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Croydon Palace circa 1785.
Croydon Palace, in Croydonmarker, now part of Londonmarker, was the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for over 500 years. Regular visitors included Henry III and Queen Elizabeth I. Now known as 'Old Palace', the buildings are still in use as the Old Palace Schoolmarker, an independent girls' school of the Whitgift Foundation.

The Manor of Croydon was connected with the Archbishop of Canterbury from at least the late Saxon period, and records of buildings date back to before 960. The Palace as it now exists is a group of largely 15th and 16th century buildings, "an aggregate of buildings of different castes and ages", as Archbishop Herring found it in 1754. The 15th-century Great Hall is thought to have been installed by Archbishop Stafford (d. 1452), with a late-14th-century two-storey porch and a vaulted ceiling to the lower chamber. The hall interior has a rich 16th-century timber roof and windows with interesting features such as the late Gothic interior porch. The Great Hall was partially remodelled in the 17th century by archbishops Laud and Juxon, who also rebuilt the chapel.

West of the Hall are the state apartments including the first-floor Guard Room, now the school library. The room is ascribed to Archbishop Arundel, Archbishop 1396–1414) and has an arch-braced roof with carved stone supports and an oriel window. Other rooms have later panelling and fireplaces. The chapel has fine 17th-century stalls and an elaborate corner gallery. The fine altar rails are now in the Guard Room. The exterior of the whole palace is of stone or red brick, with early stone windows or Georgian sash windows.

The connection of the Archbishops with Croydon was of great importance, with several being important local benefactors. Six are buried in Croydon Parish Church, neighbouring the Palace: John Whitgift, Edmund Grindal, Gilbert Sheldon, William Wake, John Potter and Thomas Herring. Archbishop Whitgift, who first called it a "palace", liked Croydon for "the sweetness of the place", though not all admired it, in the low-lying site which Henry VIII found "rheumatick", a place where he could not stay "without sickness". Sir Francis Bacon found it "an obscure and darke place" surrounded by its dense woodland.

By the late 18th century, the Palace had become dilapidated and uncomfortable and the local area was squalid. An Act of Parliament enabled Croydon Palace to be sold and Addington Palacemarker on the outskirts of Croydon to be bought in 1807. This became the new episcopal summer residence for much of the rest of the 19th century.

Notes

  1. Quoted in Charles Nicholl A Cup of News: the life of Thomas Nashe, 1984, p. 136.
  2. Quotes in Nicholl 1984, p. 136; in the Great Hall at Croydon Nashe's masque Summer's Last Will and Testament was performed, in October 1592.


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