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Wolvesey Palace

A Scheduled Monument in St Michael, Hampshire

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Latitude: 51.0589 / 51°3'32"N

Longitude: -1.3099 / 1°18'35"W

OS Eastings: 448455.916656

OS Northings: 129066.553537

OS Grid: SU484290

Mapcode National: GBR 861.KMH

Mapcode Global: FRA 864B.3GR

Entry Name: Wolvesey Palace

Scheduled Date: 19 April 1915

Last Amended: 13 May 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005535

English Heritage Legacy ID: HA 2

County: Hampshire

Electoral Ward/Division: St Michael

Built-Up Area: Winchester

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire


The upstanding and/or buried remains of part of the Roman civitas capital of Venta Belgarum, part of the city wall, and the early medieval, medieval and late C17 bishops’ palaces of Wolvesey, also known as ‘Wolvesey Castle’.

Source: Historic England


The monument is situated on the south-east side of the original Roman settlement of Winchester (Venta Belgarum), 150m west of the River Itchen. It includes: the buried remains of part of the Roman civitas capital of Venta Belgarum; the upstanding remains and buried remains of part of the Roman, early medieval and medieval city wall; the upstanding and buried remains of the medieval north precinct wall; the buried remains of the early medieval bishop’s palace of Wolvesey; the upstanding and buried remains of the medieval bishop’s palace; and the buried remains of the late C17 palace.

The south-east part of the Roman civitas capital of Venta Belgarum survives as below-ground remains. Partial excavation in 1962-1971 beneath the inner court of the medieval bishop’s palace of Wolvesey revealed five Roman buildings situated on either side of a street running north-south with another street leading off to the west. In the angle of these two streets is the south wing of a large stone house with plain tesselated floors, which was still in use in the C4 (Building 1 in the Interim Reports (Biddle 1962 and 1972)). On the opposite side of the street are four buildings demonstrating several phases of construction and re-building. Furthest north is a rectangular building, possibly a shop and workshop, 12m long and 6m wide, with timber-framed walls set on chalk footings (Building 1A). It was constructed in the early C2 replacing an earlier structure before again being rebuilt with flint walls in the mid to late C2. Immediately to the east is another building c.10m wide and over 15m long (Building 1B), and to the south is a house initially constructed of timber but subsequently replaced in stone (Building 2). The latter comprises a north-south range adjacent to the street with a wing at the north end extending eastwards, surrounding a courtyard with a well. To the south of this is a stone building that was only partially revealed during excavation (Building 3). A further building of the late- or post-Roman period was subsequently cut through the earlier levels. It was built on foundations of rammed chalk and was 13m long by 5m wide.

North of the inner court of the medieval palace geophysical survey has indicated the presence of further rectilinear walls and structures on an alignment with the existing Roman remains. Whilst to the north-east, beneath the playing fields, are the buried remains of a further Roman building. A tessellated pavement was uncovered prior to 1845 and is shown on the 1871 Ordnance Survey map at SU 48497 29101.

Part of the Roman, early medieval and medieval city wall of Winchester survives as upstanding and buried remains at the east and south of the site. The upstanding remains run south-west for 230m from the north precinct wall before turning WNW and continuing for 50m until they meet the pedestrian entrance to Wolvesey Palace. Beyond, and on the same alignment, the city wall will survive as buried remains and is included in the scheduling. The upstanding remains are formed of a flint and limestone rubble wall, largely faced with knapped flints with limestone dressings. It is approximately 2.7m wide at its base and stands up to 6m high. The eastern part of the city wall is partly faced in flint arranged in a herringbone pattern dating to about the C10. Elsewhere the wall has been partially refaced, probably in the C19, and along part of its length is topped by a crenellated parapet with a moulded coping. Built up against the back of the city wall is an earthen embankment thought to be of Roman construction, which is included in the scheduling. It is between 6m and 9m wide and up to about 3m high. It runs for over 125m south before following the wall WNW where it becomes broader and shallower before terminating at the pedestrian entrance to Wolvesey Palace from College Street. An external ditch originally surrounded the Roman and medieval city walls and may survive as an in-filled buried feature but is not included in the scheduling as its presence remains unconfirmed. The later property boundary walls built to the west of the pedestrian entrance to Wolvesey Palace are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

