Knole House

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

There are major building remains

NameKnole House
Alternative NamesKnolle
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityMedway
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishSevenoaks

A late 15th century archbishop's house, possibly on the site of an earlier medieval manor dating to between 1281 and 1456; later it became a Royal Tudor residence and later still it was altered as a Jacobean country house. It is constructed of Kentish ragstone, except for a later half timbered addition. It was built for Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry VIII obtained Knole, along with Otford Palace, from Archbishop Cramner in 1532. In contrast to Otford, Knole was a smaller house; and King Henry apparantly intended to reserve it for his personal use when travelling through that area of the country, whilst the bulk of his retinue could stay at Ottford. There has been some debate as to whether Henry VIII had part of the house known as The Green Court added, or if this had in fact been added by one of Cranmer's ecclesiastical predecessors. Knowle eventually left Royal ownership and became the seat of the Sackville family. It underwent major remodelling in the Jacobean style between 1605 to 1608 for Thomas Sackville. There may have been further rebuilding later in the 17th century after a fire. (PastScape)

Archaeology South East were commissioned by the National Trust to undertake an archaeological watching brief and historical building record during works at Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent. The work involved an archaeological watching brief of ground reduction after the removal of flagstone surfaces at Stone Court and Green Court. The historic building record comprised a photographic record of the north and south elevations of Stone Court prior to replacement of stonework and a brief record of the Orangery roof after removal of the tile cover. The results of the watching brief at Stone Court revealed part of an extensive water management system

The system included a large brick built tank or cistern (one of two cisterns revealed during a sub-surface video survey carried out in 2005) two man-holes leading to each of the cisterns and two linear drains. The watching brief at Green Court revealed two linear drainage gulleys, which ran alongside the north and south edges of the path from east to west. A single east west linear arrangement of irregular shaped stone blocks, within a probable foundation cut, was recorded close to the west end of the path. A ceramic lined drain orientated north south, capped by stone flags, was also recorded below the level of the pathway. The historic building record of the north and south elevations of Stone Court showed that the walls were constructed in hewn and coursed ragstone blocks over a protruding base plinth. The plinth had galetting to the mortar bedding joints and a moulded coping stone to the fabric above. The galetting was not continued into the fabric of the structure above the plinth. Some of the stone utilised in the construction of the walls had various tool marks, but none were of a uniform nature and are believed to be for shaping rather than decorative purposes. Both elevations have two rows of moulded string courses: the first between ground and first floor and the second above first floor and below the crenellated parapet. The stone string courses had been cut into to allow the elaborately decorated lead downpipes to be fixed to the structure. The down-pipes are dated 1605 and were added to the Court as part of the Great Rebuild carried out by the Sackville family. The survey of the Orangery roof structure revealed eight full bays and two partial bays. The partial bays connected the Orangery to the range at the western end and at the eastern end created a dormer-type construction for a Dutch Gable. There are three additional Dutch gables to the southern slope of the Orangery. The oak roof construction is of nine trusses comprising principal rafter pairs jointed at apex and linked by collar and tie-beam. The north and south roof slopes had a single in-line row of purlins in bay lengths tennoned into the corresponding principal rafters of the trusses. Ashlar posts, one to each side of the truss, linked the principal rafter to the tie-beam and together with the soffit of the collar created a large open area to the attic which had been finished in lath and plaster. The ceiling between ground and first floor had been removed in 1823 to make a double height space for the Orangery and a series of double height windows were placed within the southern elevation with a matching set of doors in the eastern elevation. The attic floor had remained in situ and was predominantly constructed of a grid-like arrangement of joists. (Archaeology South East 2007)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceTQ539542
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  • Matthew Johnson (ed.), 2017, Lived experience in the later Middle Ages: studies of Bodiam and other elite landscapes in south-eastern England (The Highfield Press)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 40, 393-4, 370, 381, 437
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 320-25, 364-8
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 96, 109, 284
  • 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
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby)
  • 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. 217-9
  • Newman, John, 1980, Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald p. 356-63
  • Sackville-West, V., 1922, Knole and the Sackvilles (New York) online copy (revised later editions also published)
  • Phillips, C.J., 1929, The History of the Sackville Family
  • Tipping, H.A., 1929, English Homes, period 3 Vol. 1 (London) p. 222-68
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 308-10 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 305-6 online copy
  • Bridgman, J., 1817, An Historical and Topographical Sketch of Knole (London) 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. 60- online transcription



  • Sorapure, David and Wright, James, 2013-14, ''Water Court: smaller and quite demure' – A recent building survey of a forgotten late medieval courtyard at Knole, Kent' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 27 p. 263-70
  • Town, E. and Gregory, A., 2010, 'Trouble at the gate: conflict and controversy at Knole, 1456-1645' National Trust Houses and Collection Annual p. 44-49
  • Calloway, Stephen, 2003, 'We visit again ... royal residences and stately homes of England: a look back at some of Great Britain's most celebrated properties' Architectural Digest Vol. 60.1 p. 92-107
  • Hill, D. Ingram, 1975, 'Ancient heraldic glass at Knole, Sevenoaks' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 91 p. 1-14 online copy
  • Du Boulay, F.R.H., 1974, 'The assembling of an estate: Knole in Sevenoaks, c. 1275 to c. 1525' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 89 p. 1-10 online copy
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1970, 'Some medieval archiepiscopal palaces' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 127 p. 130-46
  • Du Boulay, F.R.H., 1950, 'A note on the rebuilding of Knole by Archbishop Bourgchier' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 63 p. 135-39 online transcription
  • Tipping, H. Avray, 1912 May 25, 'Knole of the archbishops' Country Life p. 772-87
  • Loftie, W.J., 1874, 'Knole House' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 9 p. xl-lii online copy

Guide Books

  • Sackville-West, V., 1923, Knole
  • 1910, Guide to Knole, its state rooms, pictures and antiquities (Sevenoaks) online copy
  • Gotch, 1894, Guide to Knole
  • Brady, J.H., 1839, The Visitor's Guide to Knole (Sevenoaks) (Specifically a visitors guide book but at 250 pages expectations of visitors certainly different) online copy


  • Gregory, A., 2010, Knole: An Architectural and social history of the Archbishop of Canterbury's House, 1456-1538 (PhD Thesis: University of Sussex) Download copy
  • Archaeology South-East, 2007, An Archaeological Watching Brief and Historic Building Record During Work at Stone Court, Green Court and The Orangery Roof, Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent.
  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy
  • 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)