Rochester Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameRochester Bishops Palace
Alternative Names
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityMedway
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishRochester

During excavations by the Prior's Gate house north east of the Bishops Palace, a section of Roman Rampart and wall were found. A substantial Norman building was also revealed dating to earlier than c.1150. The east wing of the Palace and various medieval and post medieval structures were also found. Finds included several Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval coins, medieval tiles and much pottery and small finds from all periods. (Kent HER)

On the eastern side of them, and adjoining the Prior's Gate, formerly stood an ancient edifice, which was evidently a portion of the monastic buildings: this was for many years used as the King's or Cathedral Grammar School, the last occupant being the Rev. Daniel F. Warner, the Head Master. The building was demolished about forty years ago, and the stone framework of one of the ancient fire-places was built into a modern eastern wall near the Prior's Gate, where it still remains. Mr. Denne, in The Kentish Traveller's Companion, above quoted, writes: "In the west quarter of the Palace Precincts were the Bishop's Court for the trial of civil causes, and a prison. No debtors have been confined in it for upwards of forty years (i.e., circa 1750), the practice of the court not being sufficient to defray the expenses of supporting the jurisdiction. In what used to be the gaoler's garden the late Bishop Pearce in the year 1760 erected a Register Office." (Rye, 1887)

At the SOUTH WEST corner of the precincts of the cathedral, bishop Gundulph separated a portion of ground for an habitation for himself and his successors; and though there is no particular mention of a palace for near eighty years after his death, yet there is the strongest reason to think he built himself one here at the time he re edified the church and priory, with the offices belonging to it, when he separated his own maintenance from that of the monks, and lived no longer in common with them, as one family

Bishop Gilbert de Glanvill, who came to the see in 1185, is recorded to have rebuilt all that had been burned down of this palace by one of those dreadful fires which laid waste the greatest part of this city. What situation it remained in till the time of bishop Lowe I have not discovered; but he seems to have rebuilt it, one of his instruments being dated from his new palace at Rochester, in the year 1459. But whether the building was not so substantial as it ought to have been, or that the six succeeding bishops being translated to better sees, the repair of it was neglected; it appears to have been but a cold and uncomfortable habitation when bishop Fisher resided here, in 1524; for Erasmus of Rotterdam, in his letter to him that year, complains of the bishop's want of attention to his health, by residing at this house, and adds, that his library here was composed of such thin walls, that the air came in through the crevices of them; that it was neither wainscotted nor floored with wood, having only a brick pavement. (Hasted)

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ742684
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


  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 321 (mention)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 14, 38, 84, 157, 182
  • Flight, C., 1997, The Bishops and Monks of Rochester 1076-1214 (Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society) p. 185
  • Hope, W. St J., 1900, The Architectural History of the Cathedral Church and Monastry of St Andrew at Rochester (London)
  • Hasted, Edward, 1798 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 4 p. 86- online transcription
  • 1776, The Kentish Traveller's Companion: In a Descriptive View of the Towns (Rochester) p. 90- online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 250
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 46 online copy


  • < >Patricia A. Clarke, 2014, 'The History and Architectural Development of the Old Bishop's Palace, Rochester' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 134 p. 1-35 < >
  • Tatton-Brown, T., 1984 'Three great Benedictine Houses in Kent: their buildings and topography' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 100 p. 171-8 online copy
  • Harrison, A.C. and William, D., 1979, 'Excavation at Prior's Gate House, Rochester 1976-77' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 95 p. 19-36 online copy
  • Rye, W.B., 1887, 'The ancient episopal palace at Rochester, and Bishop Fisher' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 17 p. 66-76 online copy


  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy
  • 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)