Sonning Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop), and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSonning Bishops Palace
Alternative NamesSonnyng; Sunnyng
Historic CountryBerkshire
Modern AuthorityWokingham
1974 AuthorityBerkshire
Civil ParishSonning

Site of the palace of the Bishops of Salisbury, revealed by excavations in 1912-14. The earliest remains found dated to C13, with alterations in C14 and C15. The main building was moated on three sides and bounded to the north by the Thames. No surface remains are now visible. (PastScape)

A plan of the Bishops residence at Sonning was drawn up by Keyser and Brakespear following excavations at the site between 1912 and 1914. The earliest works found in-situ date from the 13th century, when the house would appear to have consisted of a range running parallel to and on the south bank of the Thames with a first floor hall, chapel and solar and kitchen and offices beneath. The building was enlarged in the 14th century, and in 1337 Bishop Robert Wyvill obtained a license to crenellate. The house was defended by a moat on three sides and by the river on the north. A new hall with porch and oriel was added to the thirteenth century block either in the 15th century or in the 14th century and remodelled in the 15th century. The great gatehouse was rebuilt in Henry VII's reign with the walls surrounding the forecourt, and possibly the water gate on the north. Little is known of the house following the manor of Sonning and Eye being given to the crown in 1574, but ultimately it seems to have been allowed to fall into decay and a new house built to the south-ward with the old materials. (Berkshire Archaeology HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Attached deer park from at least C12.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU754754
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Smith, P.L., 2013, The Bishop's Palace at Salisbury (Reading: Spire Books) p. 180-2
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 157-8, 627-9
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 123, 129, 136, 167, 168, 185
  • Page, Wm and Ditchfield, P.H. (eds), 1923, VCH Berkshire Vol. 3 p. 211, 223 (manorial history online transcription
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 411 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 27
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 109 online copy


  • Hull, Graham and Hall, Melanie, 1998-2003, 'Excavation of medieval features at St Andrews church vicarage, Sonning, Berkshire' Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 76 p. 73-93
  • Hatherley, J.M. and Cantor, L.M., 1979-80, 'The Medieval Parks of Berkshire' Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 70 p. 77
  • Long, E.T., 1940, 'The Medieval Domestic Architecture in Berkshire, Part I' Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 44 p. 108-9 online copy
  • Keyser, C.E. and Brakspear, H., 1916, 'Notes on excavations carried out on the site of the palace of the Bishop of Salisbury at Sonning' Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 2-21 (A full excavation report with prints and plans not just 'notes') online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1334-38) Vol. 3 p. 498 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1377-81) Vol. 1 p. 9, 10 online copy


  • Thames Valley Archaeological Services, 2006, Bishop's Close, Sonning Lane, Sonning, Berkshire - An Archaeological Desk-based Assessment
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) p. 193-98 (available via EThOS)