to carry radio, torch, first aid equipment and a personal attack alarm. Since 2009, they also wear police issue stab vests.




Canterbury officers carrying PR24 baton



Constables 1002 and 1003 with their attestation certificate, 2017


  1. Cathedral Constables website

Copyright © 2017 British Police History. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use