Bishop’s Waltham Palace lies just ten miles away from Winchester Cathedral and was the noble palace of it’s Bishop’s who built a splendid residence for themselves and a 1000 acre park. Henry de Blois, that inveterate builder, began to build it as a castle in 1136. One of his successors, William of Wykeham finished it as a palace until eventually in the C15th, Bishop Thomas Langton built a wall around and erected the garden house.
It is a ruin steeped in a sumptious history.
King Henry II called a council at Bishop’s Waltham in 1182, to ask his nobles for supplies and to plan a Crusade, but that was only the beginning of a succession of royal visits. Seven years later, King Richard I stayed at the palace and was entertained after his crowning at Winchester and before embarking on his last Crusade.
It is said that when Margaret de Anjou visited, she slept in a bed painted blue and gold, the bed in which both Bishop William of Waynfleete and Bishop William of Wykeham died.
In 1415, the year of his great victory at Agincourt, King Henry V came to stay here.
In the following century King Henry VIII stayed at Bishop’s Waltham Palace before embarking for France where he would meet with King Francis in one of the most unusual diplomatic meetings, the “Field of the Cloth of Gold”.
There are a series of buildings, the West Tower was the Bishop’s residence and was built in the C12th. Bishop Wykeham added to it in the C14th. The steps leading into it tempt the eyes upwards to the five great windows with embattled transoms. Now shrouded with ivy the tower has quite an ‘Arthurian’ feel to it.
From the tower springs the great hall, again built in the C12th and then rebuilt during the time of Wykeham. What is striking about the ruins of the Great Hall are the majestic windows. They are statements of power in no uncertain terms. The chapel and crypt are across the way from the tower, not begun until 1416 by Bishop Beaufort but presumably there must have been a previous church?
In order to service such a household, there would have been a great number of servants who needed to be fed and housed. The brewhouse is almost as long as the Great Hall itself.
Click here to download an audio guided tour http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bishops-waltham-palace/audio-tour/
St. Peter’s Church, Bishop’s Waltham is an important and historic church, closely associated in its earlier years
with the Bishops of Winchester who frequently lived in the nearby Palace, until it was destroyed during the
Civil War. Henry of Blois, who founded the present building; William of Wykeham, who probably built the
chancel; and Lancelot Andrewes, who gave the Jacobean pulpit, were just three of the great figures of church
and state who had close connections with St. Peter’s.
The town of Waltham, was burnt by the Danes in 1001. At the time of Domesday in 1086, the priest was Radul.
In 1136, Henry of Blois, started building a much larger church on the present site, and away from the palace
and pond. He was a grandson of William the Conqueror, and brother of King Stephen. He was appointed
Bishop of Winchester in 1129, a post he held until 1171.
Bishop Henry of Blois was a man of great wealth and culture, interested in art and architecture. His many building projects included Farnham and Wolvesey Castles and the rebuilding of West Meon church. In 1135, he founded the magnificent Hospital of St. Cross. He endowed it, giving his Hospital the right to appoint the rectors of Bishop’s Waltham. This later reverted to the Bishop. Henry of Blois also founded the Palace at Bishop’s Waltham. In the middle ages, the palace was one of the favourite residences of bishops such as William of Wykeham and Cardinal Henry Beaufort, and it was often visited by royalty. Scarcely anything remains of the twelfth century church, apart from some fragments of the south arcade capitals found in 1897, and now on display beneath the pulpit. The earliest dates from about 1200 when Godfrey de Lucy was Bishop (1189-1204).
Like all medieval churches St. Peter’s has been rebuilt, enlarged and restored in succeeding centuries, to counter the ravages of time and to meet the changing needs of the generations. St. Peter’s is unusual in having extensive alterations dating from the late sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries. In 1797 a gallery was built over the south aisle and this included the insertion of dormer windows to provide light. By 1822 the gallery was in danger of collapse and had to be supported with stone pillars.