Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Medieval Bishops' Houses in England and Wales

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Medieval Bishops' Houses in England and Wales

Article excerpt

Medieval Bishops' Houses in England and Wales. By Michael Thompson. (Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate. 1998. Pp. xvi, 207. $ 59.95.)

Michael Thompson, who has produced many studies of medieval castles, here offers a useful inquiry into the architecture of English and Welsh bishops' palaces. The term "palace" includes not only the bishops' main domiciles near their cathedrals, but also their London residences, that is, the "inns or town houses where they served as ministers of the Crown, lived after the thirteenth century while attending parliament, and the places from which they carried out legal and social business in the capital. For the medieval scribe, a palace differed from a castle in that the former was intended for domestic purposes, a castle for defensive ones. Twenty bishops and twenty-two abbots maintained London town houses; most were situated west of the city walls along the Thames, for the convenience of travel. Rents and revenues from the bishops' manors, which at the Reformation numbered 640, supported the London residences. One hundred sixty-eight manor houses contained chapels, suggesting that the bishops occasionally lived there. Probably, the most famous surviving manor house is the vast and magnificent Knole near Sevenoaks in Kent which was bought and expanded by Archbishop Bourchier in 1456 and further extended by the Sackville family over four centuries.' The 108 illustrations provide sketches of ground plans, photographs of architectural ruins, and aerial views. Appendix 1 surveys the palace at Canterbury shortly after Archbishop Laud's death;Appendix 2 gives a list of the palaces whose bishops were licensed to crenellate between 1200 and 1523; and Appendix 3 lists bishops' manor houses. …

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