Highclere Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Possible Palace (Bishop)

There are no visible remains

NameHighclere Bishops Palace
Alternative NamesHighclere Castle; Highcleere; Clere Episcopi; Alta Clera; Hauteclere; Bisshopesclere; Hautclere
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishHighclere

Site of episcopal manor house/early medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, original owners of the Parish. Highclere Castle has been built over the site. In 749, a Saxon charter granted 'the land of 10 households which the inhabitants called Clere' to Winchester Cathedral. Much further evidence in Saxon Charters, Domesday Book and Episcopal Pipe Rolls of 'Clere' and the manor of Highclere which continued in possession of the Bishopric until 1582. The Bishops of Winchester built the first Medieval house there, on the site which was later extensively rebuilt by William of Wykeham. Several of the public Acts of William of Wykeham are dated at Highclere. (Hampshire AHBR)

HIGHCLERE CASTLE, the seat of the Earl of CARNARVON, is built on the site of the Palace of the Bishops of WINCHESTER, the original owners of the parish. Before 1208-9 the manor of HIGHCLERE was included with BURGHCLERE under the general name of CLERE. Although from that date onwards they are distinguished by name, they have always followed the same descent, the lord of the manors having his mansion at HIGHCLERE. Thus the Bishops had a place here and, in 1692, Sir ROBT. SAWYER died 'at his mansion house of HIGHCLERE' (VCH).

A Hampshire manor of the Bishops of WINCHESTER with a modern residence on site of the episcopal manor house.

While WILLIAM of WYKEHAM was at HIGHCLERE, from 1364, there are detailed records of the re-building of much of the palace. Masonry of early date can be seen at a short distance from the west side of the castle and some portions of the original buildings can still be recognized (Crawford).

The present house, known as HIGHCLERE CASTLE, was rebuilt circa 1840. I have never heard of masonry to the west of the house and do not know of any surviving part of the original Palace (F1 WW 21-NOV-55). (PastScape)

A park existed in Highclere in very early times, and complaints arose of damage from the inclosure of the park

In an account of the dilapidations in the episcopal manors after the death of John Sendale, in 1320, mention is made of damage by inclosure of the park, and in 1403 the rector of Burghclere received compensation for loss of tithe by reason of a great part of arable land having been imparked by the bishop, 'et parco nostro de Altâ Clerâ anneximus ac inclusimus in eodem que quidem inclusio in grave dampnum ecclesie predicti cederet.' Cobbett describes this park as 'the prettiest I have ever seen.' (VCH)

Gatehouse Comments

The history of the site is rather dominated by the later C19 Barry designed gothick castle. Parts of the medieval park pale survive.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU446588
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  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 430-34
  • Roberts, E., 2003, Hampshire Houses 1250-1700: Their Dating and Development (Winchester: Hampshire County Council)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 186
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 88, 130, 136
  • Crawford, O.G.S., 1953, Archaeology in the Field (London: Phoenix House) p. 194, 203
  • Dunlop, G.D., 1940, Pages from the History of Highclere (Oxford: The Holywell Press)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1911, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 4 p. 285-6 online transcription


  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)