Lincoln Medieval Bishops’ Palace

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April, 2015

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Being built on a steep slope, meant that the Bishop’s Palace had to be built on several levels. Now ruined, the site can be difficult to interpret and to visualise the relationship of the different buildings. There are a few signs around the site but much of it is left to guess work unless you have the audio guide. The guide book has a wealth of information but needs to be read before a visit and again afterwards. On a warm, sunny day the gardens are a lovely place to sit and relax.

The ALNWICK TOWER was built by Bishop William Alnwick to link the private apartments in the East Hall with the public West Hall. It is now the main entrance to the Palace and contains two rooms. The archway acted as a lobby between the west hall and the bishop’s private chapel. Above was the bishop’s privy chamber which gave him access to his private pew in the chapel. The room above was probably used by his private chaplain.

Steps from the Alnwick Tower, lead to a flat area which was Bishop William Alnwick’s Ante-Chapel, with vaulted storage areas beneath. There is nothing left of his chapel beyond. Below the chapel was the Bishop’s Audience Chamber which was reached off the east Hall.

Through the gateway, is a small steeply sloping grassy yard with a well. On the left is the C12th East Hall of Bishop Hugh. On the right is the C13th West Hall with the C19th chapel built above the service quarters.

The WEST HALL was begun by Bishop Hugh but finished by one of his successors. When finished, it was one of the finest aisled halls in medieval England and designed to reflect the power and importance of the Bishop of Lincoln. This was the public face of the Bishop and used to receive and entertain important guests and on feast days. Cathedral business was also carried out here. Now all that is left is a flat grassy area. At the far end are three blocked doorways which would have lead to the buttery, pantry and the kitchens. Built on the same level as the great hall, they had five large fireplaces. When I visited in April 2015, these were closed for restoration work.

Opposite the West Hall were the Bishop’s private apartments in the EAST HALL. The Bishop’s apartments were on the first floor with those of his household beneath.

The East Hall is reached off the central yard. It is now a large grassy area. Only the upper north end survives. The Bishop’s private rooms with latrine and wardrobe were at the south end. When Bishop William Alnwick moved his private quarters into the Alnwick Tower, this was refurbished to provide more working accommodation for himself and also for his growing household.

Steps lead down from the east side of the East Hall into what was the Bishop’s Audience Chamber below the chapel. Only the walls survive. This abuts the C19th stable block (now the shop and exhibition). On one wall is an elaborate buffet. Off the Audience chamber are are small vaulted chambers. One was the Treasury, the other a strong room.

The Lower East Hall is reached off the central yard. It is a large vaulted area subdivided into different areas. The Bishop’s household lived and worked here. By Bishop William Alnwick’s time it was no longer used as living quarters and was mainly used for storage.

The Lower Terrace Gardens are reached by stone steps either through a doorway from the Lower East Hall of from the bottom of the grassy yard. These were established in the C14th by Bishop Henry Bughersh, who was a keen gardener. Set under a tall wall to the south of the Palace, they have views across the city. The first garden was replanted in 2001with nine tightly clipped hornbeams set in grass. There are neatly clipped yew hedges round the walls with seats. This is a lovely place to drop out on a sunny day.

Beyond it under the walls of the Bishop’s Palace is the most northerly working vineyards in Europe. Three different varieties of white grapes from the north side of the Rhine are grown here.

There isn’t a lot left of the ruins. This wouldn’t rank as one of the must sees of Lincoln and you do need to visit on a fine day. I’m not sure that it is worth the £4.80 (or £4,30 for seniors) admission charge. There are good views up to the Cathedral and down over the city. The gardens are a lovely place to drop out on a warm, sunny day.

There is more information and pictures “here.”:


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