History in Structure

The Old Palace

A Grade I Listed Building in Worcester, Worcestershire

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Latitude: 52.1897 / 52°11'22"N

Longitude: -2.2221 / 2°13'19"W

OS Eastings: 384913

OS Northings: 254630

OS Grid: SO849546

Mapcode National: GBR 1G4.P0L

Mapcode Global: VH92T.F7M6

Plus Code: 9C4V5QQH+V5

Entry Name: The Old Palace

Listing Date: 22 May 1954

Last Amended: 27 June 2001

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1389763

English Heritage Legacy ID: 488714

Also known as: The Bishop's Palace
The Old Palace, Worcester

ID on this website: 101389763

Location: Worcester, Worcestershire, WR1

County: Worcestershire

District: Worcester

Electoral Ward/Division: Cathedral

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Worcester

Traditional County: Worcestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Worcestershire

Church of England Parish: Worcester St Nicholas and All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Worcester

Tagged with: Architectural structure Episcopal palace

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620-1/16/209 (West side)
22/05/5 4 The Old Palace
(Formerly Listed as:
(West side)
The Deanery)


Formerly the Episcopal Palace, now Diocesan offices. Origins
c1200-35, additions c1268-1302 for Bishop Godfrey Gifford
(including the Abbot's Kitchen and Abbot's Hall); additions
and alterations (including substantial alterations and
truncation of the Chapel) c1560s for Dr Edwin Sandys re-using
earlier materials; further embellishments for Bishop Skinner
(particularly to Chapel) c1663-70; additions and alterations
to east facade probably c1719-23 for Bishop John Hough by
architects William and Francis Smith of Tettenhall,
Staffordshire; extensive repairs for Dr James Johnson
including some rebuilding to west facade c1759-74; further
alterations including addition of bay window to drawing room
for Bishop Richard Hurd c1781-7.
Red sandstone ashlar to front facade with white sandstone
ashlar dressings (including pilasters, architraves, floor
bands, cornice, and copings; pinkish-brown brick stacks with
ashlar cornices, and pots, plain tile roof.
PLAN: complex with irregular additions and irregular floor
levels. The Palace is situated on a slope, so that the rear
(west) facade has an additional lower storey, which includes
at north west the medieval Abbot's kitchen, above which (to
first floor) is the Great Hall. To the south of the former
hall porch is the Chapel which formerly ran the length of the
hall but was truncated so that the chancel only survives, its
liturgical axis was altered in the process (for Dr Sandys),
the main window, now to south, overlooks a small courtyard.
There is a further courtyard to the north of the hall. The
east facade (now the main facade) was regularized with an
addition 1-room deep including central hallway.
EXTERIOR: Main (east) facade: 2 storeys (with further, lower
storey and attics to rear), 4:3:4 first-floor windows. Central
breakforward with end pilasters and wide, segmental pediment
containing arms of Bishop Hough; cavetto-moulded cornice and
embattled, coped parapet. Plinth has shaped, roll-edged
copings which form sill band to ground-floor windows. Double
cavetto-moulded first-floor band. Ground
floor has 6/6 sashes; first floor has mainly 9/6 sashes. All
sash windows are cambered-arched and in moulded ashlar
surrounds with stepped keystones; first-floor windows have
moulded sills and aprons. Central first-floor window is an
oculus with radial glazing bars and has tooled architrave and
4 voussoirs. Central entrance, double
8-raised-and-fielded-panel doors with 2 raised and fielded
panels over and plain fanlight, in pilastered surround and
with cavetto-moulded architrave and keystone.
Rear (west) facade of 2 and 3 storeys with attics, 4 irregular
bays. From left (south): canted 2-storey bay, the ground floor
of which is open with 3 round arches and has within a
trefoil-headed lancet; to first floor are three 1/1 sashes
with blind boxes. Second bay of 2 storeys with attic, 1
first-floor window; ground floor has flight of steps to
pointed-arched entrance with plank door with raised 'Y'
moulding, then 2-cusped-light window with quatrefoil to head
and hoodmould. First-floor band surmounted by window of 5
stepped trefoil-headed lancet lights with transoms and
continuous hoodmould. Above, to attic storey a small lancet
light with louvered cover. Third bay breaks forward. 3 storeys
with attics, 3 first-floor windows. Chamfered plinth,
continuous first- and second-floor sill bands. Ground and
