Wolvesey Castle

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Wolvesey Castle
Wolvesey Castle, Winchester 2014 23.jpg
Coordinates51°3′32.8″N 1°18′36.2″W / 51.059111°N 1.310056°W / 51.059111; -1.310056Coordinates: 51°3′32.8″N 1°18′36.2″W / 51.059111°N 1.310056°W / 51.059111; -1.310056
OS grid referenceSU 48459 29088
OwnerEnglish Heritage
Official name: Wolvesey Palace
Designated19 April 1915
Reference no.1005535
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name: Wolvesey Castle
Designated24 March 1950
Reference no.1095511
Wolvesey Castle is located in Central Winchester
Wolvesey Castle
Location of Wolvesey Castle in Central Winchester
Wolvesey Castle.
Ruins of Wolvesey Castle.

Wolvesey Castle, also known as the "Old Bishop's Palace",[1] is a ruined castle in Winchester, Hampshire, England. It is located next to Winchester Cathedral.[1]


The original palace on the site was built around 970 by Æthelwold of Winchester on a piece of land known as Wulveseye or Wulf's island, an eyot in the River Itchen east of the cathedral. About 1110, the second Norman bishop, William Giffard, constructed a new hall to the south west. His successor, Henry of Blois, brother of King Stephen added a second hall to the west between 1135 and 1138.[2]

A new palace in the baroque style was built to the south by Thomas Finch for George Morley in 1684. However, Brownlow North demolished all but the west wing of this palace in 1786. After a variety of different uses the remaining part was refurbished for use once again as the bishop's residence in 1926 by Theodore Woods.[3]


The castle was created by Henry of Blois in 1141 by linking the two Norman halls with a curtain wall which would have finally obliterated any remaining parts of the Anglo-Saxon palace. It was the scene for the Rout of Winchester in which the Empress Matilda assaulted the castle later in 1141, during the period of civil war known as The Anarchy. It was the castle's first and only siege, when it was held for Stephen by the retainers of Bishop Henry.

The besieged defenders of Wolvesey burnt with fireballs all the houses of the city which were too near the enceinte and gave cover to the enemy. Most of the old town of Winchester was destroyed. Empress Matilda's forces were held off for three weeks (August - September, 1141) until Stephen's wife, Matilda, arrived with reinforcements from London.[4]

Henry II is said to have slighted Wolvesey after the death of Bishop Henry in 1171. This did not include the destruction of the residential quarters as many later occupants of the see of Winchester dwelled there in high state. But the gate and portcullis were likely removed and some breaches made in the curtain .[4]

It was once a very important building, and was the location on 25 July 1554 of the wedding breakfast of Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain.[1][5] The castle was destroyed by Roundheads during the English Civil War in 1646.[6]

The chapel is the only considerable remnant of the south range of the castle, and is still in use, being attached to the palace.[3]

Current ownership[edit]

The extensive surviving ruins are currently owned and maintained by English Heritage.[1] The castle has had Grade I listed status since 24 March 1950,[6] as has the palace located on the same site.[7] A fair amount of the curtain wall remains, but nearly all the inner arrangements are gone, though it is possible to make out the hall, in which there is a good round arch and one surviving Norman window.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Wolvesey Castle (Old Bishop's Palace)". English Heritage. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  2. ^ Biddle, Martin. Wolvesey, The Old Bishops's Palace, Winchester. London: English Heritage. ISBN 1 85074 107 7.
  3. ^ a b "Wolvesey Palace". Historic England. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Charles W.C. Oman, Castles: An illustrated guide to 80 castles of England and Wales, Beekman House, 1978 Printing, ISBN 0-517-26196-0
  5. ^ Lorimer Poultney, ed. (2000). Three Palaces of the Bishops of Winchester. English Heritage.
  6. ^ a b Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1095511)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1095510)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 October 2013.