The History of Conquest House It was on 29th December, 1170, four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, met at a house near Canterbury Cathedral to plan what they would do on the morrow. Whatever plans they discussed, the result was the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, a deed that changed the course of history and certainly changed the fortunes of Canterbury itself. The place where the knights met is reputed to be Conquest House, which at that time was owned by a man called Gilbert the Citizen. The knights initially left their servants, weapons and horses at Conquest House while two of their number entered Bishop’s Palace by force and remonstrated with Becket, trying to get him to remove the excommunication he had placed over several of the Kings supporters.
It was a lost cause from the start; Becket was too strong-willed to succumb to their threats. The knights returned to Conquest House and gathered their weapons. In the meantime the archbishop’s servants convinced him to retire to the Cathedral. It was no use; the knights entered the Cathedral, and after a further argument, killed Becket in the area now called The Martyrdom.
Looking at Conquest House today it is hard to think of it as a 12th century building. The front that greets your eye as you pass down Palace Street is an enormously attractive half-timbered facade in late Tudor or Jacobean style.
As attractive as the house exterior looks - and it certainly is attractive - it hides a much older interior, for behind the half-timbering lies a Norman undercroft. By comparison the 14th century galleried hall is relatively modern to say nothing of a highly decorated 17th century fireplace!
There are several interesting carvings, including an ornate coat of arms over the fireplace, created to celebrate the marriage of Charles I to Henrietta Maria, which took place at Canterbury Cathedral in 1625. The exterior of Conquest House is beautifully embellished with carvings, including a decorated frieze along the eaves, and fanciful brackets supporting the projecting jetties that thrust out over Palace Street. Conquest House was reopened as a gallery in May 2016 by artist Kathryn Rennie. Today it serves not only as a gallery and studio, but also as a teaching space for various art classes.