Across England there were some 150 archiepiscopal residences. There were 17 in Kent alone, each around 14 miles apart, representing a day’s ride for the Archbishop of Canterbury and his entourage as they progressed between Canterbury and London and around the estates in his See. Today, none of those that remain has greater significance than the Palace at Charing.
Charing Archbishop’s Palace is considered unique in how its plan, layout, and relationship to its townscape and landscape contexts remain legible today – ironically, preserved by the relative indifference of its historic owners. Three hundred years on, its long overdue restoration and revival has begun.
The buildings in the Palace complex are privately owned, and the current majority owner has entered into an agreement with another respected building preservation trust – The Spitalfields Historic Building Trust – for them to purchase the Palace complex in its entirety.
Spitalfields has a forty-year track history of success in taking on endangered buildings for restoration. Their model is, once restored, to sell these buildings into private residential ownership.
Spitalfields Trust has already exercised part of its option to purchase by acquiring a cottage and the ruinous Gatehouse which formed part of the former southern lodging range. They completed work on the cottage in 2017 and expect to finish their restoration of the Gatehouse in early 2019.
Our objective is to convince Spitalfields of the merits of working with us to ensure that at least one part of the remaining Palace complex, the former Great Hall, can be made open to the public as a hub for community-based activities, learning, leisure and recreation.
Restoration – whether undertaken by Spitalfields alone or in conjunction with Charing Palace Trust – will save this invaluable part of England’s heritage for the nation.
The principal benefit to the community if Spitalfields choose to work with us is that an iconic part of the Palace complex, the former Great Hall and part of the paddock will be openly accessible to the public.
In restoring and repurposing the former Great Hall, as we envisage, we will discover more about the Palace’s archaeological, architectural and historical significance – helping us to trace the Charing Archbishop’s Palace story back from the site’s surviving 13th and 14th century remains to its 8th century origins and perhaps beyond.
More than making it simply a window on the past – the revival of the Palace to give it a purpose and uses relevant to today – will ensure that part of the Palace complex will for the first time ever become accessible to all, to be enjoyed long into the future by generations to come.
Reviving a building so iconic and important as the Great Hall will be a labour of love, requiring time, dedication and sensitivity from the team who undertake it – our trustees and passionate volunteers, backed by highly experienced heritage professionals, technical experts and specialist craftspeople. And, not surprisingly, it’s a project that will need substantial finance to bring it about.
As a Trust, we’re under no illusions about the scale of the challenge we face. We estimate that, from the point of being given the ‘go’, it will take perhaps five years and as many millions of pounds to deliver.
To this end we’ve created the Charing Palace Trust, a charity dedicated to telling the Palace’s story and raising the funds required to undertake the preservation of the former Great Hall, from grant awarding bodies, philanthropic foundations, businesses and private individuals.
With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Architectural Heritage Fund we have already had completed two detailed expert studies that show that our concept can be made financially viable and have given us a route map scoping how best it can be achieved.
All that remains is to gain agreement with Spitalfields Trust.