Palace History

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

Gift of Land

821 AD

Gift of Land

This land was first gifted to the Archbishop Wulfred by Offa, King of Mercia. A large moated manor house was built here and enlarged over the next 600 years by 52 subsequent archbishops.

 

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William “The Bastard” Visits

1066 AD

William “The Bastard” Visits

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

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St. Thomas Becket

1162 AD

St. Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket, it is said, particularly liked staying at Otford, which he did several times over the next eight years

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Chapel Built

1315 AD

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

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Escape The Plague

1348 AD

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

1382 AD

Dinner is Served

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

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Medieval TripAdviser

1500 AD

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

1514 AD

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 represented by a French nobleman and the marriage was ‘consumated’ by touching of the bare legs of Princess Mary and the nobleman. 

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Archbishop William Warham

1515 AD

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

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Notable Guests

1518 AD

Notable Guests

Erasmus and Holbein were regular guests

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Cardinal Campeggio entertained at Otford

1518 AD

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

1520 AD

The King Visits

“Bloody” Mary’s Summer Retreat

1532 AD

“Bloody” Mary’s Summer Retreat

Princess (later Queen) Mary stayed here over two summers

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“Book of Common Prayer” Writing Begins

1534 AD

“Book of Common Prayer” Writing Begins

Archbishop Cranmer began work on his Book of Common Prayer at the palace.

The Book of Common Prayer went through several revisions in the years after it was first written.  You can read the various versions in:

Cummings, B. (2013) The Book of Common Prayer The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. OUP Oxford. ISBN:-13: 978-0199645206

 

 

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Henry Acquires and Abandons

1537 AD

Henry Acquires and Abandons

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

1547 AD

Descent Into Disrepair

After Henry’s death, the Palace fell gradually into disrepair until, by the 17th Century it was largely a ruin

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Cardinal Reginald Pole takes possession

1553 AD

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.

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Otford Palace reverts to the Crown

1559 AD

Otford Palace reverts to the Crown

Survey of the Manor

1573 AD

Survey of the Manor

Elizabeth I orders a survey of the Manor

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North East Tower demolished

1761 AD

North East Tower demolished

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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The creation of Castle Cottages

1900 AD

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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No Longer Royalty

1900 AD

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

1900 AD

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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Scheduled as an Ancient Monument

1928 AD

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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Local Authority Ownership

1935 AD

Local Authority Ownership

The site and the buildings were transferred to Sevenoaks Rural District Council (now Sevenoaks District Council – SDC)

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The Village mortuary

1939 AD

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

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Recent use of the Gatehouse

1950 AD

After the Second World War, the Gatehouse reverted to its former use as farm storage.  Then, in November 1958 the Scouts used it as their meeting place.  The interior walls were painted white.  In the mid-1960s the Scouts were able to move back to the Chalk Pit where a new, brick building had replaced the former wooden clubhouse that had been destroyed by fire.  The Guides took over the building and some (unspecified) works were carried out .  These included some partitioning and the installation of a kitchen.  Work was carried out on the roof timbers in the tower at the Southern end of the Gatehouse, post 1980.  It was used by the Guides until 2016.

Details of this period are very sketchy and the Trustees would welcome any information from people who remember these times.

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Repair Works

1960 AD

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

1974 AD

In 1973 work started to build four houses on Bubblestone Road on the South East corner of the Palace site.  Through the actions of a private individual the Kent Unit and the Council for Kentish Archeology we able to excavate the area and this revealed the remains of the South East Palace Tower as well as underlying structures – Romano-British remains, the 12th and 13th Century Manor House, and the 14th Century Manor House.  Subsequently a large part of the site was purchased from the builder.

A detailed account of the excavations can be found in:  Philp. B (1984) Excavations in the Darent Valley, Kent. Kent Archeological Rescue Unit, Dover. ISBN 0-9502129-7-0.

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More Repairs Needed

2015 AD

More Repairs Needed

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

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Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust formed

2017 AD

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 Archbishop’s Palace, the Tudors, the role of the Archbishops and the history of the Darent Valley by the provision of exhibitions and other learning experiences. Its registration number is 1173486.

 

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Study by Holly Cooper

2018 AD

Study by Holly Cooper

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.

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