The medieval north precinct wall survives at the north of the site and is included in the scheduling. It is a flint and limestone rubble wall, largely faced with knapped flints, with a tiled coping. It runs ENE for 225m from the Cathedral Close wall at the west to the city wall at the east. The wall is thought to have a C14 core but has been partly refaced at a later date. Several openings within the wall are marked by later limestone rubble, squared stone, or ashlar in-fill. The lean-to building at the east end of the north precinct wall is not included in the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

An early medieval bishop’s palace survives as buried remains in the north of the site. Partial excavation under the north range of the Norman palace has revealed the foundations of a chapel; a masonry oval structure, 11m long, which terminates in eastern and western apses, to which a rectangular chancel was later added. Just to the east of this building was a range of timber structures, whilst bounding it to the south and west was a broad shallow ditch. Documentary sources indicate that the palace also included a hall, a bishop’s chamber and possibly a prison by c.1000. Further buried remains of the early medieval palace are likely to survive at the north of the site, although at least part of it may have been destroyed during the construction of the moat, which surrounded the inner court of the medieval palace.

The medieval palace was originally approached from a gatehouse, which survives as buried remains beneath the current pedestrian approach off College Street (SU 48401 28977). To the north of the gatehouse are the buried remains of a medieval outer court, which contained stables, barns, a great wool house and the bishop’s prison. Beyond this is the inner court of the medieval palace, the greater part of which remains upstanding.

At the west of the inner court is the West Hall built in c.1110. It is set on a timber-raft foundation on which are flint walls faced externally with ashlar blocks of diagonally-tooled Quarr stone. The hall is orientated broadly north-south and is 50m long by 24m wide. The walls of the north half of the hall are upstanding up to about 2.5m high but the southern half survives as buried remains, which extend beneath the current bishop’s residence and garden and are included in the scheduling. It originally consisted of a north-south residential block entered from a vestibule at the north-east corner, a tower at the south-west corner, a walled garden at the west and ground floor rooms, later known as cellars, at the east. The main block is adorned with pilaster buttresses on all four sides. Attached to the north-east vestibule are the Caen stone footings of a stair and porch built in c.1135-8. At the south end of the West Hall is a C15 chapel built on Norman foundations. This chapel is Grade I listed and is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

An East Hall built in c.1135-8 survives to the east of the West Hall. It is orientated north-south and is 44m long by 24m wide at the south end and 18m wide at the north. The building originally comprised a great hall rising the full height of the building, a two storey chamber block to the south, a gallery running nearly the full length of the west side except for a porch at the north-west angle, and a gallery running along the southern half of the east side. The walls are set on foundations of rammed chalk and longitudinal timbers and built of flint rubble with Quarr ashlar dressings. The south gable wall survives to the height of the second floor window arches whilst the opposite gable includes the remains of a later gallery passage that overlooked the hall. Between the gable ends of the hall the east and west walls vary from first floor height to low footings. A chamfered plinth runs along the base of most of the walls. The centre of the south elevation is framed by pilaster buttresses and has round-headed arched openings on three levels. In c.1141-54 Bishop Henry of Blois remodelled the upper part of the East Hall, raising it by a storey. The lower limit of this heightening is marked by a bull-nosed string-course between the first and second floors. The north elevation has pilaster buttresses rising to the level of a square stone string course, above which is the bull-nosed string course and then the remains of a gallery passage. On the internal wall, just beneath the gallery, is a blind arcade of two-centred arches. During the C13 the great hall was remodelled and the west gallery was extended by the insertion of an arcade of three bays to replace the wall on this side. The low foundations of the inserted piers and responds remain.

