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Historic England Research Records

Wolvesey Castle

Hob Uid: 230954
Location :
Hampshire
Winchester
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SU4847029090
Summary : The remains of Wolvesey Castle, the palace built for the Bishops of Winchester. It was established in the 10th century as a Saxon chapel. After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the site was greatly extended when William Giffard, the second Norman bishop built the west hall in about 1110. The majority of the extant buildings, however, are the creation of Henry of Blois (bishop in 1129-71). He was an extremely powerful and wealthy man, brother of King Stephen, and the grandson of William the Conqueror. His palace included the east hall and chapel, later linked by a perimeter wall, keep-like kitchen, and the remodelling of what became known as Wymond's Tower. A new gatehouse was subsequently built after the civil wars during King Stephen's reign. The palace was arranged around an inner courtyard, surrounded on three sides by a moat. Bishop William Wykeham carried out a major programme of repair and refurbishment, including dredging the moat; and Cardinal Beaufort carried out further works in the 15th century. Wolvesey became used for state occasions from the early 14th century, rather than as a principal residence. The palace remained in the bishop of Winchester's hands after the Reformation, and the last grand state occasion was the wedding banquet of Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain in 1554. The palace also had an outer courtyard with stables, barns, and the bishop's prison and wool house. Much of the bishop's wealth derived from the wool trade. In 1684 Bishop George Morley had Sir Christopher Wren build a new palace on the site; it retained the 11th century chapel but the moat was filled and a new baroque palace built to the south. Wolvesay became neglected by the mid 18th century due to the bishops' preference for Farnham Castle, and in 1785 the baroque palace was demolished, except for the west wing. The wing underwent several changes of use, finally reverting to the bishop's house in 1936. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SU 48472909) WOLVESEY CASTLE (LB)
(SU 48402906) WOLVESEY PALACE (LB)
(SU 484291, 485290, 484289, 485291) CASTLE WALL (LB) (4 times). (1)

Wolvesey Castle, palace of the Bishops of Winchester was built by Henry de Blois c. 1130 - 71 possibly re-using material, from the Conquerors palace destroyed in 1141 (SU 42 NE 2.3). It appears to have been a courtyard house with keep, of advanced design, remodelled c. 1160 by the addition of a hall, N. range and gatehouse, and further remodelled by the addition of a range along the N. side of the courtyard late in the same century. On the S side of the courtyard was a chapel.
The castle was destroyed during the Civil War and a new palace was built for Bishop Morley in 1684 by Sir Christopher Wren, incorporating the 15th c. chapel. This palace and its stables still exist, but a contemporary block facing College Street was demolished. Recent excavations on the site have revealed a late Saxon oval building, possibly a chapel, indicating perhaps the existence of a pre-Norman Bishops Palace. See main diagram. (2-5)

The remains consist of the Keep, the NE & SE towers, the part of the chapel which is built into the E wing of the 17th c. palace. Much of the castle wall exists up to 20 ft in height. Excavations by Biddle are still in progress. See photograph. (6)

Excavations continued until 1971.
The Saxon chapel was found to have a rectangular extension and to overlie earlier Saxon levels.
Most of the palace complex has been excavated and the plans recovered. See map diagram.
The palace eventually formed an irregular polygon surrounding a central courtyard. There was originally only a single hall, West hall, dating to Bishop Giffard's building of 1110, an East Hall being added by Henry de Blois circa 1130.
The West Hall appears to have been the successor to the Saxon Bishop's Palace, and probably represents the earliest official residence on the new site. The work in the West Hall is of finer detail than work on the Cathedral transepts of 1079-93, but of comparable detail with the Cathedral crossing piers and tower of circa 1107. In its later phases it was divided longitudinally by two aisles, and the surviving floor levels are of 13th century and later date. Throughout its life it was the principal residence and private apartments of the Bishop within the Palace. it was one of the great buildings of the Norman period in England measuring 53m long and 26m wide. At its southern end was a cross block, 44m long and 11m wide. This plan recalls that of the 11th? century `palatium Tau' of the archieopiscopal palace at Reims. The western compartment of the cross block probably supported a tower. The Eastern aisle probably existed at the ground level only, with a pitched roof. Only the central aisle was storied, the area of the western aisle actually containing a walled garden.
At the South-West angle was a great tower on at least three floors, the basal chamber containing the Bishop's Treasury and Exchequer, with a private chapel above.
The chapel at the South-West end of the hall is the only part of the complex which survives intact and remains in use. The present chapel was rebuilt 1442-7, although on Norman foundations. It probably replaced the Saxon chapel, the western apse of which can still be seen below Woodman's Gate. The chapel was repaired 1907-9 and restored in 1927-8.
Henry de Blois succeeded Giffard as Bishop in 1129 and as early as 1130 began an extensive programme of building work which resulted in a palace/castle complex in two phases. Initially, this only consisted of the West Hall and East Hall, but other buildings rapidly appeared from 1135 onwards within a moated enclosure and fortified curtain wall.
The East Hall functioned as the Great Hall throughout the lifetime of the Palace. In its original plan it appears to have consisted of a building of three bays wide, the western bay divided longitudinally by a wall, the walls rising the full height of the building, with a two-storey chamber block of equal height to the South. A porch was built in the North-West corner. A galery ran for half the length of the building on the East side of the building from the South corner. The walls of the central range are considerably thicker than the external walls suggesting that the central space was storied and flanked by lean-to galleries. The principal entrance to the hall was from the South, the North-West porch being for the Bishop's use and tahat of his retinue, it facing the entrance to the West Hall.
The hall was extensively remodelled 1159-71, the floor levels being raised by a storey throughout. The hall was even more extensively remodelled in the late 13th century to create an aisled hall of 4-bay plan with service rooms at the south end. It remained essentially the same until its demolition in the 1680s.
On the East side of the East Hall a square `keep' was added after 1141, and a stone tower (Wymonds Tower) added at the South-East corner of the East Hall at the same time. The keep appears to have been intended as a military structure, but excavated evidence suggests that it was soon converted to domestic usage, perhaps shortly after the slighting of 1155. The walls are half the thickness of contemporary defensive structures, and internal arrangements cast some doubt on it ever having been for military use. Wymonds Tower is certainly of contemporary military dimensions, but was originally built as a permanent latrine for the East Hall.
About 1135 a curtain wall defining the North side of the courtyard was constructed, and a new block built on the North side of the West hall. This block was divided into 4 compartments, initially as a reredorter. This block was extensively altered in the 12th and 13th centuries. A gatehouse (Woodman's Gate) was created in the centre of the North wall after 1158, although this never became the principal entrance to the palace complex. The Treasurers and Exchequers lodgings were moved to this gateway 1372-6. Bakehoses and a wine cellar were added to the East of the gatehouse at a later date.
At the same time the South range was also created within a curtain wall, and included wellhouse. Circa 1138 a gatehouse was built in the middle of the range. Domestic buildings were built within the South wall during the lifetime of the palace.
Remodelling of the North and South ranges continued in the 14th and 15th centuries. The whole complex was demolished in the 1680s. (7-12)

