Bishop’s Waltham Palace | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Bishop’s Waltham Palace

Bishop's Waltham, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

23 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Bishop’s Waltham Palace

Bishop’s Waltham Palace is a medieval palace in Hampshire built in the 12th century, with aspects of its picturesque ruins also dating from the early 14th century. In its time, Bishop’s Waltham Palace acted as a residence for a series of the Bishops of Winchester and their clergy, while also occasionally hosting a British monarch or two!

Bishop’s Waltham Palace history

Lands in Waltham had been owned by the Bishops of Winchester since 904, when Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Elder exchanged the area for lands in Portchester. The Domesday Book records that in 1086 the current Bishop had a park for wild animals in Waltham, while the remains of timber buildings also suggest an early residence there.

The first stone building at the site of Bishop’s Waltham Palace was constructed in 1135 by Bishop Henry de Blois, however little remains of this first structure, having been destroyed by Henry II along with a number of Blois’ other properties. Blois was the brother of King Stephen and during the Anarchy had influentially supported his claim to the English throne over that of Empress Matilda, Henry II’s mother.

Though the Bishop was exiled, upon his return he set about rebuilding his residence at Waltham, with the plans likely completed by his successor Richard of Ilchester. Over the next 2 centuries Bishop’s Waltham Palace would be used by successive Bishops of Winchester as they travelled, and hosted kings such as Henry III and Richard I.

In the late 14th century the palace was rebuilt by Bishop William Wykham, and extended by successive bishops in the 15th century, becoming a popular royal haunt. Henry V, Henry VIII, and Mary I all graced its halls, with the latter visiting just before her marriage to Philip II at Winchester Cathedral.

After over 500 years at the centre of royal and ecclesiastical activity, Bishop’s Waltham Palace was destroyed in 1644 during the English Civil War. It had been held for the King during a long siege, yet was finally forced into the hands of the Parliamentarian forces, following which it was seemingly set alight and fell into ruin.

Bishop’s Waltham Palace today

Today, Bishop’s Waltham Palace is managed by English Heritage. The only remaining section of the 15th century lodgings now houses the Bishop’s Waltham Town Museum, that details the history of the town and the surrounding area. Inside the timber-framed building, vast fireplaces and a bread oven have been preserved, following the building’s conversion to a farm house in the 17th century.

The imposing ruins of the palace are the site’s highlight however, with the grand windows of the great hall and an imposing three-storey tower still visible amongst the beautiful greenery of the surrounding area. A floor plan and reconstructed image of the palace feature on information boards around the site, enriching explorations of its ruins and allowing guests a clearer picture of what was once a thriving site of wealth and power.

Getting to Bishop’s Waltham Palace

Bishop’s Waltham Palace is located in Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire, on the B3035 road. Parking is available 30m from the entrance, while a number of bus services also stop in the area, with the Petrol Station stop a 3-minute walk away. The nearest train station is Botley, 3.5 miles away, from which a taxi or bus may be taken to the site.

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