The curtain wall of the south range is built of flint rubble, with the remains of a square ashlar-faced turret projecting from the south-east corner. It was built in c.1138-41 to link the West and East Halls. The curtain wall extends south from the south-east corner of the East Hall, where it survives up to about 5m high, before taking a course east towards the chapel. Along most of this easterly section it survives as low footings although a later, probably C19, wall has been built next to it. Incorporated into the curtain wall near Wymond’s Tower are the remains of a well house, accessed down a flight of steps and through a round-headed arch. A medieval gateway also originally stood in the south wall and survives as buried remains. In about 1141 the enclosed area south of the East Hall was partitioned by a thick and heavily buttressed wall running towards the West Hall, much of which is still upstanding and forms a boundary between the central and southern courtyards. Also within this enclosed area are the low footings of a gatehouse and range of buildings, which were inserted between c.1141 and 1154. The structures within the curtain wall were levelled to form a yard when the late C17 bishop’s residence was constructed. The remains of the gatehouse are attached to the low footings of a cross wall, which originally created a second courtyard just to the east of the chapel. Within this courtyard are the buried remains of an earlier well house, built c.1130, including an ashlar-lined tank fed by two lead pipes. In the later C15 or C16 this area was remodelled to form a new approach to the central courtyard. The east side of the new entry was formed of a flint rubble and ashlar wall with a chequer pattern in the west face, which survives as upstanding remains and is built upon a series of relieving arches.

A kitchen block, traditionally known as the ‘Keep’, built in c.1141-54, is attached to the east side of the East Hall. It is about 20m long by 16m wide and built of flint rubble but with external walls with central and clasping pilaster buttresses. There are loopholes on three levels between each pair of pilaster buttresses, although the kitchen was originally of a single storey internally, rising open to the roof. The interior has undergone numerous alterations, and shows the traces of the former positions of ovens and ranges. It is divided internally into four rooms.

Wymond’s Tower stands next to the south-east corner of the East Hall. This tower, originally called the Guiscard Tower, was initially built as a small garderobe turret in c.1141 but enlarged by 1154 to provide a defensive work. The outer faces of the tower are cased in ashlar, with central and clasping pilaster buttresses. The walls of the tower are solid up to second floor level, apart from two latrines. At this level, which was originally reached by an upper wall passage in the East Hall, are the remains of a series of small vaulted chambers giving on to loopholes in the outer wall. A turning stair gave access to the battlements on the level above. The tower is attached to the ‘Keep’ or kitchen block by a curtain wall added in 1372-3, which runs diagonally to the north.

The range of buildings running along the north side of the palace include a latrine block, Woodman’s Gate and curtain walls. The latrine block was added to the north end of the West Hall in c.1138-41 when the eastern and western halls were linked by a curtain wall forming the central courtyard. The walls of the latrine block vary in height from about 1.2m at the east to about 3.5m at the west. Internally it is divided into four rooms with a drain running under the northern two rooms, which originally emptied into the moat. Running from the latrine block to the north-west corner of the East Hall are the upstanding remains of the contemporary curtain wall. Immediately to the south are the low footings of a wall, which formed part of a passage on the northern side of the courtyard. Built up against the south wall of this passage are the below-ground remains of a sunken well-house, about 5m square and constructed of ashlar blocks.

In c.1158-71 Bishop Henry constructed a gatehouse, later known as Woodman’s Gate, reached by a drawbridge over the moat on the northern side of the palace. The upstanding remains of the gatehouse, formed of flint rubble and ashlar walls, include an entrance passage and series of rooms to either side. It is entered from the north through two arches; a round-headed arch and two-centred arch. In 1453-7 the rooms in the gatehouse were remodelled, internal walls were removed, and large windows and fireplaces were inserted, the openings of which survive. The upstanding remains of a curtain wall, which is contemporary with the gatehouse, run to the west and was originally attached to the ‘Keep’ or kitchen block, forming an L-shaped courtyard. At the north end of the East Hall are the footings of a rectangular wine cellar inserted in the later C14. The courtyard was extended east at about this time through the construction of a diagonal curtain wall, which survives as upstanding remains and is contemporary with the wall to the south of the ‘Keep’. The low footings of several bakehouses built, rebuilt and extended in the following two centuries abut this wall.

