The Fascinating History of Old Palace


Old Palace of John Whitgift School


Ghosts, royalty and archbishops

By Tania Rahman, Old Palace alumna

One of the first things I noticed after joining Old Palace School at the age of 11 was how much they valued subjects such as History, Latin and Greek Classical Civilisation. In fact, no other school seemed to study Greek Classical Civilisation at the time.

I recall one of my first pieces of history homework was to try and find out what the name Croydon meant. I did not live in Croydon at the time but I eventually discovered the answer in Croydon Library. The original Saxon name Croindene meant Saffron Valley or more accurately, Valley of the Crocuses. To this day, I have been researching the history of Croydon and the fascinating connections Old Palace School has held in the town for many years.

Long before thousands of school girls descended onto Old Palace in Croydon, it was a holiday home for the Archbishops of Canterbury and even Royalty stayed there. It was one of ten places they had between Lambeth and Canterbury which were each one day apart.

The historic building started life as a Manor House. The original wooden section was built in the 12th century and the stone section was built in the 14th century. Then a few decades later, Archbishop John Stafford built one of the finest Great Halls in Southern England. It featured a stone throne against the west wall, on which Henry VI, Henry VII, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I all dined.  The Chapel was built in the 15th century. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I was a regular visitor. She even stayed for seven days in July 1573 when she bought her own court and had her own Private Room.

Queen Elizabeth’s Room, as it is known, is a large 15th century first floor space with finely moulded ceiling joists which were built by Archbishop John Morton who was not only one of the wealthiest of all archbishops but who also created a Royal Palace near Hatfield House. The Chapel also dates from the 15th century but was altered two hundred years later to appear to be built from that time.

The building even has its own resident ghost; that of an Elizabethan handmaiden. It is said she is in search of a lost child and an aura of sadness is said to be felt whenever she appears.

When Addington Palace was built, rather than be torn down the building became a linen printers, bleaching works and laundry. The Great Hall was turned into a barn with piles of brushwood and a chicken coop. Old Palace was kept in good condition and finally the Duke of Newcastle bought it and gave it to the Sisters of the Church. By 1889, Old Palace School was founded.

As part of this year’s Croydon Heritage Festival, Old Palace School will be hosting an Open Building tour on Tuesday 21 June between 4:30pm – 5:30pm. Book your place to hear and see a fascinating history of Old Palace School.


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