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CHER Number:00653
Type of record:Monument
Name:Buckden Palace


The site includes a former moat now filled in, a 2 arch moat bridge, a gate house, a great tower of three storeys, crenellated wall linking and foundations and remains below ground of a great hall, chamber and chapel. Excludes the modern house, modern chapel and 19th century cottage.

Grid Reference:TL 192 677
Parish:Buckden, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Associated Events:

  • Watching brief at Buckden Palace Inner Gatehouse, 1989 (Ref: BUC)

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument 1006855: Buckden Palace

Full description

1. A residence of the Bishops of Lincoln who held the Manor in Domesday Book. Building is attested from C13 and there appear to be slight remains of this date. Most of the surviving buildings date from the late C15 (Bishops Rotherham and Russell). Remains scheduled include (a) 2 arch moat bridges; (b) gate house tower with turret to N and 2 storied range to S; (c) great tower of 3 storeys with octagonal corner turrets; (d) crenellated wall linking (b) and (c); (e) foundations and remains below ground of great hall chamber and chapel; (f) brick outer gateway and (g) wall of outer enclosure. Excluded are the modern house, modern chapel, and the 19the century cottage to the north of the gatehouse.

2. Buckden Palace, tower, gatehouses, foundations and moat, N of the church. The manor belonged to the Bishops of Lincoln at the time of the Domesday Survey but it is uncertain when first a house was built on the site. Bishop Hugh de Wells (1209 - 1235) is said to have built or rebuilt a manor house at Buckden and Bishop Robert Grosseteste (1235 - 1254) is credited with building the great hall. The buildings were burnt in 1291 but the extent of the damage does not appear. To C13 would appear to belong the foundations of the great chamber, the chapel, and parts of the great hall. An extensive rebuilding of the palace took place under Bishops Thomas Rotherham (1472 -1480) and John Russell (1480 - 1494); the former according to Leland built the great tower and restored the great hall; the great tower was probably finished by Bishop Russell, whose arms formerly appeared on the woodwork, and the same Bishops built the inner and outer gatehouses and the enclosure walls. Considerable repairs were made to the buildings by Bishop John Williams (1621 -1642) who appears to have rebuilt and shortened the chapel and repaired the cloister. Under the Commonwealth a large part of the house including the great hall was demolished, but the house was restored on a smaller scale by Bishop Robert Sanderson (1660 -1663), the great hall not being rebuilt. In 1839 about half the main building and part of the gatehouse range were demolished and the great tower dismantled. The great chamber, chapel and adjoining buildings were pulled down in 1871, when the modern house was erected and the moat was filled in at the same time. The existing remains are handsome examples of late C15 brickwork. The palace, when complete, consisted of an inner walled and moated enclosure, containing the main buildings of the house and entered by the inner gatehouse on the W side, and an outer walled enclosure on the W entered by the outer gatehouse and containing various outbuildings. Of the main structure of the house only the great tower now survives.

3. Buckden Palace is now a RC hospice. There are many Victorian and later additions to the fabric, but where extant, the early work is in good condition. The published waterfilled "fishpond" is in its present form ornamental and probably Victorian. A modern chapel occupies the site of the Medieval chapel.

4. Buckden Palace. Late C15 remains of house of the Bishops of Lincoln with Great Tower, inner gatehouse, parts of curtain wall and foundations of earlier building, also on road frontage C15 brick outer gatehouse and enclosing wall of the outer court extending some distance N and S of the outer gatehouse and turning E along the Offord Road as far as the churchyard.

5. Since Domesday the manor of Buckden had belonged to the Bishop of Lincoln until it was purchased by Sir Arthur Marshall (Marshall and Snelgrove) in late C19. The outer gateway and boundary wall, the inner gatehouse and curtain wall are remains of Buckden Palace built by Bishop John Williams (1625 - 1642). The moat with the exception of the W arm was filled in and the Medieval hall and great chamber were demolished by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners after1838. Further demolitions were made by James Marshall of the N wing of the inner gable house, and the Medieval bridge. Queen Catherine of Aragon resided at the Palace in 1533 and 1534.

