Worcester Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWorcester Bishops Palace
Alternative NamesThe Deanery
Historic CountryWorcestershire
Modern AuthorityWorcestershire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishWorcester

Formerly the Episcopal Palace, now Diocesan offices. Origins c1200-35, additions c1268-1302 for Bishop Godfrey Gifford (including the Abbot's Kitchen and Abbot's Hall); additions and alterations (including substantial alterations and truncation of the Chapel) c1560s for Dr Edwin Sandys re-using earlier materials; further embellishments for Bishop Skinner (particularly to Chapel) c1663-70; additions and alterations to east facade probably c1719-23 for Bishop John Hough by architects William and Francis Smith of Tettenhall, Staffordshire; extensive repairs for Dr James Johnson including some rebuilding to west facade c1759-74; further alterations including addition of bay window to drawing room for Bishop Richard Hurd c1781-7. Red sandstone ashlar to front facade with white sandstone ashlar dressings (including pilasters, architraves, floor bands, cornice, and copings; pinkish-brown brick stacks with ashlar cornices, and pots, plain tile roof. PLAN: complex with irregular additions and irregular floor levels. The Palace is situated on a slope, so that the rear (west) facade has an additional lower storey, which includes at north west the medieval Abbot's kitchen, above which (to first floor) is the Great Hall. To the south of the former hall porch is the Chapel which formerly ran the length of the hall but was truncated so that the chancel only survives, its liturgical axis was altered in the process (for Dr Sandys), the main window, now to south, overlooks a small courtyard. There is a further courtyard to the north of the hall. The east facade (now the main facade) was regularized with an addition 1-room deep including central hallway. EXTERIOR: Main (east) facade: 2 storeys (with further, lower storey and attics to rear), 4:3:4 first-floor windows. Central breakforward with end pilasters and wide, segmental pediment containing arms of Bishop Hough; cavetto-moulded cornice and embattled, coped parapet

