Original article from Kent Live
Just three miles north of Sevenoaks lies Otford, a village rich in history.
Otford is your typical Kentish village, with the usual sights, such as a pond which also forms the main roundabout and four historic churches.
But there is a hidden archaic gem buried within the landscape that people seem to know very little about.
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In 1519, Henry VIII stayed at Otford Palace with his court and hunted in the great Deer Park that was attached to the grounds.
It is thought he was very taken with the place, as the following year Henry and Catherine of Aragon, along with the royal court stayed there again on their way to France for the meeting between Henry and Francis, King of France, at the Field of Gold.
Today only part of the building remains, however, due to disrepair in the 17th century.
Only the North Range – the North West corner tower and part of the Northern Gatehouse – have been left behind.
The connecting wall has since been turned into a row of three small cottages.
After being impressed by its illustrious history, I decided to visit the site for the very first time to explore one of Kent's hidden historic gems.
A truly hidden gem
First of all, Otford Palace is a rather difficult place to find.
Though this is perhaps part of the place's authentic charm, as Henry wouldn't have had the luxury of Google Maps himself.
You might not expect such a historic site to be located just behind a One Stop, but I can tell you, it is.
The best way to get there is to park down one of the side roads past the Otford One Stop, or even better, use the One Stop car park, buy a refreshment, and do the rest of the short journey on foot.
After walking down a narrow country lane you'll soon come to the entrance of a field which has a detailed sign erected.
It read 'Otford Palace' and I soon realised, after an hour-long search, I was in the right place!
After walking through the field I noticed there was a path which led into the distance and veered off to the right.
I traced its route with my eyes and could then see the spectacular building just peeking through the trees.
After walking towards the palace I realised how glad I was that I had a path to guide me.
All around me, the grass was really long and it looked as if it had just been left to grow wildly for months.
As I approached Otford Palace it was clear to see how big this place once was.
Only a fraction of the building still remains, but what was left seemed rather impressive for a site which was tucked away at the back of an otherwise unassuming field.
I also took a moment to read the sign and look at the list of names the building had been associated with.
Archbishop Thomas Becket, Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII – it did feel rather special to be walking in their footsteps.
However, the path only takes visitors to one side of the structure, and I was desperate to explore the other side of the exterior since the interior was closed off.
I began to look for a route around the width of the palace, and as I turned to my right I was greeted by yet more overgrown grass.
Approaching, I could also hear a stream running, and without being able to see what was beneath the grass, the passage seemed unsafe.
This was a real shame.
The pictures on the signs show the palace with freshly cut grass, allowing visitors to roam around the grounds as they please.
Now there is only one angle the historic building can be viewed from.
In 2021 this was hardly a building fit for a king.
What was also surprising to me was the number of locals who didn't know anything about Otford Palace or its location when I was frantically asking for directions.
What was once one of the county's largest palaces, steeped in history, has now become a forgotten derelict building nestled at the back of an overgrown field.
Here's hoping it gets some much needed TLC in the near future.