Otford Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop/Royal), and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameOtford Palace
Alternative NamesOtford Castle
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishOtford

A Tudor archbishop's palace and later Tudor royal residence, built on the site of a 12th century manor house, which by the 14th century had been fortified and had an adjacent park. The Tudor palace was built by Archbishop Warham circa 1518. The archbishop's palace consisted of a large galleried building with gate houses at the north and south ends, it was divided into two courts by a central hall. The estate included a park (noted already in 1385). After the death of Warham, in 1537 King Henry VIII persuaded Archbishop Cranmer to give him this and other houses in Kent. Henry's officials carried out some building work between 1541and 1543 but its exact nature is not clear. In 1601 Queen Elizabeth I sold the palace to Sir Robert Sidney in order to finance her Irish wars. During the 17th century the house was abandoned and the park was split up into farms. Remains at the site include water conduits, the north-west tower a hall and part of the outer wall of Warham's palace. (PastScape)

The Green TQ 5259 21/747 Nos I to 3 (consec) l0.9.54 (Castle Cottages) and Store Building at East end (Formerly listed as Palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury) II-star GV 2. These buildings are part of the only surviving range of the palace built by Archbishop Warham in the early C16. The original walls of red brick with blue headers and stone quoins and dressings. High galleted rubble plinth with moulded stone coping. Windows of 1 or 2 Tudor-arched lights, mostly under hoodmoulds. The 2-storey cottages, of 1 or 2 windows' width, have 1st floors rebuilt in brick and rebuilt tiled roofs. Modern casement windows and modern doors, that of No 2 under original, 4-centred stone arch. Storage building (AM) (formerly the chapel) also has renewed tiled roof hipped over half-octagonal ends. 2 doors under moulded stone arches, 1 3-centred and one 4-centred. At west end of the range stands the roofless tower of the palace, now a scheduled AM but visually part of the group

(Listed Building Report)

The archbishops of Canterbury had, from the earliest accounts, a HOUSE or PALACE here, in which they resided from time to time, as appears by their frequent mandates, dated from their manor house of Otford, being a most commodious and favorite retirement for them; adjoining to which they had two large parks, extensive woods, and other lands for their pleasure and convenience, in their own possession. Archbishop Thomas Becket seems to have been greatly pleased with the retired situation of this palace, and several tales are told of the miracles he wrought whilst at it; among others, that the archbishop finding the house wanted a fit spring to water it, stuck his staff into the dry ground, and that water immediately burst forth, where the well called from thence St. Thomas's Well, now is, which afterwards plentifully supplied the palace. Here that great prelate archbishop Robert Winchelsea entertained king Edward I. in his 29th year, anno 1300, and he resided here at the time of his death in the 6th year of king Edward II. anno 1313, at which time it appears that there was a park here, which extended into Sevenoke parish, for four years afterwards the succeeding archbishop, Walter Reynolds, had the king's licence to purchase lands in that parish towards the enlarging of it, but this afterwards not being thought by one of his successors, archbishop Simon Islip, sufficient for his accommodation, he with the king's licence purchased lands and meadows here, in the 33d and 34th years of king Edward III's reign, in order to be inclosed with other lands by the archbishop, and for another park to be made here, since known by the name of the Lesser or Little Park. Archbishop Deane, who came to the see in the 16th year of king Henry VII. rebuilt great part of this house; notwithstanding which, his immediate successor, archbishop Warham, thinking the house too mean for him to reside in, as he intended to do, on account of his quarrel with the citizens of Canterbury, rebuilt the whole of it, excepting the hall and the chapel, at the expence of 33,000l. a large sum at that time, and here he entertained that splendid prince king Henry VIII. who rested with the archbishop at it several times both in the 1st and 7th years of his reign. His next successor, archbishop Cranmer, observing that this stately palace excited the envy of the courtiers, passed it away, with his other estates in this parish, in exchange, in the 29th year of that reign, to the king, as has been already mentioned. (Hasted)

Gatehouse Comments

The medieval palace is said to have been fortified although the form of these fortifications is unclear or unknown.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ528592
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 395
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 320-25
  • Philp, Brian, 2002, Archaeology in the Front Line (Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit) p. 112-16
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 171
  • Thurley, Simon, 1993, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (Yale University Press) p. 50, 79, 163-4
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 24, 109, 156, 167
  • Philp, Brian, 1984, Excavations in the Darenth Valley, Kent (Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit: Monograph series 4) p. 137-65
  • Newman, John, 1983, Buildings of England: North east and east Kent p. 428-9
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 208, 217-9
  • Clarke, D. and Stoyel, A., 1975, Otford in Kent p. 71-3, 79-85
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Morewood, Caroline C., 1910, 'Introductory Chapter' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of Canterbury) (London; Constable & Co) p. 5-6 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1801, The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 12 p. 524-5 online transcription
  • Hasted, Edward, 1797 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 3 p. 19- online transcription



  • Walshe, Darmaid, 2013, 'The Lost Palace of Henry The VIII' HeritageDaily online copy
  • Aberg, F.A., 1985, 'Recent research on medieval moated sites in England' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 12 p. 185-197
  • 1979, Moated Sites Research Group report Vol. 6 p. 47
  • Cherry, J.F. (ed), 1975, 'Post-Medieval Britain in 1974' Post-Medieval Archaeology Vol. 9 p. 254
  • Wood, C.P., 1975, 'Emergency excavations at Otford palace' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 89 p. 199-203 online copy
  • Mynott, E., 1974, 'News from the Groups' Kent Archaeological review Vol. 37 p. 195-6 online copy
  • Hesketh, C., 1915, 'The manor house and great park of the archbishops of Canterbury at Otford' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 31 p. 1-24 online copy
  • 1887, The Antiquary Vol. 15 p. 16-19

Primary Sources


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk South East Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 45 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk South East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 45 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 48 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 45 online copy
  • Barbara Darby, c. 2005, The Vanished Palace of Otford in Kent (BD Videos) Order details
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)