This area of the APCT website provides access to the digital archive of the repairs and restoration of the Archbishops’ Palace and investigations into the site and buildings.

Repair work 2016

The repair work carried out in 2016 by Piera under the supervision of Thomas Ford and Partners was documented by Rod Shelton in a series of newsletters for the Community.  A compilation of the newsletters is available here: Tower newsletter compilation

Survey work 2018

A first step in the conservation of the Gatehouse, was to make a photographic survey of the interior and exterior.  This was carried out in August 2018.


In 2015, the owners of Castle House applied to build a kitchen extension, necessitating laying a supporting concrete foundation to a depth of 0.45m across an area of 12.5 square metres. Historic England requested that a Written Scheme of Investigation be submitted, followed by limited excavation to determine the likelihood of archaeological features being present. This excavation was carried out by the author in August 2015, assisted by members of West Kent Archaeological Society. Archaeological features were uncovered, and – after consultation with Historic England – it was decided to excavate the whole area. This was duly carried out in 2016.  This is the report of that work, included here by kind permission of Kevin Fromings. Castle House final report 2016 

A geophysical survey at Castle House was carried out in 2016 to determine through an earth resistance survey whether archaeological remains of 3 different structures exist in the garden of Castle House, those being any remains of Otford Palace, a Roman Villa discovered in 2012/13 in an adjacent field, and also a structure discovered during a small evaluation excavation on the property.  The results produced anomalies likely to be associated with the Roman Villa and with the Palace, no anomalies are likely to represent earlier phases of Castle House. The report, by Andrew Putman, Kevin Fromings and Geoff Burr is © Kent Archaeological Society and is included here by kind permission of the Society.   Castle House Geophysics Report

Otford Great Park, Little Park and New Park

Susan Pittman (2011) Elizabethan and Jacobean Deer Parks in Kent, PhD Thesis Kent, is available on the Kent Archaeological Society website

One of the appendices provides detailed descriptions of the Otford Park (pp 428-434) and a list of primary sources is given the bibliography

Significance Assessments and Change of Use – The Case of Otford Palace

Holly Cooper, a MArch student at the University of Kent, Canterbury studied the Archbishops’ Palace for her final year project.

“This paper aims to cement the prominent role that significance should play, when determining a future for the remaining tower and gatehouse at the Palace. It establishes that an appropriate future strategy can be defined by careful analysis, considering the history, surroundings and current contextual position of the buildings. The dissertation then goes on to examine and evaluate significance using traditional techniques, as defined by Bernard Feilden and The Heritage Lottery Fund, in conjunction with Primary research to evaluate the next phase of life for The Palace, which is currently listed as a scheduled ancient monument.

“The utilisation of original photographs and on site drawings, in conjunction with a knowledge of architectural techniques, unpicks the story left behind within the current site, and provides an insight into any forms of significance not covered by the two conventional methods of analysis. This results in the holistic understanding of the area, which is then used to determine its future role within the village of Otford.

“The research concludes by presenting a strategy for the future of Otford Palace. The Palace is deemed too valuable to be left to ruin, and in a vulnerable state. As its original use is no longer functional or viable, a change of use is inevitable. The heavy community engagement with the building highlights its current cultural significance to the local area, and influences the results accordingly. The investigation finds that the remaining tower at Otford Palace should not fall into private ownership, but instead be utilised as an asset by the local community.”

The final report – Significance Assessments and Change of Use – The Case of Otford Palace – is included here by kind permission of Holly Cooper and the University of Kent.

The Castle House Papers

This is a collection of papers relating to the transfer of Otford Palace site and buildings to the Sevenoaks Rural District Council (now Sevenoaks District Council), and to St Thomas a Becket’s Well which is located in the grounds of Castle House.  They have been assembled and made available by kind permission of Irene Roy, the current owner of Castle House.

The Otford Palace Site

Amhursts of Brooks Place

Agreements relating to transfer of land 1934-5

Site plan 1934

Pearce (1930)

The Roman Site at Otford

Otford Palace survey of water course and Castle House grounds March 1978

Old Otford maps Ministry of Works listing 1952

Kellys Directory 1882

From Public Records Office

Elizabeth and William Collier

Desmond Welband memories

Correspondence relating to purchase of Palace Estate 1934-35

Clarke (1967) An outline history of Otford

Castle House old drawings

St Thomas a Becket’s Well

Beckets Well photographs undated

Beckets Well – proposals for repair

Ancient Monuments Society to McDowell 1969

Various letters concerning Beckets Well 1954

Thomas a Beckets Well

Stoyel to McDowell 831230

Report upon the water from Beckets Well 520319

Recovery of Grants on disposal of property

Pilgrim routes and wells dedicated to St Thomas Becket

Philp – McDowell June 1974

Owen Fleming to McDowell 341120

ODHS Interim report upon excavations at Beckets Well 1951-2

Ministry of Public Buildings and Works to McDowell 681219

McDowell to English Heritage 890718

McDowell and CIB Archeological Rescue 1982

Maps of Otford Palace undated

Godwin – McDowell October 1934

From an unpublished article on Kent wells April 1997

Filed plan of title K336687 1970

Department of the Environment to McDowell 831108

Deller to McDowell 730302

Beckets Well sketches by R Watt 1931

Thomas a Beckets Well

Historic England Archive papers

A collection of letters 1978-1981 relating to the significance of the Palace, including a description by Anthony Stoyel of the Archiepiscopal Palace at Otford Kent.

How did one approach the Otford Palace?

Walking from the Otford pond to the Palace it is easy to assume that the slightly elevated lane that passes Chantry Cottage was the access route to the 16C Archbishop ’s Palace. However, a moment’s reflection suggests that this is unlikely.

This article, based on the archives of the Otford and District Historical Society, was first published in the Otford History and Heritage Newsletter, Autumn 2019, no 19. It is included in the Otford Palace archive by kind permission of Charles Shee and Alan Williams, editor of the Newsletter.