third floors have 8/8 sashes; first floor has 6/6 sashes, all
in plain reveals, and with sills to ground and first floors. 3
attic roof dormers have casement windows. The right return of
the third bay has entrance to ground floor a plank door with
fanlight, similar sash windows to first and second floors.
Fourth bay is recessed: 2 storeys with attic, 2 first-floor
windows. Ground floor has 2 pointed lancets; first floor has
half a 2-light window with geometrical tracery to head;
hoodmoulds. Gabled attic dormer has casement windows. External
stack to facade; right end has off-set buttress to angle. To
north courtyard a 12/9 cambered-arched staircase sash with
thick ovolo glazing bars and retaining much original glass. To
south, internal courtyard a 5-light Perpendicular window.
INTERIOR: lower ground floor has Abbot's Kitchen with four
bays of rib-vaulting, the ribs spring from corbels
approximately 1.25 metres from ground and form quatrepartite
bays, but with an added longitudinal ridge-rib with foliate
bosses. Blocked pointed window to east with 2 orders of
roll-moulding and hoodmould with face stops; further opening
with pointed plank door and roll moulding. Tall lancet window
in west wall has deeply-chamfered reveals. Inserted fireplace
to north wall, also a pointed doorway (part blocked) and
further entrance a pointed plank door to south wall in
double-chamfered pointed arched opening with hoodmould. To
north-east a C17 closed-string, dogleg
staircase gives access to great hall, shaped rod-on-vase
balusters and shaped handrail. Further vaulted passages to
undercroft and cellar with further medieval openings and
walls. Ground floor: central hallway has wide staircase with
elaborately carved tread ends and 3 balusters per tread, a
central barleytwist-on-vase between rod-on-vase; shaped
handrail with slight wreath and curved, wider lower step. Dado
with raised and fielded panelling. Moulded cornice. C17 dogleg
staircase to south has rod-on-vase balusters, ramped and
shaped handrail, shallow wreath and carved tread ends. First
floor: tall arch to head of main staircase gives access to
landing and, to north, the Great Hall (over Abbot's Kitchen).
Great Hall much redone, roof with ovolo-moulded beams on
arched braces. To east end a large Perpendicular doorway with
a steep arch with 2 orders of continuous ovolo mouldings and
hoodmould; early C17 chimneypiece with overmantel (removed
during late C18 from one of prebendyl houses) has strapwork to
overmantel and coats of arms; allegorical female figures over
caryatids; panelling to dado. Chapel retains trefoil-headed
piscina, 5-light late Perpendicular window with stained glass
probably c1800 in south wall; C17 panelling with shaped dentil
cornice, panelling to rear of altar has Serlio-type decoration
and fluted pilasters; arch and canopied bishop's pew to rear;
altar rails have onion-on-vase balusters; roof has panelled
vault on carved corbels; black and white marble tiled floor
with Minton tiles in lobby. To south, the landing has a C17
pointed-arched door with lozenge decoration in pointed-arched
surround with 2 orders of roll-moulding. A short flight of
stairs to west has barleytwist-on-vase balusters and shaped
handrail, this gives access to former entrance to chapel.
Original joinery survives including panelled shutters, 6-panel
doors, 8-raised-and-fielded-panel doors, some with tooled
architraves; original plasterwork includes moulded cornices.
One room on ground floor at south has chamfered beam with ogee
HISTORICAL NOTE: by the early C13 a Bishop's house stood on
the present site of which at least two internal walls survive.
The Bishop's Palace was sold to the Dean and Chapter of
Worcester Cathedral in 1846 for £3,000. It remained as the
Deanery until 1941. During the Second World War it was let to
the Ministry of Works (1941-50), now Diocesan offices. The
palace has hosted three royal visits: in 1575 Elizabeth I, her
Council and Household stayed here; James II stayed for three
nights in 1687; George III and members of the royal family
stayed in 1788. Between 1719-23 Bishop John Hough paid a total
of £1,164 to William and Francis Smith for work done at the
Palace, this probably included the removal of a Gatehouse and
stables and Bowling Alley and other buildings to east of the
Palace, with rebuilding of east part. Their work is typically
a fine example of the Baroque tradition (Craze M: The Old
Palace Worcester: 1996-; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N:
Worcestershire: Harmondsworth: 1968-1985: 315-6).

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