Somersham Palace

Has been described as a Possible Palace (Bishop)

There are earthwork remains

NameSomersham Palace
Alternative Names
Historic CountryHuntingdonshire
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishSomersham

The site of Somersham Palace is now occupied by a modern house surrounded by an oval shaped moat. All that remains are the abutments of a bridge over the N arm of the moat and the C16 wall on the N and E sides of the garden. It was probably used as a residence by the Bishops of Ely before 1109, falling into a state of decay and finally pulled down c 1762. Associated with the site are the remains of two fish ponds. (VCH 1932)

It was clearly a substantial moated property with two courtyards, surveyed in some detail in 1588 to determine whether it could be used as a prison for recusants. (Emery - ref. VCH)

The extensive earthworks relate to the palace's moats, fishponds, deer park and gardens, a landscape which had utilitarian uses, but was also clearly used for pleasure and as a status symbol. For example, Taylor concluded that the main moat around the manor house was not a defensive feature but served as a backdrop for the formal gardens within. (Payne)

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 ReferenceTL360775
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Keevill, Graham D., 2000, Medieval Palaces, An Archaeology (Stroud; Tempus) p. 41, 129, 134-5, 157
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 154
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 105, 121, 153, 176
  • Bell, J., 1997, The Bishop's Palace Somersham
  • Taylor, C.C., 1989, 'Somersham Palace, Cambridgeshire: a medieval landscape for pleasure?' in Bowden, M. et al (eds), From Cornwall to Caithness: some aspects of British field archaeology: papers presented to Norman V. Quinnell (British Archaeological Reports British Series 209) p. 211-24
  • Page, Wm, Proby, Granville and Ladds, S. Inskip (eds), 1932, VCH Huntingdonshire Vol. 2 p. 225-6
  • RCHME, 1926, An inventory of the historical monuments in Huntingdonshire p. 238-9 no. 4 online transcription
  • Inskip Ladds, S., 1926, in Page, Wm and Proby, Granville (eds), VCH Huntingdonshire Vol. 1 view unattributed online copy



  • Gaimster, M. and O'Connor, K., 2005, 'Medieval Britain & Ireland in 2004' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 49 No. 41 download copy
  • Taylor, C., 2000, 'Medieval Ornamental Landscapes' Landscapes Vol. 1 p. 38-55 (reprinted in Liddiard, Robert (ed), 2016, Late Medieval Castles (Boydell Press) p. 3375-392)
  • Aston, M.A., 1970-2, 'Earthworks at the Bishop's Palace, Alvechurch, Worcestershire' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 3 p. 55-


  • Cambridgeshire Extensive Urban Survey: Somersham. Draft Report 31/03/2003. 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)