Posted by: madkentdragon | March 5, 2011

Maidstone, Part 2 – beyond the stars and stripes!

OK, I’ve bored you with history, but here are a couple of bits more!

Next to All Saints Church is a building that I have always known as the Old Palace, its correct title is the Archbishop’s Palace, because that was exactly what it was.

Old Archbishop Courtenay was out to make a name for himself, so he took over the church house and rebuilt it as a palace – again in approximately 1390. Maidstone had been given to the Archbishopric of Canterbury in the 7th or 8th century and the building still survives with gatehouse and ancillary buildings with one alteration which happened during the reformation.

Henry VIII sold the palace to John Astley who was master of the king’s jewels and he put a “modern” frontage on the building, the church reverted to a parish church which preserved it. However Astley did not alter the back and there is a recessed, boarded up window which is reputed to be the Archbishop’s Prison and it is presumed that this is where the Mad Priest of Kent, John Ball, was held after he led a revolt against the crown, including attacking the Tower of London!

The old adage “When Adam delf and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?” comes from this time! Ball did not believe in the social order of the time and wanted to make all men equal, unfortunately he was eventually hung, drawn and quartered for his views.

Whilst you are in the gardens of the palace as you walk back towards the road, turn left and walk under the Bishops Way one way system where you can see one of the oldest bridges in Kent which spans the River Len just before it joins the River Medway. This bridge is a preserved monument and was probably built before the church and palace.

Before we leave this bit of Maidstone there are a couple more bits to see: firstly, avoiding the dreadful traffic of the one way system, pop over the road and there you will find the mill pond and wheel race of one of the mills owned by the archbishopric and look across it to the car sales room – OK this isn’t ancient history , but the building is a classic of its age and was built in the 1930s, complete with rounded windows and was the workshops and showrooms where you would have bought your Hillman or Talbot. It’s still a car showroom for Peugeot and the building is now Grade II listed!

To finish in this area, wander along Knightrider Street, I can’t find out why it’s called this – unless it is self descriptive; and look at the pub on the left hand side and you will realise that this is actually a Tudor farm house and while you ponder upon that incongruity, I’ll leave it there for now. Next time it will be battles, Roman roads, a nunnery and a market!


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