Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace

Palace 1685

Palace 1685


The building – originally called the Manor of Lambeth or Lambeth House – has been the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for nearly 800 years, whose original residence was in Canterbury, Kent. The south bank of the Thames along this reach, 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 1435-1440. The front is an early Tudor brick gatehouse built by Cardinal John Morton and completed 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 fig trees here for centuries (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 notable orchard of the medieval period has somewhat given way to a mirroring public park adjoining and built-up roads of housing and offices.


The great hall, eclipsed by the library which it is now used as, was ransacked, even for building material, by Cromwellian troops during the English Civil War, and after the Restoration, it was completely 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 recognised it for what it was: "a new old-fashioned hall" he called it. Morton's Tower is the impressive and familiar red brick Tudor gatehouse with two five story battlement towers, which forms the entrance to the modern Palace buildings and grounds. It was built by Cardinal John Morton in around 1490. Morton himself lived in the Tower for a short time and used the large room in the centre of the tower above the larger of the two gates as an audience chamber. "The Lambeth Dole", a daily offering of bread, broth and money was first instigated by Archbishop Winchelsea in the thirteenth century. This ritual of charitable giving was offered from Morton's Tower until 1842. The ground floor of the south battlement tower contains a small cell which was briefly used for imprisonment in the 16th century. Two iron rings can still be found fixed to the wall. When Thomas More joined the staff of Lambeth Palace at the age of twelve to gain an education in the workings of a prominent household he is thought to have lived in the Tower during the course of his stay.


Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England. Founded in 1610, it is situated within the grounds of Lambeth Palace and its collections are freely available for research. The official papers of the Archbishops of Canterbury are among the library's most significant collections, documenting political and social issues as well as ecclesiastical history in Great Britain and more generally throughout the Anglican Communion. Apart from correspondence the papers include diaries, sermons and newspaper cuttings. They are made available following a 30-year closure period. While library's focus is on ecclesiastical history, its rich collections are important for an immense variety of topics, such as architecture, colonial history, local history and genealogy. Its collections contain over 4,600 manuscripts and immense quantities of archives, dating from the 9th Century to the present -among which are some 600 medieval manuscripts. The library has almost 200,000 printed books, including some 30,000 items printed before 1700. Many are unique, or are distinguished by their provenance or by special bindings. Most of the routes within the Palace are accessible to visitors unable to climb stairs. We have a series of lifts and ramps to help our visitors. The Palace has one manual wheelchair which may be borrowed for the duration of a guided tour if desired. No photographs. Disabled toilets. Tours last approx. 90 minutes. The Florence Nightingale Museum is nearby.


Location : Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7JU

Transport: Lambeth North (Bakerloo). London Buses routes C10, 507 and 77 stop on Lambeth Palace Road and 344 and 3 stop on Lambeth Road.

Opening Times: Call for Tour Availability.

Open when Archbishop not in residence.

Charlotte's Cottage: Weekends 11:00 to 18:00

Tickets : Adults £12.00    Children -17 Free

Tel: 0844 248 5134