Llandaff Bishops Palace

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

There are major building remains

NameLlandaff Bishops Palace
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthorityCardiff
1974 AuthoritySouth Glamorgan

Substantial remains of a sub-rectangular enclosure, c.52m NW-SE by 40m, defined by ruinous masonry curtain walls, towers and a monumental gatehouse at the W angle, facing the approach from the Cathedral. Thought to have been first constructed in late C13, substantially intact c.1600, the palace/castle decayed thereafter. The castle/palace is the only surviving residence of the medieval clergy of Llandaff. Although complete in 1610, it was probably ruined during the Civil War. There are twin towers to what was a 2-storey gatehouse, and an original studded oak door remains. There is a further tower to the NE, and traces of towers survive along the S wall. No evidence remains to suggest the layout inside the walls, although the bailey would almost certainly have contained timber structures. Ground floor room to S tower, including hooded fireplace, and turret to rear contains newel stair. (Coflein)

At the south-east end of The Cathedral Green and part of the important group of buildings surrounding it.

Late C13, probably built by William de Broase (Bishop 1266-87), and comparable with contemporary work at other South Wales castles, especially Caerphilly. It was, however, abandoned by the Bishop following the Owain Glyndwr led rebellion in 1402-5 and the Bishop of Llandaff moved to Mathern Palace (qv Mathern Community, Monmouthshire) and did not return to live near his Cathedral until 1850 (qv Cathedral School). The castle is shown complete on John Speed's plan of 1610, with the gatehouse and four other towers, so it was presumably dismantled at the time of the Civil War. A photograph of c1860 shows that it has received only a small amount of repair and consolidation since that date (mainly in 1971). It is the only remaining medieval residence of leading Cathedral clergy at Llandaff. The castle was a part of the Bishop's Palace garden while he was resident (1850-1939) in what is now the Cathedral School (qv)

It was given to the City of Cardiff in 1971, was repaired by them, and was opened as a public garden in 1972.

There is now no evidence for structures within the walls apart from the suggestions of a first floor Great Hall in the corner above the escarpment. John Speed shows nothing in 1610 although the walls and towers are shown complete. Single bailey castles of this kind, with limited accommodation within the walls and towers themselves, would always have had timber buildings within the bailey, see for example Caldicot Castle (qv Caldicot Community, Monmouthshire). The interiors of the gatehouse were not available for inspection at resurvey, but it is reported that the north tower has an unlit semi-basement and the south tower has a well appointed ground floor room with a hooded fireplace and arrow loops in three directions. The square turret behind contains a spacious newel stair which must have given access to the room above the full width of the gatehouse.

Planned as a single bailey castle with the main defence in the gatehouse and the walls above the river escarpment. Gatehouse with twin towers, originally with two floors above a basement, archway with three vaulted bays with the original moulding, portcullis slot and rebate for the surviving ancient oak doors with much iron strapping and studding. There is a north-east tower, which is shown in Speed's view of 1610, together with other towers along the south wall, traces of which also remain. Curtain wall, most complete along west front. Traces only of original upper rooms. (Listed Building Report)

This palace is a single-walled enclosure, four-sided differing in no respect from a small fortress of the early medieval period. Dated at about 1275. (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER)

There is apparently no recorded history of this castle, although according to tradition it was burnt by Owain Glyndwr when his revolt spread to the south at the beginning of C15. The main feature of the ruins is the twin-towered gatehouse, probably dating from the early C14. The castle was small, and its four irregular sides were guarded by three small towers, one round, one square, and another which has vanished. (Reid)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST155780
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  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 123-Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 254 (listed as palace)
  • < >RCAHMW, 2000, An Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol. 3 Part 1b: The Later Castles (London: HMSO) < > p. 33-51
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 97
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 626, 641, 651, 693
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 179
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 98
  • Newman, J., 1995, Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan (Yale University Press) p. 255-6
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 53
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 164
  • Davis, Paul R., 1983, Castles of Glamorgan (Alun Books) p. 47
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 362
  • Hague, D.B., 1971, in Pugh, T.B. (ed), Glamorgan County History Vol. 3 The Middle Ages (Cardiff) p. 442
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 381 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 54-5 online copy


  • Johns, C.N., 1974, 'The castle and manor of Llandaff' Glamorgan Historian Vol. 10 p. 177-95
  • Jones, 1971, Archaeology in Wales Vol. 11 p. 25-6
  • Lewis, 1971, CBA Group 2 Vol. 11 p. 26-7
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • (Jones), 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 248 download copy
  • Jones, 1962, Archaeology in Wales Vol. 2 p. 15 (excavation report)
  • Fox, 1933, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 88 p. 367-8

Guide Books

  • Johns, C.N., 1972, The Bishop’s Palace, Llandaff (Cardiff)

Primary Sources


  • William Tregaskes, Feb 2017, 'A View into Medieval Cardiff' The Visual Past (online blog essay) 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 [http://ethos.bl.uk])