Lambeth Palace in London
Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. It is located in Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames a short distance upstream of the Palace of Westminster on the opposite shore. It was acquired by the archbishopric around 1200. It is bounded by Lambeth Palace Road to the north and west and Lambeth Road to the south.
The south bank of the Thames, not part of historic London, developed slowly because the land was low and sodden: it was called Lambeth Marsh, as far downriver as the present Blackfriars Road. The name "Lambeth" embodies "hithe", a landing on the river: archbishops came and went by water, as did John Wycliff, who was tried here for heresy. In the English peasants' revolt of 1381 the Palace was attacked.
The oldest remaining part of the palace is the Early English chapel. The so-called Lollard’s Tower, which retains evidence of its use as a prison in the 17th century, dates from 1440. There is a fine Tudor brick gatehouse built by Cardinal John Morton in 1495. Cardinal Pole lay in state in the palace for 40 days after he died there in 1558. The fig tree in the palace courtyard is possibly grown from a slip taken from one of the White Marseille figs reputedly planted by Cardinal Pole. In 1786 there were three ancient figs, two "nailed against the wall" and still noted in 1826 as "two uncommonly fine... traditionally reported to have been planted by Cardinal Pole, and fixed against that part of the palace believed to have been founded by him. They are of the white Marseilles sort, and still bear delicious fruit. ...On the south side of the building, in a small private garden, is another tree of the same kind and age." By 1882 their place had been taken by several massive offshoots.
The Great Hall was ransacked by Cromwellian troops during the English Civil War, and after the Restoration, it was rebuilt by archbishop William Juxon in 1663 (dated) with a late Gothic hammerbeam roof, the likes of which had not been constructed for a hundred years. In this context, the choice of a hammerbeam roof was evocative; it spoke of High-Church Anglican continuity with the Old Faith (the King's brother was an avowed Catholic), a visual statement that the Interregnum was over. As with some Gothic details on University buildings of the same date, it is debated among architectural historians whether this is Gothic survival or an extraordinary early work of the Gothic Revival. The diarist Samuel Pepys recognized it for what it was: "a new old-fashioned hall" he called it. Among the portraits of the archbishops now housed in the Palace are examples by Hans Holbein, Anthony van Dyck, William Hogarth and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
New construction was added to the building in 1834 by Edward Blore (1787–1879), who rebuilt much of Buckingham Palace later. Here his work is neo-Gothic enough to have satisfied Sir Walter Scott, and it fronts a spacious quadrangle. It is these buildings which are now inhabited by the archbishop.
Lambeth Palace Library
The palace is now also home to Lambeth Palace Library, the official library of the Archbishop of Canterbury and principal holder of records for the history of the Church of England, founded as a public library by archbishop Richard Bancroft in 1610. This contains a vast collection of material relating to ecclesiastical history, including archbishops' and bishops' archives and papers relating to various Anglican missionary and charitable societies. The valuable collection of original manuscripts contains important material, some dating as far back as the 9th century. The various other collections contain material on an immense variety of topics from the history of art and architecture to colonial and Commonwealth history, and innumerable aspects of English social, political and economic history. The library is also a significant resource for local history and genealogy.
The library contains over 120,000 books as well as the archives of the Archbishops of Canterbury and other church bodies dating back to the 12th century. These can be found via the online catalogs (linked below). Highlights include:
- Gutenberg Bible
- Lambeth Bible
The adjacent parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth was rebuilt around 1850, though the ancient monuments preserved give it an appearance of antiquity. Among them are tombs of some of the archbishops, including Richard Bancroft, and of the gardeners and plantsmen John Tradescant the elder and his son of the same name, and of Admiral William Bligh. St Mary's was deconsecrated in 1972, and a few years later the Museum of Garden History (now the Garden Museum) opened there, because of its Tradescant associations.
- List of palaces
- Palace of Whitehall
- Henry John Todd
- Lambeth Palace official website
- Lambeth Palace Library official website
- Very detailed architectural description – from the Survey of London online
- Flickr images tagged Lambeth Palace
- Library catalog of printed books
- Library catalog of manuscripts and archives