The Lost Palace of Henry The VIII

Related Articles

Related Articles

In a small rural village in West Kent England, remains a relatively unknown jewel of Tudor design and architecture – Otford Palace

In its heyday, Otford Palace was one of the main centres of both Royal and Ecclesiastical power in England. The palace was witness to many of the key events of the turbulent Tudor period and is a physical expression of the rivalry between two major players in the court of Henry VIII – The Archbishop of Canterbury, former Lord Chancellor of England, William Warham and Archbishop Wolsey, Henry’s right-hand man and Lord Chancellor of England.

The site of Otford palace lies in the parish of Otford, Kent, a few miles south-east of Greater London and adjacent to the Pilgrims Way, which tradition maintains was the road taken by pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury.

 

The palace covers an area of just over one hectare and now occupies a combination of council-owned and private lands. Whilst the building today is a ruin, substantial parts survive that includes half of the north gallery that surrounded the main courtyard, the northwest tower to a height of over 11.5 metres, part of an adjacent gallery standing 3 metres high and large masonry remains in the front and back gardens of adjacent private dwellings.

Image Credit : Jerome Kalan

The origins of the present site can be found in the Saxon period, but the first mention was for an earlier construction by Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, which was valued at £60 in the Doomsday survey in 1086.

Over the next 400 years, the original manor house grew in size when Archbishop William Courtenay remodeled the house and created a stunning edifice with a new great hall in the late 14th century.

150 years later, Courtenay’s successor William Warham was to create a building that would have a profound effect on Tudor building design and its influence can be seen today in Hampton Court and many styles of Tudor architecture.

In 1514 Warham decided to completely redesign Otford, making it a building fit for a prince of the church and was to convey a clear expression of power and status. He demolished most of the existing buildings and constructed a new lavish palace that sets the current layout of Otford Palace.

No building plans or accounts of the construction survived, but a letter to Erasmus from Warham shows that only the chapel and one wall of the great hall remained in situ. The cost of this development must have been enormous for the time and contemporary sources believed the total cost for reconstruction to be over £33,000. The new palace, which incorporated ideas and designs imported from renaissance Europe, became an important location for the entertainment of both church and state.

It is worth noting that Lullingstone Castle built nearby in 1497 has features that resemble Otford Palace. It can be suggested that Warham was influenced by elements of its design and used the same local craftsman and building materials for his palace (this raises the question as to whether Lullingston was actually the precursor to the development of Tudor building design for Otford and Hampton Court).

In 1519, Henry VIII stayed at Otford Palace with his court and hunted in the great Deer Park that was attached to the palace grounds. Otford must have met with his approval 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.

William Warham

William Warham seems to be a name that history has deemed to have forgotten and consigned to the scrapheap. Warham started his political career as a diplomat for Henry VII and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1503 and Lord Chancellor in 1504.

A key achievement of Warham was in arranging the marriage between Henry VII’s son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon. In 1509 the Archbishop married and then crowned Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon King and Queen of England. In 1514 he consecrated his great rival Wolsey, the Bishop of Lincoln. He found the political pressure associated with the highest post in England too much and resigned the following year in 1515 but continued as Archbishop.

Portrait of Archbishop William Warham – Credit: Cyfrowe

Cardinal Wolsey now took Warham’s place as the key political leader in Tudor England and intensified a rivalry that was to continue until Wolsey’s death. Warham didn’t totally retreat from the political scene and went with Henry to the Field of Gold in 1520 as mentioned earlier.

When we look at the plan and design features of Otford and compare them to Wolsey’s edifice at Hampton Court we can see a glimpse of the rivalry and dare I say it dislike that existed between both men. Both buildings share a number of common features, both sites were built over existing manor houses and they shared common architectural features.

Long galleries and accommodation buildings flanked both the main courtyards of Otford and Hampton Court. Hampton Court’s famous main gatehouse was on the west side and gave access to the main courtyard, which was rectangular in shape, and was nearly identical to Otford, however, Otford was bigger in size and grandeur and set the standard for Hampton Court.

Otford Palace was designed and laid out on such a scale that it even compares favorably with any of the largest contemporary palaces in England. At over 163m by 98m it covered an area greater than the later renaissance influenced Nonsuch Palace or the moated area of Eltham Palace.

A more personal insight into the role both buildings played in the power game between both men can be seen in a letter written by Warham to Wolsey in the winter of 1522. Warham tells Wolsey he is unable to travel to see him on the grounds of ill health. Warham also thanked him for the advice that he should live on high, dry ground rather than at Otford (which was damp and wet) and additionally for his offer of accommodation at Hampton Court. Historians suspect that Wolsey was being deliberately provocative and was clearly inferring that his building was far superior to Warhams Otford.

This rivalry did not have many years to run. Wolsey died in 1530 on his way to answer charges of high treason for his failure to resolve the problem of Henry’s marriage. Two years later, Warham died in his bed of old age; probably with a degree of satisfaction over Wolsey’s fall from grace.

Written by Diarmaid Walshe

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Walking, Talking and Showing Off – a History of Roman Gardens

In ancient Rome, you could tell a lot about a person from the look of their garden. Ancient gardens were spaces used for many activities, such as dining, intellectual practice, and religious rituals.

Curious Kids: How did the First Person Evolve?

We know humans haven’t always been around. After all, we wouldn’t have survived alongside meat-eating dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ring-like Structure on Ganymede May Have Been Caused by a Violent Impact

Researchers from Kobe University and the National Institute of Technology, Oshima College have conducted a detailed reanalysis of image data from Voyager 1, 2 and Galileo spacecraft in order to investigate the orientation and distribution of the ancient tectonic troughs found on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

Tracing Evolution From Embryo to Baby Star

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) took a census of stellar eggs in the constellation Taurus and revealed their evolution state.

“Woodhenge” Discovered in the Iberian Peninsula

Archaeologists conducting research in the Perdigões complex in the Évora district of the Iberian Peninsula has uncovered a “Woodhenge” monument.

New Fossil Discovery Shows How Ancient ‘Hell Ants’ Hunted With Headgear

Researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Rennes in France have unveiled a stunning 99-million-year-old fossil pristinely preserving an enigmatic insect predator from the Cretaceous Period -- a 'hell ant' (haidomyrmecine) -- as it embraced its unsuspecting final victim, an extinct relative of the cockroach known as Caputoraptor elegans.

New Algorithm Suggests That Early Humans and Related Species Interbred Early and Often

A new analysis of ancient genomes suggests that different branches of the human family tree interbred multiple times, and that some humans carry DNA from an archaic, unknown ancestor.

Long Neck Helped Reptile Hunt Underwater

Its neck was three times as long as its torso, but had only 13 extremely elongated vertebrae: Tanystropheus, a bizarre giraffe-necked reptile which lived 242 million years ago, is a paleontological absurdity.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.