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St David's Cathedral Close: The Bishops Palace and Garden

A Scheduled Monument in St. David's and the Cathedral Close (Tŷddewi a Chlos y Gadeirlan), Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

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Latitude: 51.8821 / 51°52'55"N

Longitude: -5.2707 / 5°16'14"W

OS Eastings: 174991

OS Northings: 225455

OS Grid: SM749254

Mapcode National: GBR C5.RP8X

Mapcode Global: VH0TD.LYFJ

Entry Name: St David's Cathedral Close: The Bishops Palace and Garden

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2079

Cadw Legacy ID: PE006

Schedule Class: Domestic

Category: Palace

Period: Medieval

County: Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

Community: St. David's and the Cathedral Close (Tŷddewi a Chlos y Gadeirlan)

Traditional County: Pembrokeshire


The monument consists of the remains of a palace and gardens, a residence of the Bishop’s of St David’s during the medieval period. It comprises a series of buildings which owe most of their current form to the work of Bishop Henry de Gower (1328-47). They are ranged around three sides of a courtyard, enclosed on its fourth side by a restored stone wall with the extensive remains of terraced gardens to north and west. The site is entered by a simple three-storey gatehouse, of late 13th century, linked to the remains of a wall enclosing the Bishop’s Palace precinct that runs to the south east.

The east range has at its centre the first floor Bishop’s Hall which including in its undercroft and south wall some parts of earlier building. The hall is thought to be early work of Bishop Gower and is surmounted by a distinctive arcaded and crenelated parapet with carved animal and human head corbels and a chequerboard of purple, white and yellow stones as an external decoration. It was extended by addition of the Bishop’s Solar and the range completed near the end of Bishop Gower’s reign by the addition of a vaulted kitchen at its south end. At the same time a new window and fireplace were put into the hall and a Bishop’s Chapel built between the gatehouse and the solar. After Bishop Gower’s death an East Range including latrines was added to the south of the solar. An intermediate floor was added into the solar later perhaps in the late 15th century.

The south range is dominated by Bishop Gower’s Great Hall raised over a line of earlier undercrofts. It is entered through a porch, slightly later than the main construction which has an ornate ogee arch with highly carved surrounds and finials and is flanked by decayed statues in niches and a window to the right. The passage to the kitchen was originally reached by a door into this porch, though this was later moved to enter the hall,, the passage also links the Great Hall to the Bishop’s Hall with a semi octagonal door to a new porch. The Great Hall’s main door leads into a screens passage obscuring the door to the kitchen passage which must have had a low wooden screen so as not to obscure a fine sixteen spoke rose or wheel window mounted within a finely carved Caerbwdy stone surround set within the wall above. The hall itself is lit by three tall windows overlooking the courtyard and one to the south. Towards its northern end is the base of a partition wall behind the dias of the hall, to separate off a more private chamber. This is served by an added latrine block to the south. A fragment of an earlier hall largely demolished by Bishop Gower survives between this room and a Great Chapel built on to the hall to the north.

The Great Chapel has masonry indicating origins as early as the late twelfth century but the undercroft and the two windows on the north side and one on the south side of the chapel are contemporary with the undercroft of the Great Hall, perhaps early fourteenth century in date. Bishop Gower is known to have rebuilt the east end of the chapel adding distinctive windows flanked by niches and to have inserted a new west wall carrying a broached spirelet. The work was probably contemporary with the construction of the Bishop’s Hall of the east range. Both the Great Hall and the Chapel are surmounted by Bishop Gower’s distinctive parapet design though there are significant variations in construction along its length.

The west range contains early fabric, perhaps late twelfth or early thirteen century in date within the shell of a long, narrow rectangular building that perhaps included a ground floor hall entered by a porch on its east side. Undercrofts, windows and fireplaces were inserted during the later phases of construction of Bishop Gower’s reign to convert this range into lodgings. The present north wall appears to be largely constructed since the early 19th century.

Beyond the palace buildings in remainder of the western quadrant of the cathedral close were the Palace’s gardens and orchards bounded on two sides by the Close Wall, by the River Alun and the lane to Porth Gwyn. They consist of a series of terraces and were perhaps at their most fully developed in Bishop Gower’s reign. The lowest terrace is adjacent to the River Alun and contains a sub rectangular hollow, roughly parallel and near the Close Wall which is c. 27m long and up to 5m wide. Variations in the Close Wall along this length imply that buildings may have been incorporated within it. The terrace is bounded on its north side by a collapsed drystone wall, revetting a steep slope to the second terrace. This has three slight ridges or steps running its full length and rises steeply to a top terrace perhaps c. 4-5m wide below a steep artificial slope rising again to the line of the northern side of the Close Wall. The Bishop’s pigeon house lies within the corner of this wall. A three bay building formerly extending west of the west range was at least partially extent in 1720; the stubs of the walls are still visible in this area. The former gateway into the area also shows as two upright boulders in the boundary wall.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of high status settlement, the use of gardens and medieval ecclesiastical organisation. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of associated archaeological features and deposits. The structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information concerning chronology and building techniques.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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