Home Kent News Otford Palace: Henry VIII’s lost Kent palace and all that remains of...

Otford Palace: Henry VIII’s lost Kent palace and all that remains of the unremarkable ruins

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Original article from Kent Live

When you think of Otford, you'll likely picture the tranquil scenes of the River Darent, gorgeous historic architecture and beautiful views of the North Downs.

But the small village in west Kent is actually home to the remains of a relatively unknown jewel of Tudor design.

That is Otford Palace. Formerly one of the largest and most impressive palaces in Europe, it witnessed many of the key events during the turbulent reign of Henry VIII.

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However, now all that remains is the ruins of the old tower, which stands just under 12 metres high and can still be visited to this day.

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The palace, near Sevenoaks, covers an area of around two and a half acres and now occupies a combination of council-owned and private lands.

In fact some of the palace's outer stone walls and Tudor brickwork remain in the front and back gardens of nearby houses, according to Historic England.

The first mention of the palace was in the Doomsday survey in 1086 when it was valued at £60.

The remains of the Archbishop's Palace in Otford, also known as the Otford Palace

Over the course of the next 400 years, the original manor house grew in size, most notably re-imagined and re-modelled by William Warham in 1514.

He completely redesigned Otford Palace, demolishing most of the existing structure and building a new lavish palace fit for a king.

It is thought some inspiration was taken from the nearby Lullingstone Castle, built earlier, in 1497.

Warham's efforts had a huge impact on Tudor architecture and its influence can be seen even today in Hampton Court.

Contemporary sources believed the total cost for reconstruction of Otford Palace to be more than £33,000. Staggeringly, in today's money that would equal around £36million.

The new palace, which incorporated ideas and designs imported from Renaissance Europe, was designed and laid out on such a scale that it rivalled some of the country's biggest stately homes.

At more than 15,000 square foot it covered an estate greater than the moated area of Eltham Palace.

The remains of the Archbishop's Palace in Otford, also known as the Otford Palace

In 1519, Henry VIII stayed at Otford Palace with his court and hunted in the great Deer Park that was attached to the palace's 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.

Between 1532 and 1533 Princess Mary, the future Queen of England stayed there as a refuge from the political and religious turmoil that was engulfing England after the end of her mother’s marriage to Henry.

In 1537, the palace finally fell into royal hands after many centuries as one of the chain of houses belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury.

This is how it gained its nickname, Archbishop's Palace.

However by the reign of Elizabeth I, the Crown had lost interest and the site’s steady decline began.

Sevenoaks Rural District Council – the forerunner to today’s district council – took responsibility for the remains in the 1950s. To this day, Otford Palace remains the only Grade I listed building in the district council’s care.

Though the ruins of an old tower are all that remains, you can still view this historic site, now a scheduled ancient monument, by taking the footpath that runs close by.

Conservation

From left, Cllr John Edwards-Winser, Jon Verrall and Nick Rushby, Andrew Goymer outside Otford's Archbishop's Palace

Ownership of Otford Palace was transferred to a trust last year, saving it from becoming a housing development.

The trust plans to make the site "self sustaining," by turning it into an education centre and using two floors of the tower as an exhibition and meeting space.

The main source of revenue will be as a tourist attraction, charging people to enter the tower and facilitating school trips.

The trust's secretary, Nick Rushby, 71, of The Green, Otford, previously told KentLive. "It's an iconic building.

"In its day – about 500 years ago – it was slightly bigger than Hampton Court.

"It's a site of recognised historic interest. And it's one of the things that people associate with Otford."

Mr Rushby said the tower has been exposed to the elements "for over a hundred years" before the recent development spearheaded by Sevenoaks District Council in 2015 that saw £131,000 spent on renovations and protective measures.

Original Article