Essential restoration works are taking place at the Whitgift Almshouses and Old Palace School.
Vital building repairs are being carried out at two of the Foundation's Grade I listed buildings, the Whitgift Almshouses, on North End, and Old Palace of John Whitgift School, in Old Town, until the end of this year.
The Foundation is investing more than £500,000 to ensure that these important architectural buildings are preserved into the future as a fundamental part of Croydon’s history and heritage. The works consist of fabric, window, roof and stonework repairs using specialist building materials and techniques and are being carried out at both sites by heritage contractor, Stonewest, following a detailed building survey and analysis earlier this year.
The Whitgift Almshouses retains much of its original architectural features since it was built in 1596 and parts of Old Palace date back to the 12th century. Both buildings, located in the heart of central Croydon, are in full operational use today as part of the Foundation’s charitable aims of educating the young and caring for the elderly. The Whitgift Almshouses provides sheltered accommodation in rental flats to 15 residents aged over 60 and Old Palace is a leading independent girls’ school supported by one of the largest bursary support schemes in the country.
Tours of both buildings, open to the local community during Croydon Heritage Festival and Open House London, are extremely popular with sell-out tours of the Almshouses welcoming more than 160 visitors through its gates on each occasion.
The Foundation is working closely with Stonewest to minimise disruption at both sites.
Martin Corney, Chief Executive, The Whitgift Foundation, said: “As two of Croydon’s most iconic buildings, it is vital that we invest in our Grade I listed buildings, particularly at a time of unprecedented redevelopment of the town centre. Both the Whitgift Almshouses and Old Palace have had links to royalty and the Church dating back centuries and it is important that these buildings are restored to preserve Croydon’s history and heritage for years to come.”
Famous visitors include:
- For several hundred years the Archbishops of Canterbury had a residence at Old Palace in Croydon, and there they would spend the summer months resting from their travels between Canterbury and Lambeth.
- One of the favourite tales of Old Palace is the proposal of Henry VIII to Katherine of Aragon in 1509. Katherine had previously been married to Henry’s brother, Arthur, but he died young. For six years she was held in England by Henry VII who was reluctant to return her and her dowry to her parents, the powerful Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella. Katherine of Aragon’s normal residence during her six years of waiting, was Durham House in the Strand. However, according to Paget (writing in 1937) she was at the Palace when Henry paid a visit from 22 May to 2 June 1509 – and they married nine days later on the 11th.
- Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary Tudor, was a frequent visitor to Croydon where she would meet with Archbishop Reginald Pope, her leading ally in the campaign to reunite England with Rome.
- Elizabeth I came to Croydon frequently and held court at Old Palace. Her 15th century bedroom still remains at the Palace today.
- As a regular visitor to Croydon and with a fondness for the town, Archbishop John Whitgift petitioned for and received permission from Queen Elizabeth I to establish the Hospital of The Holy Trinity (now known as the Whitgift Almshouses). Built in 1596, the Hospital was to help the needier section of the Croydon population, the elderly and poor, housing around 30 to 40 people. With his guarded bedroom in the uppermost floor, Whitgift was a regular visitor and often dined with residents in the Common Room.
- Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness visited Old Palace on 2 November 1960 for a short stay of an hour with a performance by the girls of the ‘Old Palace Pageant.’
- In 1996, to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of The Whitgift Foundation, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness visited the Whitgift Almshouses where she described its idyllic quadrangle as ‘an oasis of peace and tranquillity.’
- Most recently, on 21 March 2014, HRH The Princess Royal visited Croydon Minster to attend the 400th anniversary of The Whitgift Foundation’s Founder’s Day Service and later dined amongst guests in Old Palace School’s medieval Banqueting Hall.