wolvesey castle

Visiting Wolvesey Castle

Wolvesey Castle, also referred to as the “Old Bishop’s Palace,” is a medieval ruin in Winchester. The original fort was a timber structure that Bishop Aethelwood had established in the 10th century. Today, the Castle ruins are a tourist attraction under the care of English Heritage.


There is no parking within Wolvesey Castle grounds. However, visitors can park their vehicles at nearby car parks, including Colebrook Street, five minutes away from the Castle.


Admission to Wolvesey Castle is free of charge.


Wolvesey Castle is open daily (April to September) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, in October and winter weekends, opening hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location and Access

Wolvesey Castle is situated at the heart of Winchester, Hampshire, in England.

Visitors can travel to the Castle via road or rail. The nearest road access is off College Street, 0.75 miles (1.20 km) Southeast of Winchester Cathedral, next to the Bishop’s Palace.

Visitors using public transport can ride bus line 68, while the nearest railway station is at Winchester, 0.75 miles (1.20 km) from the Castle.

Some parts of the Castle grounds are inaccessible to visitors with walking difficulties.

Know Before You Go

  • You don’t have to pre-book your visit to Wolvesey Castle as entry is free of charge.
  • Wolvesey Castle grounds are uneven and usually get muddy. Hence, they may be inaccessible to visitors with mobility impairment and young children.

Places To Stay Nearby

The City of Winchester has a wide array of accommodation facilities. Here are some of the best places to stay near Wolvesey Castle.

Hotel Du Vin Bistro

Distance from Wolvesey Castle: 0.64 km (0.39 mi)

Hotel du Vin Bistro, on Southgate Winchester, is a 4-star hotel that offers classic and top-notch customer service. The historic hotel has popular amenities and room features, such as free internet and on-site parking, taxi services, well-furnished non-smoking rooms, air conditioning, and meeting facilities.


Travelodge Eastleigh Central

Distance from Wolvesey Castle: 10.2 km (6.33 km)

Travelodge Eastleigh Central is a 1-star hotel on Southampton Road, Eastleigh, that offers guests a relaxing, cosy, and homely atmosphere. Guests enjoy non-smoking rooms, free WiFi, complimentary instant coffee, and flatscreen TVs.


Premier Inn Winchester Hotel

Distance from Wolvesey Castle: 1.28 km (0.79 mi)

Strategically situated at the town centre of Winchester, Premier Inn is a 3-star hotel that offers family and business-friendly facilities. The top-rated hotel has attractive amenities, including new generation bedrooms, a bar/lounge, 24-hour security, and check-in, to provide guests with the best experience at the facility.


History of Wolvesey Castle (Time Line)

Wolvesey Castle was one of the greatest medieval castles in England. Initially built as a Bishop’s residence, it evolved into a fort during the era of Henry of Bois. However, it experienced several phases of action and eventually declined into the ruins we know today.

-970 (First Fort Built)

Bishop Aethelwood of Winchester (963 – 984) built the first fort on a small island on River Itchen in Winchester. It served as the residential building of the Bishops of Winchester, who held some of the highest positions in society and government.

The Bishops of Winchester were wealthy and powerful persons who oversaw the clergy and managed estates. Hence, their palaces were symbols of power and opulence.

The remains of these Saxon timber buildings are currently inexistent.

-1110 (Stone Castle Created)

Bishop William Giffard established a stone castle on the site where Aethelwood’s fort had stood. It was a large keep-and-bailey Norman structure. William also built the west hall, comprising a three-storey tower.

-1135 to 1148

Henry of Blois, a powerful Bishop of Winchester, remodelled and modernised Giffard’s Castle. It entailed a magnificent great hall, stables, prisons, barns, and a wool store. The Castle was a typical residential building, and Henry entertained his guests and carried out his administrative duties in the great hall.

However, when Stephen, Henry of Blois’ brother, ascended to power, a Civil War (The Anarchy) ensued. It involved King Stephen and Matilda, Henry I’s daughter. Matilda’s army initially besieged the Castle when Henry of Blois supported his brother.

Later, Henry withdrew his support after the King’s capture during the First Battle of Lincoln in 1141. However, he later rebelled against Matilda and raided Winchester Castle. Unfortunately, Matilda’s army overpowered Henry’s and his soldiers escaped to Wolvesey Castle.

Later on, Matilda was overwhelmed after Henry’s troops hit back by setting fire to her town. Robert, Earl of Gloucester, managed to rescue Matilda. Unfortunately, he became a captive and was later exchanged for King Stephen.

-1154 (Castle Damaged)

Bishop Henry went into exile after the Civil War when King Stephen became King. During this period, Wolvesey Castle was probably damaged as the Bishop’s other castles faced slighting. Hence, he might have rebuilt the Castle upon his return in 1158.

-1215 to 1217 (Castle Upgraded)

Prince Louis of France captured Wolvesey Castle during the First Barons War. However, the Royalists besieged it after a year and restored it to the church. Peter des Roches and William Wykeham, Bishops of Winchester, repaired and upgraded the Castle.


Wolvesey Castle hosted a great feast during Henry IV and Joan of Navarre’s wedding.


Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England when Stephen Gardiner was the Bishop of Winchester. Henry VIII cut off links with the Pope and plundered the church’s wealth.


