Kirkwall: guidebook to the palaces

1965 (1969)

The combined guidebook to the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall, Orkney, was prepared by W. Douglas Simpson. Both palaces had been placed in State Guardianship in 1920.

The older Bishop’s Palace was linked to St Magnus’ Cathedral in Orkney. It was constructed in the 12th century.  The Earl’s Palace was constructed by Earl Patrick from 1601; he incorporated the remains of the former Bishop’s Palace that had passed to his father, Earl Robert Stewart in 1568.

The guide contains an Introduction, followed by sections on the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace (each with a history followed by a description), then a short bibliography and a glossary. A double-sided fold-out plan inside the back cover provides details for both palaces.

Both palaces now feature in the Historic Scotland guide to the monuments of Orkney by Caroline Wickham-Jones.


Farnham Castle Keep

Farnham Castle © David Gill

The Bishop of Winchester was granted lands in the vicinity of Farnham in 688. The castle at Farnham was created by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester (1129-71) and Abbot of Glastonbury (1126-71). Henry was a grandson of William I, and brother of Stephen. This castle was demolished in 1155 during the reign of Henry II (who had been crowned in December 1154).

The present shell keep, surrounding the original castle on its mound, dates to the late 12th century. Remains of the original square tower can be seen at the centre of the motte. The castle then became home of the bishops of Winchester, including William of Wykeham (in 1368), and Thomas Wolsey (in 1529).

The castle was captured by parliamentary troops under Sir William Waller in December 1642, and then became a garrison.

The Church of England Diocese of Guildford was formed in 1927, and the castle continued to be an official residence until 1955. The castle keep was placed in state care in 1933, and is now a property of English Heritage. Sir Charles Peers had hoped to acquire the keep in 1912.

Farnham Castle © David Gill

The official blue guide was written by Michael Welman Thompson, who served as Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales. Thompson conducted excavations at the castle from 1958-60.

Thompson also wrote the official Ministry guidebooks for Pickering Castle (1958), and Conisborough Castle (1959), Kenilworth Castle (1977), as well as the National Trust guide for Tattershall Castle (1974). For Thompson’s Yorkshire guidebooks see here.

Farnham Castle
1961 (7th impress. 1978)

The present English Heritage guidebook, containing colour illustrations, is by John Wareham. In spite of its title (Three Palaces of the Bishops of Winchester) it covers four palaces in the care of English Heritage:

Guide to Bishops of Winchester: Wolvesey, Bishop's Waltham, Farnham

St Davids: Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace

St Davids © David Gill

Today is the national day to celebrate Dewi Sant.

The Bishop’s Palace (now under the guardianship of Cadw) is adjacent to the cathedral in St Davids, Pembrokeshire. The palace was enhanced by Bishop Henry de Gower in the 14th century. In the foreground is the entrance to the Bishop’s hall.

The arcading along the upper part of the hall is echoed in Swansea castle.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse


James S. Richardson prepared a formal guide to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (1936) that replaced Sir Herbert Maxwell’s Palace and Abbey Church of Holyroodhouse (1906). Richardson’s guide, in its third edition continued into the 1970s (with the 11th impression in 1975).

1936 (2nd ed. 1948; 3rd ed. 1950, 2nd impress. 1953)
1936 (3rd ed. 1950, 7th impress. 1961)

However The Palace of Holyroodhouse: An Illustrated Guide with a Short History of the Palace and Abbey (1st ed. 1960; 3rd ed. 1963; Edinburgh HMSO) appeared alongside the more formal guide. This was priced at 1 shilling and 6 d. This illustrated guide was ‘Prepared for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works by the Central Office of Information’. It starts with a simple guide to the rooms, each numbered with a black and white illustration and a short description (pp. 2-10, nos. 1-16). This is then followed by a Short History (printed on yellow paper) (pp. 11-26). There is a final set of photographs including Queen Elizabeth II at Holyroodhouse in her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys, and a small selection of the paintings in the collection (pp. 30-32). The guide itself is anonymous.

It makes a companion to the other illustrated souvenir guides appearing from the late 1950s for sites in England and Wales.

3rd edition 1950 (11th impression 1975)
3rd edition 1950 (11th impression 1975)
%d bloggers like this: