Lambeth Church And Palace – Great Britain And Ireland

The Church of St. Mary, Lambeth, was formerly one of the most interesting churches in London, being, next to Canterbury Cathedral, the great burial place of its archbishops, but falling under the ruthless hand of “restorers” it was rebuilt (except its tower of 1377) in 1851–52 by Hardwick, and its interest has been totally destroyed, its monuments huddled away anywhere, for the most part close under the roof, where their inscriptions are of course wholly illegible!

Almost the only interesting feature retained in this cruelly abused building is the figure of a pedler with his pack and dog (on the third window of the north aisle) who left “Pedlar’s Acre” to the parish, on condition of his figure being always preserved on one of the church windows. The figure was existing here as early as 1608.

In the churchyard, at the east end of the church, is an altar tomb, with the angles sculptured like trees, spreading over a strange confusion of obelisks, pyramids, crocodiles, shells, etc., and, at one end, a hydra. It is the monument of John Trades-cant (1638) and his son, two of the earliest British naturalists. The elder was so enthusiastic a botanist that he joined an expedition against Algerine corsairs on purpose to get a new apricot from the African coast, which was thenceforth known as “the Algier Apricot.” His quaint medley of curiosities, known in his own time as “Tradeskin’s Ark,” was afterward incorporated with the Ashmolean Museum.

“Lambeth, envy of each band and gown,” has been for more than 700 years the residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury, tho the site of the present palace was only obtained by Archbishop Baldwin in 1197, when he exchanged some lands in Kent for it with Glanville, Bishop of Rochester, to whose see it had been granted by the Countess Goda, sister of the Confessor. The former proprietorship of the Bishops of Rochester is still commemorated in Rochester Row, Lambeth, on the site of a house which was retained when the exchange was made, for their use when they came to attend Parliament. The Palace is full of beauty in itself and intensely interesting from its associations. It is approached by a noble Gateway of red brick with stone dressings, built by Cardinal Moreton in 1490. It is here that the poor of Lambeth have received “the Archbishops’ Dole” for hundreds of years. In ancient times a farthing loaf was given twice a week to 4,000 people.

Adjoining the Porter’s Lodge is a room evidently once used as a prison. On passing the gate we are in the outer court, at the end of which rises the picturesque Lollards’ Tower, built by Archbishop Chicheley, 1434–45; on the right is the Hall. A second gateway leads to the inner court, containing the modern (Tudor) palace, built by Archbishop Howley (1828-48), who spent the whole of his private fortune upon it rather than let Blore the architect be ruined by exceeding his contract to the amount of 130,000. On the left, between the buttresses of the hall, are the descendants of some famous fig trees planted by Cardinal Pole.

The Hall was built by Archbishop Juxon in the reign of Charles II., on the site of the hall built by Archbishop Boniface (1244), which was pulled down by Scot and Hardyng, the regicides, who purchased the palace when it was sold under the Commonwealth. Juxon’s arms and the date 1663 are over the door leading to the palace. The stained window opposite contains the arms of many of the archbishops, and a portrait of Arch-bishop Chicheley. Archbishop Bancroft, whose arms appear at the east end, turned the hall into a Library, and the collection of books which it contains has been enlarged by his successors, especially by Archbishop Seeker, whose arms appear at the west end, and who bequeathed his library to Lambeth. Upon the death of Laud, the books were saved from dispersion through being claimed by the University of Cambridge, under the will of Bancroft, which provided that they should go to the University if alienated from the see; they were restored by Cambridge to Archbishop Sheldon. The library contains a number of valuable MSS., the greatest treasure being a copy of Lord Rivers’s translation of the “Diets and Sayings of the Philosophers,” with an illumination of the Earl presenting Caxton on his knees to Edward IV. Beside the King stand Elizabeth Woodville and her eldest son, and this, the only, known portrait of Edward V., is engraved by Vertue in his Kings of England.

