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Claverton manor of the bishop of Bath and Wells

In the civil parish of Claverton.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Bath and North East Somerset.
1974 county of Avon.
Medieval County of Somerset.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST787641
Latitude 51.37612° Longitude -2.30624°

Claverton manor of the bishop of Bath and Wells has been described as a probable Palace.

There are no visible remains.


The manor of Claverton, which later formed part of the estate belonging to the bishopric of Bath and Wells, was acquired in 1106 by bishop John of Tours (1088-1122) together with other property, from Hugh Barbatus. The bishopric retained the manor and lordship until 1548, when King Edward VI obtained it from Bishop Barlow, along with much of the bishopric's property. There was probably an episcopal manor house at Claverton by the time of bishop Drokensford (1309-29), who signed at least six separately dated documents there. The close proximity of some of these dates suggests that Drokensford was spending periods of time at Claverton, presumably at his own residence, rather than just passing through to attend to some business.
The Historia Minor, a chronicle of Wells preserved in a register in the Wells Cathedral Registry, ends with the accession of Bishop Harewell, suggesting that it was written soon after 1367. This manuscript is short, but the description of the episcopate of Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-63) is lengthier and more detailed than the rest of the document: "We cannot mistake the personal touch of this description of the good bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury. The writer may have been one of his canons.., or one of the vicars choral." This apparently reliable source reveals to us that Bishop Ralph built a new chapel at Winscombe and a court house at Claverton: "Hic eciam construxit de novo capellam de Wynescumbe et totam curium de Claverton." The use of the word "totam" appears to indicate that Bishop Ralph constructed an entire new building at Claverton, but perhaps this constituted a rebuilding rather than the construction of a new manor house.
Nothing is known to survive of Claverton's episcopal manor house and its exact location is not certain. There is a local tradition that the episcopal manor house stood to the south of the church in a field called Orchard Close. In 1928 there were still some "banks and heaps which are said to mark the site" which enclosed a rectangular area approximately 70 by 66 feet. A small excavation was undertaken here in 1928 and "a rough stone floor" was located in the centre of the earthwork platform. The possible floor may have represented "merely the broken pieces of stone left behind when the best were taken" and any wall foundations at the site appeared to have been removed entirely, although some lime mortar was found.' Some Romano-British and seventeenth and eighteenth century pottery was recovered, but no medieval sherds were found, perhaps suggesting that Orchard Close was not the site of the lost episcopal residence. The location of Orchard Close is not clear; on the tithe apportionment for Claverton, plot 28 is titled Bassett's Home Orchard.
The site of the late sixteenth century manor house, built by a post-episcopal lord of the manor, is immediately to the north of Claverton church. The seventeenth century terraced garden survives, although the house was taken down by John Vivian in 1820 and a new house was constructed to the west, some distance to the west, although part of the north wing of the old manor may have been incorporated into a surviving cottage. It is possible that the site of the fourteenth century episcopal manor house was preserved into the later Middle Ages as the home of the lord of the manor. (Payne 2003)

The traditional location, given by Grey, is just to the south of the parish church but Payne suggests the site of the, now lost, C16 manor house just north of the church.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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