Although the architecture, archaeology and history of the Palace site have been subject to a number of investigations and expert studies over the last 200 years, the restoration of the Palace’s former Great Hall and a portion of the attendant Paddock will provide an opportunity, as never before, to discover more about the site’s development over its 1200-year history.
The structure of the Great Hall that remains is believed to have its origins in 14th century – some 500 years into the Palace’s existence. What may have stood before on the Great Hall site and in the Paddock is currently unknown. Any buildings that might have been would have been largely constructed of wood and have long since been overbuilt or disappeared.
And it may be that the site had been settled on before it was given over to Archbishop Jaenbert and Christ Church Priory by the Mercian King and Kentish overlord Coenwulf at the close of the 8th century.
There is evidence of Roman settlement in the area, with the site of a villa identified a mile to the south east of the Palace precinct, and since settlements are frequently built on the site of previous settlements, it may be that the detailed archaeological investigation that will accompany the site’s restoration will tell us more.
Clearance of the modern buildings and concreted areas on the eastern side of the site will allow detailed geophysical surveying to direct hands-on archaeology in ways impossible before.
Similarly, the careful unpicking of the modern elements within the built structures of the Great Hall will make it easier for us to reveal, understand and show their development.