During the early 1780s, New Hampshire was subject to the revivalist
revolution that would sweep the Nation over the following decades,
inspiring and invoking change in a number of American communities.
Caught up in this religious whirlwind, Benjamin Whitcher, a Shaker
convert himself, chose to harbor and protect local followers of
the United Society of Believers from persecution. In 1792, he donated
the large tract of land upon which the Canterbury Shaker Village
now stands. Canterbury was formally called to order the summer of
1792 with the construction of the community's Meeting House.* The
Canterbury Shaker Village prospered over the following century due
to solid endeavors in the fields of farming, livestock breeding,
water-powered mills, and the production of seeds and herbal medicines.
In addition, Elder Blinn established and headed a small print shop,
effectively making Canterbury the publishing center for all the
Shaker communities of the North.
Images of Canterbury Shaker
Village, including the Dwelling House with a cupola
Courtesy of Canterbury Shaker Village
The Canterbury site resembled most other contemporary Shaker villages.
With its full complement of three Families, the village had all
of the principle buildings required of a strictly utilitarian communal
society: dwelling houses, shops, stables, a laundry, a school, and
an infirmary. Also similar to most other societies, the Meeting
House, designed by Moses Johnson, played a primary role in the day-to-day
functioning of the community. The simple elegance of the three-story
Main Dwelling, built in 1793, dominates its surrounding area. Today,
the Canterbury Shaker Village includes 25 exceptionally well-preserved
buildings surrounded by approximately 700 breathtakingly beautiful
acres of gardens, fields, ponds, and forest.
Detail of one of Canterbury's
Photograph courtesy of Bill Finney
Canterbury Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is
located at 288 Shaker Road, in Canterbury, New Hampshire. The Village is open daily from May 13-October, for large tour groups from April 1, and from Friday to Sunday in November; there is a fee for admission. The outdoor
museum features guided tours, craft demonstrations and restored
organic gardens. Among the buildings open for tours are the Meeting House, Laundry, Ministry, Sisters' Shop, School, Dwelling House, School House and North Shop. For more information call 603-783-9511 or visit the website.
* At Canterbury, the preferred spelling for
the meetinghouse is Meeting House.