The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

St Davids Bishops Palace

In the community of St Davids and the Cathedral Close.
In the historic county of Pembrokeshire.
Modern authority of Pembrokeshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SM75032547
Latitude 51.88213° Longitude -5.27046°

St Davids Bishops Palace has been described as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


St Davids was the largest and most important medieval diocese in Wales. The cathedral housed the relics of the sixth-century saint, David, patron saint of Wales, and attracted substantial numbers of pilgrims, including King William I. Until the appointment of Bishop Henry de Gower in 1328, it is unsure where the bishops lived. De Gower erected two separate ranges of rooms, one for his own private and a second suitable for ceremonial occasions, where he could entertain important guests and distinguished pilgrims to St Davids. Both sets of chambers were built at first floor level above vaulted under crofts and entered by elaborate porches. The crowning glory, however, was still the distinctive chequered arcaded parapet, which, although faded, still has the effect of unifying the group of buildings. There seems to be no evidence of building work since the death of de Gower in 1347 apart from the close wall and gates being repaired by Bishop Adam de Houghton between 1362 and 1389. Increasingly, Bishops stayed less at St Davids and by the middle of the sixteenth century, the chief Episcopal residence was at Abergwili, Carmarthen. In 1616 Bishop Milbourne applied for a licence to demolish some of the buildings and although the work was not carried, the buildings were considered in a poor condition. Later in 1678, when Bishop William Thomas sought another licence to demolish the palace, it was beyond repair. (Coflein)

Situated W of the Cathedral on the opposite bank of the River Alun. C12 to C16 bishop's palace, outstanding among the episcopal palaces of Britain, started about 1200 and substantially built under Bishop Bek (1280-96) and Bishop Gower (1328-47). The ruination of the palace began with the stripping of the lead from the Great Hall under Bishop Barlow (1536-48) and the whole is now roofless. A single large quadrangle with the principal buildings towards the S side, though the earliest surviving work is probably the NE enclosure wall and NW range. Entrance by plain late C13 gatehouse at left end of NE wall, with supposed private chapel of mid C14 adjoining, raised on vaulted undercroft. Late C13 Bishop's Hall on E side with the arcaded parapets associated with Bishop Gower's work (Lamphey Palace, Swansea Castle and Gower's Great Hall here). Carved gateway up broad flight of steps with semi-octagonal head characteristic of Gower's work and related to Bristol school. To N of Bishop's Hall is the solar, late C13, and to the S the kitchen, late C14. On S side is the great hall, mid C14, with striking ogee headed doorway, reached by broad flight of steps, long lancet windows and fine E end rose window. Arcaded parapet with varicoloured voussoirs. Late C14 bishop's chapel at W end with W bell turret. Domestic buildings and stables probably occupied W side of quadrangle. Late C15 or C16 wing SE of solar. (Listed Building Report)

Constructed between C12 and C16, although there were two main phases of constrution, 1280-96, and 1328-47. Quadrangular plan with the main buildings located towards the S side. Entrance through late C13 gatehouse at the left of the NE wall. Bishop's Hall of the same period on E side. Mid C14 Great Hall on S side, with striking ogee headed doorway. Arcaded parapet with varicoloured voussoirs. Late C14 bishop's chapel at W end with W bellcote. W side of quadrangle probably occupied by domestic buildings.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Coflein   County HER       Listing    
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   Historic Wales   V. O. B.   Geology   LIDAR  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, the four welsh archaeological trusts and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain Designated Historic Asset Descriptive Information from The Welsh Historic Environment Service (Cadw), licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown.
Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Lidar coverage in the UK is not complete. The button above will give an idea of the area of coverage. Higher resolution lidar images in both DSM and DTM form may be available from Lle A geo-Portal for Wales (click the preview tag to bring up a map and then select format byclicking on the small blue diamond in the top right corner of the map.)
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of the described site.

This record last updated before 1 February 2016