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Wolvesey Palace
Home of Saxon Bishops

Wolvesey Castle, or Old Wolvesey Palace as it is sometimes known, has been the site of the Palace of the Bishops of Winchester since Saxon times. The present building is largely Norman in date, but the old Saxon buildings were excavated some years ago. Originally built around 1110, it was greatly expanded, beautified and fortified by Prince Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester during the Civil War of King Stephen's reign. He was the most powerful man in the country at the time (even more so than his brother, the King) though even he was, at one point, besieged in his castle for several days. In more peaceful centuries, the castle became a frequent lodging for Royal guests and Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain stayed here before there wedding in the Cathedral.

The inconvenient medievalism of Wolvesey was finally abandoned in the 1680s, when Bishop Morley built himself a fine baroque palace alongside. Only the castle chapel was incorporated into the new building, and old Wolvesey fell into ruin. Today it is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public throughout the summer. The shear bulk of the towers and size of the great halls still impress.

 

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.