Wolversey (sic) Castle (ruins of C12th building) - scheduled. Wolvesey Palace, Grade 1; Wolvesey Castle, Grade 1; Close Boundary Walls and Gates, Grade 1. (13-14)

Additional reference. (15)

Listed by Cathcart King. (16)

Thompson considers that the early thin-walled keep is more an example non-military architecture than military. (17)

A history and description are presented in the guidebook. (18)

A brief history and description. (19)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1962
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society
Source details : plan (N. Nisbett)
Page(s) : 207-224
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3, 1894-7
Source Number : 11
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : plan photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 125-131
Figs. : 9
Plates :
Vol(s) : 52, 1972
Source Number : 12
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : plan photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 321-333
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 55, 1975
Source Number : 13
Source : List of ancient monuments in England: Volume 1, Northern England; Volume 2, Southern England; Volume 3, East Anglia and the Midlands
Source details :
Page(s) : 104
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 14
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : City of Winchester, 14-JAN-1974
Page(s) : 17-18
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 869
Source Number : 15
Source : Wolvesey : the Old Bishop's Palace, Winchester, Hampshire [official guide]
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 16
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 194
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 17
Source : Fortress : the castles and fortifications quarterly
Source details : Thompson MW
Page(s) : 13-22
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12-Feb-92
Source Number : 18
Source : Three palaces of the Bishops of Winchester : Wolvesey (Old Bishop's Palace) Hampshire, Bishop's Waltham Palace, Hampshire and Farnham Castle Keep, Surrey
Source details :
Page(s) : 16-25
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 19
Source : Heritage Unlocked: London and the South East
Source details :
Page(s) : 84-87
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : SU 42 NE 128 (Wolvesey Castle; Wolvesey Palace) (1968)
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details :
Page(s) : 212-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 441,964
Source Number :
Source : SU 42 NE 128 (Wolvesey Castle; Wolvesey Palace) (SU 4829) (1968)
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details :
Page(s) : 258-60
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 451,965
Source Number : 5
Source : Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
Source details : plan
Page(s) : 685-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 FGA 23-APR-68
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : plan photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 272-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 47, 1967
Source Number : 8
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 282-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 48, 1968
Source Number : 9
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 323-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 49, 1969
Source Number : 10
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : photos (Biddle)
Page(s) : 322-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 50, 1970

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Late Saxon
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 871
Monument Type : Chapel
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1110-1171
Monument End Date : 1171
Monument Start Date : 1110
Monument Type : Bishops Palace, Castle, Moat
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1130
Monument End Date : 1130
Monument Start Date : 1130
Monument Type : Great Hall, Private Chapel, Courtyard House
Evidence : Ruined Building, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 1135-8
Monument End Date : 1138
Monument Start Date : 1135
Monument Type : Curtain Wall, Gatehouse, Angle Tower, Well House, Castle, Moat
Evidence : Ruined Building, Structure, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Extant as military keep
Monument End Date : 1155
Monument Start Date : 1138
Monument Type : Keep, Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered 1442-7
Monument End Date : 1447
Monument Start Date : 1442
Monument Type : Chapel
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Demolished 1680-9
Monument End Date : 1689
Monument Start Date : 1680
Monument Type : Bishops Palace
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HA 2
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 144496
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 144498
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 232
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 42 NE 128
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 230963
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE/WOLVESEY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1860-01-01
End Date : 1869-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE/WOLVESEY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1879-01-01
End Date : 1879-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE/WOLVESEY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1900-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY CASTLE GROUNDS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1960-01-01
End Date : 1960-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE/WOLVESEY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1963-01-01
End Date : 1971-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 42 NE 127
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1968-04-23
End Date : 1968-04-23
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY CASTLE GROUNDS (PILGRIMS SCHOOL)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1981-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY PALACE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOLVESEY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31