The remains of Winchester Palace, 120m north-west of Southwark Cathedral
Reasons for Designation
Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great works of architecture and displays of decoration. Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated, containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls, chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or courtyards. The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post-medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are considered to be nationally important.
Despite later damage and disturbance, the remains of Winchester Palace survive well with a large amount of upstanding masonry and architectural details. The rose window is a particularly outstanding survival and represents an important stage in the development of window tracery in England. The surviving foundations of the palace provide significant evidence for the layout and development of a bishops’ palace during the medieval period. The palace is of major historic interest as the London residence of one of the wealthiest and influential bishops in England, as well as a place where royalty were often entertained. The Roman remains underlying the palace include the Roman wharf and a probable bathhouse, which are themselves of national importance. Parts of the site have not been excavated and hold a high degree of potential for archaeological investigation.
This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records. This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 March 2015.
The monument includes the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated on a floodplain at the south bank of the River Thames between Cannon Street Station railway viaduct and London Bridge.
The remains of the palace partly overlie Roman buildings and the Roman wharf, which are included in the scheduling. The Roman waterfront was located south of the current river bank and orientated north-west to south-east, running south of Clink Street towards the south end of St Mary Overie’s Dock. The close-set timber piles supporting the wharf have been found in-situ across part of the site. Below the modern buildings on the east side of Winchester Square the buried remains of four phases of Roman building, dating from the first to the fourth centuries AD, have been recorded. These include a substantial masonry building, probably a bathhouse, built in the early second century and in use until the fourth century. It had seven rooms, five of which were heated via a hypocaust, as well as painted wall plaster and tessellated and mosaic flooring. The site was largely abandoned after the Roman period, and no evidence of occupation has been found predating the tenth century.
The timber and stone foundations of a rectangular building, dating to about the early 12th century, are thought to be the residence of Orgar the Rich, who occupied the land prior to the Bishop of Winchester. The earliest walls and foundations relating to the bishops palace are mid-12th century chalk, ragstone and Reigate stone remains of a possible hall and chapel. The palace was served by a wharf and the remains of the medieval waterfront have also been recorded below modern buildings north of Clink Street. They include a series of revetments, initially of timber but later in stone, which were gradually extended northwards. These are contemporary with the palace and closely associated with it; the bishop collected wharfage from goods landed on the riverfront. In the early 13th century, the palace was rebuilt. The foundations, sleeper beams and superstructure of a north range, about 88m long, have been identified immediately south of Clink Street. It had a thick central foundation, which suggests that there was a vaulted ground floor supporting rooms above. These are thought to have been the Great Hall of the palace with a chamber for the bishop at the east end. A substantial drain of purbeck marble slabs, known as the great gutter, survives to the south of the north range. The Great Hall was rebuilt in the early 14th century and partly survives as upstanding remains south of Clink Street. The upstanding remains include the west and south walls, located on the north side of the Inner Court of the palace. The west wall is built of Kentish ragstone, with Caen and Reigate stone dressings, and stands over 15m high. At first floor level are three arched doorways and in the gable above is a large rose window with an inserted hexagon of 18 cusped triangles. On the east side of the wall are stone vault springers. The south wall includes a pointed-arched doorway and an arched opening below.
In the 14th century the Inner Court of the palace formed a quadrangle on a broadly similar alignment to modern Winchester Square. The remaining stone foundations, together with documentary evidence, show that the basic ground plan includes the following: the Great Hall, gallery and bishop’s chamber (later transferred to the south-east) on the north side; several chambers, a chapel and privy garden on the east side; the long chamber and entrance gateway on the south side; and two further chambers on the west side. A kitchen range was located to the west of the Great Hall by the later 14th century, extending well beyond the quadrangle. The Outer Court of the palace extended to the south of the Inner Court, beyond the modern street known as Winchester Walk.
The site of Winchester Palace was acquired in about the mid 12th century by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, as a London residence. Between 1220 and 1250, major rebuilding work was carried out for Bishop Peter des Roches and is recorded in the Pipe Rolls for the diocese of Winchester. The Great Hall was rebuilt in the early 14th century, at about the same time as the Long Chamber was added to the south of the Inner Court, thereby completing the quadrangular plan of this part of the palace. The Palace was known as the Clink, the Liberty of the Clink or Winchester Liberty; the exact name is uncertain. However a prison known as the Clink occupied part of the outer court before it was transferred to the north-west. The Palace was often used to entertain royalty and figures of wealth and political influence. In 1424, James I of Scotland and Joan Beaufort held their wedding feast at the palace and in 1540 Henry VIII probably met Catherine Howard within the grounds. The last Bishop to reside there was Lancelot Andrewes, who died at the palace in 1626. During the Civil War it was seized and used as a prison for Royalists. It was sold to Thomas Walker of Camberwell in 1649 but later returned into the Bishops ownership and, given its declining condition, was let out as tenements. In 1814, a fire destroyed part of the buildings and further damage occurred during the Second World War. Until the 1960s the upstanding remains of the Great Hall were concealed inside a warehouse; one of many later industrial buildings on the site. Partial excavation was carried out in 1962-3, 1972, 1983-4, 1990, 1996, 1999 and 2000, revealing the Roman remains and the layout of the medieval palace.
The upstanding remains of the Great Hall are Grade II* listed. Winchester Wharf is Grade II listed and the cannon bollards at the north-east corner of Winchester Square are Grade II listed.