A glass case contains : The Four Gospels in Irish, a volume which belonged to King Athelstan, and was given by him to the city of Canterbury; a copy of the Koran written by Sultan Allaruddeen Siljuky in the fifteenth century, taken in the Library of Tippoo Saib at Seringapatam; the Lumley Chronicle of St. Alban’s Abbey; Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer-Book, with illuminations from Holbein’s Dance of Death destroyed in Old St. Paul’s; an illuminated copy of the Apocalypse, of the thirteenth century; the Masarine Testament, fifteenth century; and the rosary of Cardinal Pole.

A staircase lined with portraits of the Walpole family, leads from the Library to the Guard Room, now the Dining-Hall. It is surrounded by an interesting series of portraits of the archbishops from the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Through the paneled room, called Cranmer’s Parlor, we enter the Chapel, which stands upon a Crypt supposed to belong to the manor-house built by Archbishop Herbert Fitzwalter, about 1190. Its pillars have been buried nearly up to their capitals, to prevent the rising of the river tides within its wall. The chapel itself, tho greatly modernized, is older than any other part of the palace, having been built by Archbishop Boni-face, 1244-70. Its lancet windows were found by Laud—”shameful to look at, all diversely patched like a poor beggar’s coat,” and he filled them with stained glass, which he proved that he collected from ancient existing fragments, tho his insertion of “Popish images and pictures made by their like in a mass book” was one of the articles in the impeachment against him. The glass collected by Laud was entirely smashed by the Puritans : the present windows were put in by Archbishop How-ley. In this chapel most of the archbishops have been consecrated since the time of Boniface. .

Here Archbishop Parker erected his tomb in his lifetime “by the spot where he used to pray,” and here he was buried, but his tomb was broken up, with every insult that could be shown, by Scot, one of the Puritan possessors of Lambeth, while the other, Hardyng, not to be outdone, exhumed the Archbishop’s body, sold its leaden coffin, and buried it in a dunghill. His remains were found by Sir William Dugdale at the Restoration, and honorably reinterred in front of the altar, with the epitaph, “Corpus Matthaei Archiepiscopi tandem hic quiescit.” His tomb, in the ante-chapel, was reerected by Archbishop Sancroft, but the brass inscription which encircled it is gone.

The screen, erected by Laud, was suffered to survive the Commonwealth. At the west end of the chapel, high on the wall, projects a Gothic confessional, erected by Archbishop Chicheley. It was formerly approached by seven steps. The beautiful western door of the chapel opens into the curious Post Room, which takes its name from the central wooden pillar, supposed to have been used as a whipping-post for the Lollards. The ornamented flat ceiling which we see here is extremely rare. The door at the northeast corner, by which the Lollards were brought in, was walled up, about 1874.

Hence we ascend the Lollard’s* Tower, built by Chicheley—the lower story of which is now given up by the Archbishop for the use of Bishops who have no fixt residence in London. The winding staircase, of rude slabs of unplaned oak, on which the bark in many cases remains, is of Chicheley’s time. In a room at the top is a trap-door, through which as the tide rose prisoners, secretly condemned, could be let down unseen into the river. Hard by is the famous Lollard’s Prison (13 feet long, 12 broad, 8 high), boarded all over walls, ceiling, and floor. The rough-hewn boards bear many fragments of inscriptions which show that others besides Lollards were immured here. Some of them, especially his motto “Nosce te ipsum,” are attributed to Cranmer. The most legible inscription is “IHS cyppe me out of all al compane. Amen.” Other boards bear the notches cut by prisoners to mark the lapse of time. The eight rings remain to which the prisoners were secured : one feels that his companions must have envied the one by the window. Above some of the rings the boards are burned with the hot-iron used in torture. The door has a wooden lock, and is fastened by the wooden pegs which preceded the use of nails; it is a relic of Archbishop Sudbury’s palace facing the river, which was pulled down by Chicheley. From the roof of the chapel there is a noble view up the river, with the quaint tourelle of the Lollard’s Tower in the foreground.

The gardens of Lambeth are vast and delightful. Their terrace is called “Clarendon’s Walk” from a conference which there took place between Laud and the Earl of Clarendon. The “summer-house of exquisite workmanship,” built by Cranmer, has disappeared. A picturesque view may be obtained of Cranmer’s Tower, with the Chapel and the Lollard’s Tower behind it.