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Villagers launch campaign to save Archbishop’s Palace in Charing

Charing residents have come together to save the Archbishop’s Palace in the village amid fears that it is falling down.

An enormous crack in the walls of the medieval building was first spotted 20 years ago but appears to be growing.

Residents say they fear the historically significant building’s days could be numbered.

Archbishop's Palace in Charing
Archbishop's Palace in Charing

The Charing Archbishop’s Palace Project (CAPP) steering group has been set up by people in the village to preserve the historic building.

Tylden Reed, a member of the steering group, said: “Our project has two objectives – to restore what is a unique and precious historical asset of national importance, making it safe and open to all.

“And to make it relevant to the present day by turning it into a vibrant community hub.”

Mr Reed said the group was first setting about finding funding sources to purchase the privately owned Palace site.

He added: “We will only be able to do this if we can find philanthropists, grant-funding bodies and charities that support our aims and are willing to help us.

“So we are gathering people together who, like the steering group, wish to see our palace saved for the future.

“Much work has to be done and a vast amount of money raised but we feel convinced we are doing the right thing.”

There's a huge crack in the Archbishop's Palace
There's a huge crack in the Archbishop's Palace

The palace was first mentioned in the Domesday book and was rebuilt in the 14th century.

It is one of a string of medieval palaces serving the archbishops travelling between Canterbury and London.

Henry VIII, who stayed there on his way to the historic Field of the Cloth of Gold summit with King Francis I of France, liked it so much he forced the archbishop to transfer it to him in 1545.

It remained in royal hands until Charles I sold it off, and over the centuries its condition has deteriorated.

Jill Leyland, the chairman of Charing Parish Council, said: “It is a tragedy that – despite much pleading and warnings of what was likely to happen – nothing yet has materialised of Historic England’s promise a year ago to fund repairs to the crack, which was first noticed 20 years ago.

“There is now real danger of imminent collapse just at a time when there are new hopes of a plan to conserve and restore the palace.”

Corry Bain-Smith, vice-chairman of Charing Parish Council and member of the steering group, said cracks were first noticed in 1996.

She said: “For several years, and with increasing urgency, I have been drawing the attention of Historic England to widening in the crack at the north-east corner.

Hugh Billot, Jill Leyland, Corry Bain-Smith & Tylden Reed from Charing Parish Council who are campaigning for the Great Hall to be saved before it falls down.
Hugh Billot, Jill Leyland, Corry Bain-Smith & Tylden Reed from Charing Parish Council who are campaigning for the Great Hall to be saved before it falls down.

“They did obtain a grant for urgent repair work, which should have been completed by the end of March this year, but there have been endless delays over the method of repair and who had been commissioned to do to what.

“But the inevitable happened in September when there was a collapse of masonry. There has been a further shifting and the building is likely to deteriorate imminently.”

The palace and its precinct are a Scheduled Monument of Exceptional Significance, and the palace is said to be the most important at-risk building in the South East.

The Spitalfields Trust bought the south range of the site two years ago and has carried out restoration works.

Mrs Bain Smith continued: “Many years of neglect have taken their toll and led to increasing public concern.

“The community can only appeal, through all available channels, that immediate emergency action is taken, without the bureaucratic delay which could lead to disaster.”

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