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Archbishops Palace

The manor of Maidstone was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury before the Domesday Survey, possibly as the result of a royal gift in the 7th/8th century AD. In about 1207-8, the rector William de Cornhill gave his house to the archbishops for their use, and a few remains of this building may still exist as ruins adjacent to the structure known as 'The Dungeon'. But the original building was largely pulled down and rebuilt on an extended scale as a palace by Archbishop Ufford in 1348. 'The Dungeon' itself may date from this rebuilding but is unlikely to have fulfilled this function - it gets its popular name from the character of its vaulted undercroft.

The palace was further extended by Archbishop Simon Islip (1349-1366) and by Archbishop Morton in 1486. It formed part of a series of palaces used by the archbishops when travelling around the diocese, including Charing, Otford and Croydon.

At the Reformation, the palace was ceded to the Crown before being sold in the 1580s to Sir John Astley (Master of Queen Elizabeth I's jewels). He was most likely responsible for reforming the main Palace buildings in typiical Elizabethan style, giving them much of their current appearance.

The medieval Palace however was much more than this main block and comprised irregular ranges of buildings set around a large courtyard. The site was bounded by the Rivers Medway and Len to the west and north, All Saints Church to the south and the Archbishops' Stables to the east. The latter survive as a fine example of 15th century architecture - they have housed the Carriage Museum since 1946.

'The Gatehouse' is another fragment of the medieval Palace, probably having formed part of a range of lodgings where retainers or guests of the Archbishopo would have been accommodated. The Palace Chapel was demolished in 1730 and, by the 19th century, the main building had been divided into two houses. By 1887 it was semi-derelict and due to be demolished for warehouses and cottages, but it was bought by public subscription and presented to the town to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Since then it has been used for civic offices, and now functions as the town's Registry Office.

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