Lambeth Palace

Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1951.

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'Lambeth Palace', in Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall, (London, 1951) pp. 81-103. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section


[See plates 62, 63, 65, 66, 67, 68, 73, 74, 75, 82, 85, and 86.]

A brief account of the struggles of Archbishops Baldwin and Hubert Walter to found a college of secular clerks, with a house for an archiepiscopal residence, away from Canterbury and free from interference by the defenders of monkish privilege there, has been given in the account of Lambeth Manor (p.3). In 1190 Archbishop Baldwin, having acquired 24 acres of the demesne land of the manor of Lambeth from the bishop and monks of Rochester, (fn. 10) caused a site to be marked out for a chapel and clerks' houses there, before departing for the First Crusade. (fn. 189) Baldwin died in the Holy Land in 1190 and, after a prolonged dispute, Hubert Walter, Bishop of Salisbury, was elected in his stead. The monks of Canterbury renewed their opposition to the Lambeth project, but in 1197 Hubert Walter obtained a grant of the whole manor of Lambeth, with the exception of the Bishop of Rochester's residence, (fn. 10) and proceeded with the building of a chapel. Two years later, as a result of papal intervention on the side of the monks he agreed to raze the chapel to the ground, (fn. 190) but in 1200 he finally got both Pope and monks to agree that he might build a house of Praemonstratensian canons at Lambeth with accommodation for his own residence. (fn. 190)

Figure 22:

Lambeth Palace. Corbel with monk's head. Sketch by Blore

During his later years Hubert Walter was much in France and it is impossible to say whether he lived at Lambeth, (fn. 189) but Archbishop Stephen Langton issued letters from thence in 1207, the year of his elevation to the See. (fn. 189) It seems probable that part at least of the chapel crypt, the earliest of the buildings now remaining, dates from the time of Hubert Walter. (fn. n1) The house and its grounds were extra-parochial and have remained so until the present day.

The palace has suffered many vicissitudes during its long history. The Survey of 1647 to which frequent reference will be made and the 1648 plan reproduced on Plate 60 give some picture of the condition of the palace during the upheavals of the Commonwealth period. The drastic renovations carried out by Edward Blore after 1828 can be seen by a comparison of the 1648 plan with his (Plate 61). The havoc wrought by bomb damage during the 1939–45 war is described by William Temple's biographer-“Part of the roof of Wren's (fn. n2) library had been burnt away, 2,000 books were now ashes, and 3,000 more were jumbled together in a sodden heap on the floor. Piles of smashed furniture and pictures torn by the blast lay in a litter of broken glass and rubble, the great drawing-room was a gaping hole, and the chapel was open to the sky.” (fn. 192) Now order and beauty are again being restored to the palace. The old buildings are being repaired and pieced together, and where complete destruction of the old work or the necessities of modern living require it, new buildings, as far as possible in keeping with the old, are being constructed. The architects for the restoration are Lord Mottistone and Paul Paget.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was for several centuries often a high officer of state as well as of the church, and his London residence has played an important part in the history of these islands. An excellent chronological account of the personalities who have resided in, and visited the palace, and of the scenes which have been enacted there, is given in Mrs. Dorothy Gardiner's Story of Lambeth Palace (fn. 189) and it has therefore been decided to arrange this survey of the palace topographically taking the buildings one by one and giving past history only so far as it throws light on existing conditions. In compiling this account two sources have been freely used to which little reference has been made either by Mrs. Gardiner or by the editors of the Victoria County History and the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments; these are the plans and records of the manor now in the custody of the Church Commissioners and the drawings and plans made by Edward Blore for his reconstruction of the palace circa 1828.

The Gateway or Morton's Tower

The gateway of red brick, the part of the palace most familiar to the general public, was built by John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1486–1501. It probably stood on the site and incorporated part of a previous “great gate” which was in existence in 1322 when Archbishop Reynolds was carrying out improvements to the palace. (fn. 183) There is evidence that under Archbishop Bourchier (1454–86) the archives had been kept in “a certain low chamber” of the gateway to the left of the entrance and that after the new gateway was completed they were transferred to a chamber on the right side, adjacent to the dwellinghouse “ in the new work of the gate, newly-built,” which Morton had provided for his porter. The old Prerogative Registry remained in the right-hand tower until the passing of the Probate Act in 1857. (fn. 189)

Archbishop Morton

Morton's tower is one of the few surviving examples of the early Tudor style of brick building. The only comparable building in the neighbourhood of London is the old palace of Hatfield which was also built by Cardinal Morton.

Figure 23:

Lambeth Palace. Entrance to Morton's Tower. Sketch by R. G. Absolon

From time immemorial the “Lambeth Dole” was dispensed to beggars at the gate. Ducarel says that in his day it was regularized and consisted of a weekly allowance of 15 quartern loaves, 9 stone of beef and 5s., which were divided and distributed thrice weekly. (fn. 193) The practice was discontinued after 1842 when money grants to poor persons were substituted.


The gateway has massive five-storey towers of stocky proportion set forward at either side of the entrance. It is built in fine red brick relieved in places by diaperwork formed of black header bricks. The window dressings and tracery, as well as the copings to the battlements, quoins and bands, are all in stone, much of which has been renewed in modern times. The plinth at the base of the building is of coursed ragstone.

The entrance has a large opening for vehicles and another, far smaller, for pedestrians. Both have moulded jambs and their four-centred arches have label mouldings. On the inner side there is only one arch for both vehicles and pedestrians. The room over the entrance has a four-light mullioned and transomed window on the south front, and a three-light window on the north. The other windows to the gateway, including those to the stair-turrets, which project forward at each side on the courtyard front, are of one or two lights. The stairturrets rise above the parapets of the towers and, like them, are battlemented.

Figure 24:

Lambeth Palace. Staircase to Morton's Tower. Sketch by R. G. Absolon.

Above the entrance there is stone vaulting with moulded ridge, wall and diagonal ribs which spring from attached angle shafts with moulded caps and bases. The vaulting has carved bosses at the tops of the four wall arches. On the west side there are two doorways with four-centred heads and simple chamfered jambs. On the east side there are two single-light windows and a doorway similar to those opposite. Near the pedestrians' entrance is a late 16th century wood settle with an upright back, shaped arms and turned legs.

