Otford Village Lunch 16th May 2019
It was beautiful sunny day when thirty one U3A members gathered at Otford Heritage Centre, to be greeted by historian’s Cliff & Elizabeth Ward, and film maker Barbara Darby. We were shown into the small museum where Barbara had set up the projector to show us her film all about Otford Palace. There were only enough seats for about 20 people so we decided that Barbara would show her film twice. Whilst the other group were waiting Cliff and Elizabeth took us into the garden and told us about other things of interest in the village.
The Palace was originally built in the ninth century and it became one of the largest properties belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury. Thomas Becket was one of its famous landlords. The palace was much altered over the years, and Henry VIII stayed there with Queen Catherine of Aragon, plus a retinue of some 5,000 on their way to the Field of Cloth and Gold in 1520. Seventeen years later the Palace passed into the King’s hand together with Knole. Henry VIII found it damp, and Elizabeth I , who also stayed there, ultimately leased it to Sir Robert Sidney. In 1573 a survey shows it already in poor condition. It was pulled down in 1600’s. The site was not built upon again until 1930’s.
There was public outcry over the development proposals for the Palace field and Sevenoaks Rural District Council purchased the land. The ruin was repaired by public subscription in 1936.
There was an excellent model of the Place in the museum made by a local man. He also made the model of one of the first aeroplanes built and flown by Percy Pilcher, a local man, it now hangs from the ceiling in the museum, the same man made a model of a local Oast house also on display in the Heritage centre.
There were many interesting exhibits in the museum, too many things to take in on one visit.
Cliff explained about the Otford Solar System which was one of their Millenium projects. Together with the village sign designed by Barbara Darby, and the mosaic along the wall of the old village hall, opposite the Bull. The people of the village all helped to make the mosaic under instructions of the local expert. (Barbara Darby has also made a film about the making of the mosaic.)
The Otford solar system is set out with markers around the sports ground in a scale of 1:4,600,000,000 (i.e. 1mm = 4,600m/1inch = 72,500 miles) I will ask our son to explain it me as he is Professor of Astronomy. I do have a job getting my head around these great distances.
There were 46 notable sites listed in the Otford guide book, most had details of their history on boards outside, which I thought was very helpful. The book is a little out of date because two of the pubs “The Horns”, and “The Crown” have recently been sold. “The Horns” is now a pair of semi dethatched houses, and I think “The Crown” is being converted into offices. A few years ago they were both good pubs.
There were several interesting small shops, which many of our members visited.
(If you are energetic there is a nice walk alongside the river from Otford to Shoreham and Eynsford. We did it many times years ago, but I’m afraid I can no longer walk far)
The New Methodist Church would be worth a visit. It has a lovely modern stained glass window. One of the members of our video club made a short film about the building of it and the finished church, but I have yet to go inside myself.
I hope you all enjoyed the visit and it has inspired you to go back again to find out more about this lovely village which is on our doorstep.
Brenda Wheatley