If you are interested in buried history, look no further than the triangle formed in Kennington by Sancroft Street, Courtenay Street and Kennington Lane. Not that there is anything to see. The ruins uncovered during excavations in the 1960s have long gone. There aren’t even any paintings or prints in existence to show us what this pageant of history used to look like. But it was definitely there.
Kennington Palace was built between 1346 and 1362 by Edward, the Black Prince, whose military victories at Crecy and Poitiers made him a household hero. He would have become King of England had he not died a year before his father Edward III. His son Richard became king instead.
Richard II spent much of his childhood at Kennington Palace and visited it regularly as king. It was barely half a mile from the Thames along what is today called Black Prince Road at the start of which he left a boat. Henry IV and Henry V lived for periods in the Palace too, as did Catherine of Aragon when she came to London to marry Henry VIII’s elder brother Arthur.
The excavations revealed a string of separate buildings rather than a unified palace, dominated by an 80 foot long Grand Chamber with a hall, pantry, stable and sundry other rooms, including the Queen’s Chamber, which jutted out under today’s Sancroft Street. If you stroll to the backyard of St Anselm’s Church you will be standing where about a third of the excavations took place, while at the other end the gated entrance to the estate at the junction of Sancroft Street and Cardigan Street would have given you a view of the entire palace now, sadly, left to our own imaginations.
The history of the palace came to an abrupt end when Henry VIII demolished it to provide materials to build his new palace at Whitehall, the biggest, and almost certainly the ugliest one in Europe.
Although there are no memories of Kennington Palace left, apart from Black Prince Road the Black Prince pub which stands on it, there is one uninterrupted continuity: this triangle of land has had the same owner since it was built. The Black Prince was the first Prince of Wales and the land – and plenty else in the area – is still owned by the current Prince of Wales.
Read Vic Keegan’s Lost London numbers 1-75 here.