The gateway has lead rain-water heads bearing inscriptions “TH 1751,” “TS 1758,” “1897” and a tun device (Cardinal Morton's rebus).

The large room over the entrance, which is at the same level as the second storeys in each tower, has moulded ceiling beams, joists and cornice.

Its chimney piece has stone jambs, a depressed head and carved spandrels. The stone jambed doorways have four-centred heads and both windows have hollow-moulded jambs and heads. The floor is paved with old red square tiles much worn and damaged.

The rooms in each tower have moulded or chamfered ceiling beams and their doorways and chimney pieces are of stone and similar in detail to that in the large room. There is some linen-fold panelling and a number of 16th and 17th century doors.

Figure 25:

Lambeth Palace. Morton's Tower. Linenfold panelling. Measured drawing.

On the ground floor the south room in the east tower (formerly a cell for prisoners) has a small square-headed cupboard with a perforated wood door. Two iron rings are fixed to the south wall. The north room has a cupboard with linen-fold panelled door and grotesque head above; there is a square-headed label moulding over the cupboard.

The first floor room in the west tower has a late 17th century partition and its walls, including those of the small room leading off it, are lined with flush vertical boarding painted to represent panelling of coeval date. The boarding above the fireplace is painted to represent a marble overmantel. It bears a cartouche with the date “ 1691.” Above it is a shield of the arms of the See of Canterbury impaling Tillotson, supported by two winged cherubs. Like the cartouche, it is now mostly obscured.

The Great Hall

It is probable that a Great Hall was one of the earliest parts of Lambeth House to be built. In the first extant set of accounts there is an entry concerning the repair of its roof (fn. 189) and thereafter references are frequent.

Archbishop Robert de Winchelsey (1294–1313) kept “prodigious” hospitality in the Great Hall on Sundays and Fridays, feeding “no fewer then four Thousand men when corn was cheap and five Thousand when it was dear.” (fn. 194) The Great Hall was also the scene of the long series of banquets held to celebrate the consecration of new bishops in Lambeth chapel. Of these feasts the most famous was that of William of Wykeham in 1367, who, though consecrated at St. Paul's, kept his feast at Lambeth. In later years the feasts were held in the guard chamber. They were discontinued in 1845 at the consecration of Bishop Wilberforce. (fn. 195)

The Hall was repaired by Archbishop Chichele (1414–1443) who replaced the portico at the south end by an arched gateway leading into the inner court with a room above it. (fn. 189) The Hall was re-roofed with shingles in 1570–71 by Archbishop Parker. (fn. 196)

The old Hall, as shown on the 1648 plan, had a buttery and pantry at the west end and the kitchen and offices jutting out at right angles on the north side.

In 1660 William Juxon, who had ministered to Charles I on the scaffold, was appointed to the See of Canterbury. He found the archiepiscopal residence at Lambeth in a sorry state and the Great Hall demolished. (fn. 196) The latter he rebuilt on the old site and as far as possible in the “ancient Form.” (fn. 196) The walls appear from the plan to have been in the same positions as the old, and it is possible that some of the old foundations were re-used. The site of the buttery and pantry was covered by the gateway to the inner courtyard and the entry and staircase to the room over the gate.

Archbishop Juxon

In 1829 Blore reported that the Great Hall was dirty, neglected and applied to no useful purpose. (fn. 197) It was decided that it should be turned into a library, and elaborately carved book shelves (Plate 77a) were designed by Blore and placed at right angles to the west and east sides of the Hall to form bays. The library had its origin in the collection of books left to his successors by Archbishop Bancroft in 1610. His will contained the provision that if the books were in danger of dispersion they should be handed over to the University of Cambridge. This provision was invoked by John Selden after the execution of Laud and the collection was by this means preserved. It was restored to Lambeth Palace in the time of Archbishop Sheldon (1663–77) and was added to from time to time by succeeding archbishops.

Both the library building and its contents suffered greatly from damage by fire and water during the 1939–45 war. The fabric of the Hall has been carefully restored, but in future though bookcases will line the walls the main bulk of the library will be housed elsewhere and the Hall left clear for conferences and assemblies.


The Great Hall is built in red brick with stone quoins, entablatures, battlements, cappings, and window tracery. The roof, which is of timber construction, is carried by buttresses which stand forward from the east and west walls.

At either end of the west elevation there are square bay projections, with Classic pediments. The entablature on this elevation is joined to each pediment and is, like them, modillioned. It breaks forward at each buttress and has an enriched frieze with carved swags and masks. Above the cornice the buttresses, which each have one moulded offset on the face, are stepped back below square pedestals, each with a ball finial. The main parapet wall is battlemented.

The bay projections have rusticated quoins and pedestals at both ends and at the centre of their parapets. Above each central pedestal stands a finial of stumpy proportion. Both bays have a large Gothic three-light pointed window, each being two-centred with moulded reveals and transoms dividing it into three ranges of lights. All the lights are cinque-foil headed. Between the bay projections the windows are of similar design but of only two ranges, of which the lower lights are square-headed and without cinque-foils. There is a continuous moulded plinth at the base of the buttresses and to both bay projections.

There are original lead rainwater heads and down-pipes in two of the buttress angles on this side, each inscribed “1663” and “WI,” and bearing the arms of the See of Canterbury and of Juxon. The heads have cornices and pineapple pendants at each side. There is a similar rainwater head and down-pipe on the east elevation but it has no pendants.

The east elevation is similar to the west but less ornate. There is a deep string course below the parapet, instead of an entablature. The parapet is straight and without battlements; it has a moulded coping and stops against the buttresses, which extend higher and have square cappings. The end buttresses are wide and rise from plinth to string course without offsets. The string course of the southernmost of these buttresses is incised “MDCLXXXV.”

Under the most southerly window on this front is a stone doorway with a semicircular arch and pediment above. It has a moulded architrave which is eared at the arch springing and returns round the arch keystone. The spandrels each side of the keystone are panelled.

