Lincoln Medieval Bishops’ Palace

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Things to do


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April, 2015

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After the Norman Conquest, the diocese of Lincoln stretched from the Thames to the Humber. The castle and “cathedral”: reflect this importance and dominate views of the town. The Medieval Bishop’s Palace reflected the wealth and power of the Bishopric.

The ruins of what was once one of the grandest palaces in England lie on the steep slope to the south of the Cathedral. It is a lovely site but don’t go expecting to see a lot, as the Palace was sacked during the Civil War and apart from the Alnwick Tower, all that is left are the foundations of the buildings and a few walls. Don’t be put off as it is worth visiting, especially with the audio guide. It is a hidden gem, tucked away from the bustle of the city. The gardens contain one of the most northerly working vineyards in Europe and have splendid views across the city of Lincoln with the Cathedral towering above it. Next to it is the Victorian Bishop’s Palace which is now a hotel.

Surrounded by a high wall, the plan is typical of all Bishop’s Palaces with two hall ranges. One was for private use with a chapel attached. The other was for public display, Cathedral business and ceremonial occasions.

At first, the Bishops lived in the Castle until they were granted land by King Stephen to build a Palace in the C12th. The Civil War between Stephen and Matilda meant that building didn’t begin until more settled times under Henry II when Bishop Chesney began to build the Palace for himself and his large household. In 1166, an earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and perhaps also Bishop Cheney’s Palace. Bishop Hugh rebuilt the cathedral and then began to rebuild the Bishop’s Palace in the C13th. In the C14th, Bishop Henry Bughersh acquired to land to the south of the Palace to provide a terraced garden. In the C15th Bishop William Alnwick modernised the palace and built the entrance Tower as well as a chapel and audience chamber adjacent to the East Hall.

During the Civil War the lead was removed from the roof by the Parliamentarians, presumably for making shot. Later the buildings were fired. At the Restoration of Charles II, the buildings were regarded as beyond economic repair. In the 1880s, an impressive new palace was built. After the Second World War this was considered too large and the buildings are now a hotel and conference Centre. The ruins of the Medieval Palace were placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works and now English Heritage.

The shop, ticket office and exhibition are in the C19th stable block adjacent to the Alnwick Tower, built by Bishop William Alnwick in the C15th which is the main entrance into the Bishop’s Palace.

The Palace is open weekends during the winter months and Wednesdays-Sundays during the summer. There is some parking on Minster Close, otherwise the nearest car park is on Westgate, behind the Castle. The nearest postal code is LN2 1PU and the grid reference is SK978717.


The ruins are tucked away on the steep slope below the cathedral and not visible from it. Leaving the cathedral, follow Minster Yard round to the south side of the cathedral. The Bishop’s Palace is signed down an enclosed alleyway opposite the south transept of the cathedral. Steps lead down the bank to the entrance.

For level access, follow the wall round past this alleyway to a gateway. There is disabled parking for one car in front of the shop. There is level access into the shop and exhibition area, but not the Palace. This is reached down rough stone steps. There are more steps and steep slopes to negotiate.

I have written a “separate description”: of the inside of the Bishop’s Palace.

There are more pictures “here.”:



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