Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Streets of Old Lambeth: Lambeth Palace

A visitor to London, exploring the Borough of Lambeth, and having followed the Thames Path from the South Bank Centre to Saint Thomas's Hospital, can continue along this path, arriving, after a short walk, at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since around 1200 AD. I do not usually take readers inside such attractions: they have their own websites, and I wouldn't wish, as it were, to spoil the plot, preferring to weave a connecting path between them. I will make a couple of exceptions in Lambeth, however; in this case because the palace, being very much a working environment, is only occasionally open to the public, an places on tours often fill up within a matter of hours of being advertised (the library, however, is accessible to researchers by appointment).

Lambeth Palace from the south, in c 1685, Museum of London (image is in the Public Domain).

The early Tudor gatehouse, which is, from the outside, the most prominent feature of the palace, was completed in 1495.

The Great Hall (left) and Gatehouse from inside the palace. Photo: Richard Croft (licensed under CCA).

Within, the so-called "Lollards' Tower" is earlier than this (c 1435). An upper room has clearly been used as a prison, and it used to be supposed that the prisoners were Fifteenth Century Lollards (proto-Protestants, who sought to make the Bible available in English), but the graffiti in the room date to the Seventeenth Century, and it seems that the true "Lollards' Tower," at Saint Paul's, was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666.

The "Lollards' Tower in c 1883. Photo: Henry Dixon (image is in the Public Domain).

Of the Thirteenth Century Palace, all that remains visible is an undercroft, originally used for storing wine, beer, and other produce.

The Undercroft in c 1804 (image is in the Public Domain).

The Great Hall, which now houses much of the library, was rebuilt in 1663, following extensive damage by Parliamentary troops during the Civil War (Samuel Pepys described it as "a new old-fashioned hall"), and was further restored following bomb damage in the Second World War.

The Great Hall in c 1804 (image is in the Public Domain).

Among the great treasures of the library are the Mac Durnan Gospels, dating to the Ninth or Tenth Century; the Lambeth Bible, dating to the Twelfth Century; and the Lambeth Apocalypse, dating to the Thirteenth Century.

The Gospel of Saint Mark, from the Mac Durnan Gospels, probably a diplomatic gift from the Abbot of Armagh to the Anglo-Saxon King, Aethelstan (reigned 924-939 AD), who presented the manuscript to Christchurch, Canterbury (image is in the Public Domain). 

The Gospel of Saint Luke, from the Mac Durnan Gospels (image is in the Public Domain).

The Tree of Jesse, from the Lambeth Bible, dating to the 1140s (image is in the Public Domain). 

Page from the Lambeth Apocalypse, dating from c 1260 (image is in the Public Domain).

Page from the Lambeth Apocalypse (image is in the Public Domain).

Page from the Lambeth Apocalypse (image is in the Public Domain).

From the gatehouse of the palace, it is just a short walk further along the river to our next stopping-point, the Garden Museum.

Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.

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