Wolvesey Castle College Street, Winchester SO23 9NB
Wolvesey Castle, also known as the Old Bishop’s Palace, is a ruined castle in Winchester. It is located next to Winchester Cathedral and just down the road from Winchester College.
The palace was built in 970 by Æthelwold of Winchester on what was, at the time, a small island in the River Itchen. It was renovated as a castle in 1141 by Henry of Blois.
Although subsequent bishops carried out various repairs and alterations to the buildings, the palace survived virtually intact for the next 500 years. It is his work that comprises most of the ruins visible today. And almost immediately after being built, it was put to the test.
During a period of civil war known as The Anarchy, the castle was put to siege by Empress Matilda. The castle held out for three weeks. But in the process, most of the old town of Winchester was burned to the ground.
The castle remained a key royal residence for hundreds of years. in 1554, it hosted the wedding breakfast of Queen Mary and Phillip II of Spain. However, in 1646, the castle went the way of Winchester Cathedral’s stained glass window.
It was destroyed by Roundheads during the Civil War and only ruins remain today. Exploring the tumbled walls, you can still make out the outline of the original castle, that has now been overshadowed by its neighbours – the College and the Cathedral. But something of its past glory lingers.
If you choose to linger, you will find more of Winchester’s history trail plaques to explore that will lead you up the river along the old Roman wall to St Swithun’s Bridge, where you will find a very nice pub where you can grab a bite to eat.