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Palace History

With this demonstrable long history, Otford Palace, which is designated as an Ancient monument, is unquestionably a Heritage site of National significance

First gift of land

1 January 0791

First gift of land

In 791 (or possibly in the preceding year) Offa, the King of Mercia, gave lands at Otford to Christ Church Canterbury (the ‘vill by the name of Otford’).

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A further gift of Land

31 December 0820

A further gift of Land

Further gifts of land were made in 820 and 821.  The first, by Coenwulf, the Mercian King and son of Offa and in the following year by Ceolwulf, his brother and successor, who donated to Otford lands bordering the East bank of the River Darent between Shoreham and today’s Bat…

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Duke William visits on his way to London

15 October 1066

Duke William visits on his way to London

William the Conqueror recuperated at The Ruined Tower during his march on London

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Archbishop Lanfranc 1070-1089

8 May 1072

Archbishop Lanfranc 1070-1089

In 1066 Lanfranc became the first Abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Étienne at Caen in Normandy. He was a close friend of Duke William (William the Conqueror) and subsequently exercised a perceptible influence on his master’s policy.

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Domesday Book

23 June 1086

By the Domesday Survey in 1086, the land at Otteford owned six watermills and a large demesne farm locally, worked by tenants who were bound to the land, though over the centuries their obligations were gradually changed to monetary rents, and the lives and status of many of the tenant…

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St. Thomas Becket

1 January 1162

St. Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (1162–1170) it is said, particularly liked staying at Otford, which he did several times over the next eight years.

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Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury 1184-90

1 December 1184

Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury 1184-90

Baldwin of Forde was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1184 and 1190. The son of a clergyman, he studied canon law and theology at Bologna and was tutor to Pope Eugene III’s nephew before returning to England to serve successive bishops of Exeter. He was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury in…

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Archbishop Stephen Langton 1207-1229

1 January 1207

Archbishop Stephen Langton 1207-1229

Following the death of Archbishop Hubert Walter in 1205, there was a prolonged dispute between King John, the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, and Pope Innocent III over who should succeed him. Stephen Langton was eventually elected Archbishop of Canterbury by the monks of Christ Church in December 1206, and…

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Edmund of Abingdon Archbishop 1234-1240

12 April 1234

Edmund of Abingdon Archbishop 1234-1240

Edmund of Abingdon, also known as Edmund Rich, St Edmund of Canterbury, Edmund of Pontigny was one of the seven Archbishops of Canterbury who were canonised.

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John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury 1279-92

25 January 1279

John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury  1279-92

John Peckham was a native of Sussex who was educated at Lewes Priory and became a Friar Minor about 1250.

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Robert Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury 1293-1306 and 1308-1313

1 April 1293

Robert Winchelsea,  Archbishop of Canterbury  1293-1306 and 1308-1313

Robert Winchelsey was elected as the successor to Archbishop Petcham.

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Chapel Built

1 January 1313

The Chapel (18 metres long) was built in the Decorated style with, “a lavish interior”

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Walter Reynolds, Archbishop of Canterbury 1314-27

1 January 1314

Walter Reynolds,  Archbishop of Canterbury 1314-27

Walter Reynolds was Bishop of Worcester and then Archbishop of Canterbury as well as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Chancellor.

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Archbishop Reynold’s flight

15 October 1326

As darkness fell in the evening of the 15th October 1326, a party of horsemen slipped out of a rear entrance of Lambeth Palace, on the bank of the Thames opposite Westminster. In the midst of the party was Walter Reynolds, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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John de Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1333-48

3 November 1333

John de Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1333-48

On 3 November 1333 Stratford was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and resigned as chancellor in the following year; however, he held this office again from 1335 to 1337 and for about two months in 1340.

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Escape The Plague

1 January 1348

Escape The Plague

Edward III brought his whole court here to spend Christmas away from The Black Death in London.

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Dinner is Served

1 January 1382

Dinner is Served

The Great Hall (31 metres long and 12 metres wide) was built to seat 200 at dinner

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John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1443-1452

5 January 1443

John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1443-1452

John Stafford was made Archbishop of Canterbury in May 1443 by Pope Eugene IV. He held the until his death on 25 May 1452. He steered an even course between parties as a moderate man and useful official.

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Thomas Bourchier Archbishop of Canterbury 1455-1486

26 January 1455

Thomas Bourchier Archbishop of Canterbury 1455-1486

Thomas Bourchier was installed as Archbishop of Canterbury on 26th January 1455 and was subsequently created a cardinal on 18th September 1467.

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John Morton, Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury 1486-1500

6 October 1486

John Morton, Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury  1486-1500

Cardinal John Morton (1486-1500) who had studied law at Cambridge, was imprisoned as a traitor by Richard III, escaped and fled to Flanders, returning when Henry VII took the Crown.

