There is still to be described the
ruined episcopal palace of Wolvesey,
the fortified castle of Henry of Blois.
The ruins and the later 17th-century
palace (now used as a church house) and the adjoining
chapel lying immediately south-east of the cathedral
are reached by a footpath through the Close leading
by the Deanery and Cheyney Court (see supra) to the
Close gate and so out of the cathedral precincts.
Thence the road turns under Kingsgate, with its
superstructure the little church of St. Swithun, and
branches directly south along Kingsgate Street to
St. Cross and east, past the entrance to the college,
The ruins of Wolvesey Castle cover a considerable
area and have only a meadow and gardens between them
and the city walls on the south and east. The complete
plan of the buildings is not definitely known, but
soundings with a bar have revealed the existence of large
ranges of foundations on the west and adjoining the
17th-century building on the south. Of the eastern
and northern ranges a good deal still stands, and is in
the main 12th-century work of two dates, but both
probably falling within the episcopate of Henry
of Blois, 1129–71. The earlier work, probably
c. 1140, consists of the gate-house, curtain wall and
some buildings set against it on the north, a round
tower at the north-east, with the curtain running
from it to the middle of the north face of the keep,
the keep itself and the wall running from its southwest angle to the garderobe tower, the core of the
garderobe tower and the curtain running south-west
from it. The later work is represented by the great hall
and the added casing of the garderobe tower, and of
still later date are the chalk wall joining the outer angles
of the keep and garderobe tower, and that joining
the north-east angle of the keep and the round tower.
The earlier work is doubtless that recorded to
have been built by the bishop in 1138, and is plain
and solid, the walls faced with coursed flints over a
core of chalk and flint, and the keep is remarkable
for the use of small stone shafts used as bonding
stones through the walls, their ends showing on the
wall face as a sort of ornamental masonry course.
That they are older work used up in this manner is
proved by the fact that one exposed at the ground
level on the north side of the keep is worked with a
spiral fluting. By tradition they come from the
buildings of the New Minster, moved to Hyde in
1110, (fn. 1) and more of them are to be seen in the precinct wall north-east of the cathedral. The keep was
divided into three rooms on each of its two floors by
a cross wall from east to west, and a second wall
running north and south, dividing the space to the
north of the cross wall into two nearly equal parts.
There is no stone stair to the upper floor; there was
probably a wooden stair in the north-east angle and
at the north-west an attached fore building.
On the north side of the castle are the remains of
a set of rooms parallel to the curtain wall, and a
gate-house flanked by guard-rooms or the like, projecting a few feet in front of the curtain.
The great hall, belonging to the later work of
Bishop Henry, is now reduced to a mere fragment,
its north wall alone remaining to any considerable
height. But what remains is of most interesting
detail, with a range of clearstory windows above a
wall arcade of late Romanesque character. The
corbel head at the north-east angle, from which the
arcade springs, is, if original, a most remarkably
advanced piece of work. The hall stood north and
south, forming part of a block of buildings 29 ft. wide
by about 140 ft. long; the screens must have been
at the south end, and the south wall of the chambers
beyond the screens stands to nearly its full height,
showing detail of the same character as, but less
elaborate than, the north wall of the hall. From
this point a wall passage runs eastward to the garderobe
tower in the curtain, the nucleus of which, belonging
to the first work, is easily to be distinguished from
the massive later work which cases it and gives it
almost the look of a second keep.
The chapel is the only considerable remnant of
the south range of the castle, and is still in use, being
attached to the palace built by Bishop Morley in
1684. It is of plain 15th-century work and now
rather bare, but stands on older walls.
The fragment of Morley's palace is a very charming
piece of domestic work of two stories, faced with
wrought stone, with curved pediments over the
windows and a deep cornice; it stands north and
south, fronting eastward, having a projecting southeast wing balancing the chapel at the north-east. It
is now used as a clergy house.
Leland mentions a wet moat round the castle, but
no traces of this now remain.