Bishops Waltham Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBishops Waltham Bishops Palace
Alternative NamesWautham; Wantham
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire (City of Winchester)
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishBishops Waltham

Bishop's Waltham Palace is a fine example of a magnate's residence. The extent of the southern part of the precinct is evidenced by surviving boundaries of both earthworks and walls while the ruined structures within the inner court demonstrate the scale and importance of the medieval palace.

Small scale excavations carried out from 1967 onwards have clarified the nature and dating of the precinct boundaries and the type of use to which parts of the outer precinct were put. Comprehensive documentation survives for the rebuilding of the inner court buildings.

The fishponds, although incomplete, provide important evidence for the wider management of the surrounding landscape during the medieval period. The inner court of the Bishop's Palace is in the care of the Secretary of State and is open to the public.

The monument includes the earthworks and buildings which form the remains of Bishop's Waltham Palace, a magnate's residence constructed in the 12th century and in use until its ruin in the Civil War. Also included is the surrounding Lord's Garden together with its precinct walls and turrets. The monument also includes surviving elements of the fishponds which lie to the west of the palace buildings.

The buildings of the palace are arranged within an inner court, a roughly rectangular area defined by a moat, only the northern arm of which now contains water. The buildings of the inner court are arranged around a single large courtyard, entered through a gatehouse on the causeway in the north west corner of the moat. Ranged along the inner edge of the northern side of the moat were the lodgings, the majority of which survive below ground only, although their most easterly part was utilised as a farmhouse after the Restoration. The bakehouse and brewhouse lie along the most northerly part of the eastern arm of the moat

To the south of these lie the chapel and crypt, the most easterly elements of the complex of buildings which occupies the southern part of the inner court and extends alongside the western arm of the moat. The southern buildings include the bishop's great chamber, the west tower, cloisters and the hall with, to its north, the service rooms and kitchen.

Beyond the inner court, to the south and east, lies the Lord's Garden, an area of park or garden enclosed by a brick wall which incorporates corner turrets on its south west and north east angles. The stream known as the Stream of the Lord runs diagonally through the Lord's Garden, issuing from beneath the precinct wall and sinking to the east of Palace House, a post medieval house which lies in the south west quadrant of the Lord's Garden.

To the west of the Inner Court and Lord's Garden lie the remains of the fishponds. The dam of the most southerly, the Little Pond, survives for a length of approximately 150m as an earthwork bank up to 20m wide which, although disturbed by the insertion of a sewer pipe along its length, is included in the scheduling. In the 19th century the drained interior of the pond was bisected by the construction of the race for Abbey Mill, the culverted line of which is reflected by the east wall of a modern industrial building. To the east of this building the pond has been partly infilled but will survive as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling. To the west the pond has been considerably disturbed and is not included in the scheduling. The dam of the upper pond, Bishop's Waltham Pond, survives as a substantial earthwork. Despite later alterations the structure of the dam will survive and is included in the scheduling. The pond itself, which originally extended for a distance of over 300m north of the dam, has been bisected by the construction of the A333 and has had its overall extent modified by the construction of the railway and by reclamation on its west and east sides respectively. Consequently, only that part of the pond which lies south of the A333 is included in the scheduling. Also included is that part of the bank between the pond and the palace shown in 1785 as supporting a boathouse.

Although the Bishops of Winchester acquired Waltham in AD 904, it is not until the 12th century that there is the first evidence of an episcopal residence. The earliest surviving buildings, which provide the core of the kitchen, hall, tower and chamber, together with the chapel crypt, date to the episcopate of Henry of Blois (1129-1171), the nephew of Henry I. Excavation has produced evidence of a smaller stone building underlying the hall and great chamber. This may be the castle built by Henry of Blois at Waltham and slighted in 1155-6 after the accession of Henry II. The rebuilding of the kitchen and brewhouse took place in 1252 and extra chambers were added in 1339 and 1340.

In the late 14th century the palace was transformed by the rebuilding begun in 1378 by Bishop William of Wykeham and carried on almost until his death in 1404. Detailed surviving accounts show the scale and costs of the work and give details of some of the great craftsmen employed. The first effort was concentrated on rebuilding the hall and later the old brewhouse and bakehouse were demolished and rebuilt on their current site. A new service area was built at the north end of the hall only to be swept away during a second phase of rebuilding between 1387 and 1393. A new pantry, buttery and serving place were then built together with a chamber above them, while the kitchen was heightened and enlarged and a new larder was added. The third stage of reconstruction in 1394-6 involved the rebuilding of the lord's great chamber to the east of the tower, together with remodelling and rebuilding on the tower itself. In 1401 major alterations carried out to a long building in the inner court represent the final element of Wykeham's transformation of the palace.

Wykeham was succeeded by Henry Beaufort (1404-1447) who, in 1406, added a new storey to the west tower in which lay his private accommodation. Work was underway on a new chapel in 1416 but was not completed until 1427. Beaufort's last major programme of work was in 1438-1443 when a new gatehouse and the major range of buildings on the north side of the inner court were constructed.

Subsequent works by Bishop Langton (1493-1501) involved facing many timber framed buildings, including Beaufort's range of lodgings, with brick. He also rebuilt the gatehouse into the wall of the inner court and may also have been responsible for the construction of the wall with turrets which encloses the Lord's Garden.

The palace in this form was maintained as an active residence until the Civil War of the 17th century when considerable destruction was caused after the surrender of its royalist garrison. After the Restoration in 1660 some buildings were used for agricultural purposes while others acted as quarries for building materials. A survey of 1785 shows the grounds as they are today, including Palace House.

Palace House is Listed Grade 2star and the granary to the east of Palace House is Listed Grade II as are the stables of the bishop's palace. Part of the monument, the palace buildings within the inner court, are in the care of the Secretary of State. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceSU552173
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  • Hare, J., 1988, 'Bishop's Waltham Palace, Hampshire: William of Wykeham, Henry Beaufort and the transformation of a Medieval episcopal palace' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 145 p. 222-254
  • 1986, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 42 p. 125-138
  • Lewis, E., 1985, 'Excavations in Bishop's Waltham, 1967-78' Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 41 p. 81-126
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Guide Books

  • Wareham, J., 2000, Three palaces of the bishops of Winchester: Wolvesey (Old Bishop's Palace), Hampshire; Bishop's Waltham Palace, Hampshire; Farnham Castle keep, Surrey (London: English Heritage)
  • Hare, J., 1993, Bishop's Waltham Palace (London)
  • Hare, J., 1987, Bishop's Waltham Palace (London)

Primary Sources


  • Dave Hopkins, 2004, Extensive Urban Survey - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (English Heritage) Download 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)