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Domesday Book

Domesday Book was a detailed survey and valuation of land holding and resources.

in the late 11th century England. It is one of the most important historical records ever made. It was commissioned by William I of England in winter 1085. It can be seen from this extract that Wrotham was written as Broteham at this time.

Wrotham and Otford dwarfed surrounding communities in terms of size and prestige and were comparable to Canterbury.

These settlements were important places of rest for the many pilgrims travelling from Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire to Canterbury in Kent along the Pilgrims Way.

Wrotham Palace was one of the manors that belonged to the archbishops of Canterbury. These manors were situated within a days journey from one another along the “Archbishops Trail” from Canterbury to Lambeth, and they were sufficiently spacious to house the extensive retinue of clergymen and servants, who would accompany the archbishop on such occasions. Built at some time before the Norman Conquest, the exact date of the construction of Wrotham Palace is unknown, but its existence is well documented in the Domesday book (c.~1080), and other sources indicate that the palace was granted to the archbishop of Canterbury by King Ethelstan as early as 964 AD.

Settlements cited on Wrotham Page of Domesday book

Malling (E & W)66

For over three centuries it was used as a residence by the archbishops, but its usage declined in the fourteenth century, until it was finally demolished by Simon Islip some years after his appointment as archbishop in 1349. Preferring the manor at nearby Otford, Islip decided that he had no need for Wrotham Palace and he soon began to dismantle it in order to use the materials for the completion of another manor at Maidstone.

Following the destruction of Wrotham Palace, the land and its ruins stayed in the direct ownership of the archbishop until they were returned to the crown by archbishop Thomas Cranmer several hundred years later, following which a new building was raised on the site, now called ‘The Old Palace’. It can be seen adjacent and east of the Bull, from Bull Lane.

The Unfortunate Colonel Shadwell

The plaque describes how in 1799 deserters shot COLONEL SHADWELL to the heart.

There is a memorial to the Colonel in Maidstone Church.

The deserters were caught and one was hanged at Penenden Heath. This is the story behind the plaque.

Col Shadwell Plaque

Plaque in the south wall of Bishops Lodge

Philip Keating and John Keggan were tried for the wilful murder of Colonel Peter Shadwell at Maidstone, July 18th, 1799. In court, Witness, John Self, stated that he was a servant to Colonel Shadwell and that on 1st June he came with the Colonel, in his curricle, ‘from Lewisham’ to Wrotham, where they stopped to refresh their horses, when they came across Keating and Keggan. The Colonel asked them “Well my lads, where do you come from?”. They replied that they had come from Maidstone. Then the Colonel asked where they were going, they replied London. “What commanding Officer did you see at Maidstone?” asked Shadwell. They replied “Captain Nevil”. The Colonel replied there was no such Officer there, he suggested they meant Capt. Skeen, they replied yes, that was the name they meant. The Colonel then asked to see their pass. The prisoner Keating said, “Come here, and we’ll show you our pass”. On that word the Colonel sprung forwards, and the prisoners tried to leave, they had proceeded 6 or 7 yards, and the Colonel put his hand out and tried to catch Keggan, when Keating turned around, took out his pistol and shot the Colonel instantly. The Colonel turned around and said, “John, I am shot” and less than a minute later he was dead, shot through the heart. The prisoners made off holding pistols, but were pursued and were caught a quarter of a mile away. Keggan surrendered, but Keating didn’t give up until one of the pursuers shot and wounded him.

Lieutenant Vere Ward, of the 17th Light Dragoons, proved that the prisoners both had deserted from that Regiment in May. The Articles of war were then read, and also the Mutiny Act. Keating in his defence said he did not commit the crime. Keggan said nothing in his defence and seemed to be unwell. The Jury found Keating ‘Guilty’ and Keggan ‘Not Guilty’. Judgement was immediately pronounced on Keating, who was hanged at Penenden Heath on 20th July.