Lamphey Bishop's Palace
Lamphey Bishop's Palace
A ruined medieval retreat for the bishops of St David's, located in a lovely rural setting. The palace is mainly the work of Henry de Gower, Bishop of St David's from 1328 to 1347.
Think of Lamphey not as a palace in the usual sense of the word, but a place to get away from it all; a retreat from the hustle and bustle of St David's, the seat of the powerful Bishops. Though many of the buildings we see today were the work of Bishop de Gower and his successors, Lamphey was actually in use before the Norman Conquest. Geraldus Cambrensis, the 12th century Welsh historian, says that the last pre-Norman bishops established a country residence at Lamphey. And not only the bishops came here; Lamphey was used by powerful church officials in addition to the bishops of St Davids. Here at Lamphey they could let their hair down and play at being country nobility.

It was left to the Norman bishops, however, especially Bishop de Gower, to turn Lamphey into an grand country palace, suitable for a medieval bishop. The Norman bishops added ranges of buildings including a great hall - the centre of communal life in the palace - plus the Old Hall and West Hall.

The great hall interior
The great hall interior
The Great Hall is the most impressive structure at Lamphey (aside from the free-standing bell-tower, which really does deserve special mention). The hall is 25 metres long (about 82 feet), and though it is ruined, the architecture gives you some idea of just how sumptuous the palace must have been during its heyday.

After the Reformation Lamphey passed through several sets of private owners and was eventually purchased by the Earl of Essex. After Essex fell from grace in the reign of Elizabeth I the palace was allowed to decay until it became a romantic ruin. How romantic? Well, the headless spectre of the unfortunate Earl is said to haunt the ruins. Other ghostly sightings include a group of singing nuns, which, if you have to see spirits, sounds fairly innocuous!

The major historic features on the site include the outer wall, still standing to its full height in most places, the striking central bell tower, a chapel, and several smaller halls and ranges of domestic rooms. The palace is a fascinating glimpse into the private lifestyle of powerful medieval churchmen.

The outer wall arcading
The outer wall arcading
Steps to a vaulted undercroft
Steps to a storage undercroft
Ruined and roofless walls
Ruined and roofless walls
The bell tower
The bell tower
Remains of a corner chimney
Remains of a corner chimney
Window tracery in the chapel
Window tracery in the chapel