New views of Wells as platform opens at palace

A new viewing platform part-funded by a “generous private donor” has opened at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells.

A spokesperson said the Prison Bastion platform – which is free to use – will give visitors “a new perspective” on the historic centre of the city.

The Prison Bastion project began in 2017 and aims to allow members of the public to climb up on top of the turret and gain a unique view over the moat, Palace Green and Wells Cathedral.

Part of the mission of The Palace Trust – which operates the day to day running of The Bishop’s Palace site – is to continue to open up parts of the historic building which were previously inaccessible to the public.

The bastion has always been a popular site for children to explore, with its dark room, which has previously been used as a potato store. Bishop Ralph is credited with adding the moat and curtain walls, obtaining the license that permitted him to build a wall around the grounds, crenellate and build the bastions in 1330.

It is thought that he may have been motivated in part by concern about his personal safety in a period of occasional lawlessness between bishops and seculars. Defences such as these were also an architectural fashion statement of the time.

The bastions around the site contain narrow wall walks (now accessible to the public for the first time with the opening of this bastion) and the North West or prison bastion contains rooms. In the early 19th Century, the upper room was used as a garden oratory. The Bishop’s prison is sometimes stated to have been housed here – especially for any member of the household who returned from a night’s revels in town the worse for wear.

Rosie Martin, chief executive of The Palace Trust, said: “We are delighted to have finished this project, which fulfils one of our objectives; to welcome even more visitors to parts of the palace that have never been accessed before.

“We continue to plan future areas for development, including the interior of the palace, the gardens and a new cafe in the Dragon’s Lair, and we are always interested in hearing from anyone who might wish to help us to achieve these aims.”

The new viewing platform can be found adjacent to the Bishop’s Table Cafe. It was part-funded by a private donor along with contributions from the palace entrance ticket and cafe income.