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Lambeth Palace Library

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England.

Founded in 1610, it is situated within the grounds of Lambeth Palace and its collections are freely available for research.

The official papers of the Archbishops of Canterbury are among the library's most significant collections, documenting political and social issues as well as ecclesiastical history in Great Britain and more generally throughout the Anglican Communion. Apart from correspondence the papers include diaries, sermons and newspaper cuttings. They are made available following a 30-year closure period.

While library's focus is on ecclesiastical history, its rich collections are important for an immense variety of topics, such as architecture, colonial history, local history and genealogy.

Its collections contain over 4,600 manuscripts and immense quantities of archives, dating from the 9th Century to the present -among which are some 600 medieval manuscripts.

The library has almost 200,000 printed books, including some 30,000 items printed before 1700. Many are unique, or are distinguished by their provenance or by special bindings.

In 1996 the Library's holdings were augmented by the transfer from Sion College Library of c.35,000 printed books published before 1850, together with the Sion College collection of manuscripts.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall at Lambeth Palace, which has been built and rebuilt many times over the centuries, currently houses much of the Lambeth Palace Library.

The Great HallIt was in the first Great Hall that Erasmus and Holbein were welcomed by Archbishop Warham, and where Henry VIII was entertained by Thomas Cranmer.

The Parliamentarian Colonel Scot ordered the demolition of the building following the English Civil War and the more valuable materials were sold off at auction. The Civil War also saw much alteration to the remains of the Palace as the main buildings were divided into two for the use of two Parliamentarian leaders.

Many other buildings in addition to the Hall were destroyed.

It was not until the Restoration that Archbishop Juxon rebuilt the Great Hall. He used much of his own money to complete the works, and attempted as much as possible to replicate the original medieval style. Writing in his diary in 1665, Samuel Pepys described a visit to see "Bishop Juxon's new old-fashioned hall".

In spite of Juxon's splendid restoration, the Great Hall was rarely used until the early 19th Century, when, as part of Blore's renovations, the Hall first became a home for the Lambeth Palace Library.

The hammer beam roof of the Great Hall was completely destroyed during the Blitz. While Archbishop Juxon's original design was replicated exactly during restorations, many of the books and furniture damaged in the blast could not be restored or replaced.

As well as being home to the Lambeth Palace Library, the Great Hall is often used - during the warmer months - for receptions and events.

Visit the Lambeth Palace Library website

Read about past exhibitions at Lambeth Palace Library