Day 7 – London: Part 1 – Lambeth Palace

Today began much like the others, a great night’s sleep and a wonderful breakfast.  Our itinerary for they day has us in London for the day to explore different places as we dig more deeply into our theme of Christian witness and reconciliation.

The coach picked us up at the Royal Foundation and took us on a scenic ride through the heart of London.  I don’t think Bill our driver was intentionally taking a route to see some of the famous London landmarks, but with the heavy traffic we were able to really see things as we crawled towards Lambeth Palace, out first stop of the day.

We finally made it and were dropped around the corner from the Palace.  As we walked along the sidewalk we stopped at a locked gate form which we could see where Fr. David and his family lived while at the Palace.  On the corner of what used to be a dingy little park we walked through a community flower garden and what may be the beginning of a veggie garden.  All the flowers were in full bloom and they provided a burst of color in the concrete jungle that is London…though I will say they have done well to keep quite a bit of green space in the city.


St Mary’s Gardens outside and around the corner of Lambeth Palace. This is a relatively new endeavor to beautify and reclaim what was once not so beautiful of friendly during Fr. David’s time at the Palace.


Walking through the community garden.


Fr. David giving us some info about his job while he was serving on Archbishop Rowan’s staff.


Some of the very colorful flowers in the garden.


A view of the intelligence buildings across the river from the Palace…I wonder if Mr. Bond is working today???

As we turned the corner we were greeted by the red brick Gatehouse with its impressive towers and large wooden gate.  This section of the palace dates back to the Tudor era and looks much like it did back then, with a few touch-ups here and there.


The front entryway into Lambeth Palace. The red brick gatehouse is from the Tudor era.


Big Ben and Parliament across the River Thames as seen from out front of the Palace.


A group photo in front of Lambeth Palace before we went on our tour.


A sign posted by the gate.

We knocked on the door and were greeted by the guards.  Fortunately we were expected and so we were invited in where we then met two of Fr. David’s former colleagues who would be our tour guide for our time there.  It turns out that we showed up an a particularly busy time for the Archbishop’s office and staff as they were preparing for the Church of England’s (CoE) General Synod up in York.  Their General Synod is akin to our General Convention in that it is a national gathering of clergy and laity who meet to discuss the issues of the day and make any changes to their canons.  Unlike our General Convention which meets every three years, the General Synod meets twice a year, once in London and once in York.

Despite this we were still very warmly greeted and we began our tour.  What struck me first was just how beautiful the grounds were.  With in this walled area it too had the air of a monastic community, an oasis within the city.  So we saw a little of the grounds but then made our first stop in the Guard Room.


The grounds just inside the gate.


Another archway leading into the central grounds.


Part of the palace.


The front of the main part of the palace.



This fig tree was planted by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Reginald Pole…more on him later, but this makes the tree nearly 460 years old.

The Guard Room is thought to date from the 14th Century. It was the Great Chamber in Medieval and Tudor times, one of the most important rooms in The Palace in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.  Initially it would have been the Archbishop’s principle audience room and meetings and ceremonies would have taken place here.  The name Guard Room is a more recent term and derives from the time when the office of Archbishop warranted an army. This is where his armed soldiers would have gathered and where their weapons would have been stored.  The first Lambeth Conference was held here in 1867, when 75 bishops were called by Archbishop Charles Longley for a meeting that marked the start of a tradition that continues today.


The Guard Room


This is just a sample of the many books that line the walls of the Guard Room.



The chandeliers in the Guard Room which were funded by the Episcopal Church.

From the Gourd Room we wound our way through the halls and came upon portraits of all of the Archbishops who have served since…well I don’t remember when they started doing portraits but we did find one of particular interest.


One of the many portraits of Archbishops who have served the Church.


Fr. David reunited with his friend and former boss Archbishop Rowan…well at least his portrait anyways. You may or may not notice, but Archbishop Rowan’s portrait was painted with him wearing his academic robes instead of his clerical robes, which was his choice and a nod to his inclination for academia. So it should be of no surprise then that after retiring as Archbishop he took a post as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Our next stop was what is known as the Pink Drawing Room where Archbishop Justin likes to hold breakfast meetings.  Along with more portraits of various Archbishops there was also the State China.  So I guess like the President the Archbishop gets his own china too.


The State China in the cupboards of the Pink Drawing Room.

From there we entered the next room which was the State Dining Room.  Visitors to the Palace, including The Queen, the Dalai Lama, senior Church leaders and prominent political figures from all over the world, have been entertained here. In addition, bishops and their wives are invited to dinner here on the eve of their consecration.

The magnificent oil (on wood) painting over the fireplace is thought to have arrived at Lambeth with Cardinal Pole, but the artist is not known. It is entitled ‘The Four Doctors of the Church’ and shows St Jerome (with a lion), Pope Gregory, Ambrose and Augustine.


