Canterbury Shaker Village

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Canterbury Shaker Village
General View of Canterbury Shaker Village.jpg
Shaker Village c. 1920
Nearest city 288 Shaker Road, Canterbury, New Hampshire
Built 1792
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 75000129
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 17, 1975[1]
Designated NHLD April 19, 1993[2]
Canterbury Shaker Village
Spiritual name: Holy Ground
Shaker community[3]
Bishopric Canterbury
Established 1792
Declared a National Historic Landmark 1993
Population (1840)
 • Maximum 260
Families Church, Second, North, West

Canterbury Shaker Village is a historic site and museum in Canterbury, New Hampshire, United States. It was one of a number of Shaker communities founded in the 19th century.

It is one of the most intact and authentic surviving Shaker community sites, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.[2][4]

The site is operated by a non-profit organization established in 1969 to preserve the heritage of the Canterbury Shakers. Canterbury Shaker Village is an internationally known, non-profit museum and historic site with 25 original Shaker buildings, four reconstructed Shaker buildings and 694 acres (2.81 km2) of forests, fields, gardens and mill ponds under permanent conservation easement. Canterbury Shaker Village "is dedicated to preserving the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers and to providing a place for learning, reflection and renewal of the human spirit."[2]

Visitors learn about the life, ideals, values and legacy of the Canterbury Shakers through tours, programs, exhibits, research and publications. Village staff, largely volunteer, conduct tours and its restaurant serves traditional Shaker lunches and dinners spring, summer and fall.


The Canterbury site was one of two communities existing in what was known as the New Hampshire Bishopric. The New Hampshire bishopric contained Canterbury village and the Shaker village of Enfield, New Hampshire.[5] A bishopric was composed of two or more communities in the same area or geographical location. They were designed as a way to organize communications and events amongst villages and acted as an administrative unit, which represented the governing body of the United Society of Believers.[6]

In 1782 Israel Chauncey and Ebeneezer Cooley from the Mount Lebanon village of Shakers traveled to Canterbury and converted several prominent figures of the community. These figures included Benjamin and Mary Whitcher and the Wiggin and Sanborn families, who later donated land to house the Canterbury Village community of Shakers. Through a donation of land from local community members, the Canterbury Village was founded in 1792. The village expanded over time and in 1850 the site contained 3,000 acres (12 km2) with a community of 300 housed in 100 buildings.[5]

The Shakers were organized in a hierarchical system of four levels. The first level to which every member of the community was involved in was the family. Above the family were members known as elders and eldresses, deacons and deaconesses. The third level usually consisted of two men and two women who formed a ministry, which governed over the individual communities. Finally, the fourth level was the bishopric, which governed the local communities.[6]


Over the period in which the Canterbury Village existed as a working Shaker community, various inventions from mainstream society were adopted by its members. As Stephen Stein highlights in his definitive guide to the Shaker society, The Shaker Experience, “New means of transportation, sources of power, complex machinery, and communication devices transformed community life and came to symbolize the views of modern Believers.”[6]

In 1901 the New England Telephone Company installed telephones at the Canterbury Village site. As Stein outlined this would have changed community life in the sense that the installation of the telephone eradicated the need for long distance travel between Shaker communities.[6]

The Canterbury Village had its own powerhouse, which was constructed in 1910.[6] The cost of the powerhouse was $8,000 and at first, the generator powered the electric lights in sixteen community buildings. The Canterbury members were also given a television set after its invention in the 1950s by friends of the community.[7]

The Shakers of Canterbury also had laborsaving inventions of their own, which contributed greatly to their economy. The Canterbury Shakers patented a washing machine, an accomplishment that was recognized by mainstream society in the form of a gold medal at the Centennial Exposition in 1876.[6]

Music was also an important part of Shaker life at Canterbury. Among the many Canterbury Shaker spirituals are the hymn, "Celestial Praises" from 1841, and the song, "We Will All Go Home With You" from 1862. Between 1842 and 1908 there were eleven different Shaker hymnals published by the Shakers at Canterbury.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "Canterbury Shaker Village". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  3. ^ Stephen J. Paterwic (28 September 2009). The A to Z of the Shakers. Scarecrow Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-8108-7056-7. 
  4. ^ Lisa Mausolf (August 1992). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Canterbury Shaker Village" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 20 photos, exterior and interiors, from 1992 and undated. PDF (4.68 MB)
  5. ^ a b Rieman, Timothy D., and Jean M. Burks. The Complete Book Of Shaker Furniture. 1st ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1993.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Stein, Stephen J.. The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers. 1st ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.
  7. ^ Starbuck, David R.. Neither Plain nor Simple: New Perspective on the Canterbury Shakers. 1st ed. New Haven, CT: University Press of New England, 2004.
  8. ^ Hall, Roger L. A Guide to Shaker Music - With Music Supplement. 6th ed. Stoughton, MA: PineTree Press, 2006.

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Further reading[edit]

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Coordinates: 43°21′32″N 71°29′24″W / 43.35889°N 71.49000°W / 43.35889; -71.49000