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Medieval TripAdviser

1 January 1500

The Court roll stated that Otford was, “one of the grandest houses in England”

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Henry VIII and his sister Princess Mary Tudor stay overnight at Otford Palace

7 January 1514

Henry VIII and his sister Princess Mary Tudor stay overnight at Otford Palace

In 1514, Cardinal Wolsey negotiated a peace treaty with France which was strengthened by the marriage of Princess Mary, the sister of Henry VIII to Louis XII of France.  Louis was 30 years her senior.  There was a proxy wedding at Greenwich Palace in August 1514 when Louis XII was…

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Archbishop William Warham

1 January 1515

Archbishop William Warham

Archbishop Warham built one of the largest palaces in England covering 1.16ha (about 4 acres), comparable in size to Hampton Court He later wrote (Ch. Ch. Cant Register T 1526) The buildings of Otford were ruinous by neglect, but now sufficiently repaired and enlarged and a great house has been built…

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Notable Guests

1 January 1518

Notable Guests

Erasmus and Holbein were regular guests. Erasmus was critical of the old palace writing in 1523 (Ep 14500) Nor should I have found it very attractive before William Warham, the present Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England had built there on such a scale that he seemed not…

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Cardinal Campeggio entertained at Otford

23 July 1518

Cardinal Campeggio entertained at Otford

Campeggio was sent to England by Pope Leo X on the ostensible business of arranging a crusade against the Turks.

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The King Visits

1 January 1520

The King Visits

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon stayed here en route to the Field of Cloth of Gold.

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“Bloody” Mary’s Summer Retreat

1 January 1532

“Bloody” Mary’s Summer Retreat

Princess (later Queen) Mary stayed here over two summers

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“Book of Common Prayer” Writing Begins

1 January 1534

“Book of Common Prayer” Writing Begins

Archbishop Cranmer began work on his Book of Common Prayer at the Palace.  It is believed that he finished this work before he left.

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Henry Acquires the Palace

1 January 1537

Henry Acquires the Palace

Henry VIII became its owner and spent lavishly on it. However, in time, he decided that he preferred Knole House a few miles away in Sevenoaks, because it was less damp, away from the River Darent.

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Descent Into Disrepair

1 January 1547

Descent Into Disrepair

After Henry’s death, the Palace fell gradually into disrepair.

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Cardinal Reginald Pole takes possession

1 January 1553

Cardinal Reginald Pole takes possession

Reginald Pole was an English cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, holding the office from 1556 to 1558, during the Counter Reformation.  He died on influenza on 17th November 1558 – the same day as Mary I.

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Otford Palace reverts to the Crown

1 January 1559

Otford Palace reverts to the Crown

Queen Elizabeth I took possession of Otford Palace and stayed here during her Royal Progress in 1559.

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Survey of the Manor

1 June 1573

Survey of the Manor

Elizabeth I orders a survey of the Manor.  This shows that there were 200 door keys missing – giving an indication of the size of the Palace! In 1596 Her Commissioners reported that Otford woylde not be fytt for her majestie to lye in for that yt standeth in a verie…

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The Sydney Family purchase the Palace

1 February 1601

The Sydney Family purchase the Palace

Eventually, Elizabeth I, in need of money to fund her war, agreed to sell Otford Palace to Robert Sydney. The Sydneys converted the Western side of the North Range into their private quarters.

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Sold to Thomas Smith

1 January 1619

In 1618-19, Sydney, now Viscount Lisle, having disparked the Great Park, conveyed the property to Sir Thomas Smith, second son of Customer Smith.

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North East Tower demolished

1 January 1761

In 1761, the North East Tower of the Palace was demolished and the stonework carried to Knole, Sevenoaks, where it was used to build Knole Folly which lies to the South-East of Knole House.

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No Longer Royalty

1 January 1900

By the early 1900s, the Palace and its grounds was in the ownership of Castle Farm

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Old Otford – by the Vicar

1 January 1900

John Hunt, who was the incumbent on St Bartholomew’s from 1878 to 1907, published his monograph “Old Otford” – by the Vicar around the turn of the Century.

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The creation of Castle Cottages

1 January 1900

During the early years of the twentieth century, the west range between the North West Tower and the Gatehouse was converted into the present three terraced dwellings called Castle Cottages.  These are Grade II* listed buildings.

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Scheduled as an Ancient Monument

5 December 1928

The Palace is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Areas Act (1979).  List entry number 1005197. Click here to see the full listing.

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William Collier threatens to develop the site

11 October 1935

William Collier threatens to develop the site

Following the death of Harry Wellband, a highly successful Otford farmer and agricultural contractor, Castle Farm was sold in 1933.

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The Village mortuary

1 September 1939

During the Second World War, the Gatehouse was used as the Village mortuary.

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Recent use of the Gatehouse

29 January 1950

After the Second World War, the Gatehouse reverted to its former use as farm storage.

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Repair Works

1 January 1960

In the early 1960’s a period of extensive repair work (using cement instead of traditional mortar) was carried out. After this, the site remained untouched until 2015

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Excavating the South-East Tower

24 March 1974

In 1973 work started to build four houses on Bubblestone Road on the South East corner of the Palace site.

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More Repairs Needed

7 January 2015

More Repairs Needed

Following much-publicised masonry falls, Sevenoaks District Council eventually carried out extensive repairs to prevent any further deterioration. These works were completed in 2017

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Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust formed

20 June 2017

The Trust was registered on 20th June 2017 with the objectives of: Working for the benefit of the public the preservation, restoration, maintenance, repair and improvement of the building known as the Archbishop’s Palace in Otford, Kent and to advance the education of the public in the history of the…

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Study by Holly Cooper

6 April 2018

Study by Holly Cooper

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

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The lease

19 September 2019

Sevenoaks District Council grants a 99-year lease to the Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust so that it can start work to conserve the Palace, create an interpretation centre for Otford and the Darent Valley and operate it as a self-sustaining community resource.

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