Bromley Town Centre Park Trail – Stop 1/6 (Old Bishops Palace)

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The Eastern Lawns and the Old Bishops Palace


Colourised version of The “View of the Bishops Palace in Bromley”, by Hasted, said to have been drawn before the year 1756

This is the lawn and ‘rear elevation’ of Bromley Palace, usually called The Old Bishops Palace. The current building dates from 1775 (Georgian era) but when Charles Coles-Child bought The Lord of The Manor of Bromley, he added fashionable decoration to the brickwork and the arches of the arcade.

Drawing of the dilapidated Medieval palace, as reconstructed by Ken Wilson. Four times it became ruined as the land was too poor to maintain it.

This article is only a small part of the extensive information on this lovely historic building.  It is to be hoped that the beautiful reception rooms will remain in public access given the uncertain future.

Scallop shells – how many can you find?

Scallop shell decoration

How many can you spot around Bromley? They were heraldic device, the symbols of the Bishops of Rochester, representing how the life a Christian is a pilgrimage. Scallop shells had been used to guide medieval pilgrims on the trail to Santiago. Pilgrimage was very important in the Medieval era until the Reformation.


A race to get hops to the market

carved wooden hop flowers

Hop flowers carved in the stair

When Coles-Child bought the Lord of the Manor of Bromley, he introduced the practise of having a ‘cash crop’ of hops. He took great pride in delivering the first hops of the season to the London markets.  If you look carefully at the decoration inside the palace, you will see that hop flowers feature in many places.


1000 years of Bishops of Rochester in Bromley

circular settlement of a few buildings surrounded by palisade and moat

A colourised version of Ken Wilson’s 11th century drawing of what the Palace probably looked like.

The Bishops of Rochester lived at their palace in Bromley from the 12th century until the Church commissioners sold it off in 1856. 

The church had reorganised the dioceses (the area each bishop covers) and assigned Bromley to Canterbury. As there was a palace at Croydon for the Canterbury diocese, the one at Bromley was redundant. About 50 years later the parish of Bromley moved back to the diocese of Rochester.

The Poisoned Bishop

Bishop Fisher

Bishop Fisher was chaplain to Margaret Beaufort in Henry VIIIs court, which made him an important figure at court. In 1504 he was victim to an attempt to poison him – fortunately he did not eat the suspect porridge but two paupers that the uneaten porridge was given to, did die. The King was furious about the attempt and wanted to ensure that no-one copied the attempt, so the poor cook’s punishment was cruel and unusual.    

Woodcut print illustration from a Civic War pamphlet

The Bishop who had to escape from his own Palace in disguise

In the civil war, all the properties of the Bishops were confiscated by the Commonwealth formed by the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell. This included Bromley. The bishop was particularly fond of the palace here, and held on for two years before the Sheriff of Kent had to bring soldiers to force him out. It is said that he had to escape in disguise, just before they arrived, to avoid arrest and probably death.

The exiled Bishop who mourned leaving Bromley

Kneller, Godfrey; Francis Atterbury (1662-1732); Christ Church, University of Oxford;

Bishop Attenbury, was Dean of Westminster as well as Bishop of Rochester; this made him important political person. He was the confidential counsellor and great supporter of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, but this did him no favours when, as she had no heir, her family, the Stuarts, were replaced by the Hanoverian King George. The bishop was eventually exiled after spending a long time in the Tower of London. “When I was walking in my orchard in Bromley, I saw I had visitors, and thinking that they were friends, I hurried over to greet them… he said, I have come to arrest you…”

On his sundial, in the grounds of the Palace, the bishop had inscribed “vivite, ait, fugio”, in English “Live ye, for I fly” which he felt was prophetic when he finally got out of the Tower of London.

Usually, the palace features in the Society’s historic walks, a couple of times every year.

To continue the Heritage Trail, follow the path past the buildings and look for a gate in the hoardings, go through this and follow the path through the shrubbery to the Gates and the Folly

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