The gables of the north and south walls of the Hall are surmounted by finials with round-headed recesses to each of their four faces. The finials are topped by ball terminals. Each gable has a three-light window whose tracery is similar to that in the side windows but of wider proportion and without transoms. The labels to the south window rest on Renaissance type console brackets.

The lantern, placed centrally on the ridge of the tiled roof, is of wood clothed in lead. It has lights to each of its two stages, the lower being hexagonal and the upper circular. Above the upper stage there is an ogeeshaped cupola which carries a gilded weather-vane with ball and mitre terminal. The vane is pierced with the arms of the See impaling those of Juxon.

The Hall has a fine oak hammer-beam roof of Gothic form, though much of its detail is of Classic derivation (Plate 78). It has seven bays. The main members are moulded and the main spandrels are filled with acanthus foliage. There are carved mitres in the parts of the spandrels above the brackets. The side post pendants below the brackets have acanthus enrichment and the longitudinal braces spring from carved head corbels with fruit branches below. The main wall-plates are masked by a frieze with a band above. The frieze is carved with swags and bears arms of the See and Juxon impaled and separately. Above the main purlins there are similar bands which have guilloche ornament with carved busts or mitres in the larger circles, while below, the longitudinal spandrels have pierced carving. Above the collar beams and main members there is open tracery with semi-Gothic cusped heads. The trusses rest on stone corbels cut to represent lion heads, masks, cherubs, and angels holding shields. Inside the lantern there are masks and pendant foliage carving, and an enriched ceiling rose.

Each of the bay projections on the west side of the Hall has coffered arched reveals and soffits ornamented by large rosettes of differing pattern. The walls are plastered and distempered.

On the east side at the north end there is a semicircular headed doorway in stone which has a voluted keystone and moulded imposts and plinth (Plate 79). Its detail is enriched and it is flanked by Corinthian pilasters which support an entablature and broken segmental pediment. The raised panel above the keystone bears the inscription: “ANNO DOMINI M.DC.L.X.III” and above the pediment is set, upon a panelled pedestal, a cartouche with the arms of the See impaling Juxon flanked by winged cherubs and with a larger winged cherub's head above.

Figure 26:

Lambeth Palace. South-east door to Great Hall. Measured drawing

Much of the 16th and 17th century glass was destroyed during the 1939–45 war but what was saved has been reset in the lower lights of the northerly bay projection. Below the arms of Philip II of Spain with fully quartered shield within a garter (the crown above the shield being missing) there are fragments of glass set in a circle of the same size. There are also shields of the arms of the See of Canterbury impaling Grindal, Abbot, Sancroft, Laud, and Cranmer.

The building to the south of the Great Hall has a vaulted way through at ground level and one storey above, which houses the Manuscript Room. It is in brick with stone dressings and its Gothic detail is of similar character to that of the residential wing. There are string bands below the battlemented parapet and at first floor level. The west elevation has an oriel window over the archway while there are two small two-light windows with square heads on the east side.

The Cloisters

In 1647 to the north of the Great Hall there was “a foure square Cloyster reachinge from the Chappell to the Hall beinge a walke On the grounde And over the Cloyster … the greate Library of the ArchBishop-pricke being foure square and covered with Lead. And in the midle of the said Cloyster … a square Court with a greate well in the midst thereof covered with Lead.” (fn. 198)

It was the intention of Archbishops Baldwin and Hubert Walter to build a small religious house or college at Lambeth as well as a residence for themselves and it is probable that the cloisters formed part of the earliest buildings, though they are not specifically mentioned in the first set of accounts. Archbishop Chichele (1414–43) seems to have built galleries over the cloisters one of which was to serve as a library. (fn. 189) His successor, Archbishop Stafford, had to clear a quantity of rubble, probably left from Chichele's building work from the “freresgardyn” (fn. 199) or cloister garth.

Cardinal Pole may have repaired the galleries, though his chief alteration of the palace was the building of a long gallery east of the chapel. It is recorded that in 1573, when Queen Elizabeth visited Archbishop Parker at Lambeth, she listened in one of the galleries to a sermon preached from a pulpit set up near the pump in the middle of the cloisters, while the people who filled the quadrangle below “divided their attention between her Majesty and the preacher.” (fn. 200)

Archbishop Sheldon (1663–77) repaired the galleries for the reception of Archbishop Bancroft's library which he had recovered from the University of Cambridge (see p. 85) and they continued to be used for this purpose until the 1830's, though readers complained of the arctic temperature in winter. (fn. 195)

Blore fitted up the Great Hall as a library. The old cloister galleries, which he pulled down and rebuilt, he described as frail buildings of timber and plaster. (fn. 189) A kitchen was built at the south-west corner of the old site, but the cloister garth was left open.

The book-cases were removed from the Great Hall in 1948 and the cloisters are again being fitted up as a library with the rooms previously used as kitchens as reading rooms for students and a muniment room.


The cloisters are of brick of two storeys and their detail is similar to that of the archway at the south end of the Great Hall. They have stone dressings to the square-headed windows and stone copings to their battlements. There are angle buttresses at each corner.

On the upper storey the cloister gallery has a coved and ribbed flat ceiling with an embattled cornice. The doors have four-centred heads and some have carved spandrels and weakly designed buttress surrounds. At the right angle bend in the gallery there is a straight-headed archway with foliated caps and thin shafts at each side.

Chichele's or the Water or Lollards' Tower

In 1432 the tower, which had stood previously at the west end of the Chapel, was pulled down and a new tower five storeys high was erected there. The accounts (fn. 201) record that 490 tons of ragstone, with lime, sand and other materials, were brought by boat from Maidstone for the building, while oak timber was brought from “le West wode” near Harrow. A mason worked 11 days on the tabernacle or niche on the west side of the tower, which still remains, through the image of St. Thomas the Martyr for which it was intended was removed at the Reformation. Chichele's tower was built nearer the Chapel than its predecessor and its erection involved the removal of a buttress and the blocking up of the lancet windows at the west end of the Chapel. The windows of the tower were glazed and the room at the entrance to the Chapel (now the Post Room) was ceiled with wood boarding. Payments for carving the angels' heads, etc., for the ceiling are included in the accounts.