“The Four Doctors of the Church”

We then proceeded to the State Drawing Room.  In earlier years this would have been the living area for some of the servants who worked in the Palace, but today it is used as a venue in which to entertain visiting guests, such as religious and political leaders and members of the Royal family.  Much of this room was destroyed in 1944 during a Second World War air raid. It was austerely rebuilt in the 1950s although it wasn’t until 1998 that Eileen Carey, wife of incumbent Archbishop George Carey, re-upholstered the room and restored the moulded plaster work on the ceiling in accordance with the original 1828 design.  The two crystal chandeliers were a gift from Waterford Glass.


The State Drawing Room.


Cardinal Reginald Pole’s portrait hanging in the State Drawing Room.  Cardinal Pole was an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and was the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury who served for just two years, 1556-1558, during the Counter Reformation under the reign of Queen Mary.  He was a favorite of Mary’s as he never submitted to the reforms of the Protestants and always shared a close bond.  He died during an influenza epidemic a mere twelve hours after Mary’s own death from illness.  Some might say he died of a broken heart…only God knows.



the portrait of Charles I also hanging in the State Drawing Room.

From the drawing-room we made our way to the Archbishop’s private chapel, simply called The Chapel.  It has been the private chapel of Archbishops of Canterbury since the early 13th century.  Unlike the Crypt directly below, the appearance of the Chapel has been changed many times over the centuries.  The Chapel was heavily damaged following a direct hit by an incendiary bomb during World War II when the ceiling was lost and all of the windows were broken. Scorch marks can still be seen on the marble tiled floor. Restoration was begun in 1955.  Modern glass was inserted into the remaining window frames in an attempt to recreate the same themes and designs as the original windows designed in 1486.


An icon outside of The Chapel, the private chapel of the Archbishop.


the wooden doors leading into The Chapel.


Some of the relatively new paintings on the ceiling of The Chapel.


The pilgrims entering into The Chapel.


I have no idea what this is but it was cool, so I took a picture.


Inside The Chapel.  Take notice of the balcony on the left side of the chapel.  It was there that Thomas Cranmer wrote the first Book of Common Prayer.


One of the many intricate carvings in the wooden choir stalls inside The Chapel.


The choir stalls in The Chapel. In each seat there is a “seal” of each member church of the Anglican Communion. Here you can see the Episcopal Church shield and the other is two maple leafs, which I can only assume is the Anglican Church in Canada.


A closer look at the shield for the Episcopal Church. These markers were placed because each church helped to fund the restoration of this chapel after the roof collapsed during the WWII.


In each spot is the Church of England’s Common Prayer and hymnal.


The first page of Common Prayer.


A look at the window and the altar in The Chapel.


A closer look at the window behind the altar.


The ceiling has modern paintings from the restoration of The Chapel.


This staircase is known as the Cranmer Staircase.  It leads down to the Archbishop’s vesting room and the Crypt Chapel.

After descending the Cranmer staircase we came to the atrium.  This area is recently renovated and contains gifts given to Archbishop Justin from his many travels.


A sculpture set in one of the windows as we made our way to the Atrium.


This is a stool given to Archbishop Justin when he visited Ghana and a stool is given to someone to denote their office and status.


The newest part of the Palace is the Atrium and it leads to the chapel in the crypt. This chapel is primarily used by the two religious communities who are in residence at the Palace.

We passed through the atrium and into the Crypt Chapel, which is now known is the oldest remaining section of Lambeth Palace.  The Crypt was not originally designed for use as a chapel but was first used as a storage area for beer and wine. The Floor level was raised, probably in the first half of 13th century because of flooding from the Thames. The window seats in this room are higher, giving an indication of where the 13th Century floor level came to, approximately three feet above the floor level today. The floor was returned to its original level in 1907.

The Crypt was first used as a chapel temporarily during World War II when the main chapel was destroyed. William Temple also used The Crypt as an air raid shelter at the beginning of The War and invited local people to take shelter.

A Fresco of Christ in Glory, which hangs on the wall in the Crypt was given by Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Ramsey in 1966. This gift marked the first official meeting between The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Papacy since the 16th century.


A look into the Crypt Chapel.


The altar in the Crypt Chapel.


The good doctor Clark McSparren sitting in Archbishop Justin’s seat when he says the Office with the religious communities. Archbishop Justin uses this chapel more than the older chapel upstairs.


The cross on the altar is of particular significance to Archbishop Justin as it is a family heirloom and was given to a family member who was also a priest in the church.


The fresco given by Pope Paul VI.


The aumbry.


A statue of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus.


Skyler Gibbon talking with one of the leaders of the Saint Anselm Community which she will join this September and spend an academic year living at the palace as part of the intentional community and serving in the London area in various missions and ministries.


A look at Archbishop Justin’s office from the Palace gardens. There was a Archbishop sighting as we saw his arm as he was opening up a window.


The flag of the Archbishop and it is raised when he is in residence at the Palace, or really when he is in London.


A shot of Skyler in front of what will be her new home away from home. Not going to lie, I’m a bit jealous, but very excited for her and this wonderful opportunity.

We only spent about an hour and half there but boy did we see a lot!  I just realized how many pictures and words used in this post so I will save the rest of our adventures for the next post.  I hope you enjoyed your tour of Lambeth Palace.

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