Old Palace Ruins, Southwell
Publisher: A. Wood, Bookseller & Stationer, Southwell
The former Palace of the Archbishop of York stands next door to the Minster, adjoining the present official residence of the Bishop of Southwell. The Palace as we see it today dates from the 14th Century and was wrecked during the Civil War. The ruined part can be admired up-close from the Palace Gardens. The surviving built part of the Palace – the Great Hall – was restored in the Edwardian era. The Hall retains its original proportions and the beams of the magnificent vaulted ceiling of the State Chamber are mostly medieval originals. Southwell Minster
Originally built in the 15-century as a palace for the Archbishop of York, this historic castle was damaged extensively by Parliamentarians after the English Civil War. In the Georgian period, the remaining habitable parts of the Palace was home to a “respectable seminary for young ladies” as well as being used as the local magistrate’s court. In the late 19th century parts of the Palace were restored as an episcopal residency when the nearby Minster obtained cathedral status. Today, the restored part of the building is often filled with the sound of singing from the Song School, an integral part of Southwell Minster since the 13th century.
This part of the building is not open to the public but visitors are free to go to the first-floor stateroom, said to be the place where Cardinal Wolseley made his last desperate efforts to obtain the annulment of the first marriage of Henry VIII. In the 17th century, the palace was the first place of captivity of Charles I, who was captured by the Scottish Allies of Oliver Cromwell towards the end of the English Civil War. Atlas Obscura
If the matter were still undecided, a very recent discovery would enable us to pronounce that Southwell had, at least, been the residence of Romans, by whatever appellation it might be celebrated, or by whatever size and magnificence it might be distinguished, in their time; for, in breaking up a piece of ground under the eastern side of of the archbishop’s palace, in the year 1793, to make a garden for one of the gentlemen of this church, a tessalated Roman floor was discovered of considerable extent, accompanied by several fragments of urns. “Antiquities historical, architectural, chorographical and itinerary, in Nottinghamshire and the adjacent counties”, William Dickinson, 1801
We cannot avoid briefly noticing here the ruins of the ancient Palace of the Archbishops of York, which stand on the south side of the Church, and which cannot fail to excite admiration by their picturesque appearance, as well as the numerous and interesting historical associations with which they are connected, as well as the variety of tenants who have occupied it. It was the favourite residence of the great Cardinal Wolsey, who frequently retired hither for a time to forget the cares of government amidst its secluded and religious retreats. He passed here the greater part of the last year of his life, (1530), when his proud grandeur was fast fading away; and at the close of which year he was hurled from his lofty pinnacle of glory, to lay down his weary head in obscurity on the cold pillow of death.
Archbishop Sandys spent nearly the whole of his time here, after his translation to the See of York ; he was the last Archbishop that resided here. During the civil wars, the Commissioners of Scotland resided here, and held their consultations ; after which, it afforded a brief asylum to the unfortunate monarch Charles I. and his queen. It was occupied by the Parliamentary generals, and afterwards by Cromwell himself ; and General Monk, when he was returning from Scotland to restore the exiled king, slept under its roof. It was during these wars that it fell to ruin, all the contending parties of that period contributed to complete its destruction.
The Bishop’s Palace and accompanying Bishops House at Wells in the English county of Somerset, is adjacent to Wells Cathedral and has been the home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years. . . . Construction began around 1210 by Bishop Jocelin of Wells but principally dates from 1230. Bishop Jocelin continued the cathedral building campaign begun by Bishop Reginald Fitz Jocelin, and was responsible for building the Bishop’s Palace, as well as the choristers’ school, a grammar school, a hospital for travellers and a chapel within the liberty of the cathedral. He also built a manor house at Wookey, near Wells. The chapel and great hall were built between 1275 and 1292 for Bishop Robert Burnell. The windows had stone tracery. Stone bosses where the supporting ribs meet on the ceiling are covered with representations of oak leaves and the Green Man. . . . In the 14th century, Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury continued the building. He had an uneasy relationship with the citizens of Wells, partly because of his imposition of taxes, and surrounded his palace with 5 metres (16 ft) crenellated walls, a moat and a drawbridge. The three-storey gatehouse, which dates from 1341, has a bridge over the moat. The entrance was protected by a heavy gate, portcullis and drawbridge, operated by machinery above the entrance, and spouts through which defenders could pour scalding liquids onto any attacker. . . . In the 1550s, Bishop Barlow sold the lead from the roofs of the great hall. It can be seen in an engraving of 1733 but was largely demolished around 1830 by Bishop Law. He created a “more picturesque ruin” by removing the south and east walls and laying out and planting the area previously occupied by the great hall. The palace was used as a garrison for troops in both the English Civil War and Monmouth Rebellion after which it was used as a prison for rebels after the Battle of Sedgemoor. Bishop Kidder was killed during the Great Storm of 1703, when two chimney stacks in the palace fell on him and his wife, while they were asleep in bed A central porch was added around 1824 and, in the 1840s and 1850s, Benjamin Ferrey restored the palace and added an upper storey. He also restored the chapel using stained glass from ruined French churches. Wikipedia