There has been some controversy as to the traditional connection of this tower with the Lollards. The ill-famed Lollards' Tower in which John Hunne met his death and where many heretics were incarcerated was the south-west tower of old St. Paul's which served as the Bishop of London's prison, but the name was in use for part of the tower at Lambeth at least as early as 1647 for the Survey of that date has the entry“At the Northend of the said Courte is a greate Bricke Buildinge with Windowes opening towards the Thames foure Storeys high covered with Lead Behind which Buildinge alonge by the West end of the Chappell is a paire of Staires Leadinge upp into chambers five Storeys high over which is the Lollards Tower all covered with lead.” (fn. 198)

Archbishop Chichele

Figure 27:

Lambeth Palace. Lollards' Tower stairs, 1950. Sketch by R. G. Absolon

It is possible that this turret was part of an older tower demolished in 1432, and that Chichele's predecessor, Archbishop Arundel, a fierce persecutor of Lollardry and advocate of the 1401 statute “De heretico comburendo,” may have employed it as a prison, though the usual prison of the palace was part of the entrance gate. (fn. 189)

The Post Room has been described as a pleasant solar and the upstairs rooms were intended as sleeping apartments. In 1646 the tower was turned into a prison for “the faithful, but unhappy Royalists,” (fn. 196) and it is possible that it was at this time that the name Lollards' Tower became attached to the whole tower.

The post and panelling in the Post Room were added in the 17th century. Blore described the tower as dilapidated and weatherworn but does not seem to have made any radical alterations there. The base of the tower has recently been turned into a boiler room to serve the whole of the palace buildings.


The Water Tower (Plate 72) is faced with roughly coursed Kentish ragstone except to the east and south fronts which are of red brick. At the corner are stone quoins. It is of four storeys above a lower ground storey, but the tower at the north-east corner rises one storey higher. The parapets, which have been renewed in modern times, are battlemented.

On the west side the square-headed windows, each of two-lights, are arranged symmetrically with a niche between those of the storey above the Post Room. The niche, whose stonework is much decayed, is vaulted and has moulded jambs. It has a two-centred cinque-foiled arch and a crocketed and finialled hood. There are small flanking buttresses with moulded bases at each side and the corbel shelf below has a demi-angel holding a shield, much effaced with age. There are moulded string bands round the tower at the cill levels of the Post Room and the room above.

The turret at the north-east corner is capped by an ogee roof with moulded eaves and is faced partly in ragstone and partly in red brick, with stone quoins at the corners. It has a bell-cote on the south-east side with cusped and traceried barge-boards to its gable and a bell dated 1687.

The lower ground floor or semi-basement room (now used as a boiler room) has a large fireplace recess in the north wall and a circular stone oven with a tiled arch and domed-top of brick.

The Post Room has a stout central octagonal wood post with moulded capping and four curved braces supporting heavy moulded cross-beams.

The main divisions of the ceiling, which is boarded in wood, are divided into panels by moulded ribs with carved bosses at the intersections and ends. Some of the bosses have carvings of demi-angels holding scrolls, shields, crowns, and books, while others have conventional leaves or women's heads. Part of this ceiling was destroyed during the war.

The south wall has two plain pointed door openings with moulded jambs; the smaller, leading to a staircase in the south-east corner, has been bricked up. Adjoining to the west is a restored square-headed two-light window with cinque-foil heads. The north wall has a filled doorway at the west end and at the north-east corner a doorway which leads to the spiral staircase and has hollow chamfered jambs and a four-centred head. Part of the 17th century dado, two panels high, with a moulded capping and dentils, which surrounds the Post Room, has escaped war damage. Some of the wood benches, which are of the same date and have small Tuscan column posts, are also intact. The doorway to the chapel in the west wall is described on p. 95.

The rooms above the Post Room have exposed ceiling beams and some 17th century panelling. There are also doors of the same date and a chimney piece with bolection moulded architrave and moulded cornice to the north room on the second floor. The south room has an original stone chimney piece with hollow chamfered jambs and a flat four-centred arch.

The two upper floors have been seriously damaged but their original chimney pieces and the heavy three inch thick riveted door to the prison have survived.

The tower on the north-east has garde-robes on the west side. The spiral staircase has solid wood steps and to the openings at each landing there are hollow chamfered stone jambs and four-centred heads. Some of the openings have original doors.

Laud's Tower

This tower seems to have been erected by Archbishop Laud mainly in order to provide a more convenient staircase to the rooms in Chichele's Tower.


On the river front Laud's Tower is faced with roughly coursed Kentish ragstone with some courses of flint while the south and east sides are mostly of red brick. The parapets are of brick with stone copings and there is a flush stone band below the parapet on the south side. There are stone quoins at the south-west corner, adjoining which a chimney stack projects forward. Parts of the brickwork have been restored.

The tower is of four storeys and all the windows, which are small and of one or two lights, have stone dressings. On the east wall there is an original lead rain-water head and down-pipe bearing the arms of the See impaling Laud with the inscription “1635 WL.”

The ground storey room (formerly a kitchen) is entered through a stone doorway with chamfered jambs and a four-centred head. It has chamfered ceiling beams. On the north side there is a doorway with moulded jambs and two-centred head leading to the Lollards' Tower. Under the stairs to the first floor there is a small cellar which has in its south wall a little square-headed window with moulded stone jambs and a wrought-iron grate.

The room at first floor level (now a living room) has a late 17th century doorway with enriched architrave and panelled surround. It has carved consoles supporting a richly detailed cornice. The wood cornice and cross-beam to the ceiling are moulded and the timber framing to the east wall is exposed. The chimney piece is of stone, painted with panelled pilasters; the lintel is dated 1680.

The late 17th century staircase with moulded handrail and strings (one string being of tapered shape on the upper flight) has square newels with plain ball terminals. Its balusters are turned. The short staircase between the first and ground floors is similar but its newels have plain cappings.

The first and second floors have moulded and chamfered ceiling beams and there are several original doors. The chimney piece in the second floor room overlooking the river has panelled surrounds and a plain tablet set forward beneath the shelf.

There is early 18th-century panelling in both rooms on the top floor; one has a chimney piece with a simple moulded surround and delft tiles, while the other chimney piece has a moulded architrave, frieze and cornice with a plain panelled tablet to the frieze.

