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Tomb of five archbishops found at Lambeth Palace’s Garden Museum

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Renovation work at Lambeth Palace’s Garden Museum led to the discovery of the tomb of five archbishops. When renovation and extension work begun back in 2015, historians has no clue that it will lead to a great discovery. 

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But as work on the the floor of the Chancel moved on, the contractors had to lower the level and when the ledgers were lifted, they hit a concrete block. Removing the block, workers were faced with a flight of stairs and they spotted, at the end of the steps, a glimpse of an Archbishop’s Mitre glittering in the dark.

This was the discovery of a recorded vault, below the Chancel, for high status burials, including those of five Archbishops of Canterbury and according to historians, this discovery is of exceptional interest, and will be a new story in the interpretation of the church of St Mary’s-at-Lambeth, in which the museum is housed.

In total, 20 coffins were discovered among those belonging to John Bettesworth, Dean of Arches, Judge of the Archbishops Prerogative court, Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury and Catherine Moore, wife of John Moore.

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The coffins date back to the 17th century and its no surprise that the five archbishops already identified have been laid to rest here since for nearly 800 years, Lambeth Palace has been the residence of the archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England’s most senior cleric.

The Garden Museum was closed on 30 October 2015 for 18 months for a £7.5million redevelopment project and it will reopen in Spring 2017.

Visitors will be able to see the coffins trough a glass flooring.

John Michaelle