Downsizing pensioner uncovers remains of a long-lost palace in garden

Downsizing pensioner uncovers remains of a long-lost palace in garden

March 11, 2021

Downsizing pensioner uncovers remains of a long-lost palace in back garden where he is building a bungalow – solving 200-year-old mystery but landing himself with a £15,000 bill

  • Charles Pole, 81, discovered a 700-year-old Bishop’s Palace under his lawn
  • The discovery in Wiveliscombe, Somerset has excited local historians, who believed the Palace had been at another nearby site
  • Pole has mixed feelings about the find as the accompanying investigation will cost him some £15,000 and delay work on the bungalow he plans to move into

Retired banker Charles Pole (pictured), 81, discovered a 700-year-old Bishop’s Palace under his lawn while having a bungalow built in the garden of his Wiveliscombe, Somerset, home

A pensioner has uncovered the remains of a long lost palace in his back garden, solving a centuries-old mystery and landing himself with a heft bill in the process.

Retired banker Charles Pole, 81, was hoping to sell his house in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, and move into the bungalow he was building in the garden.

But his plan is now on hold after a 700-year-old Bishop’s Palace was found under his lawn.

The ancient building dates from the 13th Century and had faded to ruins by the 18th Century before disappearing entirely.

Historians had been baffled as to the palace’s whereabouts for 200 years, believing it was at another site nearby.

Despite the excitement from local historians Pole, 81, said he had mixed feelings about the find at his home – in the aptly named Palace Gardens.

‘It was exciting to hear the site contains something of real significance, but the cost of the investigation is going to cost me around £15,000 and has delayed the bungalow, Pole said.

The ancient building dates from the 13th Century and had faded to ruins by the 18th Century before disappearing entirely. Pictured: The remains of the Bishop’s Palace within the foundations of the new bungalow

Pole said he is disabled and lives alone and was hoping to move into the bungalow, on which construction has now been halted because of the find.

A spokesperson for the South West Heritage Trust said substantial wall foundations and floor deposits had been uncovered.

‘They are believed to be part of the original foundations of the Bishop’s Palace complex,’ they said.

‘The building remains are clearly of medieval date and represent two phases of development on the site.’

There are several documentary references to the Bishops of Bath and Wells carrying out major building works in Wiveliscombe.

Bishop Drokensford (1309-29) and Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-63) both undertook works there. 

Pottery from the 12th Century has also been unearthed at the site.

‘The remains are a significant find and the landowner, archaeologists, builder and architect are working to protect and record the site,’ the spokesperson added.

‘The development is being monitored by archaeologists from the South West Heritage Trust as part of the planning requirements.’

The site will now be protected before being covered over, allowing building work on the bungalow to go ahead. 

Despite the excitement from local historians Pole, 81, said he had mixed feelings about the find at his home – in the aptly named Palace Gardens. ‘It was exciting to hear the site contains something of real significance, but the cost of the investigation is going to cost me around £15,000 and has delayed the bungalow’

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