Saturday, 2 July 2016

Living in the lap of luxury - the Bishop's Palace at Lamphey

The Bishop's Palace at Lamphey has been described as "the retreat of choice for those medieval bishops seeking solace from the everyday stresses of Church and State." If seeking solace meant living in the lap of luxury in sublime surroundings then Lamphey would have been an excellent choice as we can still see from the remains of this once sumptuous establishment, which is huge by any standards.

Lamphey Bishop's Palace
The palace, established in the 13th century and primarily used by the bishops of St Davids, included fishponds, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, a deer park and sweeping parklands providing both food and recreation for those troubled souls. It is easy to imagine why this accommodation had become a favourite residence of the Bishops by the early 14th century.

Lamphey Bishop's Palace
We should remember the medieval bishops of St Davids were worldly men who enjoyed the privileges of wealth, power and status and Lamphey did not disappoint. What we see today is mainly the work of the dynamic Henry de Gower, the bishop of St Davids from 1328 to 1347. Thanks to his vision, elegant Lamphey became the ‘away from it all’ palace for high-ranking members of the clergy keen to play at being country gentlemen.

Lamphey Bishop's Palace
Bishop Gower’s great hall, 82 feet (25m) long, is a particularly fine architectural achievement and its sheer grandeur would have impressed even the most privileged of bishops. Equally well-preserved and detailed in their architecture are the western hall and inner gatehouse.

Sadly for the bishops of St Davids Lamphey’s gilded existence came to an abrupt end during the reign of King Henry VIII when many Church estates fell into the hands of the Crown during the dissolution of monasteries act in 1536. Still it must have been a great life while it lasted!