Figure 28:

Lambeth Palace. Laud's Tower. Detail of staircase. Measured drawing

The Chapel

As has already been shown there was a Chapel in existence early in the 13th century. The present crypt appears to date from that period and its foundations are probably those of the earlier building of Hubert Walter. (fn. 202) The earliest of the Court or Account Rolls at Lambeth, that for 1234, records payments to a glazier for repairing the Chapel windows. (fn. 189)

In 1243 the King induced the Bishop of Hereford to repair the chapel at Lambeth in anticipation of the arrival of Boniface of Savoy, the Archbishop elect, and in the following year, Edward, son of Odo, a craftsman at the King's Court was instructed to provide for use at the services a gold chalice, two flagons, two basins and a silver thurible. (fn. 16) What is left of the chapel proper dates from this time.

Archbishop Laud, to his later undoing, spent much money and care on repairing and redecorating the Chapel. He put in a new pulpit and altar table which he railed in. He had the old stained glass repaired and new glass was painted with what his accuser Prynne described as Popish subjects. Laud also put in a richly carved screen (Plate 69b), and pews including “a pew for the Lords” (fn. 195) because “many of the Nobility, Judges, Clergy, and persons of all sorts, as well strangers as Natives,” (fn. 203) were in the habit of attending there. (fn. 203)

Figure 29:

Lambeth Palace Chapel. Details of pew ends

In November, 1640, Laud was sent to the Tower. Two years later Lambeth House was taken over by Commonwealth soldiers. The Chapel windows were destroyed and Archbishop Parker's stately tomb was broken up.

At the Restoration Archbishop Juxon repaired the fabric of the Chapel, and his successor, Archbishop Sancroft, put together so far as was possible the desecrated tomb of Matthew Parker. His successors made few alterations there until, in 1846, Archbishop Howley employed Edward Blore to carry out a complete renovation, in the spirit of the Gothic revival. The wall panelling was removed and a lofty groined roof was substituted for the old flat ceiling which was thought, probably mistakenly, to have been a Laudian innovation. (fn. n1) The whole of the vaulting was elaborately painted in bright colours during the time of Archbishop Tait. (fn. 195)


The crypt is divided centrally by a row of three Purbeck marble circular columns with moulded caps and bases. They, and the moulded corbels at the walls, support the two lines of vaulting which date from the early 13th century. There are four bays in each line, and each bay has simple cross-vaulting with broadly chamfered ribs (Plates 70 and 71).

The walls of the crypt are of stone, mostly covered by old plasterwork. In each bay of the north wall there are two small single-light windows each with a segmental head and splayed jambs. The westernmost window has been raised above the rest and altered.

The south wall has doorways in the two westernmost bays leading to the cloisters, one with a rough square head and wooden lintel, the other with splayed and moulded jambs and a two-centred segmental head incised “IO”. One doorway has recently been filled.

The west wall has a two-light window in the north bay, each light having a segmental head. There is a window seat below. There is a similar window and window seat to the east wall and adjoining it in the southern bay there is a doorway with two-centred head and chamfered jambs.

The crypt was partly filled with earth prior to 1907. Signs of the level of the former floor can be seen on the walls.

Figure 30:

Lambeth Palace. Crypt, 1950. Sketch by R. G. Absolon

Most of the crypt windows have external wrought iron grilles and some have double grilles which are coeval with the building. These windows have a very unusual detail—their segmental heads are crowned externally by a blind round-lobed trefoiled arch. (fn. n1)

Adjoining the westernmost door in the south wall there is a small niche. This was possibly used as a holy water stoup or it may have contained a lamp. At one time it probably had a door.

The walls of the Chapel and crypt, which are of conglomerate and freestone partly faced with ashlar, are divided into four bays by buttresses. There are triple graduated lancets set in recess beneath two-centred curtain arches spanning between the buttresses. The buttresses terminate at the moulded string bands under the parapets. The parapets are straight topped on both north and south sides, those to the north being in stone while to the south they are built of red brick.

Figure 31:

Lambeth Palace. Door to Chapel. Measured drawing

The east window is of five long graduated lancets with a flat gable above; the window, like the others, has stone dressings, and is set in a wall which has been rendered in modern times. The upper parts of the most easterly window on the south side are blocked while those opposite are turned to other use as they are masked by Cranmer's Tower.

The doorway at the west end is of early 13th century date. It has three moulded orders of which the inner forms two trefoil-headed door openings and the outer two, which are semicircular, enclose a tympanum.

The tympanum contains a sunk moulded quatrefoil with a 17th century cartouche of the arms of the See impaling Laud; there are three cherubs' heads in the carving of the cartouche and a mitre above. The jambs have two free shafts and two attached, and there are three attached shafts at the central dividing pier. The rear arch is segmental and moulded, and is supported by a detached shaft at each side. The shafts on both sides of the doorway have moulded caps and bases.

The west window is similar to that at the east end but the cill is at a higher level and some of the lights are blocked.

The chapel was burnt out during the 1939–45 war and only the outer walls were left. Those fittings which were saved were removed for safe keeping. They include parts of the wood screen which stood between the third and the most westerly bays and formed an ante-chapel (Plate 69). A number of wooden benches and bench-ends have also been saved; these have heads of different cartouche-forms carved with winged cherubs' heads, swags, etc.

All the lancet windows have deep splayed jambs and cills with moulded rear arches. The arches are borne by attached shafts of Purbeck marble which have moulded caps and bases. There is a moulded string band beneath the cills. In the middle of the west window is a semi-octagonal oriel window with three cinque-foil lights having rosette terminals to the lower cusps. The oriel is of mid—17th century date and has a moulded cornice and ogee capping with a moulded cill below carried on a carved demiangel who holds a shield of the See impaling Juxon.

The lower part of the most easterly window on the north side is filled and has a pointed doorway leading to a vestry in Cranmer's Tower. This work is much altered. The upper part of the window opens into the second floor of the tower and contains an organ loft; it is fronted by a stone gallery erected in modern times.

