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Bishop's Palace

A Scheduled Monument in Chudleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5985 / 50°35'54"N

Longitude: -3.6036 / 3°36'12"W

OS Eastings: 286604.611839

OS Northings: 78868.331447

OS Grid: SX866788

Mapcode National: GBR QR.1PTV

Mapcode Global: FRA 37BH.9XM

Entry Name: Bishop's Palace

Scheduled Date: 11 March 1953

Last Amended: 30 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008679

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24838

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Chudleigh

Built-Up Area: Chudleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Chudleigh St Martin and St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The Bishop's Palace is situated on the southern fringe of the village of
Chudleigh, on ground sloping downwards from the limestone outcrop of Chudleigh
rocks to the south. The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of
a palace of the bishops of Exeter in use from the second half of the 13th
century until 1550.
The visible remains exist in the form of a number of ruined and adapted stone
structures together with a series of low earthworks. They include the remains
of a perimeter wall enclosing a roughly triangular area, 171m by 130m, which
contains parts of at least three substantial buildings, one of which is almost
totally enclosed by modern farm structures. The modern farm buildings and farm
yard lying to the north of the monument are not included in the scheduling.
The walls are constructed of random rubble in local limestone and in places
include red sandstone. Limestone is utilised for ashlar work and architectural
The principal remains, which are Listed Grade II*, are those of a substantial
building close to the west side of the enclosure, terraced into the hillslope
to the south by at least 2.3m, and extending out from the terrace by over 12m.
On its east and west sides are modern lean-to structures, and the first floor
is a modern addition. The ground floor survives as two vaulted rooms with the
vestigial remains of upper apartments indicated by the overall height of the
walls of some 5m. Its existing length is 10m, but the entire eastern end has
been removed. The vaults are aligned east/west, with sandstone ceilings, 3m
high at the centres. The larger northern room is 6.8m by 5m, with a blocked
window in the west wall. In its north west corner there is a spiral stair,
with two steps remaining, partly housed in an external angle turret. There is
a blocked external door in the north wall, and in the south east corner
another blocked door apparently leading to the southern vault. All the
openings leading from this room have vaulted ceilings. In the outer part of
the ruined wall forming the north east corner of the building there are the
remains of the end of a low vaulted passage.
The southern room has a cobble floor and is 3m in width, narrowed to 2.6m at
the western end by an offset in the south wall. Its original length is in
excess of 3.8m as the east wall appears to be a later blocking. High in the
west wall is a narrow window, opening through a wall of about 3m thickness.
The south west corner of the room contains a narrow opening, apparently a
borrowed-light window, for a mural (wall) passage contained within the
offset in the south wall. The passage is some 3m in length and widens at both
ends with curved walls. The south end is deeper than the floor of the room by
at least 0.45m. The roof becomes higher to the west and is stepped, possibly
constituting the underneath of a mural stair contained within the wall
thickness. The passage continues at its west end, appearing to turn north
behind the west wall of the vault. A small hole has been broken through the
west wall north of the window to reveal a completely enclosed chamber of some
0.9m width, but unknown height and length.
The first floor of the building would have opened directly onto the higher
ground to the south. The walls are in general between 1.2m to 1.6m in
thickness, constructed in limestone and sandstone. There is a chamfered plinth
on the west wall and either two buttresses, or the remains of two further
walls, on the north side. To the west, the space between this building and the
perimeter wall appears to have been enclosed on the north side by a wall
extending from the perimeter wall towards the stair turret, with an access-way
adjacent to the turret.
Approximately 42m to the south east of the vaulted building are the free-
standing remains of the southern end of a building, of at least 9.5m width,
terraced into the ground to the south. Part of the south wall survives to a
height of about 3.8m internally and has a string course beneath the remains
of a stepped triangular coping which indicates that the eastern half of the
structure was not roofed. The east wall was lower and had an arched opening
near the wall corner. In the western half there are the remains of a vault
2.95m in width separated from the courtyard by a wall. The length of the
building is uncertain, but a distinct earthwork platform extends for some 18m
to the north.
Approximately 40m to the north east of the vaulted building are the free-
standing remains of the outer wall of a building surviving to a height of
about 2.4m and length of over 4.2m. The wall has a substantial rectangular
