The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens is located in England’s smallest city, Wells, a place packed with history. Wells holds claim to Europe’s oldest purely residential street (Vicars’ Close), a 12th century Cathedral that was first to adopt a new French style in Britain, and of course Bishop’s Palace that has been at the core of the city for over 800 years.
A brief history of Bishop’s Palace
Bishop’s Palace was initially built for Bishop Jocelin in the 13th century near the Cathedral of St. Andrew. Over the years new Bishops took ownership, modifying and expanding the building, including the impressive moat and ramparts which makes an enchanting first impression. The Great Storm of 1703 was devastating for large parts of the country, including Bishop Kidder and his wife who were killed as they slept in bed by falling chimney stacks.
The shell remains of The Great Hall frame the city views and provide a unique backdrop for the colourful flowerbeds.
Bishop’s Palace Gardens
There are 14 acres of gardens to wander through around the palace that looked wonderful in the summer sunshine – highlights from this visit (in early July) were the East Garden’s roses, vibrant eryngiums, and the Wells Garden that offers stunning views of the Cathedral from several angles, including a picture postcard view of the tower reflecting in the still waters.
Open grassy areas around Bishop’s Palace make perfect picnic spots with a view, particularly the palace lawn which is occasionally used for croquet and is overlooked by a cafe called The Bishop’s Table.
Before you pay a visit, inspect the calendar of events at Bishop’s Palace to time your visit accordingly as in the summer months the gardens play host to numerous outdoor theatre shows and family-orientated activities like trainee gardening sessions.
Bishop’s Palace Gardens also has a Community Garden which welcomes volunteers and groups to learn about gardening and help grow an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
Bishop’s Palace Interior
The Bishop’s Palace interior delves into the history of the site and the Bishop’s who have lived there. Notable features include the stained glass windows which contain fragments from Normandy following the revolution. The entrance leads onto a beautiful banqueting hall that today is used for weddings and parties.
Upstairs is a gallery lined with paintings of the Bishop’s and glass cases containing robes and intriguing objects like a 17th century prayer book.
Bishop’s Palace and Garden Tickets
Admission to Bishop’s Palace is currently £15 per adult, but hold on to your ticket as you’re able to re-enter for free for a year from the date you visited, which makes it very good value if you live in the vicinity or would like to return. As mentioned earlier, check their calendar before you visit as additional charges may apply for special events and it may be closed for private events.
The opening hours for Bishop’s Palace is typically 10am to 6pm.
Cheap parking in Wells
There are numerous car parks in Wells within walking distance of The Bishop’s Palace, one of the nearest is South Street car park (BA5 1SJ) which is currently £2.60 for 3 hours and is also around the corner from free public toilets. You can pay for parking using the PayByPhone app which is very convenient if you don’t carry cash.