On the south side of the Chapel, in what was the ante-chapel, stands the altar-tomb of Arch bishop Matthew Parker (d. 1575). It has been cut down and altered, and has a moulded plinth at the north and east sides panelled with quatre-foils and a moulded Purbeck marble slab with an inscription recording the tomb's replacement by Archbishop Sancroft after the Restoration.

Cranmer's Tower

The 1647 survey has the entry—“On the East end of the Chappell is a passage leadinge into the Garden where is a Stone Staircase leadinge upp to a Brick buildinge five Storyes high with a Chamber on each Story covered with lead.” (fn. 198) This was what has come to be known as Cranmer's tower though there seems to be no written evidence either to connect the tower with his name or to substantiate the story that he wrote the Prayer Book in a room there.

Figure 32:

Lambeth Palace. Cranmer's Tower. Landing at top of stairs. Sketch by R. G. Absolon


The style of this tower suggests that it may have been constructed during Cranmer's archiepiscopate and finished during that of Pole. It is built of red brick with stone dressings to the windows and stone quoins at the corners, and has a stair-tower projecting at the north-east corner. There is a moulded stone band below the parapets, which are in brick with stone coped battlements. On the west side there is a chimney stack resting on shaped stone corbels. The stack is embraced by the moulded band below the battlements. The entrance on this elevation has a square-headed label moulding; its stonework, like that to the small single-light windows in the stair-tower and the parapets, has been renewed in modern times.

The first storey, used as the Chapel vestry, has an original oak ceiling with moulded cornice, cross-beam and joists, as well as late 17th or early 18th century bolection-moulded panelling. The chimney piece in the west wall has hollow chamfered jambs and a four-centred arch; it is now filled and surrounded by a later bolection-moulded architrave with moulded cornice above. The doors leading to the staircase and in the west wall are similarly panelled.

The room on the second floor (used as an organ loft) has a ceiling similar to that below. The walls at third floor level have plain panelling and the ceiling, like that on the fourth floor, has a moulded beam. In the east wall there is a chimney piece similar to that in the vestry.

The stair treads, of wood except between the first and second floors, are built round a heavy central square pier which has many names and dates carved upon it. The pier has stone quoins and all the arrises are chamfered. The landings are paved with old square red tiles. In the east well on each landing there is a window which has been blocked since the adjoining residential wing was rebuilt in 1829–30. The central pier stops at fourth floor level; the landing at this level is enclosed by a low panelled wood screen with moulded angle posts and top rail. The staircase leading from this floor to the roof has treads formed of solid balks of timber of triangular section. Leading off the landings are several 16th century doorways with oak doors of the same date, and across the stair itself there is a pointed opening complete with rebated reveals and two embedded hooks on which a door formerly swung.

The Guard Room

It is possible that the Guard Room was built during the archiepiscopate of William Courtenay (1381–96). (fn. 189) It was certainly in existence a few years later for it is mentioned in the account roll of 1424–25 (fn. 206) as the “Camera Armigerorum.” It was probably in this room that Sir Thomas

More faced the Lords of the Council and refused to take the oath acknowledging Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church in England. After the alterations made by Cardinal Pole to the Presence or Great Chamber the latter name was sometimes applied to the Guard Room.

The 1647 Survey describes the Guard or Great Chamber as a “lardge Roome… covered with lead” and approached from the north-east corner of the Great Hall by “a greate paire of Stone Staires.” (fn. 198)

In the time of Laud it was said to contain armour sufficient for 200 men, but, the troublous times of the Civil War once over, there was little more need for such provision and the collection was disposed of during the 18th century. (fn. 195)

After the demolition of the long gallery the series of Archbishops' portraits which had previously hung there were removed to the Guard Room, where many of them still remain. During the 18th and 19th centuries the room was used as a state dining room and for conferences.

In 1829 Blore found the walls of the Guard Room to be of rubble and much decayed. He therefore shored up the roof and rebuilt the walls. It is often stated that he raised the floor of the room 3 feet in order to provide greater height to the storey below, but he himself denied having done so. (fn. 197) The entrance lobby and stairs from the Great Hall were rebuilt by Blore.

The Guard Room suffered only slight damage during the 1939–45 war but restoration has been made more difficult owing to woodbeetle decay.


The Guard Room is faced with Bath stone. Its east elevation has narrow two-light windows to the upper storey with buttresses between. There are two trefoil-headed lancets in each bay of the lower storey. There is a cill band under the upper windows and a moulded plinth at the base which continues round the buttresses. The latter terminate below the moulded band of the straight parapet. The north and south ends are gabled, and the south end has a traceried window of triangular shape with pointed head and bowed cill.

Figure 33:

Lambeth Palace. Corbel with griffin. Sketch by Blore

The most impressive feature of the interior of the room is its 14th century roof which was restored when the building was altered by Edward Blore in the 1830's. It has 4 bays with two-centred moulded arched trusses borne on corbels carved with human figures, animals and foliations. There is pierced tracery to the spandrels above the main members and to the spandrels between the moulded purlins and the curved longitudinal wind-braces. There is similar pierced carving above the wall-braces which spring from the corbels and help to support the moulded wall-plates.

At the centre of the west wall there was a heavy Gothic stone chimney piece designed by Blore (Plate 76); it had a moulded and crenellated shelf set forward between traceried circular end columns. These had gorged tops terminated by battlements and rested on shaped corbels faced with carved demi-figures. It has been replaced recently by a chimneypiece of simpler design. The room is surrounded by a wooden dado two panels high with a moulded top rail and skirting.

The entrance lobby to the south of the Guard Room is built in yellow stock brick with stone dressings to the windows and stone quoins at the corners; it has a moulded band below the parapet and battlements above. Its windows are square-headed and there is a stone porch extending in front of its east elevation.

Figure 34:

Lambeth Palace. Corbel with king's head. Sketch by Blore

The porch is embattled and has two cinque-foil openings each side of the entrance whose hood is set forward slightly and carried on shaped corbels with carved head terminals. The spandrels to the hood have leaf ornamentlike the spandrels to the entrance under the porch.

The staircase has a traceried wood balustrade and finial capped newels, some with foliated pendants. The ceiling is divided into square panels with moulded joists and beams in plasterwork.

