St Davids Bishops Palace

St Davids, United Kingdom

St Davids Bishops Palace is a ruined medieval palace located adjacent to St Davids Cathedral, one of the most important ecclesiastical sites in Wales. The site dates back to the 6th century, although the building that stands today dates largely from the late 13th and 14th centuries.

The original monastery that stood on the site was established in the 6th century and, over the succeeding four centuries, was ransacked at least 10 times by Norse raiders. The arrival of the Normans in the 11th century brought some stability. They appointed a Norman bishop and attempted to protect the site by building a motte and bailey fort and, later, a stone defensive wall.

In 1284, King Edward I visited St Davids on a pilgrimage and this visit may have inspired some earlier work because Bishop Thomas Bek, who served from 1280–93, was among his former statesmen. Bishop Bek was responsible for construction of the chapel in the south-west corner, the hall, the private apartments and the gate.

The man responsible for much of the site that can be seen today was Bishop Henry de Gower (1328–47). He carried out major works in the cathedral itself, built the Great Hall with wheel window in the east gable, the distinctive arcaded parapet and the porch. Gower's main legacy is the two great ranges. The east range – the simpler of the two – was the first to be built. The much grander south range was built for entertaining.

The beginning of the Reformation also heralded the decline of the Bishops Palace. In 1536 Bishop William Barlow stripped the lead from the roof. Legend has it that he used the money to pay for the dowries of his five daughters. However, as he had no daughters at that time, and the first marriage of a daughter did not occur until about 25 years later, the story was probably fabricated by his many enemies. He made so much money from this that a sixteenth-century account said that more than twelve years revenue of the bishopric would have been needed to cover the cost of replacing it, and the building fell into disrepair. Bishops stayed less at St Davids and, by the middle of the 16th century, the chief episcopal residence had been relocated to Abergwili, Carmarthenshire. In 1616, Bishop Richard Milbourne applied for a licence to demolish some of the buildings. By 1678, when another licence for demolition was sought, the palace was considered beyond repair.



Your name


Founded: 13th century
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Simon Protheroe (7 months ago)
Very pretty ruin, good informative displays.
Rholda Leff (8 months ago)
Fascinating ruin with beautiful original tiles and window
Helen HelenO (11 months ago)
Unfortunately this was closed but still worth a visit. Beautiful ruins, stunning Cathedral set in a lovely environment. at Davids City is gorgeous.
Conor (2 years ago)
Welsh history at its finest, I truly didn't plan for enough time here I could've spent all day walking round taking it what has happened here over the years. Very well preserved and staff are very helpful. Would recommend having a flashlight as can get dark on some parts.
Wander “Wanderlust78” wander 78 (2 years ago)
BEAUTIFUL BISHOPS PALACE.... Nice relaxing walk around the well maintained grounds, with some great scenic viewpoints. Excellent information boards that also come in audio. £4 entry fee is a bit much, the cathedral is just next door. Partly wheelchair accessible. Giftshop.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week


Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.

The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.

Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.

The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.

Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.