Old Sarum Bishops Palace(s)

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry footings remains

NameOld Sarum Bishops Palace(s)
Alternative NamesOld Saresbury; Salisbury
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishSalisbury

A Medieval cathedral and close situated within the northwest section of the bailey at Old Sarum Castle. The cathedral was first constructed between 1078-92 AD and comprised an apsidal east end, narrow north and south aisles and an aisled nave. Between circa 1110-25 the east end of the cathedral was enlarged to comprise an aisled presbytery, three chapels, a tower and aisled north and south transepts. This phase may have also included construction of the cloister. The Bishops Palace was constructed between 1102-39 and comprised four ranges enclosing a courtyard. Further additions at the western end of the cathedral took place between circa 1142 and 1200. The cathedral is situated in the centre of the Close which was bounded on the east by a bank, to the south by a road and to the northwest by the hillfort defences. The canons cemetery has been identified to the south of the Cathedral, with a lay cemetery situated further to the south and east. The cloister and bishops palace are both situated to the northeast. A number of buildings including a possible deanery were present to the southwest and west of the cathedral. The siting of the cathedral within the bailey of the castle eventually caused conflict between the castle and ecclesiastical authorities, leading to the removal of the cathedral to Salisbury (New Sarum) in 1219. A chapel in the cathedral remained in use at Old Sarum. From 1331 stonework from the cathedral was removed for the construction of a range of buildings in Salisbury including the precinct wall to Salisbury Cathedral. (PastScape)

A re-examination of the published excavations of 1909-15 has led to a reappraisal of the buildings to the north of the cathedral. While the cloister requires re-excavation to arrive at a final dating, much of its meaning and the source for its construction can be said to have come from the enclosed bishop's palace to the north, by Bishop Osmund in the closing decades of the 11th century. (PastScape ref

Montague 2006)

Gatehouse Comments

Thompson writes there were two palaces here; the first the aisled hall on the northern range of the cloister adjoining the cathedral, the second a courtyard house within the Royal castle with its own hall (but there is some ambiguity as to who held the castle).

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU136327
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. 195-7
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 627-9
  • Keevill, Graham D., 2000, Medieval Palaces, An Archaeology (Stroud; Tempus) p. 23-4, 34, 71, 86-7, 105, 120, 126, 153, 162, 170
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 183-4
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby)
  • RCHME, 1977, 'Old Sarum' in Ancient and Historical Monuments in the City of Salisbury Vol. 1 (HMSO) p. 1-15, 173-4 online transcription
  • Morewood, Caroline C., 1910, 'Introductory Chapter' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of Canterbury) (London; Constable & Co) p. 24 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 495
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 260 online copy


  • < >Montague, John, 2006, 'The Cloister and Bishop's Palace at Old Sarum with Some Thoughts on the Origins and Meaning of Secular Cathedral Cloisters' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 159 p. 48-70 < >
  • Hope, W.H.St John and Hawley, W., 1915-16, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries London (ser2) Vol. 28 p. 174-83

Guide Books

  • Renn, Derek, 1994, Old Sarum Wiltshire (London: English Heritage)
  • Shortt, H de S., 1988, Old Sarum Wiltshire (London: English Heritage)
  • Shortt, H de S., 1965, Old Sarum Wiltshire (HMSO)


  • Wiltshire Council, 2009, Extensive Urban Survey - Wiltshire (Wiltshire Council, English Heritage) Download copy
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) p. 180-82 (available via EThOS)