A small group of ten society members met up in mid-October , having mostly travelled to Croydon by the convenient tram from Wimbledon to visit Croydon church, dedicated to St John Baptist and now renamed Croydon Minister. Here are buried 6 Archbishops of Canterbury, Archbishop Sheldon, who died in Croydon in 1677 being of particular interest, and Archbishop Warham. Archbishop Grindal,(1576-83) once exiled to Switzerland until Elizabeth I came to the throne of England has a memorial here and there are also brasses, and Clayton & Bell stained glass can be seen.
Following a fire in 1867, which left only the Tower, now housing a ring of 12 bells cast by the Croydon firm of Gillett & Johnston in 1936, the South porch and outer walls remaining, the church, first recorded in the Domesday book, was rebuilt by Sir Gilbert Scott. The minster is in the midst of being restored.
After lunch the group reconvened at the adjacent Croydon Palace ,the home of the Archbishops of Canterbury, until 1824, when they transferred their allegiance to Lambeth and New Addington Palace. The former Palace is now run as a girl’s school under the auspices of the Whitgift Foundation and so consequently the palace can only be visited in holiday times. Having joined some 70 other visitors in the Great Hall, with its massive tie-beams erected by Herring in 1748, and stone corbels with angels holding shields of Bishops’ coats-of-arms, including Laud and Juxon, we were conducted round the buildings which have now been adapted for modern education use, the Guard room being the school library with portrait of Sheldon displayed over the fireplace. Modern requirements of the school means that some of the perhaps more interesting features of the palace, with the exception of staircase balustrades, created by Laud (1633-45)or Juxon (1660-63)had been obscured, although their arms can be seen as bench ends in the chapel pews, whilst Laud’s gallery pew supports arms carved by Laud’s joiner , Adam Brown, who also created these desks and benches. A screen of Morton’s time (1486-1500) has a small barrel or tun carved on it, while stained glass in the chapel donated by the Glaziers company has had unclothed boy figures suitably censored subsequently, and the glass behind the altar (Clayton & Bell)has women of importance designed to inspire young ladies in the school. Further refurbishment of Laud’s work being necessitated by the interregnum when Sir William Brereton changed it into a kitchen. The palace is now undergoing yet further restoration and modification which it has been enduring for many centuries as walls fell down and it expanded to meet the needs and this has resulted in a very complex building with many building styles and unusual extensions. Visit if you can next year when work should be finished.