After lengthy discussions, the Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust and the Otford Heritage Centre have reached agreement on a programme of close collaboration which, it is intended, will lead to a merger of the two organisations in due course. In the short term it opens the way for the museum to achieve accredited status. Much of the preparatory work on accreditation has been carried out over the past six months and the formal application will be made shortly. Accredited Status will enable us to apply for grants to help with training volunteers and to develop the museum. In separate agreements, the collections of the Heritage Centre and of the Otford District Archaeology Group have been loaned to the Trust. The next step will be a complete review and cataloguing of the collection of objects on display in the Otford Heritage Centre and those in storage in various locations in the Village. The long-term intention is that the collection will be displayed in the Palace, in the ground floor space of the conserved and refurbished North West Tower. We are also planning an outreach programme that will enable schools in the Darent Valley and London to access the objects in the collection, supported by educational materials and talks by local historians.
Speaking at the formal signing ceremony on 23rd August 2020, Nick Rushby, Secretary of the Trust said: “The Trust and the Heritage Centre Committee have been working on this merger since the beginning of the year. The agreement marks the start of a new phase for both parties and the opportunity for a far greater audience to engage with the heritage of Otford and the Darent Valley.” Sir Mike Bett, who has been the Chairman and then President of the Otford Heritage Centre since its formation twenty-one years ago, said: ”I am delighted that the museum created by these collaborative arrangements will enable villagers and visitors to enjoy an increasingly comprehensive and coherent picture of Otford’s remarkable 4,000 years history in the Darent Valley.”