Bishopís Waltham Palace is the ruins of a medieval palace and later additions used by the bishops and senior clergy of Winchester. Other palaces of the bishops were Farmham castle keep and Wolvesey castle.
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A thriving religious community was recorded at Waldheim, the Saxon name for Bishopís Waltham. The traveller and missionary Willibald was sent here to be educated under abbot Egbald. The site of his minster is unknown.
In 904 king Edgar gave the manor of Waltham to bishop Denewulf in exchange for land at Portchester. The fortified palace was first mentioned in 1138 and listed as built by Henry of Blois. The 12th century palace had little in the way of decoration added to its windows, doors and capitals. Henry rebuilt it on a much more elaborate scale in 1158. He added the west tower for his own accommodation. The 12th century chapel contained a crypt which survives today.
In the 13th and 14th centuries the bishops were in regular residence. William of Wykeham, bishop in 1367, was the moving force behind the major works that made the palace as it stands today. A kitchen, brewhouse, and lordís chamber were added. There are remains of some of the kitchen fireplaces. During the 14th century rebuilding, the hall was enhanced by adding a large number of perpendicular style windows.
The west range is part 12th century and part Williamís additions. He rebuilt the hall and kitchen and added a new great chamber. Although the walls seen today are flint, in his time they were plastered over. The floor was laid with Flemish tiles; the roof was wooden beamed; some rooms were wood panelled; and tapestries hung from the walls of principal rooms.
Cardinal Beaufort in 1406 added a storey to the west tower and built a new chapel 10 years later. He then added a gatehouse and a new lodging range. When he died he left his bed and some tapestries to Margaret, the wife of Henry VI.
The buildings were set afire by Cromwell during the 1644 civil war. After the restoration of the monarchy, the bishops were given back the ruined property, but its state was such that it was no longer used, with the exception of the lodging range, except as a source of ready-made building material.
The lodging range was turned into a farmhouse, and it reflects that use today. A farmhouse kitchen is on view on the ground floor. Upstairs is an original fireplace and timbered ceiling. This floor was originally accommodation for the bishopís officials and guests.
The palace, surrounded by 10,000 acres of parkland, hosted many royal visitors including Henry V before the battle of Agincourt. Parts of the inner courtyard moat can still be seen. Remains of a brick wall and turrets that surrounded the parkland survive.
The Bishop's Waltham palace is located in the town of Bishop Waltham, Hampshire, five miles from junction 8 of the M27.
Tel. 0 1489 892 460
Open: grounds: Sun-Fri, May-end Sep, 10am-5pm; farmhouse: by request
English Heritage property; parking; exhibition on the bishops of Winchester
Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Hampshire Cam