- Original design
- Unknown, 1200
Originally the Palace was closer to the water and the archbishops came and went (where is now the River Police Pier) in the archiepiscopal barge. Lambeth, according to some, means loamhithe or muddy landing place and indeed the whole area of the south bank as far as Blackfriars was known as Lambeth Marsh.
Entrance to the Palace is through the gatehouse, a good example of Tudor brick, built by Cardinal Morton in 1495.
A turn takes you to the garden, now partly car park, in front of the neo-Gothic residence of about 1828, although the fig trees to the west are said to descend from some planted by Cardinal Pole, the last of the Catholic Archbishops who died in 1558.
Beyond the fig trees is the Great Hall, ravaged under Cromwell and rebuilt by Archbishop Juxon after 1660 in a gothic survival style (‘a new old-fashioned hall’, Pepys called it).
It has a hammer beam roof and the nineteenth-century gateway was installed when the Hall was converted to a library – an important library with some fine illuminated manuscripts.
Although the Hall had to be repaired after war damage it remains one of London’s most attractive buildings.
The oldest Beyond is the early thirteenth-century crypt, or undercroft, the oldest surviving part of the Palace and above is the Chapel, built fifty years later, badly damaged in the war and now greatly restored.
The fifteenth century Lollards’ Tower is really a water tower but retains its name on the tradition that Wycliffe’s supporters were imprisoned in it; Wycliffe himself certainly underwent his second trial for heresy in the chapel at Lambeth in 1378, but the prisoners in the room at the top of the tower were probably much later, Laudian Episcopalians.
The architect, Edward Blore (1787-1879), replaced two irregular east wings of the palace with a single block, faced with Bath stone. Walter Scott called it ‘in the best Gothic taste’. This is the Archbishop’s residence and also houses a busy secretariat.
The Guardroom, a first floor hall which was re-erected by Blore in the 1840s on old walls, re-using a fine arch-braced roof, elaborately moulded, which is attributed to the mid-fourteenth century. Receptions are held in the Fine Rooms, the principal rooms of the nineteenth century residence, the largest of the rooms, the Blue Drawing Room, looking out over the fine, extensive gardens to the north of the Palace.
The formal courtyards lead to the parkland-style garden with mature trees, woodland and native planting, pond and hornbeam allee. Also a formal rose terrace, summer gravel border and herb garden. The garden is one of the oldest and largest private gardens in London and is opened during the year to support the National Gardens Scheme.
The Palace has a rich collection of portraits, a rather fascinating set of variations on the theme of lawn sleeves, from Holbein’s famous dour painting of Archbishop Warham to an admirable Van Dyck of Laud.
Above all, Lambeth Palace is the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his family and this is reflected in the personal photographs and memorabilia throughout the rooms.