This area of the APCT website provides access to the digital archive of background documents, investigations into the site and buildings, and the repairs and restoration of the Archbishops’ Palace.
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
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. Some of these 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
- Transfer of land in 1973
St Thomas 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- From an unpublished article on Kent wells April 1997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
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.
A Statement of archaeological significance can be found here.
The Otford and District Archaeological Society (ODGA) undertook preliminary excavations on the site of the South-East Tower for which planning permission had been given for a small housing development. The report of their findings was published in Archaeologia Cantiana in 1974.
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 © West Kent Archaeological Society and is included here by kind permission of the Society. Castle House Geophysics Report
In March 2023, the Trust installed a French Drain outside the North-West Tower. The excavation required a watching archaeological brief and the report is available here.
In May 2023, the Trust installed a base for a Maypole in Palace Field. This too, required a watching archaeological brief which can be found here.
In 2023, Sevenoaks District Council approved a planning application for a single storey extension at 3 Bubblestone Road at the Western end of the Moated Manor. The application was support by an archaeological investigation carried out by South-East Archaeology. Their report (which is the public domain on the OASIS Database and the SDC Planning Portal), can be found here.
Repairs and restoration
Emergency repair work was carried out on the North-West Tower of Otford Palace in 1982.
It appears that the parapet was in a dangerous condition and part of the brickwork on the upper part of the Tower had developed an outward curve. A Technical Services Officer from SDC inspected the Tower in early 1981 and confirmed that “if left the Tower would be in imminent danger of collapse” and “failing the necessary repairs being carried out the Tower would be unsafe to a degree that footpath [SR40] would have to be closed to the public by next winter.” David Prestage, who was a councillor at the time, recalls work being carried out on the roof.
A specification of the work to be undertaken was approved by the Department of the Environment in the Autumn of 1981 and the work was carried out in the spring of 1982. It is not clear whether this approval constituted ‘Scheduled Monument Consent.’ There is no record in the Parish Council minutes of Planning Approval being sought or granted. It may be that since the Palace was owned by Sevenoaks District Council, no planning approval was required.
After much lobbying, the work was finally carried out by John Jarvis Limited of Tunbridge Wells. The firm, founded in 1883 went into insolvency in June 2013. During its existence it built many landmark buildings in Tunbridge Well such as the Opera House and the Kent and Sussex Hospital. You can see the documents relating to the campaign to repair the Tower here, and a collection of photographs taken by David Prestage here.
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.
For those who want to explore further you can see more detail of the repair work in
In September 2019 the Trust commissioned a feasibility study from Purcell Architects to explore options for the restoration of the Palace and the creation of an interpretation centre.
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.
The stabilisation work in 2022/23 focussed on repairs to the masonry and brickwork of the North-West Tower. A photographic survey was carried out in March 2022 before work started.
Three of the lintels in the North-West Tower had decayed badly over the past 510 years. They were replaced by Pierra in March 2023
Historic England Archive papers
From the archives of the Otford and District Historical Society
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 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.
The Naming of Parks. Medieval Otford had three deer parks. These are usually described as: the Old or Great Park, south-east of the village; the Little Park, south-west of village and adjacent to River Darent; and the New Park, north of the village and bounded by the River Darent to the west. In this article, by reference to estate documents and field names, I suggest that until at least the mid-15th century the park known to us as Little Park was originally called New Park. This is a new finding, and unless researchers are aware of this they may be misled when reading old documents. Prior to the mid-15 century, references to “New Park” are probably referring to what was later called the Little Park. By the mid-16th century the term Little Park was well established, and the name “New Park” was now applied to the separate third park to the north of Otford.
This article, first published in the Otford History and Heritage Newsletter, February 2021, no 25. It is included in the Otford Palace archive by kind permission of Charles Shee and Alan Williams, editor of the Newsletter.