Surrounding the inner court of the medieval palace are the buried remains of a now in-filled moat. Geophysical survey has recorded the likely buried remains of tumble and foundation material from the medieval curtain walls immediately surrounding the palace. Whilst to the south and south-east of the upstanding remains, within the area of the outer court of the medieval palace, geophysical survey has indicated the buried remains of further medieval walls and structures.

The scheduling includes the buried remains of the south and west ranges of the late C17 and early C18 century baroque palace. The current bishop’s residence, known as Wolvesey Palace, is Grade I listed and excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included. Partial excavation in 1987 recorded the stone footings of the south range to the west of this residence. Geophysical survey has indicated that further parts of the south and west ranges survive as buried remains.

The monument excludes: the Grade I listed Wolvesey Palace and Grade II listed Wolvesey Cottages (also called ‘Wolvesey Stables’); modern notice boards and signs; modern fences and fence posts; modern gates and gate posts; garden walls and property boundary walls with the exception of the city wall and north precinct wall; the lean-to building at the east end of the north precinct wall; modern walkways; tarmacadam or gravel surfaces of modern paths, pathways, roads, roadways or car parks; benches; the site hut; garden furniture or ornaments such as the sundial and urns; the greenhouse; the sports pavilion; garden or utility sheds; modern sporting equipment, fixtures and artificial surfaces, including the rugby posts, football goal posts, cricket net, and the long jump track and pit; scoreboards; the flagpole in the playing field; electricity or telephone poles; modern water pipes and electricity cables. However the ground beneath all these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Wolvesey Palace, a multi-period site encompassing part of the Roman civitas capital of Venta Belgarum, Winchester's city wall, and early medieval, medieval and late C17 bishops’ palaces, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: the monument includes a very rare example of an early medieval bishop’s palace, of which there are fewer than twelve known nationally, and a rare example of a medieval bishop’s palace;
* Survival: archaeological remains relating to the Roman, early medieval, medieval and post-medieval period are known to survive well, including a substantive proportion of upstanding medieval fabric;
* Potential: partial excavation and geophysical survey have indicated that the monument retains a high degree of archaeological potential for buried remains dating from the Roman period onwards;
* Diversity: the multi-period remains demonstrate occupation of the site from the Roman period onwards and will add to our knowledge and understanding of Winchester, a major urban centre for over 2000 years;
* Documentation (historical): the bishops’ palaces, which regularly accommodated royalty, high churchmen and foreign dignitaries, held a pivotal place in the history of England and are well-documented in historical sources.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beaumont James, T, Winchester, (1997)
Biddle, M, Wolvesey. The Old Bishop's Palace, Winchester, Hampshire. English Heritage Guidebook., (1986)
Pevsner, N, Bullen, M, Crook, J, Hubbuck, R, The Buildings of England: Hampshire: Winchester and the North, (2010)
Wareham, J, Three Palaces of the Bishops of Winchester: Wolvesey (Old Bishop's Palace) Hampshire, Bishop's Waltham Palace Hampshire, Farnham Castle Keep Surrey. English Heritage Guidebook., (2000)
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1967: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 48, (1968), 280-4
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1968: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 49, (1969), 323-6
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1964: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 45, (1965), 258-260
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1971: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 55, (1975), 321-33
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal 44: 212-14' in Excavations at Winchester, 1962-3: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 44, (1964), 212-14
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1969: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 50, (1970), 322-5
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1965: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 46, (1966), 326-8
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1966: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 47, (1967), 272-6
Biddle, M, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Excavations at Winchester, 1970: Wolvesey Palace, , Vol. 52, (1972), 125-30
Cunliffe, B, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in The Winchester City Wall, , Vol. 22, (1961), 51-81
Gibbs, L, Wolvesey Palace, Winchester, Hampshire: Conservation Statement, 2004,
Strutt, K., Barker, D., Sly, T., and Cole, J, University of Southampton Report on the Geophysical Survey at Wolvesey Palace, Winchester, Hampshire. March-April 2009., 2009,

Source: Historic England

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