St Davids Bishops Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are major building remains

NameSt Davids Bishops Palace
Alternative Names
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunitySt Davids and the Cathedral Close

St Davids was the largest and most important medieval diocese in Wales. The cathedral housed the relics of the sixth-century saint, David, patron saint of Wales, and attracted substantial numbers of pilgrims, including King William I. Until the appointment of Bishop Henry de Gower in 1328, it is unsure where the bishops lived. De Gower erected two separate ranges of rooms, one for his own private and a second suitable for ceremonial occasions, where he could entertain important guests and distinguished pilgrims to St Davids. Both sets of chambers were built at first floor level above vaulted under crofts and entered by elaborate porches. The crowning glory, however, was still the distinctive chequered arcaded parapet, which, although faded, still has the effect of unifying the group of buildings. There seems to be no evidence of building work since the death of de Gower in 1347 apart from the close wall and gates being repaired by Bishop Adam de Houghton between 1362 and 1389. Increasingly, Bishops stayed less at St Davids and by the middle of the sixteenth century, the chief Episcopal residence was at Abergwili, Carmarthen. In 1616 Bishop Milbourne applied for a licence to demolish some of the buildings and although the work was not carried, the buildings were considered in a poor condition. Later in 1678, when Bishop William Thomas sought another licence to demolish the palace, it was beyond repair. (Coflein)

Situated W of the Cathedral on the opposite bank of the River Alun. C12 to C16 bishop's palace, outstanding among the episcopal palaces of Britain, started about 1200 and substantially built under Bishop Bek (1280-96) and Bishop Gower (1328-47). The ruination of the palace began with the stripping of the lead from the Great Hall under Bishop Barlow (1536-48) and the whole is now roofless

A single large quadrangle with the principal buildings towards the S side, though the earliest surviving work is probably the NE enclosure wall and NW range. Entrance by plain late C13 gatehouse at left end of NE wall, with supposed private chapel of mid C14 adjoining, raised on vaulted undercroft. Late C13 Bishop's Hall on E side with the arcaded parapets associated with Bishop Gower's work (Lamphey Palace, Swansea Castle and Gower's Great Hall here). Carved gateway up broad flight of steps with semi-octagonal head characteristic of Gower's work and related to Bristol school. To N of Bishop's Hall is the solar, late C13, and to the S the kitchen, late C14. On S side is the great hall, mid C14, with striking ogee headed doorway, reached by broad flight of steps, long lancet windows and fine E end rose window. Arcaded parapet with varicoloured voussoirs. Late C14 bishop's chapel at W end with W bell turret. Domestic buildings and stables probably occupied W side of quadrangle. Late C15 or C16 wing SE of solar. (Listed Building Report)

Constructed between C12 and C16, although there were two main phases of constrution, 1280-96, and 1328-47. Quadrangular plan with the main buildings located towards the S side. Entrance through late C13 gatehouse at the left of the NE wall. Bishop's Hall of the same period on E side. Mid C14 Great Hall on S side, with striking ogee headed doorway. Arcaded parapet with varicoloured voussoirs. Late C14 bishop's chapel at W end with W bellcote. W side of quadrangle probably occupied by domestic buildings.

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceSM750254
Latitude51.8821296691895
Longitude-5.27046012878418
Eastings175030
Northings225470
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 272-3
  • Hull, Lise, 2005, Castles and Bishops Palaces of Pembrokeshire (Logaston Press) p. 195-203
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 643-9
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 84-5
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 182-3
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 99-100
  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 340- online copy
  • Edwards, Emily Hewlett, 1909, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 46 online copy
  • Jones, W.B.J. and Freeman, E.A., 1856, The History and Antiquities of St Davids (London)
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 73-4 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Turner, R., 2000, 'St Davids Bishop's Palace, Pembrokeshire' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 80 p. 87-194
  • Coldstream, N., 1999, 'The Grotesque Sculptures at St Davids' Heritage in Wales Vol. 13
  • Turner, R.C., 1997, 'The Medieval Palaces of the Bishops of St Davids, Wales' Military Studies in Medieval Europe, Papers of the Medieval Europe Brugge 1997 Conference Vol. 11 p. 217-225
  • Williams, G., 1981, 'Henry de Gower (?1278-1347), bishop and builder' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 130 p. 1-18
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1962 'The Bishop's Palace and Ecclesiastical City of St David's' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 332-35 online copy

Guide Books

  • Evans, J.Wyn, 1991, St Davids Bishop's Palace (Cardiff: Cadw)
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1953, The Bishop's Palace, St Davids, Pembrokeshire (HMSO) (1edn 1934 with several further edns.)

Other

  • 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])