Old Palace, Croydon
- Original design
- Unknown, 0013
The Old Palace is a former residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury, who have had connections with Croydon since at least the 9th century. In the time of William the Conquerer Archbishop Lanfranc was lord of the manor, and the entry in the Domesday Book for Croydon (then known as Croindene) records that he held the manor for his own use.
In the 12th century the archbishops acquired Lambeth Palace, and from then on until the 18th century often stayed at Croydon as they journeyed between Canterbury and London and around their archdiocese. They also used the house, then surrounded by streams and set in unspoiled woodland, as a retreat.
Many archbishops restored, adapted, and extended their house at Croydon. What remains today is therefore an intriguing patchwork of Norman, medieval, Tudor, Stuart and more recent architecture, forming a building that has played an important role in the ecclesiastical and political history of our country.
GREAT HALL: Built in the time of Stafford (1443-52), this incorporates parts of a hall of the previous century. It is built of flint rubble with ashlar buttresses, and the roof is a very impressive example of a complex arch-braced construction of the period. One of the outstanding medieval great halls of London, this room served principally as a banqueting hall.
GUARD ROOM, SOLAR or WITHDRAWING ROOM: Built of stone, flint and brick – it is one of the earliest examples of the use of brick in Britain – this dates from the time of Arundel (1396-1414). Here archbishops retired after meals and received guests, and here the future James I of Scotland was imprisoned around 1412. The Oriel window is modern but of similar design to its decayed predecessor.
DINING ROOM: John Morton (1486-1500) had this room built as a private dining room. The low moulded ceiling, typical of the period, is still in excellent condition.
CORRIDOR: Morton linked chapel and house with rooms and a corridor. On a window in the room beside the chapel are some instructions for the glazier – 'next ye chapel'.
CHAPEL: This dates from the mid-15th century, though there was a chapel here in the 1280s. The screen at the west end was installed by Morton, who left on it his rebus, and the raised pew and altar rails by Laud.
GREAT COURTYARD: At one time this would have been surrounded by lodgings, stables and a gatehouse, all built in the time of Morton. All survived until the early 1800s.
LOFTUS: This is a newly-created classroom in some 15th-century roof space. It affords a good view of the South Courtyard and of a bricked-in circular window on the wall of the Great Hall.
QUEEN ELIZABETH'S ROOM: ... or the Best Bedroom, this was probably used by all honoured guests, including the Queen. It is 15th century with a well preserved ceiling of the period.
LONG GALLERY: Long galleries were used for dancing and other forms of recreation. This one is late 15th or early 16th century, though the windows were installed, and the outer wall faced with brick, in the 18th century. Here Elizabeth I made Hatton Lord Chancellor in 1587.
SOUTH COURTYARD: This affords a close-up view of the stone and flint of the Oriel window in the Guardroom. Under the arches is a bricked-in 14th century stone doorway.
SOUTH GARDEN FRONT: The south walls of the Great Hall, Bedroom and Long Gallery provide an attractive feature of the Palace.