The Residential Wing

In 1647 the residential wing was described as follows: “Eastwards from the … Chappell is the Dyninge Parlour with a Dyninge Chamber over it. And att the East end of the Dyninge Parlour is a faire long Wainscotted Gallery with a tarras walke under it open towards the Garden. And on the backe of the said Gallery are three Chambers Wainscotted being the late Arch-Bishopps lodgings with a backe Staires Leading downe into three Roomes under those Chambers which Chambers and Gallery are covered with tyles. The said Chambers have Windowes openinge Southward into a kitchin Garden. In the Southside of the said Dyninge Roome is a little Chamber leadinge into the Presence Chamber which is a faire lardge Roome covered with lead. Under which is a greate paved Roome.” (fn. 198)

The account rolls show that there was a Great or Presence Chamber and other rooms east of the Chapel early in the 14th century. It is probable that the new oratory built by Archbishop Arundel (1397–1414) was in this block. (fn. 189)

Of the many imposing ceremonies which have taken place at Lambeth perhaps the most elaborate was the creation by Henry VIII of two dukes and two earls in the Great Chamber on Candlemas Day, 1514. The King, attended by many nobles, stood beneath a canopy; trumpeters in the musicians' gallery blew a fanfare and a long procession of nobles, officers, trumpeters, and minstrels richly apparelled filed before the King. After the creations, dinner was provided for all comers in Morton's Gatehouse. (fn. 207)

Cranmer carried out some alterations to the Great Chamber and his successor, Cardinal Pole, completely transformed this wing by building a Long Gallery on the north and a number of living rooms for himself and his servants. (fn. 189) The gallery, shown on the 1648 plan (Plate 60), was 90 feet long and 16 feet broad. An inventory (fn. 208) compiled after Pole's death gives an interesting list of all the rooms in this part of the palace with their furnishings.

Many minor additions and repairs to the residential wing were made during the 17th and 18th centuries but by the beginning of the 19th century it had become a thing of “shreds and patches.” Blore reported in 1829 that the walls were “decayed for want of proper repairs and further weakened by the injudicious insertion, at various periods, of new Doors and windows and by openings and alterations made for various other purposes.” (fn. 189) The basements were “dark, damp and filthy,” the floors and staircases rotten. In this wing he decided, probably correctly, that nothing but a complete rebuilding would suffice. His drawings for the north and south elevations are reproduced on Plates 83a and 80a.

During the 1939–45 war one section of the north front to this wing which included the drawing room was completely destroyed. It has now been rebuilt in keeping with the rest of the façade (Plate 83b) and the whole wing has been restored and adapted to modern requirements.


The residential wing was designed by Blore in Perpendicular Gothic style, some of the walls being on the lines of old foundations. It is faced with Bath stone.

The main elevation faces southwards; the entrance is situated centrally and is emphasized by its position at the base of a powerful tower which stands four-square and rises above the assemblage of surrounding gables, turrets, chimneys and parapets. The tower has octagonal turrets at the front corners and square turrets at the back rising above the parapets and, like them, battlemented. The front turrets are divided into four stages by moulded string bands; their power is accentuated by the boldness of the plinth mouldings.

The entrance has a four-centred head and label mouldings with square stops. The oriel window above the entrance has moulded mullions at the splayed angles and its tracery is divided into three heights by transoms; it is shouldered back above and has embattled eaves. Below the cill of the oriel there is a row of panels in which are carved the royal arms supported by the arms of several archbishops. Over the oriel there is a small two-light window with a square head. On this front the band below the tower battlements is elaborated by rosettes and demi-angels.

To the west of the entrance there are three-light mullioned windows with square heads on each of the three floors, those on the first and second floors being also transomed. There is a moulded plinth and string bands at first floor level and below the battlemented parapet. This part of the elevation is joined to the Guard Room by a link of two storeys which is of similar detail.

To the east of the entrance there is a large five-light window whose tracery is divided into three heights by transoms; it extends through the first and second floors and lights the staircase. There are five small groundfloor windows separated by mullions beneath it and also narrow windows and a small doorway at each side. Beneath the cill of the large window there are quatre-foil panels with foliated centres. The elevation is terminated by a projecting gabled wing. The wing has an oriel window at the first floor, with plain rectangular windows above and below.

There is a square stone mounting-block adjacent to the entrance; it has trefoiled panels at each of its faces.

The north elevation, which overlooks the garden and abuts on Cranmer's Tower to the west, has similar detail but is without a central dominant feature. To the east of the recently rebuilt portion there is a first floor oriel window with a niche above and a bay window which extends through all three storeys. At the north-east corner there is a gabled wing of four storeys which has angle buttresses and a battlemented bay projection running through three storeys.

The east elevation is divided by an octagonal turret and a gabled wing adjoining, which sets forward. The lower part of the turret is buttressed. It is approached by a staircase with traceried balustrade. At the south-east corner there is a stumpy battlemented tower and small gateway with a niche above.

The finest interior feature is the entrance hall with its wide staircase (Plate 81). The staircase, designed in Perpendicular Gothic style, has delicate traceried open balustrades and stone newels which are embattled and have foliated terminals. The upper newels are square and the lower octagonal; all are panelled with traceried heads. Where the landing meets the central first floor corridor there is a graceful arcade of three bays. The piers are faced by telescopic octagonal buttress shafts. The arches have finely carved solid spandrels. Above, there is a simple open traceried balustrade.

The ceiling over the entrance hall has graceful lierne vaulting with moulded ribs and carved bosses; it is lit by light thrown upwards from the oriel window, also beautifully vaulted. The oriel opening has a depressed arch with a chaste hollow-chamfered moulded surround; it is enclosed by an open balustrade with an embattled top rail.

The secondary staircase between first and second floors is less elaborate but has an elegant ribbed ceiling with cusped fillings and a foliated pendant at the centre. At the second floor landing there is a screen of three equal bays. Each arch has a depressed four-centred head with hollowchamfered jambs. The mouldings rise from a simple plinth and are not relieved at the springings of the depressed arches. Each of the arch spandrels has lightly carved relief.

