The exact date of construction of the episcopal residence in Lamphey is not known, but its origins date back to the 13th century. At that time, a building of the Old Hall with basement was erected. The fundamental extension of the palace was made in the first half of the fourteenth century by Henry de Gower, bishop of St. David. In 1546, the building became the property of the Crown and donated by king Henry VIII to Richard Devereux, and then to the Essex earls. In 1683, the palace was sold to the Owen family from Orielton, probably due to damages suffered during the English Civil War. The buildings were probably then used for economic purposes.
The oldest element of the site was the 13th-century rectangular Old Hall building. Already at the time of the erecting, it was a construction with basement, it served as a place to eat meals, give feasts, and greet guests. Later it was transformed into a kitchen and rooms for servants. In the second half of the thirteenth century, next to the Old Hall, bishop Richard Carew built a larger, but also on the rectangular plan, the building of the Western Hall, which replaced the functions of the earlier structure. The Western Hall had a fireplace in the middle of the north wall, stone seats by the windows, and the whole interior was decorated with murals. The first floor was separated from the basement by a timber ceiling. The building was topped with a parapet and crenellation and had numerous arrowslits. A latrine was placed in the south-eastern corner. Later on, the ground floor received a stone vault, an additional roof storey and a new latrine room on the south side.
In the fourteenth century, the great expansion was made by bishop Henry de Gower. He raised slightly on the sidelines, east of the Western Hall, a new rectangular building called the Gower Hall or the Great Hall. It was the most significant building of the whole complex, to impress the guests there. The building was 25 meters long, with a vaulted ground floor and upper storey to which an external staircase on the north side led. A characteristic feature of the building was the row of arcades illuminating the interior from the northern and southern sides. Above them there was a parapet on corbels and a battlement. On the south-west side, a small range with a latrine was added.
To the north of the above-mentioned buildings, the defensive wall separated a large outer ward, on which mainly the economic buildings were located. Its largest element was a large granary for grain attached to the defensive wall on the north side of the ward. The main entrance gate was in the tower on the north-west side. Between the outer ward and the building of the Western Hall, there was yet an inner ward to which access was defended by a lower wall reinforced with a gatehouse. There were episcopal gardens and the Red Chamber building, providing additional living quarters. At the beginning of the 16th century, a chapel in the style of perpendicular gothic, was added to the corner of the inner ward.
The defensive, medieval palace of the bishops survived to modern times in the form of a ruin. The outer walls of the buildings of the Great Hall and the Western Hall, including latrine annexes, as well as the building of the Red Chamber and the gatehouse tower of the inner ward have survived. Gatehouse today stands alone, as the wall adjacent to it has not preserved. What is visible, however, is the outer defensive wall, almost all around the perimeter. The monument is open to visitors free of charge from April 1 to October 31, daily from 10:00 to 16:00.
Website britishlistedbuildings.co.uk, Lamphey Bishop’s Palace.
Website gatehouse-gazetteer.info, Lamphey Bishops Palace.