Bishop's Waltham Palace and associated fishponds


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016169

Date first listed: 28-Nov-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Oct-1997


Ordnance survey map of Bishop's Waltham Palace and associated fishponds
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: Winchester (District Authority)

Parish: Bishops Waltham

National Grid Reference: SU 55144 17312


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Magnates' residences are high status dwellings of domestic rather than military character. They date from the Norman Conquest (in some cases forming a continuation of a Saxon tradition) and throughout the rest of the medieval period. Individual residences were in use for varying lengths of time; some continued in use into the post-medieval period. Such dwellings were the houses or palaces of royalty, bishops and the highest ranks of the nobility, usually those associated with the monarch. They functioned as luxury residences for the elite and their large retinues, and provided an opportunity to display wealth in the form of elaborate architecture and lavish decoration. As such, these palaces formed an impressive setting for audiences with royalty, foreign ambassadors and other lords and bishops. Magnates' residences are located in both rural and urban areas. Bishops' residences are usually in close association with cathedrals, and all residences tend to be located close to good communication routes. Unless constrained by pre-existing structures, magnates' residences comprised an elaborate series of buildings, usually of stone, that in general included a great hall, chambers, kitchens, service rooms, lodgings, a chapel and a gatehouse, arranged around a single or double courtyard. As a consequence of the status of these sites, historic documentation is often prolific, and can be of great value for establishing the date of construction and subsequent alterations to the buildings, and for investigating the range of activities for which the site was a focus. Magnates' residences are widely dispersed throughout England reflecting the mobility of royalty and the upper echelons of the nobility. There is a concentration of sites which reflects the growing importance of London as a political centre, and the majority of magnates' residences tend to be located in the south of the country. Despite their wide distribution, magnates' residences are a relatively rare form of monument due to their special social status. At present only around 236 examples have been identified of which 150 are ecclesiastical palaces and 86 are connected with royalty. Magnates' residences generally provide an emotive and evocative link with the past, especially through their connections with famous historical figures, and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to the organisation and display of political power, and wider aspects of medieval and post- medieval society such as the development of towns and industries and the distribution of dependent agricultural holdings. Examples with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national importance.

Bishop's Waltham Palace is a fine example of a magnate's residence. The extent of the southern part of the precinct is evidenced by surviving boundaries of both earthworks and walls while the ruined structures within the inner court demonstrate the scale and importance of the medieval palace.

Small scale excavations carried out from 1967 onwards have clarified the nature and dating of the precinct boundaries and the type of use to which parts of the outer precinct were put. Comprehensive documentation survives for the rebuilding of the inner court buildings.

The fishponds, although incomplete, provide important evidence for the wider management of the surrounding landscape during the medieval period. The inner court of the Bishop's Palace is in the care of the Secretary of State and is open to the public.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the earthworks and buildings which form the remains of Bishop's Waltham Palace, a magnate's residence constructed in the 12th century and in use until its ruin in the Civil War. Also included is the surrounding Lord's Garden together with its precinct walls and turrets. The monument also includes surviving elements of the fishponds which lie to the west of the palace buildings.

The buildings of the palace are arranged within an inner court, a roughly rectangular area defined by a moat, only the northern arm of which now contains water. The buildings of the inner court are arranged around a single large courtyard, entered through a gatehouse on the causeway in the north west corner of the moat. Ranged along the inner edge of the northern side of the moat were the lodgings, the majority of which survive below ground only, although their most easterly part was utilised as a farmhouse after the Restoration. The bakehouse and brewhouse lie along the most northerly part of the eastern arm of the moat. To the south of these lie the chapel and crypt, the most easterly elements of the complex of buildings which occupies the southern part of the inner court and extends alongside the western arm of the moat. The southern buildings include the bishop's great chamber, the west tower, cloisters and the hall with, to its north, the service rooms and kitchen.

Beyond the inner court, to the south and east, lies the Lord's Garden, an area of park or garden enclosed by a brick wall which incorporates corner turrets on its south west and north east angles. The stream known as the Stream of the Lord runs diagonally through the Lord's Garden, issuing from beneath the precinct wall and sinking to the east of Palace House, a post medieval house which lies in the south west quadrant of the Lord's Garden.