Plinth has shaped, roll-edged copings which form sill band to ground-floor windows. Double cavetto-moulded first-floor band. Ground floor has 6/6 sashes; first floor has mainly 9/6 sashes. All sash windows are cambered-arched and in moulded ashlar surrounds with stepped keystones; first-floor windows have moulded sills and aprons. Central first-floor window is an oculus with radial glazing bars and has tooled architrave and 4 voussoirs. Central entrance, double 8-raised-and-fielded-panel doors with 2 raised and fielded panels over and plain fanlight, in pilastered surround and with cavetto-moulded architrave and keystone. Rear (west) facade of 2 and 3 storeys with attics, 4 irregular bays. From left (south): canted 2-storey bay, the ground floor of which is open with 3 round arches and has within a trefoil-headed lancet; to first floor are three 1/1 sashes with blind boxes. Second bay of 2 storeys with attic, 1 first-floor window; ground floor has flight of steps to pointed-arched entrance with plank door with raised 'Y' moulding, then 2-cusped-light window with quatrefoil to head and hoodmould. First-floor band surmounted by window of 5 stepped trefoil-headed lancet lights with transoms and continuous hoodmould. Above, to attic storey a small lancet light with louvered cover. Third bay breaks forward. 3 storeys with attics, 3 first-floor windows. Chamfered plinth, continuous first- and second-floor sill bands. Ground and third floors have 8/8 sashes; first floor has 6/6 sashes, all in plain reveals, and with sills to ground and first floors. 3 attic roof dormers have casement windows. The right return of the third bay has entrance to ground floor a plank door with fanlight, similar sash windows to first and second floors. Fourth bay is recessed: 2 storeys with attic, 2 first-floor windows. Ground floor has 2 pointed lancets; first floor has half a 2-light window with geometrical tracery to head; hoodmoulds. Gabled attic dormer has casement windows. External stack to facade; right end has off-set buttress to angle. To north courtyard a 12/9 cambered-arched staircase sash with thick ovolo glazing bars and retaining much original glass. To south, internal courtyard a 5-light Perpendicular window. INTERIOR: lower ground floor has Abbot's Kitchen with four bays of rib-vaulting, the ribs spring from corbels approximately 1.25 metres from ground and form quatrepartite bays, but with an added longitudinal ridge-rib with foliate bosses. Blocked pointed window to east with 2 orders of roll-moulding and hoodmould with face stops; further opening with pointed plank door and roll moulding. Tall lancet window in west wall has deeply-chamfered reveals. Inserted fireplace to north wall, also a pointed doorway (part blocked) and further entrance a pointed plank door to south wall in double-chamfered pointed arched opening with hoodmould. To north-east a C17 closed-string, dogleg staircase gives access to great hall, shaped rod-on-vase balusters and shaped handrail. Further vaulted passages to undercroft and cellar with further medieval openings and walls. Ground floor: central hallway has wide staircase with elaborately carved tread ends and 3 balusters per tread, a central barleytwist-on-vase between rod-on-vase; shaped handrail with slight wreath and curved, wider lower step. Dado with raised and fielded panelling. Moulded cornice. C17 dogleg staircase to south has rod-on-vase balusters, ramped and shaped handrail, shallow wreath and carved tread ends. First floor: tall arch to head of main staircase gives access to landing and, to north, the Great Hall (over Abbot's Kitchen). Great Hall much redone, roof with ovolo-moulded beams on arched braces. To east end a large Perpendicular doorway with a steep arch with 2 orders of continuous ovolo mouldings and hoodmould; early C17 chimneypiece with overmantel (removed during late C18 from one of prebendyl houses) has strapwork to overmantel and coats of arms; allegorical female figures over caryatids; panelling to dado. Chapel retains trefoil-headed piscina, 5-light late Perpendicular window with stained glass probably c1800 in south wall; C17 panelling with shaped dentil cornice, panelling to rear of altar has Serlio-type decoration and fluted pilasters; arch and canopied bishop's pew to rear; altar rails have onion-on-vase balusters; roof has panelled vault on carved corbels; black and white marble tiled floor with Minton tiles in lobby. To south, the landing has a C17 pointed-arched door with lozenge decoration in pointed-arched surround with 2 orders of roll-moulding. A short flight of stairs to west has barleytwist-on-vase balusters and shaped handrail, this gives access to former entrance to chapel. Original joinery survives including panelled shutters, 6-panel doors, 8-raised-and-fielded-panel doors, some with tooled architraves; original plasterwork includes moulded cornices. One room on ground floor at south has chamfered beam with ogee stop. HISTORICAL NOTE: by the early C13 a Bishop's house stood on the present site of which at least two internal walls survive. The Bishop's Palace was sold to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral in 1846 for ,3,000. It remained as the Deanery until 941. During the Second World War it was let to the Ministry of Works (1941-50), now Diocesan offices. The palace has hosted three royal visits: in 1575 Elizabeth I, her Council and Household stayed here; James II stayed for three nights in 1687; George III and members of the royal family stayed in 1788. Between 1719-23 Bishop John Hough paid a total of ,1,164 to William and Francis Smith for work done at the Palace, this probably included the removal of a Gatehouse and adjoining stables and Bowling Alley and other buildings to east of the Palace, with rebuilding of east part. Their work is typically a fine example of the Baroque tradition. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceSO849546
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Latitude 52° 11' 17.38" Longitude -2° 13' 16.1"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

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Latitude 52° 11' 17.38" Longitude -2° 13' 16.1"

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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 464
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 86
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 47, 51, 186
  • Craze, M., 1988, The Old Palace Worcester
  • Dyer, C., 1980, Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society: The Estates of the Bishopric of Worcester, 680-1540 (Cambridge University Press)
  • Pevsner, N., 1968, Buildings of England: Worcestershire (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books) p. 315-6
  • Collier, R.H., 1954, The Old Palace, Worcester (Worcester: Ebenezer Baylis)
  • Page, Wm, Willis-Bund, J.W. (eds), 1924, 'The city of Worcester: Cathedral and priory' VCH Worcestershire Vol. 4 p. 394-408 online transcription


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 511, 518
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 90 online copy


  • Atherton, J., Morris, R.K. and Tatton-Brown, T., 2013, 'The Old Bishop's Palace, Worcester: some observations on its medieval fabric' Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society p. 87-113
  • 2010, 'The Old Palace' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 20
  • Atherton, J., Morris, R.K. and Tatton Brown, T., 2013, 'The Old Bishop's Palace, Worcester; some observations on its medieval fabric' Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society Vol. 57
  • 1990, 'The Old Palace' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 1
  • 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

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1913, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1266-72) Vol. 6 p. 580 online copy


  • Oxford Archaeology, 2007, Worcester's city walls - conservation management plan 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)