The Bishop's Palace
Welcome to The Bishop's Palace. Home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years this stunning medieval palace is open for all to enjoy.
Surrounded by a breathtaking moat you can cross a flagstone drawbridge, under the portcullis and experience a true hidden gem in the heart of the City of Wells.
The Bishop’s Palace dates from the early-thirteenth century when Bishop Jocelin Trotman, the first Bishop to hold the title Bishop of Bath and Wells, received a crown licence to build a residence and deer park on land to the south of the Cathedral of St Andrew.
There are also 14 acres of gardens to explore, including the beautiful well pools from which the city takes its name, family events, guided walks, gifts from the shop and perhaps even a slice of cake with your afternoon tea. You are also welcome to look around the Bishop's private Chapel, explore the ruined Great Hall and meet the famous mute swans who live alongside the moat and ring a bell when they want food.
The Bishop's Palace is available for hire.
NEW! Multimedia guides are coming in 2012! You'll be able to explore the Palace and gardens in your own time, finding out secrets and stories never heard before.
NEW! Join in some fabulous events this year.
The 14 acres of gardens at The Bishop’s Palace are a haven of tranquillity and peace. There is evidence that a garden existed here even before Bishop Jocelin began work on the Palace c.1206. Over the years the gardens have changed as successive bishops have added their legacy.
Much of the existing landscaping on the South Lawn was carried out by Bishop George Henry Law in the mid-nineteenth century. This was an era when there was a great nostalgia for the medieval past. The Great Hall was in a state of decay by this time and Law wished to emphasise the impression of a romantic ruin by removing the south wall. The remaining wall and other masonry stand as a decorative curtain, pierced with the tracery of medieval windows and architectural fragments.
You are all free to play and picnic on the lawns enjoying a closer look at the flower beds, specimen trees and shrubs.
Take a look at what magnificent and unusual trees you could come across here: Tree Guide
So much to explore
A beautiful wooden bridge perfectly draped in willow tree branches takes you over the moat and leads you to the well pools and arboretum in the outer gardens.
There you will spot a small stone conduit, known as the Well House, which was built by Bishop Thomas Beckynton in 1451. The Well House is topped with a stone Talbot dog, Bishop Bekynton’s favourite hunting dog.
Within the tranquil pool in the outer gardens is the source of water from which the City of Wells takes its name. The calm surface, reflecting the Cathedral of St Andrew, belies the very great quantity of water that surges up from four “pots” within the silt.
The average flow from these is 40 gallons (100 litres) per second. From the well pool, the water flows into the moat to discharge over a weir into the River Sheppey. So best to avoid taking a dip in there!
On the far side of the wells, in front of the Cathedral, there are two more pools. One of these is the holy well of St Andrew. It is hoped that in the near future it will be possible to open this area to visitors for quiet contemplation.
Bring a picnic!
To the east is the Arboretum, planted in 1977 by Bishop John Bickersteth to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Some 27 years on, the trees are maturing and the green canopy has been under-planted with wild flowers. It really is a secret picnic spot in the heart of a Wells.
We've got a dragon in the arboretum!
Visitors will spot something very exciting as they enter the arboretum. Turning to greet is a 10 metre willow dragon that forms the end of an exciting children’s trail available in the Palace shop.
Like that flower?
Plants that are sold in the Palace shop are propagated here in the arboretum enabling you to grow a little bit of the Palace in your own backyard!
Alongside the Community Garden are the City Council Allotments. At some time, pipes were laid from the well pool (whose level is higher than the surrounding land) to troughs in the allotments and the gardeners here are able to fill their watering cans from an unfailing supply.
Unfortunately the City Allotments are not open to the public.
We made lots of changes and improved our facilities recently, including:
• New flagstone paving across the drawbridge – A beautiful paved path awaits you at the entrance now.
• Experience more for free! We’ve removed the chains just across the drawbridge entrance so you can now wander in for a coffee or lunch, to take a photo, to visit the shop or to pop to the toilets at no charge. Paid entry only remains for the Palace building, chapel, the gardens and events.
• Longer opening hours – we are open daily from Saturday 9th February, 2013 right through until December. Winter opening hours are 10am-4pm and summer hours are 10am-6pm.
• The Bishop’s Table, our new café, is open daily from 10am serving delicious locally-sourced homemade food and some great coffee.
• The new shop and visitor information centre – pop in for a bespoke souvenir or gift as well as to find out more about what you can see and do here.
• Brand new toilet facilities with disabled access and baby-change facilities. It’s worth popping in just to see the Stable Yard – a beautiful area located behind the Great Hall that has never been open to visitors before.
• Swan feeding platforms – we’ve built two new even platforms for you to gather on whilst you feed the ducks or watch our famous resident swans ring a bell when they want food.
• Garden areas – Look out for new borders on the South Lawn, new paths and knot gardens being built in the East Lawn.
• More benefits in our new Membership scheme. A great way to save money and enjoy some wonderful events and previews.
Find out more about the Development Project.