History in Structure

Carmarthenshire County Museum (formerly Bishop's Palace)

A Grade II Listed Building in Abergwili, Carmarthenshire

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Latitude: 51.8655 / 51°51'55"N

Longitude: -4.2657 / 4°15'56"W

OS Eastings: 244091

OS Northings: 220969

OS Grid: SN440209

Mapcode National: GBR DJ.SLJW

Mapcode Global: VH3LJ.0CQS

Plus Code: 9C3QVP8M+5P

Entry Name: Carmarthenshire County Museum (formerly Bishop's Palace)

Listing Date: 3 December 1951

Last Amended: 22 October 2003

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 9383

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Also known as: Abergwili manor of Bishop of St Davids

ID on this website: 300009383

Location: At the E end of the village, in its own grounds on the NE side of the parish church, on the S side of the A40.

County: Carmarthenshire

Community: Abergwili

Community: Abergwili

Built-Up Area: Abergwili

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire

Tagged with: Episcopal palace

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The Bishops Palace was founded by Bishop Barlow of St Davids, appointed in 1536, who adapted a former college as his residence. Barlow had intended to move the cathedral from St Davids to Carmarthen, then the principal town of south-west Wales. Later, Bishop Laud (bishop 1621-6) built a chapel, consecrated in 1625, while a survey of 1713 indicates that buildings were ranged around a quadrangle in a cloister-type plan. The palace was substantially rebuilt in Elizabethan style by Bishop Jenkinson (1825-40) but was mostly destroyed by a fire in 1902. It was rebuilt in 1903-7 by W D Caroe, architect, closely following the former plan and detail. The chapel was consecrated in 1925. It remained an episcopal residence until 1972, since when it has been converted to a museum.


Elizabethan style former palace of 2 storeys with attic, comprising a long W-facing entrance range with S, E and a N service range around a former courtyard now roofed and forming a top-lit stair hall. Walls are roughcast, with mainly wooden mullioned or sash windows. The slate roof, with overhanging eaves, is hipped behind the entrance range and has roughcast stacks with octagonal shafts.

In the symmetrical 9-window entrance front the central and outer bays are brought forward under shaped gables. The central bay has an ashlar porch with clasping polygonal buttresses that are panelled above an impost band. A Tudor-arched entrance has spandrels with crosses in shields. An embattled parapet has central shield with cross, surmounted by a bishop's mitre. Side walls have pointed windows. The main entrance has double half-glazed doors under a pointed overlight. The porch is flanked by narrow cross windows. In the upper storey is a 3-light transomed window with a hood mould framing a tympanum with shield and mitre in high relief. A 3-light attic window incorporates 2-pane sashes, and beneath the apex is another shield and mitre.

Either side of the central bay are 3 cross windows grouped 1 2, with corresponding flat-roof dormers. The R-hand has an additional small 2-pane sash window in the lower storey. The outer sides have pointed doorways with panelled doors and overlights, each recessed beneath a corbel table. The outer bays project further forward than the central bay. They have 3-light transomed windows in each storey, of which the upper has a hood mould framing a tympanum with shield and mitre in high relief. The attic has mullioned windows similar to the central bay.

In its 3-window S end wall the entrance range has narrow and tall 2-pane sashes and dormer window to the R. A 4-window return elevation to the rear, where the entrance range projects beyond the line of the S wing, has 8-pane sash windows and 2-light flat-roof dormer to the R. The S wing, incorporating a first-floor chapel, is 6-window with an asymmetrical accent provided by full-height canted bays to the L of centre and set back from the R end, which have parapets with notional crenellations. The L-hand bay window, which forms the central element of the chapel, has a 3-light window and shafts below a sill band, and behind the parapet is a pyramidal roof with metal finial. It is flanked by 2 windows which have dressed stone surrounds and cusped heads. In the lower storey are 12-pane sashes, paired to the bay windows, and with paired 8-pane sashes in the upper storey of the R-hand bay window.

The 5-window E wing has canted full-height outer bays with parapets similar to the S wing. Bay windows are paired 8-pane sashes in the upper storey and paired 12-pane sashes below. The L-hand has a half-glazed door with overlight. Between, the windows are also paired 8-pane sashes in the upper storey but the lower storey has triple 12-pane sashes. The asymmetrical N service wing incorporates earlier work that survived the fire of 1902, although retaining the pattern of 8-pane windows in the upper storey and 12-pane below. At the L end is an oval tablet with shield and mitre in low relief. To its R are windows in each storey, then a half-lit door with small-pane overlight, non-aligned windows and an oval tablet with coat of arms, and a canted bay window in the lower storey with parapet. Further R are earlier 12-pane sash windows.

A service yard on the NW side of the palace has buildings ranged around it with pebble-dashed walls. It is entered through replaced doors on the N side, in an L-shaped wall attached to the entrance range. The buildings include, on the E side, a dairy and larder with louvred openings.


The central hall is lit by a domed lantern supported on broad arches. The quarter-turn stairs and landing have square newels and fret-cut balusters. The chapel has been retained as a museum exhibit. It has a 3-bay boarded wagon roof, incorporating king-post trusses with curved struts. The altar has a wood-panelled reredos with shallow blind statue niches R and L. Benches are placed sideways and face each other across a central aisle. They have panelled fronts and moulded ends with shell finials. A cusped round-headed niche to the L-hand wall has a brass plaque commemorating the consecration of the chapel.

Reasons for Listing

Listed for its special historic interest and for its architectural interest as a largely unaltered Edwardian Bishop's Palace, with fine chapel interior.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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