Upon Henry VIII’s death, his son Edward VI ascended to the throne amidst Protestant reforms. In 1551, Gardiner lost his Bishop title after imprisonment at the Tower of London. Furthermore, some of his properties were confiscated.


After Edward VI’s death, Catholic Mary I replaced Gardiner as the Bishop of Winchester. Mary and Philip II of Spain had breakfast at Wolvesey Castle before their wedding at Winchester Cathedral.

Stephen Gardiner died in 1555, and another John White, a Catholic, became the Bishop of Winchester.


Elizabeth I, a Protestant, became Queen of England, and White was imprisoned and lost his title for opposing her.


The Bishops’ title in the Church of England was abolished following the Royalists’ victory during the Civil War. However, the monarch’s restoration led to the reinstatement of the Bishopric, and Brian Duppa became the Bishop of Winchester.

He repaired Wolvesey Castle using funds from Bishop Waltham’s Palace. However, the Castle faced neglect in the latter years.


Wolvesey Castle faced demolition to pave the way for a new Baroque-style palace. The modern palace currently stands behind the Castle ruins.

Wolvesey Castle Occupants

During its existence, Wolvesey Castle was the seat of the powerful Bishops of Winchester.

Here are notable occupants of Wolvesey Castle:

  • William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester
  • Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester
  • Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester
  • William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester
  • Brian Duppa, Bishop of Winchester

Images of Wolvesey Castle

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Wolvesey castle Wolvesey castle Wolvesey castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Wolvesey Castle Facts

Wolvesey Castle is a Grade I building and a scheduled monument.

Here’s what visitors see when they visit the Castle ruins:

  • The modern Bishop’s residence
  • Remains of the keep and the east range of buildings
  • Remnants of the chapel and the Woodman’s Tower

Wolvesey Castle Q&A

  • Are pets allowed? Yes. Dogs on leads are welcome at Wolvesey Castle.
  • Can I bring a picnic? Yes. Wolvesey Castle grounds are ideal picnic spots.

Location of Wolvesey Castle

Wolvesey Castle is located in the cathedral city of Winchester, Hampshire. Winchester lies on the Western edge of the South Downs National Park at the heart of the larger City of Winchester. It is 14 miles (22.53 km) from Southampton and 60 miles (96.56 km) southwest of London.

Winchester’s historic city is renowned for having the world’s famous Cathedral, and Wolvesey Castle is one of its major attractions. The Castle’s mailing address is College Street, Winchester, Hampshire, S023 9 NB.

Other Places To Visit Near Wolvesey Castle

Apart from Wolvesey Castle, the city of Winchester is home to fascinating attractions and tourist destinations.

Here are other places to visit near Wolvesey Castle:

Winchester Cathedral

Built on the site of the 7th-century Old Minister, Winchester Cathedral is a magnificent building. It is one of the largest cathedrals in England whose fame has spread worldwide.

Winchester Cathedral’s interiors comprise a combination of styles, including Roman and late-Gothic. The Cathedral also has a vast collection of bronze statues and 11th-century wrought iron Pilgrim’s Gate.

Other notable features include the 12th-century Winchester Bible and the brass tablet, the tomb of Jane Austen (a renowned writer).

Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

Highclere Castle, a spectacular historic home situated 25 miles (40.23 km) from Winchester, is a sight to behold. The Castle is home to the Earls of Carnarvon and was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the House of Parliament’s architect.

Highclere Castle is also famous for being the setting of the top-rated TV show, Downton Abbey. It also offers splendid views of the North Hampshire Downs.

Notable features of Highclere Castle include the magnificent gothic saloon, the drawing, and smoking rooms.

Flowerdown Barrows

Situated at the edge of Littleton, Hampshire, Flowerdown Barrows is a peaceful site where prehistoric burial mounds once stood.

The tranquil scenery comprises three round barrows on a ridge, and they have served as territorial markers and monuments for ages.

Flowerdown Barrows have evolved in shape over the years, resulting in two bowl barrows and one disc barrow. Visitors might come across former grave items, including food or drink vessels, flint tools, pieces of jewellery, and weapons.

South Downs National Park

Comprising a vast green area and picturesque woodland, South Downs National Park is a serene and iconic tourist attraction.

The National Park stands in an area surrounded by traditional pubs, inns, and market hamlets. The south-eastern part of the South Downs comprises the renowned white cliffs of Seven Sisters. The bluff tops offer a splendid view of the sea and the neighbouring town of Eastbourne.

Visitors can also enjoy hiking or cycling on the hilly paths and ride horses on the leafy trails while appreciating the beautiful scenery.

Marwell Zoo

Marwell Zoo is a must-visit if you love wildlife or you’re bringing your children on your visit to Winchester. The zoo is just five minutes from Winchester in the attractive village of Owslebury. Encompassing a 140-acre area of the Hampshire countryside, Marwell Zoo is home to over 1,200 animals from 135 species.

The zoo attracts many visitors due to having some of the endangered species, including the white rhino and oryx. Other notable and captivating features include educational themed sections where tourists can view animals on boardwalks.

Moreover, Marwell Zoo has a miniature railway where visitors can view various animals in their enclosures, including the pygmy hippos, flamingos, and rhinos. Also, they can have refreshments on-site in the park’s restaurant that also consists of picnic sites and snack kiosks.