The site of Archbishop’s Palace in Otford, Kent, dates back to 821 AD but it was in 1515 AD that Archbishop Warham built one of the largest palaces in England, comparable in size to Hampton Court. In the 17th Century, the buildings fell into disrepair and now all that remains is part of the North Range – the North West corner tower, part of the Northern Gatehouse and connecting wall which has been turned into a row of three small cottages.
It lies 100 metres South of the junction between the Pilgrim Route from London to Canterbury (running South from the Thames along the River Darent) and the Pilgrim Route from Winchester to Canterbury (which follows the line of the North Downs.)
The remain that you see today were built on top of a succession of medieval manor houses and a Roman Villa.
We have a number of resources – images and videos – that will tell you more about the Palace
- A short video produced by Barbara Derby and narrated by Rod Shelton shows the Palace as it was in Tudor Times
- A walk around Otford Palace: Part I: Introduction | Part II: The approach | Part III: Palace Field | Part IV: The North-West Tower | Part V: The Moated Manor | Part VI: Recent History
- A set of drone images taken in August 2018 show the buildings of the North Range as they are today.
- A video sequence of the Palace from the air
- 3D model of the interior of the North-West Tower (This model can be manipulated using your mouse. Remember that you are looking at the interior of the Tower!)
- The Story of Becket’s Well
- The Story of the Papal Bulls
You can download a cut-out model of the Palace Tower. Print and cut this out, then fold and glue it to make your own model!
Otford Palace is of exceptional significance for:
- The evidence which it provides for the form and architectural character of what was one of the outstanding buildings of early 16th century England.
- Its archaeological potential to yield much more information about that building, particularly on the moat island, and its medieval predecessors.
Otford Palace is of considerable significance for:
- The evidential value of the adaptation of the north-west range by the Sidney family.
- Its ability to illustrate the form and scale of a late medieval archiepiscopal palace, despite its fragmentary survival.
- The aesthetic qualities, designed and fortuitous, of the north range building in its open space setting.
- The contribution it makes to the character and appearance of Otford Conservation Area.
- The insight it provides into the character and ambition of Archbishop Warham.
Otford Palace is of some significance for:
- As an illustration, especially with the archive material, of the struggle for the conservation of historic places during the 20th Century
- Its contribution to the identity of Otford and its community today.
The Otford and District Historical Society takes a keen interest in the site. The site, the Tower and the gatehouse are owned by Sevenoaks District Council which intends to grant a 99-year lease to the Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust.
The local community would like to see this significant historical building conserved and developed as a focal point for the Darent Valley community. To that end, a Charitable Incorporated Organisation – The Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust (APCT) – was established to conserve the site and buildings and to operate it as a self-sustaining community resource.
A concise history of the Palace can be found in: Ward, C. (2017) A guided walk around Otford Palace. Otford and District Historical Society. Otford. ISBN 978-0-9956479-2-3. You can buy the book from the Otford Heritage Centre, 29 High Street, Otford.
The Heritage Village of Otford is in the centre of the Darent Valley in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. The River Darent rises near Westerham in North-West Kent and flows Northwards to the Thames at Dartford. To explore the rest of the 4000-year history of Otford, go to the Otford Heritage website. You can read more about the history and stories of the River Darent and its communities in: Darent by Rod Shelton. ISBN 978-0-95039-639-2
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