GLIMPSES OF LIFE AT LAMBETH PALACE

The gatekeepers of Lambeth Palace occupy a historic role, admitting visitors to the Archbishops. Unfortunately not all of the gatekeepers are named in the records held in the Library, although one is glimpsed in the picture of the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace during the trial of Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln, under Archbishop Benson in 1889. He is unfortunately unnamed in the key to the picture, but appears in profile in the centre of this section, with a moustache.

MS4285.1

Detail from watercolour of the Lincoln Trial (MS 4285/1).

However, some details of the gatekeepers’ work emerge from the archives. Records documenting the role of the gatekeepers include recollections by a former gatekeeper of life at the Palace sent to Archbishop Tait in the 1880s (Tait 104 ff. 108-13). The role included not only admitting visitors at the gate house, but also extended to showing the buildings to more general visitors, reflecting the role of the Palace as a public space which continues today. Papers of Archbishop Davidson dating from 1903 (when he was newly in office as Archbishop) describe how the porter “should be responsible … for showing the Palace to sight-seers or tourists“, including the principal rooms and collection of portraits, when it is possible to do so “without dirtying the room – as, for example, when pedestrians come on a muddy day” (Davidson 86 ff. 1-3). The Library holds a slightly later scrapbook of Francis Neate Woodward (MS 2614), who worked as gatekeeper in the interwar period, containing notes and newspaper cuttings about Lambeth Palace, presumably used for this purpose. In 1906 two brothers of the Society of St John the Evangelist visited the Palace, where they were shown the mediaeval manuscripts in the Library by the porter – a “kind gentleman” who lived in Morton’s Tower and, a letter recounting the visit says, has the “history of England and especially of Lambeth at his fingers’ ends” (SSJE/6/5/2/2/7).

Davidson 22-30

View from Morton’s Tower, where the gatekeepers admit visitors to Lambeth Palace (Davidson 22/30). This photograph album dates from the primacy of Archbishop Davidson, but this view looks much the same today.

Further information on arrangements for visitors are found in the Library records and some of the most eminent visitors who came specifically to the Library are also recorded. There are visitors’ books too among records relating to Lambeth Palace.

More generally, records naming individual members of staff at Lambeth Palace are limited, but the household accounts of the Archbishops dating from the early 17th century onwards (TG) include payments to household servants. Earlier still, two account rolls acquired by the Library in 2006 reveal details of the household of the 16th-century Archbishops (MSS 4722-4723). In the modern period we find accounts of life at Lambeth Palace, for instance by the Archbishops’ chaplain Ian White-Thomson (MS 3120 ff. 310-24) and cook Audrey Heaton (Burnt the peas whilst washing the cherubs : the Lambeth Palace years of Audrey Heaton 1959-1974).

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