Inside Lambeth Palace
Morton’s Tower, an impressive red brick Tudor gatehouse, is the formal entrance to Lambeth Palace. It was built in 1490 by Cardinal John Morton, who lived in the tower for a short time. He used the large room in the centre, above the gates, as an audience chamber.
On the ground floor in the South Tower there is a small prison cell. It was only used briefly in the 16th century, but you can still see two iron rings fixed to the wall.
Morton’s Tower is also known as the Gatehouse and is staffed by a team of gatekeepers, who still lodge in the same part of the tower as when it was built.
The Crypt Chapel is the oldest part of Lambeth Palace. Originally used for wine and beer storage among other things over the centuries, it was not used as a chapel until World War ll, when the main Chapel was destroyed. William Temple also used the Crypt as an air raid shelter at the beginning of the war.
Today the Crypt Chapel is in near constant use with services including Morning Prayer, Eucharist and Evening Prayer.
The Chapel at Lambeth Palace has since the 13th century been the private chapel for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unlike the Crypt Chapel, the main Chapel has been changed many times over the centuries.
It was badly damaged during World War ll, the roof and all the windows were destroyed by a bomb. The present day ceiling artwork “From Darkness to Light” was painted by Leonard Henry Rosoman in 1988.
The Guard Room is said to have gotten its name from the time when the Archbishop had his own private army. This room was where the soldiers would gather and store their weapons.
Since the 19th century the Guard Room has been used mostly for official entertainments, functions and meetings.
The Great Hall dates back to the early 13th century and was often used for banquets and feasts. The Archbishop would receive and entertain important guests in the Hall, including Royalty.
During the Commonwealth period the Great Hall was demolished and sold off brick by brick. Archbishop William Juxon rebuilt the Hall in 1660 in traditional style with oak hammer-beam roof, only for it to be destroyed again by an air raid during the Second World War.
Today the Great Hall houses one of the biggest collections of manuscripts, books and documents for the Church of England’s history and is part of Lambeth Palace Library.
The newest part of Lambeth Palace is the Atrium, which was opened in 2000 by HRH the Prince of Wales. It connects the main palace building with the 13th-century chapel and crypt.
The glazed roofed courtyard was designed and built by Richard Griffith and Richard Scott. It houses a range of gifts and artefacts given to different Archbishops throughout the years.
When the Atrium was being built, various artefacts were discovered, including medieval roof and floor tiles, medieval pottery and an oyster shell from the 13th century.
State Drawing Room
The State Drawing Room used to be the Archbishops of Canterbury’s daily living room. A large part of the room was destroyed in 1944 during an air raid. In 1998 the room was restored to Edward Blore’s original design with help from Eileen Carey, the wife of Archbishop George Carey.
Today the State Drawing Room is mainly used for entertaining visiting guests, including religious and political leaders and members of the Royal Family.
Behind the Chapel stands a red brick Tudor tower, built in the time of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who served Henry VIII. Cranmer compiled the Book of Common Prayer, which still forms the basis of all our worship in the Anglican Church today.
His parlour is the galleried room overlooking the altar in the Archbishop’s Chapel. This is the room in which we know that Cranmer studied, wrote and prayed. To this day it is still very much the Archbishop’s private sanctuary where he studies, writes and prays.
The Fig Tree
Fronting the Great Hall on the west side of the courtyard is a magnificent White Marseille fig tree, which came to Lambeth Palace with the last Roman Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Reginald Pole, in 1556. He served Mary I (Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon) until they both died on the 17th November 1558. The tree was relocated to this position in 1828 when Edward Blore built the residential block, and it bears abundant fruit every autumn.
The Lollards’ Prison
The grey stone tower between the chapel and the river was built in the 15th century in the time of Archbishop Chichele, and is colloquially known as the Lollards’ Tower.
At the top of a long spiral staircase and behind two heavily iron-studded oak doors, is a small unlit cell in which 'Lollards', or followers of John Wycliffe, were allegedly imprisoned. It may also have been used as a prison during the Commonwealth, when Lambeth Palace was in the hands of the Parliamentarians. Although it was badly burnt in the Blitz during world War II, it is still possible to decipher the initials of some of the poor souls incarcerated here, carved into the ancient oak panels.