Charing’s greatest historical asset is ‘The Archbishop’s Palace’, in the grounds of which stands a private residence, ‘Palace Farm’, just off the Market Place. To the right of the Farmhouse itself, is a barn, which was originally the Great Hall.
Our understanding of the key dates in the ‘life’ of the Archbishop’s Palace are as follows:
789 Estate seized from Christ Church by King Offa
799 Returned to Christ Church
1089 Recorded in the Domesday Book
12th century First stone buildings?
1298 Ashford Road moved in order to create the courtyard
late 13th century First surviving phase of private apartments was built
14th century Construction in phases of most of the extant buildings
circa 1500 Modest alterations and rebuilding by Archbishop Morton
1507 Visit by King Henry VII
1520 & early 1540s Visits by King Henry VIII
1545 Palace given to Henry VIII by Archbishop Cranmer (under duress)
circa 1575 Despoiled by William Lovelace, resulting in consequential deterioration of the complex, and its relegation to a working farm
circa 1590 Upper storey added to the apartments
1635 Sold to Sir Robert Honywood
1660 Leased by Sir Charles Wheler
1690 Bought by Sir Charles Wheler from King Charles I
18th century Prior conversion to a working farm saved the buildings from falling into further dereliction
Present Day The palace remains in private ownership
In 1798 it was reported that “large ruins of the archiepiscopal palace still remaining; the antient great gateway to it is now standing, and much of the sides of the court within it, on the east side of which seems to have been the dining-room, the walls of which remain, and it is converted into a barn.”
In 1996, concerns over the deterioration of the buildings were highlighted as a result of the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (England) interim report, when large cracks were found in the north wall of the Great Hall. English Heritage arranged for scaffolding to be erected. This was thought to have a ‘shelf life’ of 2 years – but by 2015, it was hanging off the wall, rather than supporting it.
The present owner brought in the Traditional Buildings Preservation Trust (TBPT), who produced a scoping study and plans in 2001.
A village community initiative subsequently started, and in 2004 Charing Parish Council put forward The Palace to the second series of the television programme ‘Restoration’. 21 endangered buildings were entered – where the winning entry would receive a £2.5m National Lottery Fund grant and £506,000 raised from telephone voting. The Palace was one of six that was voted through to the Final, but sadly did not win.
The community effort continued until about 2007, when TBPT failed, largely because HLF funds were diverted to support GB Olympic aspirations.
In 2014 The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust bought a section of the ‘gatehouse range’ of the Palace Farm complex from the owner of the overall site, together with an option to purchase the complete site.
2016 saw a further worsening of the condition of the north wall of the Great Hall, which caused concern. In tandem with this Ashford Borough Council, together with Historic England, commissioning the Drury McPherson Partnership (Collier International, Drury Mcpherson and Thomas Ford and partners) to assess and report on possibilities for a sustainable future for the Archbishops Palace.
Various options for the potential use of the Palace Farm Site were outlined, and the resulting village meetings supported the option ‘to restore a unique and precious historical asset of national importance, making it safe and open to all’. It was pointed out that for this to happen would require a group of people from Charing to volunteer and organise themselves into a team to explore ways this could be achieved. This resulted in the formation of the Charing Palace Trust.
In late 2018, the Charing Palace Trust received a Viability Report and a Scoping Study, which they had commissioned with sponsorship from the Heritage Lottery and Architectural Heritage Funds, into how the palace could be saved and used by the community. This however depends on the Trust being able to purchase Palace Farm.
By the end of 2018, Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust had renovated both properties that they purchased, for onward sale to private owners, and as of March 2019, they have the sole option to purchase the complete site in the future. We await further information on their intentions and plans.
In 2018Historic England carried out emergency works on the North Wall of the barn, which formerly was the Great Hall.Their website quoted “condition; very bad. Priority A “immediate risk from further deterioration” https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/heritage-at-risk/search-register/list-entry/46680
Historic England have come to agreements on the emergency repairs that are necessary, and it is hoped that these will be carried out during 2019.
We will update this page when any further developments are known.