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CHER Number:07154
Type of record:Monument
Name:Bishop's Palace, Little Downham

Summary

The remains of the former Bishop's Palace are incorporated into farm buildings about 1/2 mile W of the parish church. The palace was rebuilt by Bishop Alcock (1486 - 1500), and the surviving remains are all of this period.

Grid Reference:TL 519 842
Parish:Downham, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

  • BISHOPS PALACE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BARN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHAPEL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MANOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DEER PARK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Events:

  • Evaluation at Bishop's Palace, Little Downham, 1996

Protected Status:

Full description

1. "Applies to the site of Bishop Alcock's Palace but of which only a small portion remains and which are used as outbuildings to the Tower Farm, the dwelling house being erected on the site of the palace. The property of Mr. WE Stockdale, occupier".
2. The remains of the former Bishop's Palace are incorporated in farm buildings about 1/2 mile W of the parish church. The palace was rebuilt by Bishop Alcock (1486 - 1500), and the surviving remains are all of this period. The building fell into decay while it was alienated from the see during the Commonwealth, and it was never readapted as a episcopal palace after 1660.
4. Bishop' Palace (The Tower), Downham. This was a favourite country residence of the Medieval bishops of Ely and the surviving fragments are those of a building by Bishop Alcock of C 1500. Similar to his work at Jesus College, Cambridge, it is of red brick with blue diapering, stone quoins and mullioned stone windows. A richly moulded ogee-headed gateway with heraldic ornamentation leads to a fan vaulted passage. Now used as a grain dryer; the property of Mr. FHG Stockdale. (see photo attached to PRC)
6. With deer park - park survived until 19th century although much reduced in area. Traces of its massive boundary bank and ditch can still be seen.
7. Significant archaeological remains were exposed during excavation. Three phases of activity were identified, including early stone building foundations and a later brick-built extension or renovation, both with little associated dating evidence, as well as a metalled surface probably related to the 18th or 19th C farm.


O1, Present remains include a detached structure on the E, possibly the chapel, and S of it lies a large rectangular "pigeon house", now dilapidated. To the N stands a structure with only the base of its walls surviving and to the W built into the S wall of the barn, is an oven and drying chamber, suggesting the kitchen and hall were here. These remains superseded the earlier manor house which was the episcopal palace for more than 500 years. The present farmhouse seems to date from the early C19 but is largely built of older materials and could incorporate portions of the palace walls.
O2, The remains are identifiable as follows: At TL/5194/8420, the supposed chapel of brick with stone dressings. Attached to the NW a yard utilising old walls. The brick barn at TL/5189/8418 incorporates in its SW and SE walls remains identified by R2 as part of the kitchen and hall. The dovecote has gone. See photos.
S2, Earthworks in good condition S of the house. Tree holes dug into the platform visible here revealed foundations of old (C17) brick and rubble. There is a pond here, possibly part of a fish-pond complex (N of house). Earthworks should be surveyed. The chapel, barn and house are of considerable interest.


<1> OS, ONB, 26 NW, 5, 1925 (Bibliographic reference). SCB9868.

<2> Pugh, R.B. (ed), 1953, The Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. Volume 4, 91 -92 (Bibliographic reference). SCB14655.

<3> 1959, OS 6 inch map (Map). SCB8966.

<4> Watkins, D., 1971, Burke's and Savilles Guide to Country Houses, Cambridgeshire, p. 5 (Bibliographic reference). SCB15643.

<5> Alison Taylor, 22/02/1982 (Unpublished document). SCB1293.

<6> Haigh, D., 1988, The Religious Houses of Cambridgeshire, p. 19-20 (Bibliographic reference). SCB6219.

<7> Membery, S. and Last, J., 1997, Medieval foundations at the Bishop's Palace, Little Downham, Cambridgeshire (Unpublished report). SCB16999.

<8> Seaman, B.H., Field Investigator Comments, 17/9/70 (Verbal communication). SCB61886.

Sources and further reading

<1>Bibliographic reference: OS, ONB, 26 NW, 5, 1925.
<2>Bibliographic reference: Pugh, R.B. (ed). 1953. The Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. Volume 4. 91 -92.
<3>Map: 1959. OS 6 inch map.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Watkins, D.. 1971. Burke's and Savilles Guide to Country Houses, Cambridgeshire. p. 5.
<5>Unpublished document: Alison Taylor, 22/02/1982.
<6>Bibliographic reference: Haigh, D.. 1988. The Religious Houses of Cambridgeshire. p. 19-20.
<7>Unpublished report: Membery, S. and Last, J.. 1997. Medieval foundations at the Bishop's Palace, Little Downham, Cambridgeshire.
<8>Verbal communication: Seaman, B.H.. Field Investigator Comments. 17/9/70.