6. Bishop Thomas Rotherham of Lincoln, a client of the Wydevilles who had been with William Hastings at the negotiations at Picquigny in 1475 and who similarly became a pensioner of France, engaged in the building of a great tower house at Buckden (Huntingdonshire) for which the model, once again, seems to have been Tattershall.
Among those influenced by Cromwell's new brick residence were.... both Lord Hastings at Kirkby Muxloe and Bishop Rotherham at Buckden .... The great tower and gatehouse at the Bishop of Lincoln's palace at Buckden, built for Bishop Thomas Rotherham in the C15 (1470's) and probably modelled, at least in part, on Tattershall.

7. Watching brief during drain laying operations in 1989 in area of Inner Gatehouse.
See also RN 00653a for bridges and moat, RN 00653b for gatehouse tower, RN 00653c for great tower, RN 00653d for wall linking b and c, RN 00653e for chapel and hall, RN 00653f for gateway, RN 00653g for wall of enclosure,
In DOE Resurvey the buildings are listed and described individually.
Function: domestic, defended residence
Finished? yes
Occupation: C13 - C17
Relationship to surrounding settlements

8. Buckden Towers (formerly Buckden Palace), mid-way between London and Lincoln on the Great North Road and in the centre of the historic diocese, was a resting place and/or home to successive Bishops of Lincoln from the 12th Century to 1842. The location was important as many were involved in affairs of state as Chancellor or Keeper of the Great Seal. Many have left their mark at Buckden and five are buried in St. Mary's Parish Church. Little now remains of the Bishops' moated Palace except the Great Tower, Inner Gatehouse, part of the battlemented wall, which used to surround the Inner Court within the moat, and the Outer Gate and wall. These were started by Bishop Rotherham in the time of Richard III and completed by Bishop Russell, whose Arms appear on the Inner Gatehouse, in 1480. Of Bishop Grossteste's Great Hall nothing survives except the footings marked in the grass to the north of the modern church. The medieval Great Chamber, chapel, library and domestic quarters which would have housed Katherine of Aragon when she was banished here in 1553-4, were demolished in 1838. During its long history, Buckden Palace has been host to a number of royal visitors including: Henry III - 1248 Edward I - 1291 Richard III - 1483 Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VII) - 1501 Queen Katherine of Aragon - 1533/34 Henry VIII & Katherine Howard - 1541 James I - 1619 Prince Regent - 1814 Probably the most important Royal visitor to Buckden Palace was Katherine of Aragon. She was sent there by order of Henry VIII after the annulment of their marriage by Archbishop Cranmer. She resided in the Palace from July 1533 until 1534, occupying a room from where she had a direct view into the chapel. The ordinary people of England had a deep sympathy with Katherine and she was very popular with the villagers of Buckden. This, together with the fact that she was visited by two Friars Observant who were her devoted supporters, made Henry determined to move her to a place where she could be more easily confined. In December 1533 Henry sent the Duke of Suffolk to force the Queen's attendants to address her as 'Princess Dowager'; instead of treating her as Queen, and to remove Katherine herself either to Fotheringhay or Somersham. Suffolk arrived on December 18th , but he met with a blank reception. The Queen's attendants, both English and Spanish, remained perfectly loyal to her and Katherine herself refused to be moved. Fotheringhay she had always disliked, and Somersham was so damp that it would probably cause her death. Suffolk lost his temper and shouted at her. Katherine retired to her room and sealed the door against him. The men of Buckden now took a hand and showed their sympathy with the Queen. They gathered in the street outside, silent but carrying choppers or billhooks and looking so threatening, that Suffolk's courage began to fail him. He found himself, moreover, shunned by the gentry of the district. After several days he succumbed. All he could do was to remove the furnishings of the Palace that Katherine had brought with her, and have them packed up, ready to send to London. He arrested some of the Queen's English attendants. Katherine herself remained behind the locked doors, saying that she could only be removed by force. This Suffolk, in view of the menacing crowds outside, dared not do, and he returned to London, defeated by the Queen and the men of Buckden. In the following May, Katherine was moved to more comfortable, but more easily protected, quarters at Kimbolton where she lived the life of a semi-recluse until her death in July 1536. Buckden Towers is now a Christian Retreat and Conference Centre run by the Claretian Missionaries together with the Catholic Parish Church of St. Hugh of Lincoln which stands on the site of the Great Chamber of the medieval palace.

