8 Palace Street

This is one of Canterbury’s most photographed timber framed houses, with striking external features – particularly the large decorated bressumer beams and two grotesque corbels (Image 1).  It was built around 1250 as the priest’s house for nearby St Alphege church, with a first floor hall above a stone flagged undercroft.  The timber framing and first floor overhang were added in the late 15th century, followed by major extensions in 1665 with addition of the second floor and a new building between the present structure and the church (Image 2).  The new addition served as the rectory until demolition in the 1880s – only its doorway remains in the rather plain surviving wall.  Around the same time, the ground floor facade was replaced by a recycled shop front, and the premises were used as a barber’s and tobacconist’s.  Today, the interior (without public access) retains its central pier, double stone arches, massive oak joists, with heavy flagstones paving the first floor.

What to see:

  • the overall impact of an impressive (if much altered) timber framed building – Pevsner’s Buildings of England series is usually sparing with its praise but describes this as ‘an eye-stopper’
  • large exposed and decorated bressumer beams (the main horizontal timbers) on first and second floors (Images 3 and 4)
  • details in the carving of the beams – scrolls, coils, and ‘guilloche’ (repeated patterns of interlaced bands) (Image 5)
  • the two large-breasted cloven-hoofed corbel figures – there are many of these grotesques surviving in the cathedral and elsewhere in the city  (Image  6)
  • side lancet windows (Image 7)
  • the Sun insurance fire plaque (Image 8)
  • the surviving entrance gate to what was the St Alphege rectory building (Image 9)

Access:  no public access to interior

Sources:  Bateman (2001);  Cantacuzino. (1970),; CAT Annual Report 2004-5 (includes Image 2); Newman (1983);  Quiney (1993); Scoffham (1993)