A future for our heritage
The Palace Trust oversaw a number of exciting developments at The Bishop’s Palace in 2012, transforming the visitor experience and improving facilities. Preserving an important part of the nation’s heritage, as well as benefiting the people of Somerset, the development was essential to provide a sustainable future for The Bishop’s Palace.
Building Excellence award for new developments
We're delighted that the new visitor services developments listed below were recognised with a William Stansell / Somerset Building Preservation Trust award for 'Building Excellence' in December 2012.
Caroe & Partners, the architects for the new visitor facilities will receive the award in early 2013.
"We wanted to create something that had little impact on the historic environment and blended into the natural environment as much as possible" says Sarah Duthie, General Manager.
"We are especially proud of these new buildings that produce energy from solar panels, keep everyone warm with underfloor heating powered by coils lowered into the surrounding moat and have minimal intrusion on the natural environment of medieval moat walls and archways. We’re even producing fruit and vegetables from the new Community Garden within the grounds that will be used in seasonal menus in the new ‘green’ café".
What did we build in 2012?
A new kind of visitor experience. With incredible views across the croquet lawn of the palace and Great Hall ruins, visitors can now access a new visitor centre at no charge. Admission charges remain only in place for full access to the palace, gardens and events in the grounds.
Development plans have been sympathetic to the unique and tranquil surroundings of the palace and gardens and fully intend to enhance this beautiful environment.
So far we have completed:
Two new viewing points have been built for visitors to get a better view of Wells’ famous swans
The Bishop's Table
Open to all this stunning glass and timber café restaurant has proved a real hit with local residents and visitors. With breath-taking views of the croquet lawn and an outdoor terrace, it's always busy!
New shop and ticket office
Adjacent to the café is the new palace shop and ticket office A great place to come for a special gift, Palace souvenir or information on how to become a Member.
A fuller appreciation of the medieval architecture in the oldest part of the Palace has become a focus for exploring the Palace’s history and development. Visitors can enjoy an aerial view projection here showing the history and development of the site from the 1200's to the present day.
Brand new washrooms and baby change facilities are now easily accessible to all visitors.
A dedicated space for education groups, particularly schools. The Palace offers hands-on workshops inspiring lifelong learning n the community.
Visitors are now enjoying improved information across and inside the Palace and gardens.
A volunteer and staff office
A dedicated space for our hard-working volunteers to take a break and for staff to be located in the hub of the visitor environment.
The plant room
This renewable energy area will accommodate the water source heat pump that generates energy from the moat to provide underfloor heating and hot water for you all to enjoy!
New pathway to St Andrew’s Well
A new bridge now links to a path through ‘Scotland’, an area previously closed to the public and site of the ancient well dedicated to St Andrew.
Lift to the first floor of the Palace
An existing staircase has been modified to fit the lift neatly within the stairwell and is being used daily by our visitors. This design solution minimised any impact on historic structures.
An exhibition exploring artefacts and objects found across the Diocese of Bath & Wells has been enjoyed by thousands of people who have discovered stories of bishops, kings, dragons and bell ringers. +Treasures will return in February 2013.
New for 2013
Improvements to the Palace Green
The approach to the gatehouse will be further landscaped to enhance visitors’ first view of the Palace. Grass areas will be repaired and new surfacing will define a clear route into the Palace.
Community activities within the new garden (set to open fully in the spring of 2013) will enhance the health and well-being of local people and help restore the tradition of productive gardens at the Palace.
From the archives
A wealth of historic sources, including the views and plans, will help give visitors a new perspective on the Palace’s history.
Archaeology and history
Excavation and research at the Palace steadily add to our understanding of this complex site. For example, in areas such as the medieval floor surrounding the great hall and the restoration of Bishop Law’s waterwheel.
Garden of Reflection
The sculpted grass covered landform will introduce a dramatic elevated viewpoint from where to enjoy the new wider garden, the Palace and the Cathedral.
The Garden of Reflection would be linked to the new Community Garden through a shared orchard.
The reflecting pool, in the most secluded part of the garden, is a peaceful place for contemplation and reflection.
Why does the Palace need such development?
The Bishop’s Palace is a unique UK site of significant importance Limited accessibility and lack of visitor facilities, especially interpretation materials, has meant that the 40,000 visitors who pass through the gateway each year often leave after a short duration, feeling unrewarded and with limited understanding of the site’s historical importance and purpose.
The Palace Trust and supporters view this exciting new development as essential for the future of this important historical site.
How has this been funded?
Thanks to generous financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, significant grants from the Church Commissioners, Viridor Credits and contributions from other charitable trusts, individual donors and companies we have been able to initiate the transformation of the Bishop’s Palace. In total over £4 million has been raised to date, but we still need to raise a further £400,000 to ensure that we can complete all of the exciting developments on site.
You can still help us reach our targets and contribute towards creating a sustainable future for the Bishop’s Palace. At the same time you will be helping to preserve an important part of the nation’s heritage, as well as contributing to a project that will benefit the people of Somerset.
Please visit our Support us pages to find out how you can help fundraise, or contact our Fundraising Manager, Joanna Hall to learn how you can get involved. Alternatively, donations can be made online through VirginMoney or cheques, payable to The Palace Trust, sent to Joanna Hall at the The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2PD.
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