Bishop’s Palace dates back to early 13th century, when the first Bishop of Bath and Wells – Bishop Jocelin Trotman – received permission to build a residence near the cathedral. I decided to visit the palace, after attending the morning service at Wells cathedral and exploring the area around the cathedral.
Since there was some time before the palace opened for visitors, I decided to walk around the moat area. What caught my attention first was the sleeping pigeons on the branches of a tree.
As I walked further along the moat, I came upon the famous swans of the palace. Since a Bishop’s daughter had taught the swans to ring the bell for food in 1870, a tradition of training the resident swans to ring the bell has been followed. I came upon this little herd gliding by. They didn’t ring the bell during my walk though. Visitors interested in feeding the swans, or other birds, can purchase bird food from the palace shop.
The view of the cathedral and the palace from a garden near the moat was lovely, despite the heavy clouds in the sky.
I was back at the gatehouse at 10am and was the first visitor of the day. From one end of the croquet lawn, there was a lovely view of the main entrance of the palace as well as the entrance to the chapel.
I decided to leave the interior of the palace for last and turned towards the ruins of the Great Hall, through which I stepped into the south lawn.
Walking through the lawn, I reached the ramparts and climbed up the steps. I had read that the Glastonbury Tor could be seen from the ramparts. Perhaps because it was a cloudy day, I could not see the Tor, though I thought I had spotted the hill in the distance. The land behind the palace had been the Bishop’s deer park in the past.
I walked across the length of the rampart and climbed down to the formal gardens behind the palace.
Walking past the gardens, I came to a little wooden bridge that crossed the moat and led to the most important part of the city.
I took one of the paths curving around the well pool, which gave the city its name, and whose water fed the moat around the palace.
After walking around the garden of reflection, I decided to explore the interior of the palace. I first visited the lovely little chapel.
After spending some time in the quiet chapel, I made my way to the entrance porch of the palace and entered the entrance hall. One of the Bishops had a habit of dining with 12 poor men and women at the table at the centre. While the entrance hall is part of the original 13th century construction, the fireplace near the table is a later addition.
Through a door at the end of the hall, I entered the Undercroft, which had also been part of the original medieval palace. It is now available for hire for events.
Climbing up the Jacobean stairs, I came upon the long gallery which had the portraits of the different Bishops of Wells. The long gallery led to the drawing room, where there were some objects on exhibit. I found the Abbots chair and the Glastonbury chair of interest. According to the information sheet by the oak chair, the Glastonbury chair was a term used to refer to wooden chairs in the 19th century. However, this particular Glastonbury chair was made for John Thorne, who was a monk and a treasurer at Glastonbury abbey during the dissolution and who was subsequently executed at Glastonbury Tor in 1539.
The room next to the drawing room is currently used as a conference room and during my visit, had an art exhibition going on. Both rooms together used to be the great hall.
The last room open for visitors on this floor was the solar, which had an art installation of an angel during my visit.
I walked back down the steps and lingered by the croquet lawn, for my last snaps of the palace, before I left Wells.
What feature of the Wells Bishop’s palace fascinates you the most?