Lincoln Bishops Palace(s)

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLincoln Bishops Palace(s)
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLincolnshire
Modern AuthorityLincolnshire
1974 AuthorityLincolnshire
Civil ParishLincoln

Former Bishop's Palace. East hall c1175, built for Bishop Chesney. West hall, kitchen and service buildings to south, 1186-1224, for Hugh of Avalon and Hugh of Wells. Repaired and crenellated ( Licentia Crenellandi 1329) by Bishop Burghersh. Gate tower, west hall bay window and chapel range, 1436-1449, for Bishop Alnwick. Partly demolished 1648. Chapel range demolished 1725. Restored 1838. Alnwick Tower Restored 1838. Former stables, now offices, c1876. Dressed stone and ashlar. Roofless except for Alnwick Tower and former stables.

PLAN: east hall and undercroft, west hall with service rooms and kitchen to south, gate tower, chapel range with audience chamber, stable range. The two halls are on opposite sides of a wedge shaped courtyard, open to the south and closed by the northern gate tower.

EXTERIOR: east hall has to north a four-centred arched doorway and remains of a traceried window. Tunnel vaulted undercroft with fireplace to west and shaft of spiral stair to south-east. West hall, 4 bays, formerly aisled, has a canted bay window, mid C15, to the north-west. At the south-west end, a porch, mid C13, with a steep arched doorway flanked by smaller blank arches, with shafts, stiff-leaf capitals and dogtooth ornament. To the south, a similar triple doorway formerly leading to the kitchen, pantry and buttery. This is said to be the earliest complete example of this arrangement. To the south, below and beyond the chapel of the adjoining Edward King House, is a rib-vaulted bay with arches to east and west, with unusual billet moulding. To south, a blocked doorway with shafts. Kitchen has to west and to south, 3 buttresses with 3 setoffs. Gatehouse tower, 3 stages, has moulded plinth, string courses and crenellated parapet. To north-west, a canted projection with octagonal stair turret. North side has a moulded doorway with shafts and hoodmould and traceried panelled doors. Above it, a canted crenellated oriel window

South side has a similar doorway, and above it, a 2-light cross casement with four-centred arched head. Third stage has a similar window on each side.

INTERIOR has a star-vaulted chamber with cove-moulded doorways to east and west, that to east leading via a star-vaulted passage to the ante-chapel which has a tunnel vaulted room beneath it. Chapel range, to north-east, has remains of the audience chamber and oratory with square and rectangular aumbries. At the west end, a large cusped ogee headed sideboard recess, flanked by segmental pointed doorways with linked hoodmoulds. Stable range, 3 bays, Tudor Revival style, has coped parapet and gables, elliptical headed carriage openings and flat headed mullioned windows with hoodmoulds. This building is of unusual importance as a medieval domestic building and because it was the residence of St Hugh, 1136-1200, and Robert Grossteste, 1235-1253. (Listed Building Report)

We have no conclusive evidence as to where the early Bishop's Hall was but the only structural evidence still surviving may suggest that it was within the fortified west end of the cathedral itself. Wherever the Bishop's hall was within the former Roman enclosure, it was removed, first in 1130-33 into the chambers over the East gate, and then in 1137, the King granted the Bishop the land to the south, for the construction of the Bishop's palace. (Stocker 2004)

Gatehouse Comments

In 1072 Lincoln was the made new centre of the large diocese previously based at Dorchester, Oxfordshire. Consequently there was no original Saxon palace for the new Norman bishop, Remigius de Fécamp, to occupy. His original palace must have been somewhere in the upper city; Thompson (2004) argues it was in the castle and that the Observatory Tower motte was built for the Bishop. Elsewhere it is argued that he may of constructed the West Front of the Cathedral as a palace in the 1070s-80s. In c. 1130 the bishop moved his lodgings into a chamber above the Roman upper town east gate (SK97867194), north of the Cathedral. This large gatehouse (considerably larger than the surviving Newport Gate) now survives as exposed foundations of the north tower only but was reconstructed by the Normans, probably in the 1070's, when all of the upper city was occupied as the original castle of Lincoln (Stocker 2004). The palace was moved south of the cathedral shortly afterwards where there was more seclusion and space to build private residences and a large feasting hall.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSK977716
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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  • Osborne, Mike, 2010, Defending Lincolnshire: A Military History from Conquest to Cold War (The History Press) p. 43, 55, 57, 73, 92
  • Thompson, M.W., 2004, 'The early topography of the castle' in Lindley, Philip (ed), The Early History of Lincoln Castle (Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Occasional Papers 12)
  • Stocker, D, 2004, 'The two early castles of Lincoln' in Lindley, Philip (ed), The Early History of Lincoln Castle (Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Occasional Papers 12)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 53
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 269-70
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 1-2, 33, 38, 40-1, 132, 167, 178
  • Jones, S., 1990, The Survey of Ancient Houses in Lincoln p. 105-118
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus and John Harris; revised by Nicholas Antram, 1989, Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (Harmondsworth) p. 514
  • Chapman, H., Coppack, G. and Drewett, P., 1975, Excavations at the Bishop's Palace, Lincoln 1968-72 (Sleaford: Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Occasional Papers 1)
  • Foster, C.W., 1931, 'Appendix I Episcopal Residence at Lincoln' Registrum Antiquissimum of Lincoln (Lincoln Record Society 27) Vol. 1 p. 267-76 online copy
  • Garbett, Henrietta L.E., 1910, 'The Old Palace of Lincoln' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of Canterbury) (London; Constable & Co) p. 155-208 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 14-6 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 228, 409 online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 3 p. 129 online copy


  • Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation: An Essay in the Sociology and Metaphysics of Medieval Fortification' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 69-100 see online copy
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1974, 'Lincoln Old Bishop's Palace' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 131 p. 340-4
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
  • 1909, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 66 p. 356-7 (plan) online copy
  • Willson, E.J., 1850, 'The Ancient Episcopal Palace, Lincoln' Proceedings of the Royal Archaeological Institute p. 1-18

Guide Books

  • Coppack, Glyn, 2000, Medieval Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln (London: English Heritage)
  • Ambrose, T., 1980, The Bishop's Palace, Lincoln (Lincolnshire Museums Information Sheet, Archaeological Series No. 18)

Primary Sources

  • Foster, C.W. (ed), 1931, The ‘Registrum antiquissimum’ of the cathedral church of Lincoln (Hereford: Lincoln Record Society 27) Vol. 1 p. 34 no. 49; p. 86-7 no. 137
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1327-30) Vol. 1 p. 453-4 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)
  • HBMC, 1988, Scheduling record: AM 107. SAM 97