offset bonded into its internal west face, with the remains of a window to the
north side of this feature.
The perimeter wall survives on the west side of the palace for a length of
over 120m. To the north, at the farmhouse, it is incorporated into the back of
the garages. The garages, except for the perimeter wall at the rear, are
excluded from the scheduling.
About halfway between the garages and the vaulted building the wall is
interrupted by a square, tower-like structure, projecting to the west. The
wall extends to the south beyond the vaulted building to become lost in the
hedge-line. At no point does it retain a coping; the highest surviving
section, 2.7m internally, occurs opposite the vaulted building where the
ground is terraced. Between the tower and the terrace the wall contains
putlog holes (for scaffolding), and has four small, deeply splayed, arched
loops, in random rubble, that narrow at the outer face to 60cm by 7cm. There
is evidence of a former opening to the immediate north of the tower. A
section of the wall is visible along the southern perimeter of the palace
where it acts as a retaining wall to the higher land to the south, surviving
to a height of about 0.6m above the terrace. On the eastern side the only
visible remains are an isolated section some 8m in length and 2m high,
engulfed within the hedge some 9m south of the stables.
The earthworks are more distinct in the upper, southern end, of the enclosure.
Apart from some more obvious terraces, most of the earthworks are amorphous,
and probably represent building debris.
Although the manor of Chudleigh appears to have belonged to the bishops of
Exeter before the Norman Conquest, the first reference to episcopal property
in the parish occurs in a charter of Bishop Bartholomew (1161-84). There is no
reference to a dwelling until the episcopal registers commence in the second
half of the 13th century which record that Bishop Bronescome (1257-80) was
present in the manor for several days in almost every year of his bishopric.
The first reference to official business being undertaken occurs in 1321 when
Bishop Stapeldon (1307-26) conducted an ordination in the chapel. A hall is
referred to in 1350 in the bishopric of Grandisson (1326-69), and a
chancellery in the bishopric of Brantyngham (1370-94). More importantly, in
1379 Brantyngham obtained a licence to crenellate, the only such licence for
an episcopal manor in Devon. The register of Bishop Lacy (1420-55) contains
the most abundant references to the structure in which the Register's chamber,
new lower chamber, parlour, and a chapel or oratory adjoining the great
chapel, are referred to. Chudleigh appears to have been one of the most
popular rural houses with successive bishops spanning 150 years: Stapeldon,
Grandisson, Brantyngham, Stafford (1395-1419), and Lacy, all being in
residence for significant periods. Bishop Lacy died at Chudleigh. The
registers of subsequent bishops have not been published, but a survey
undertaken after the bishopric of Redman (1495-1501) states that the buildings
were in need of essential repair.
In 1550, Edward VI compelled Bishop Vesey to dispose of the manor, which was
conveyed to Thomas Brydges. In 1598 it passed to Thomas Hunt, and was sold by
that family in 1695 to the Cliffords who retained ownership until recently.
The present farmhouse, a Listed Building Grade II, has no parts earlier than
the late 17th century. The site was called Palace Farm in the late 18th
century, at which time the area of the ruins was utilised as an orchard. This
is the first reference to the site as a palace rather than a manor. At that
time it was recorded that an arched gateway was in existence in the garden of
Palace Cottage. In the mid 19th century it was recorded that burials were
disturbed in the eastern corner of the orchard when the road to the quarry was
widened. The freestanding remains and the perimeter wall are Listed Grade II*.
All paths, telegraph poles, fence and gate posts, and the modern lean-to
buildings are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all
these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury
accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although
some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great
works of architecture and displays of decoration.
Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated,
containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls,
chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or
The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied
throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post-
medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces
have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely
dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are
considered to be nationally important.

The Bishop's Palace at Chudleigh was intensively occupied for a significant
period and the principal surviving building is unusual in its design in that
the provision of vaults and mural passages indicate a dwelling of strength and
defensible potential. The buried remains appear to be extensive and unharmed
by subsequent activity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Laithwaite, M, 'Devon Religious Houses Survey' in The Bishop's Palace at Chudleigh, , Vol. 22, (1987)
Quinnel, N, (1982)

Source: Historic England

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