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Wells Bishops Palace

In the civil parish of Wells.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Somerset.
1974 county of Somerset.
Medieval County of Somerset.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST55134576
Latitude 51.20932° Longitude -2.64373°

Wells Bishops Palace has been described as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


The palace is surrounded by a moat and fourteenth-century curtain wall with gatehouse. The main structure consists of two periods of 13th century domestic construction: the first floor suite of Bishop Jocelyn (1206-1242), now the bishop's residence; and the great hall of Bishop Burnell (1274-1292), a ruin in the palace gardens (Wood). The Palace's inner court consisted of the central domestic buildings, which were partially arranged around a 15th century courtyard. Outside this, but still inside the defences, would have been various functional buildings and areas: kitchens and gardens certainly and probably storehouses, stables, a bakehouse and a brewhouse. Outside the fortifications, were the bishop and his household's support system; the springs, the home farm, the mill and the park (Payne, 1999) The Bishop's Palace is located to the south of Saint Andrew's Cathedral and a number of the springs. Along with the 13th century buildings built by Bishop Jocelyn and Bishop Burnell there is also a later, 15th century range constructed by Bishop Bekynton. Although the earliest surviving part of the palace dates from Jocelyn's episcopate, there are references to an earlier site; possibly replaced by or supplemented by Jocelyn's construction (Payne and Hoggett) Ralph of Shrewsbury was appointed Bishop in 1329. With his arrival at Wells, the palace complex was embellished with a moat, walls, and a drawbridge; probably completed in honour of Edward III's visit during Christmas 1331 (Scrase). (Somerset HER)

Wall with corner towers and gatehouse, surrounded by moat. c1341 (date of license to Crenellate) by Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury. Local stone rubble with ashlar copings and other dressings, average 5m high. PLAN: irregular, with 6 bastion towers, that to the NW, sometimes referred to as the prison, has a small but lofty room, with apsidal W end, and looks more like a small chapel; it has stone tablets with the decalogue set high on the walls. The gatehouse lies on the N side. The wall is boldly crenellated with some arrowslits. Part of the N side is incorporated in that part of the Bishop's Palace (qv) presently known as Bishop's House. The gatehouse in random rubble with Doulting stone dressings with lead flat roof behind crenellated parapets. EXTERIOR: 3 storeys, the gateway bay flanked by two rectangular towers with corners chamfered on north side. Towers have mostly arrowslits to ground and first floors, but east face of east tower has a 2-light mullioned window with square label (under which is the Swans' Bell), the N face has a circular cinquefoil window, and to the NE corner an angled oriel window at first floor level of 1+2+2+1 lights, with moulded base and reeded frieze to a lead flat roof. The centre gateway has a 4-centre arch in a rectangular recess with carved spandrels, part of the portcullis and the chains of the drawbridge (now connected to a modern fixed bridge) remain, arch has a pair of possibly C14 gates with an inserted wicket of c1600. Above this a single lancet with cusped window set deep inside. Inside the gateway is a quadripartite ribbed vault with short spring shafts, and carved head boss and corbels. In E wall of this space a small oriel window, presumably for the gatekeeper. Side doors in the projection of the towers south of the minor gate arch. INTERIOR: not inspected. The enclosing wall with its moat helps to provide what Pevsner (op cit) calls an "...exquisite beauty of setting...". (Listed Building Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1286 March 15 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).
A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1340 March 29.


The exterior of the precinct wall was whitewashed and at it's height the gleaming white walls reflected in the surrounding moat would have created a remarkable impression.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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