Swans float peacefully in the moat of the Bishop’s Palace, while parents push prams along the moat walk and chat, while the high wall separating the Bishop’s Palace grounds from the busy market place cuts off the noise of hustle and bustle in the outside world. It is a scene of peace and tranquil beauty. But it was not also so peaceful; indeed, the presence of the moat tells its own story, for in the Middle Ages the powerful Bishops of Bath and Wells were locked in bitter conflict with the townsfolk of Wells. The Bishops, fearful for their safety, thought it prudent to protect their palace with a wide moat and allow access only by way of a drawbridge which could be lifted in case of threat. But back to the swans; in the 1870s the daughters of Bishop Hervey taught the resident swans to ring a bell for food, and the tradition continues today. Britain Express
The present dwelling-house or palace, which remains to a great extent perfect, though with many alterations of a minor kind, has the lower story vaulted with a good Early English groined vault, with ribs, carried upon slender pillars and corbels ; the parallelogram is divided lengthwise by a solid wall at about one-third of the width, the outer or narrow part of which on the ground floor now forms the entrance- hall and passage to the staircase at one end and the chapel at the other. In this vestibule is a fireplace of the time of Henry VIII., which has probably replaced an original one. The entrance doorway has been moved one bay southward, and a modern porch built over it . . . At the north- west corner of the building there is a square projection on the north side, the walls in the ground floor of which are of immense thickness, and it was probably intended for a tower, which the situation seems to indicate. The ground room is vaulted like the rest of the substructure. The room over this (now the Bishop’s study), has had an oriel window thrown out at the end, and a newel staircase made in the angle formed by the projection and the main building. . . . The upper story of this long range of building is divided in the same manner as the lower one by a solid wall running the whole length, and separating one third of the width as a long gallery, in which there are two modern fireplaces, the chimneys of which are probably original; this upper gallery has also been originally divided into two rooms. The larger division is subdivided into three apartments, the partitions are modernized, and as the roof and ceilings are also modern, there is no guide as to what the original arrangements were, but it seems probable that they were the same as at present. . . .
All the principal apartments of the palace are still, and were from the beginning, on the first floor, and the entrance to them was always by a staircase in the same situation as the present one, although that is Jacobean work. The omission of the end bay of the vaulting, and the existence of a square pier on one side and none on the other, where the end of the vault is carried on a corbel only, proves that the original state staircase was in this situation, and ascended by a sweep round this end of the entrance hall. The square tower by the side of this, and in the north-east angle of the court, contains the servants’ staircase. The present stair- case is modern, and the tower is an addition to the original work, but it does not seem to be much later; the doorway is of the fifteenth century and the porch modern, but the windows are very like Joceline’s work, and are clearly not modern. The kitchen and offices were partly rebuilt by Bishop Bagot, but on the old site, with some of the old walls and the old chimney-stack remaining. There have evidently always been some rooms between the kitchen and the staircase. The buttery and pantry are usually on a level with the hall, even when that is on the first floor and the kitchen on the ground floor, and there is then a straight staircase from the hall to the kitchen, passing between the buttery and the pantry, as at St. Mary’s Hall, Coventry, and many other ancient houses. But in this instance it appears that there was a screen only at the servants’ end of the hall, and that these offices were down- stairs.
The partitions in this part of the palace are entirely modern, and I have not been able to obtain any plan of the old arrangements, so that I can only guess what they were. . . . This corner of the palace seems to have been almost rebuilt by him, and the old wall of enclosure of Bishop Ralph was built upon, and had windows pierced through it. The internal arrangement of this part of the house was entirely altered in the time of Bishop Beadon, about 1810, when the floors were taken out, and what had been two stories made into three. The tower at the angle, with a stair-turret, is part of the work of Bishop Clerk, in the time of Henry VIII. This tower, or turret, is square on one side and a half octagon on the other, a very unusual plan.
An upper story was also added to the whole of the west front over the long gallery by Bishop Bagot, about 1840, to contain additional bedrooms, and the present dormer windows were then added by Mr. Ferrey with so much ingenuity and in such good taste that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from the old work, and the effect of the front is thought by many persons to have been improved by the alteration. The buttresses were then restored, but Mr. Ferrey states that the toothing of the old buttresses remained quite distinct in the walls when the rough-cast was taken off. “The Architectural Antiquities of the City of Wells”, John Henry Parker, 166, pp. 6-9