The Stables And Service Buildings

As can be seen on the 1648 plan (Plate 60), there were kitchens and other domestic buildings and “a Row of Lodginge Chambers called ‘Crooked Lane’” east of the Great Hall and Guard Chamber. A number of these still remained at the beginning of the 19th century but they were swept away by Blore who erected new stables and lodgings for staff separate from the main palace buildings. They suffered considerable damage during the 1939–45 war but have been in part restored. The memorial to Archbishop Davidson in the centre of the courtyard was erected in 1931. It replaced a lamp designed by Edward Blore.


These buildings are grouped on three sides of an enclosure, and flank the courtyard of the residential wing; they are built in yellow stock brick and have entrances with simple pilaster surrounds and flat hoods. The west wall of the west wing and the screen walls to the north and west of it are buttressed and have battlemented parapets.

The Gardens And Grounds

The description of the garden in the 1647 Survey is as follows: it “is scituate on the north side of the House which Garden is foure square and Walled about on the West and North sides wth Brickwalls. And on the North West corner is a little House for a Gardner with three Roomes one over the other. And on the West side is a longe tarras Walke paved with square Tyles opening with arches to the West side of the said Garden over which is a faire leaden Walke with a Bankquetting house at the North East Corner thereof, and at the South end is a Staircase covered with lead. On the East side of the said Garden is an Orchard sett with Apple trees, Paire trees, Plum trees and Moated round about.”

The gardens of the palace have been well cultivated and looked after from an early date. In 1234 (fn. 189) fruit from the garden was on sale, flax and hemp were sown, and a new herbarium was laid out. In 1319–20 (fn. 183) six perches of wall in the great garden were re-made and thatched with reeds and the wall along the Thames and at Stangate was repaired. Among the vegetables sown were cabbage, cucumber, spinach and lettuce.

By the 15th century there was a walk between the Archbishop's grounds and the river, (fn. 206) and a ditch or sluice ran inward from the river near the entrance gate. The moat, which was still in existence on the north and east sides of the grounds in the 18th century, at this time surrounded the whole property and drained into this sluice. The 1648 plan (Plate 60) shows a considerable amount of water within the grounds, and a long pond is shown on the 1750 plan reproduced by Dr. Ducarel. (fn. 193) This plan shows the extent of the grounds as just over 12 acres, a triangular area having been added at the north-west corner during the preceding century for a kitchen garden. Archbishop Cornwallis (1768–83) made a small garden on ground which he walled and embanked from the river on the west side of Bishop's Walk. (fn. 209) Under Archbishop Moore (1783–1805) the grounds were considerably extended to take in about six acres of Sowters Lands to the north, and the whole of the gardens were replanned. The new area at the north-east corner near Carlisle House was laid out as a kitchen garden and melon ground; (fn. 210) subsequently Holy Trinity Church, vicarage and schools were built on part of this ground (see p. 75).

In 1900 the eastern half of the palace grounds comprising over 9 acres was opened to the public as a pleasure ground to be maintained by the London County Council. (fn. 211)

Parts of the old boundary walls, dating from Tudor times and later, still remain. The old red brick wall between Morton's Tower and the Water or Lollards' Tower was re-faced on the Lambeth Palace Road frontage in the 1860's, diaperwork in black header bricks being introduced similar to that in the walls of Morton's Tower. The new boundary wall from the Lollards' Tower northwards was two to three feet west of the old line. Recently an entrance has been formed north of Morton's Tower during the restoration of part of the wall destroyed by bombing.


  • n1. The chapel was in being in 1228 when, during the vacancy of the See after the death of Archbishop Langton, a stipend of five marks a year was granted to the chaplain “ministering in the chapel of Lambeth and keeping the houses of the archbishopric there.”
  • n2. The hall was, in accordance with the wishes of Archbishop Juxon, as nearly as possible a replica of the mediaeval structure. There is no evidence that Sir Christopher Wren had any part in designing it.
  • n3. This unusual detail is also found in the doorway of the same date in the west wall of the north transept of Chipstead Church, Surrey; possibly the same masons were engaged in both works.
  • n4. a There is a reference in the time of Henry VI to the cleansing of “le Selynge Capellae” which suggests that the Chapel was ceiled and not vaulted at that date.
  • 10. Registrum Roffense, ed. John Thorpe, 1769.
  • 16. Cal. of Close Rolls.
  • 183. Lamb. Pal. MSS. Court Roll, 545.
  • 189. The Story of Lambeth Palace, by Dorothy Gardiner, 1930.
  • 190. Rolls Series 38. Memorials of Richard II.
  • 191. Cal. of Liberate Rolls.
  • 192. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, his life and letters, by F. A. Iremonger, 1949.
  • 193. The history and antiquities of the archiepiscopal palace of Lambeth, by Dr. Ducarel, 1785.
  • 194. The history of the worthies of England, by Thos. Fuller, D.D. 1662.
  • 195. Lambeth Palace and its associations, by J. Cave-Browne, 1882.
  • 196. The natural history and antiquities of Surrey, by J. Aubrey,1719.
  • 197. Notes from Blore's report in a collection belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 198. Surr. Arch. Coll., Vol. XII, pt, i, The Manor of Lambeth, by S.W. Kershaw.
  • 199. Lamb. Pal. MSS. Court Roll 573.
  • 200. The Progresses… of Queen Elizabeth, by Jn. Nichols, 1823.
  • 201. Lamb. Pal MSS. Court Roll 562.
  • 202. Surr.Arch.Coll.,vol XXXII, The crypt and chapel of Lambeth Palace, by P.M Johnston.
  • 203. Canterburies Doome, by WM,Prynne, 1646.
  • 204. Lamb. Pal Library MSS. Court Roll 576.
  • 205. Surr. Arch. Coll., vol VII, pt. 3,Chipstead Church, by Major Heales.
  • 206. Lamb. Pal Kibrary MSS. Court Roll 549.
  • 207. Brit. Mus. Add. Ms, 29, 549.
  • 208. Cal. of S.P.Dom, Eliz., 1558.
  • 209. Lambeth Place illustrated, by E,W, Brayley and W,Herbert, 1806.
  • 210. Church Commissioners: Map of Lambeth Palace, 1784.
  • 211. L.C.C. Minutes, 1900.