<1> Untitled Source (Map). SCB8841.

<2> M M Sweeney, 1990, A History of Buckden Towers (Bibliographic reference). SCB6570.

<3> Sweeney, M.A., 1981, History of Buckden Palace, p. 4 (Bibliographic reference). SCB14304.

<4> Untitled Source (Bibliographic reference). SCB11722.

<5> Douglas Simpson, W, 1937, JBAA 2 (3rd series), p. 121 - 132 (Article in serial). SCB6656.

<6> Untitled Source (Bibliographic reference). SCB11723.

<7> Woodger, A., 1986, An Introduction to Ancient Huntingdonshire, 26 - 27 (Bibliographic reference). SCB15748.

<8> http://www.buckden-village.co.uk/ (Website). SCB17821.

<9> Various, 1967, The History and Archaeology of the Cambridge Area. Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute 124, pp. 214-58, p.250 (Article in serial). SCB19706.

<10> 1989, Various blueprints and plans of Buckden Palace (Cartographic materials). SCB20160.

<11> Etchells-Butler, S. H., 1979, Medieval Village Surveys: Buckden and Hardwick (Unpublished document). SCB20161.

<12> Architectural Heritage Fund, 1991, Inner (Tudor) Gatehouse, Buckden Towers, Buckden, Cambridgeshire. Architectural Heritage Fund Annual Report 1990 - 1991 (Article in serial). SCB20162.

Sources and further reading

<2>Bibliographic reference: M M Sweeney. 1990. A History of Buckden Towers.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Sweeney, M.A.. 1981. History of Buckden Palace. p. 4.
<4>Bibliographic reference:
<5>Article in serial: Douglas Simpson, W. 1937. JBAA 2 (3rd series). p. 121 - 132.
<6>Bibliographic reference:
<7>Bibliographic reference: Woodger, A.. 1986. An Introduction to Ancient Huntingdonshire. 26 - 27.
<8>Website: http://www.buckden-village.co.uk/.
<9>Article in serial: Various. 1967. The History and Archaeology of the Cambridge Area. Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute 124, pp. 214-58. p.250.
<10>Cartographic materials: 1989. Various blueprints and plans of Buckden Palace.
<11>Unpublished document: Etchells-Butler, S. H.. 1979. Medieval Village Surveys: Buckden and Hardwick.
<12>Article in serial: Architectural Heritage Fund. 1991. Inner (Tudor) Gatehouse, Buckden Towers, Buckden, Cambridgeshire. Architectural Heritage Fund Annual Report 1990 - 1991.

Related records

12317Related to: Buckden Little Park/Buckden Towers Park (Park and Garden)
00653aRelated to: Buckden Palace Bridge & Moat (Monument)
00653dRelated to: Buckden Palace Curtain Wall (Monument)
00653eRelated to: Buckden Palace Great Hall & Chapel (Monument)
00653cRelated to: Buckden Palace Great Tower (Building)
00653bRelated to: Buckden Palace Inner Gatehouse (Building)
00653gRelated to: Buckden Palace Outer Enclosure Wall (Monument)
00653fRelated to: Buckden Palace Outer Gatehouse (Monument)