The Bishop's PalaceWells
Wells
Somerset  BA5 2PD
 
 
 

Beside Wells Cathedral is what appears to be a moated castle. This is The Bishop’s Palace built in the early 13th century by the first Bishop of Bath & Wells, Bishop Jocelin.

Now 800 years later it is still the residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells and is one of the oldest inhabited houses in England. Parts of the Palace and the Grounds are open to the public.
 
The King granted Bishop Jocelin a licence to build a residence and deer park on land to the south of the Cathedral of St Andrew close to the holy well of St Andrew and the springs that give Wells its name. The vaulted Entrance Hall survives from this time.
 
The Bishop's Chapel dates from late 13th Century
The Bishop’s Chapel was built in the late 13th century in the Early English style and the unusually large windows give the Chapel a welcoming, bright atmosphere. It is regularly used by the clergy and others for worship and prayer; however visitors are welcome to use the chapel for prayer and reflection.
 
The complicated relationship between the Crown and the Church led to Bishops being appointed as recompense for services rendered. These appointments often conferred upon the Bishop the ability to tax the townspeople to raise funds for the improvement of the cathedral and associated projects. Sometimes the townspeople didn’t get much for their taxes and became restless.
 
Some of the bishops became fearful for their safety and in 1285 Bishop Burnell fortified the Palace. He used St Andrew’s spring to supply the water for the broad moat which surrounds the curtain walls. The entrance which faces the cathedral is secured by a very strong gatehouse, drawbridge and portcullis. The two octagonal towers have battlements and arrow slits.
 
One of the good bishops was Bekynton (1443-1465). He was responsible for building the gatehouses from the market place, many of the buildings in the market place, the almshouses, the Well House in the palace gardens and provided the town with an underground water supply from the springs in the palace gardens.
 
Bishop Barlow stripped Palace roofs of their Lead coverings
During the reign of Edward VI (1546-1553) the young King appointed Bishop William Barlow as Bishop of Bath & Wells. Bishop Barlow did not treat the Palace well. The story is that he sold the palace buildings to the Duke of Somerset - It appears that the inner buildings were then stripped of their lead roofs, their interior beams and even their paneling. It appears that Bishop Barlow had made a habit of stripping buildings under his care.
 
By the time that Bishop Law held the office of Bishop of Bath and Wells (1824 to 1845) the Great Hall was in a state of decay.
 
If the visitor is coming from the market place they will pass through the gatehouse called the Bishop’s Eye. Across the manicured lawns rise the fortified walls of the Palace and the Great Gatehouse.
 
Feeding the Swans ritual
If you can manage to be here at Swan Feeding time you will see a unique and fascinating ritual. Hanging from the gatehouse tower on the left of the drawbridge is a chain with a bell. The swans glide up the moat to peck the chain and pull it so the bell rings. They are demanding food. They have performed this ritual for the last 150 years and it is a great photo opportunity.
 
After crossing the drawbridge you see the 13th century palace and remains of the Great Hall before you. A stroll around the gardens will give you access to the springs and the Well House of St Andrew’s well built in 1451.
 
Cafe
There is a new cafe - The Bishop's Table - which opens daily from 10:00 serving locally sourced food and great coffee.
 
Plan Your Visit 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Tripadvisor here:    External Link
 
For Opening Hours, Admission costs & Information
Website  The Bishop's Palace website    External Link
 
Getting There
Refer to the Wells page on this website.
The Sat Nav for the Bishop's Palace is BA5 2RA.
Note: There is no parking on site.
 
Google Maps - The Bishop's Palace Wells