The Old Palace, Deansway

  • 17 Mar 2019
  • Historical Studies
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Until the year 1842, the Old Palace was official residence of the Bishop of Worcester. He also had Hartlebury Castle and a London House, but a Royal Commission, looking into the Church Revenues with reforming zeal, concluded that the Bishop had no need for two palaces, and reduced his income. The Commissioners would have preferred Hartlebury Castle to have gone, but the new Bishop, Bishop Pepys, preferred to release the Worcester residence. The Worcester Palace was eventually sold, in 1846, to the Dean and Chapter as a Deanery, which sadly led to the destruction of the old Deanery in College Green, and the Guesten Hall with it. In the 20th century, the Palace was found to be unsuitable for the Dean, and it became a Church Club house and Diosesan offices. We can only be thankful that it remains intact.

With the Cathedral, it is the oldest building in the City. There was a bishop living here before there was a King of England. The Palace or the building that preceded it on the same site, has been the home of a long array of great and mostly good men. They number two martyrs, four saints, several Lord Chancellors and Lord Treasurers, one Lord President of the Marches, one Vice-President of Wales, Ecgwin, the founder of Evesham monastery, Dunstan, whose lively interview with his Satanic majesty will be recalled, Wulstan, the founder of the Cathedral, Cantilupe, the great defender of English liberty against Papal aggression, Gifford, the typical feudal Bishop, Whitgift the peacemaker, Prideaux, who was despoiled by the Puritans, Gauden, the supposed author of Eikon Basilike, Thomas, renowned for devotion and hospitality, Stillingfleet, the Protestant leader, Lloyd, one of the seven bishops sent to the Tower, Hough, the determined opponent of Roman bigotry, Madox, one of the founders of the Infirmary, Hurd, the distinguished scholar and friend of George lll ... these are among the more noted men who passed some part of their lives here as Bishops of Worcester.

The Royal associations of the Palace are many. When Queen Elizabeth 1 came here in 1575, she kept her Court at the Bishop's Palace for seven days, receiving municipal dignitaries in the great hall, thanking them for their entertainment and offering her hand to them to 'kysse'.  King Charles l was in this house in 1644 when Waller and Massey were in pursuit of him. James ll stayed at the Palace in 1687.

It was here too, that George lll resided when attending the Three Choirs Festival in 1788. 'Farmer George' as the King was affectionately known, loved to talk with his people without formality. It is recorded that in the early morning he would climb out of a window on the first floor of the Palace, slide down the roof of an outbuilding, and so make his escape to the City to enjoy a ramble alone, and take the opportunity of a chat with his humbler subjects.