The Bishop’s Palace, Bangor: Statement of Significance
Bangor Bishop’s Palace (Bangor Town Hall) is a grade II listed building. It was surveyed by the Royal Commission in 1949, and its condition then was only ‘fair’. It is a somewhat neglected building but it is a building of exceptional interest whose significance needs to be clearly stated.
- Context. Bishops’ Palaces are a special and rare building type. They are both religious and secular. The bishop’s principal residence was sited near the cathedral and was sustained by the episcopal estates. The pre-Reformation palaces of the Welsh bishops are mostly archaeological sites. Some were destroyed during Owain Glyndwr’s revolt (Bangor, St Asaph), or abandoned after the Revolt (Llandaff), or decayed after the Reformation (notably St David’s).
- Historical. The Bishop’s Palace Bangor is the only substantially intact Bishop’s Palace surviving from the late-medieval period in Wales. The medieval core still determines the plan. It was in continuous occupation by the Bishops of Bangor until the mid-C20th. The medieval core still determines the plan but there are significant post-Reformation additions.
- Building materials. There was typically a transition from fortified stone-built palaces to unfortified residences. The Bishop’s Palace at Bangor is an unfortified residence in the timber vernacular of north Wales, though the timber is now mostly concealed. The late-medieval preference for building in timber led to the construction of some spectacular buildings in Wales. The Palace is known to have had a spectacular roof. Moreover, the Bishop’s Palace has some claim to be the largest surviving timber-built domestic building in Wales.
- Plan. The plan is of considerable interest. It is a hall-house with a hierarchical plan. The palace was entered through the porch on the S elevation. Services rooms lay to the east; the hall to the west. The hall is an ‘end hall’ with the parlour wing set at right-angles to it. There are few parallels to this arrangement.
- Dating. The Bishop’s Palace is the oldest building dated by inscription in Wales. Date inscriptions were a fashionable aspect of Renaissance culture and the earliest dated buildings are religious. The early C16th inscription was recorded by Browne Willis and located during works to the building. Tree-ring dating has shown that the E wing was constructed from timber felled in 1546. The Bishop’s Palace was (uniquely) extended immediately after the Reformation, and there are later date C18th and C19th additions.
- Contribution to townscape. It is the oldest continuously occupied domestic building in Bangor. It is a direct link with the medieval settlement which was established in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral.
Richard Suggett, RCAHMW,Aberystwyth.