The present day Archbishops’ Palace was formerly known as the manor of Maidstone and described in the Domesday Survey as land held by the Archbishop of Canterbury at “Meddestane”.
The manor of Maidstone was given to the Archbishops by Rector William de Cornhill in 1207 to be used as a resting-place for Archbishops travelling between London and Canterbury and is inked to Palaces at Charing, Otford and Croydon.
The buildings surrounding the Palace, the Archbishops’ Stables to the east and ‘the gatehouse’ (Tourist Information Centre) were probably used as a mill and lodgings for the Archbishops’ staff of accountants, butlers, cooks and clerks.
Visitors are welcome to browse through the Palace when the historical meeting rooms are not in use. The neighbouring Apothecary’s Garden is open to the public from 1st May to end August Wednesday afternoons only. The Herb Garden is open every Wednesday until the end of September.
In the 14th Century Archbishop Courtenay swept away the original Saxon church St.Mary’s and built All Saints. It’s believed to be one of the finest examples of the ‘English Perpendicular Style’.
The high wall at the back of the Palace shows a sloping recess with a boarded window about 12 — 15 feet above the ground. Local Legend reveals this was once a dungeon and its most famous occupant was John Ball, ‘the mad priest of Kent’. His refusal to accept or conform to the established social order, resulted in the Archbishop of Canterbury sentencing him to life imprisonment for sedition.
He was sprung from jail in 1381 during the ‘peasants revolt’ — a protest at the poll tax introduced by Chancellor Sudbury — who was also Archbishop of Canterbury.
Ball was seen as a natural ally because of his beliefs and rousing sermons for the removal of the Pope and Archbishops acting as the clarion call to the masses.
On the 14th June the rebels marched on London and although King Richard II was sympathetic to their demands his advisors had no intention of meeting them. Realising this the rebels stormed the Tower of London the only people in history to have done so.