Current exhibitions

Moral and Material Decay: Four centuries of the Court of Arches

Lambeth Palace Library invites you to peer into the courtroom of the Province of Canterbury’s most senior ecclesiastical court. The records of the Court of Arches follow misbehaving clergy, watchful servants and members of the gentry with much to lose, as they battle their way through allegations of infidelity, defamation and wayward religious practices. This exhibition explores some of the themes that dominate the court and illuminates social relations and practices over four hundred years.

Over the course of the Court’s life, its records have been stored in numerous sites from the towers of Lambeth Palace to a disused well in St Paul’s churchyard. The Library is grateful for the generous funding from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to help us preserve this archive and reveal the effects of recent conservation work on the documents, and to the Friends of Library for their on-going support of the cataloguing work.

This free exhibition is open from 19 July to 20 October 2023 and can be visited 9:30 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. Open on Saturday 5 August and 2 & 9 September September from 10:00 to 17:00.

See Moral & Material Decay Digital Exhibition here.

Previous Exhibitions

Cantate Domino: Music in the Lambeth Palace Library collections

The exhibition featured the Arundel Choirbook, Sion College’s illuminated York Breviary from the 15th century, and sermon notes pertinent to the composition of the hymn “Amazing Grace”, celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. These were displayed alongside numerous other interesting examples of music in the Library’s collections spanning the 11th to 20th centuries. See the Cantate Domino Digital Exhibition here.

A Declaration of our hopes for the future’ 
Coronations from the middle ages to the present day

To mark the coronation of King Charles III, Lambeth Palace and Lambeth Palace Library collections brought you an exhibition of materials relating to previous coronations from that of Henry I in 1100 to that of our new sovereign.

The Library exhibition ran from 12 April to 13 July 2023 with highlights that include the manuscript coronation service prepared for William III and Mary II, Archbishop Wake’s notes for the coronation of George II, a letter from George VI thanking Archbishop Lang for his part in the coronation ceremony, and the Bible upon which Elizabeth II swore her coronation oath.

Until 14 June 2023 the Library hosted a display of artefacts from the Palace collections used in previous coronations, including the cope and mitre worn by Archbishop Fisher in 1953 and the large banners from the 1902 coronation from which Archbishop Frederick Temple had to read the service because of his failing eyesight.

See our digital exhibition here.

Enslavement: Voices from the Archives

The exhibition accompanied the Church Commissioners’ public report on historic links between Queen Anne’s Bounty (one of the Church Commissioners’ predecessors) and transatlantic chattel slavery.

Letters, books and documents on display showed some of the links between the Church of England and transatlantic chattel slavery. Amongst these were rare documents from enslaved people, contrasting views on the rights of enslaved people from within the Church, and from missionaries working in the Caribbean and the Americas. These documents also present the arguments put forward using the Church’s teaching at the time both for and against the abolition of slavery.

For those unable to visit in person we have prepared a selection of items from the exhibition to view online.

Collecting during Covid : A selection of books and manuscripts recently acquired by Lambeth Palace Library

This exhibition highlighted the Library’s acquisitions during a challenging few years. Recent arrivals build on the Library’s strengths in the fields of devotional literature, topographical writings and the evolution of religious libraries. Highlights included a copy of Quintilian’s Institutiones oratoriae that was once owned by Cardinal Morton, a medieval French book of Hours and a nineteenth century journal of Henry Evington, Bishop of Kyushu, Japan.

In particular, the period of the Reformation is well represented with new items shedding light on the logistics of international diplomacy, the modus operandi of Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of York and the anti-Catholic propaganda that the religious upheaval produced.

The acquisitions range from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, many purchased with the assistance of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

The exhibition ran from 11 October to 22 December 2022. For those unable to attend in person we have prepared an electronic version.

Layers of Lambeth: A look at the collections

Layers of Lambeth: A look at the collections draws on the Library’s rich holdings of prints, maps and plans to give an insight into how Lambeth has changed from the 17th to the 19th century. The area’s social and economic history is shown through depictions of Lambeth marsh and the pre-Embankment Bishop’s Walk, the growth of the pottery industry, as well as new streets and pubs around Waterloo station. The development of Lambeth Palace and its estates is also featured from woods in Camberwell to Timber yards in Waterloo. The final part of the exhibition contains images from the archives of the Church Commissioners and broadens the scope to the 1960s housing estates of Park Hill, Croydon and Hyde Park. Following Lambeth’s rural to urban transformation, this provides an interesting contrast in presenting the post-war ‘village concept’ in modern London.

The exhibition ran from 8 August to the end of September 2022. A small selection of items from the exhibition are displayed here.

From Popish Plot to Civil Rights: Themes in Religious Archives

This exhibition highlights a range of subjects covered by the Library’s diverse collections of religious archives.

To mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee, items on display related to her coronation in 1953. Other material related to the Church and other denominations and faiths, with exhibits illustrating relations with Roman Catholicism and items on Jewish history, including Hebrew manuscripts. There is also material relating to the Church and race, including material on the civil rights movement, and the first British Black Bishop, Wilfred Wood.

For those of you who missed Popish Plot to Civil Rights we have prepared this electronic version containing some of the highlights.

Treasures from the Collections II

Treasures II ran from 10 January 2022 until Friday 8 April 2022. Among the items on display were the thirteenth-century Lambeth Apocalypse, a Book of Hours belonging to King Richard III, a volume annotated by King Henry VIII and the death warrant of Mary Queen of Scots.

For those of you who missed Treasures II we have prepared this electronic version containing some of the highlights.

Treasures from the Collections I

Treasures I ran from 11 November to 17 December 2021. On show were the ninth-century MacDurnan Gospels, a masterpiece of Irish manuscript decoration, and the Lambeth Apocalypse, made in the 1260s for a noble female patron and brilliantly illuminated in gold. The earliest printings of sacred texts were represented by the Gutenberg Bible (1455) and the Bomberg Talmud (1526-48). 

For those of you who missed Treasures I, we have prepared this electronic version containing some of the highlights.