To the west of the Inner Court and Lord's Garden lie the remains of the fishponds. The dam of the most southerly, the Little Pond, survives for a length of approximately 150m as an earthwork bank up to 20m wide which, although disturbed by the insertion of a sewer pipe along its length, is included in the scheduling. In the 19th century the drained interior of the pond was bisected by the construction of the race for Abbey Mill, the culverted line of which is reflected by the east wall of a modern industrial building. To the east of this building the pond has been partly infilled but will survive as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling. To the west the pond has been considerably disturbed and is not included in the scheduling. The dam of the upper pond, Bishop's Waltham Pond, survives as a substantial earthwork. Despite later alterations the structure of the dam will survive and is included in the scheduling. The pond itself, which originally extended for a distance of over 300m north of the dam, has been bisected by the construction of the A333 and has had its overall extent modified by the construction of the railway and by reclamation on its west and east sides respectively. Consequently, only that part of the pond which lies south of the A333 is included in the scheduling. Also included is that part of the bank between the pond and the palace shown in 1785 as supporting a boathouse.

Although the Bishops of Winchester acquired Waltham in AD 904, it is not until the 12th century that there is the first evidence of an episcopal residence. The earliest surviving buildings, which provide the core of the kitchen, hall, tower and chamber, together with the chapel crypt, date to the episcopate of Henry of Blois (1129-1171), the nephew of Henry I. Excavation has produced evidence of a smaller stone building underlying the hall and great chamber. This may be the castle built by Henry of Blois at Waltham and slighted in 1155-6 after the accession of Henry II. The rebuilding of the kitchen and brewhouse took place in 1252 and extra chambers were added in 1339 and 1340.

In the late 14th century the palace was transformed by the rebuilding begun in 1378 by Bishop William of Wykeham and carried on almost until his death in 1404. Detailed surviving accounts show the scale and costs of the work and give details of some of the great craftsmen employed. The first effort was concentrated on rebuilding the hall and later the old brewhouse and bakehouse were demolished and rebuilt on their current site. A new service area was built at the north end of the hall only to be swept away during a second phase of rebuilding between 1387 and 1393. A new pantry, buttery and serving place were then built together with a chamber above them, while the kitchen was heightened and enlarged and a new larder was added. The third stage of reconstruction in 1394-6 involved the rebuilding of the lord's great chamber to the east of the tower, together with remodelling and rebuilding on the tower itself. In 1401 major alterations carried out to a long building in the inner court represent the final element of Wykeham's transformation of the palace.

Wykeham was succeeded by Henry Beaufort (1404-1447) who, in 1406, added a new storey to the west tower in which lay his private accommodation. Work was underway on a new chapel in 1416 but was not completed until 1427. Beaufort's last major programme of work was in 1438-1443 when a new gatehouse and the major range of buildings on the north side of the inner court were constructed.

Subsequent works by Bishop Langton (1493-1501) involved facing many timber framed buildings, including Beaufort's range of lodgings, with brick. He also rebuilt the gatehouse into the wall of the inner court and may also have been responsible for the construction of the wall with turrets which encloses the Lord's Garden.

The palace in this form was maintained as an active residence until the Civil War of the 17th century when considerable destruction was caused after the surrender of its royalist garrison. After the Restoration in 1660 some buildings were used for agricultural purposes while others acted as quarries for building materials. A survey of 1785 shows the grounds as they are today, including Palace House.

Palace House is Listed Grade II* and the granary to the east of Palace House is Listed Grade II as are the stables of the bishop's palace. Part of the monument, the palace buildings within the inner court, are in the care of the Secretary of State.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are Palace House and its associated outbuildings, swimming pool, tennis court, all paths, areas of hard standing and internal garden walls, Abbey Mill together with all modern fishing platforms, water management structures, road surfaces, street furniture, and all custodial, security and display fixtures and fittings; although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 26721

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hare, J N, Bishop's Waltham Palace, (1987)
Currie, C K, 'British Archaeological Reports - British Series' in Medieval Fishponds in Hampshire, , Vol. No.182, (1989), 267-289
Lewis, E, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in Excavations in Bishop's Waltham, , Vol. Vol 41, (1985), 81-126
Roberts, E, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in The Bishop of Winchester's Fishponds in Hampshire, , Vol. Vol 42, (1986)

End of official listing