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The Brown Gallery at Knole House © Knole: National Trust

Old Palace School starts long-awaited work on the restoration of The Long Gallery. 

Old Palace recently announced work has begun on the long-awaited restoration of The Long Gallery.

The room has been opened-up for the first time in over a hundred years to reveal the former Archbishop’s Long Gallery.

The building is a corridor gallery, believed to date from the second half of the 15th Century. It was constructed as a means to connect separate chambers in the palace, but evidently also became a private recreational space, separate from the public areas of the Palace. It was expensively glazed with large oriel windows and strips of high windows overlooking the courtyard to the North and extensive gardens and fish ponds to the South. It was clearly conceived as a high-status room in the Palace.

The dimensions and surviving details are similar to the Brown Gallery at Knole House in Kent, which was also commissioned at this time as a Palace for the Archbishops of Canterbury. The Knole gallery had an open arcade at ground floor level and oriel windows on both sides. Gallery spaces became extremely popular during the Tudor period, such that during the reign of Elizabeth I, most large houses were commissioned with a long gallery. One reason for this seems to have been the popularity of dancing the galliard, which was a formal dance known to have been favoured by Elizabeth I, which suited the relatively light space of the gallery and the length of the room.

Elizabeth I is known to have visited Croydon a number of times and chose this room in 1567 to present the Great Seal of England to her court favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, who as Keeper of the Seal, became her Lord Chancellor.

In the 18th Century the room was remodelled with new sash windows and panelling. Shortly afterwards the Archbishops abandoned the Palace, which survived as a linen and calico printing works. The Long Gallery was partially occupied as a domestic residence whilst the wider site operated as a factory powered by a water wheel in the southern courtyard.

In 1889, the Palace was rescued and became the home of a new school for girls: Old Palace. Over the years the room was subdivided to provide two classrooms, with a new floor inserted on the western side. The roof of the passageway collapsed in the 1930’s requiring extensive rebuilding at the western end, which possibly accounts for the loss of panelling in this area.

The current works have involved opening-up this space and uncovering earlier floor finishes and concealed details in the panelled walls. It is now proposed to refurbish the existing floor and to install new heating, lighting and power. It is also proposed to restore damaged panelling and to replace that which has been lost to recover the perceived identity of this space. The intention is to transform the Long Gallery into a beautiful space; one which can be enjoyed by students, whilst enabling its great significance to be appreciated by all.


Main image credit: The Brown Gallery at Knole House © Knole: National Trust

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