Alex first wrote in our blog in September. Here is what he learned about Clarendon Palace…

Clarendon today

Through this week of work experience, I have been to the library a couple of times to do my research work. The artefact / theme I have chosen to do my research on is Clarendon Palace because it interested me with its history and what it once was.

Clarendon Palace is located 3 ½ miles east of Salisbury and 4 miles south-east of Old Sarum. It is shown that William the conqueror visited the site around 1072 AD, the year when he toured his Norman possessions and marched to Scotland. At this time, Clarendon was a hunting lodge, which was enlarged to become a palace.

The site was chosen due to its elevated height of 350 feet above sea level, so it could overlook the Clarendon forest. This appealed to the Normans as a place to hunt and Clarendon was established as a royal residence in the early 12th century. Henry I granted charters from Clarendon palace. However, under Henry II’s rule, accounts are shown to be of repairs for ‘the King’s houses of Clarendon’ occur in 1163, and at the beginning of 1164, Clarendon hosted the historic council, of which Herbert of Bosham and his master Thomas Beckett attended.

In 1166, another great assembly was hosted at Clarendon Palace – called the assize of Clarendon. This assembly made laws for far-reaching importance regarding private jurisdiction.

Richard the Lion Heart did also visit Clarendon, but there is no evidence of work undertaken there by him. There are, however, references to repairs at Clarendon Palace carried out under King John, who stayed there a few times.

In 1273, the first year of Edward I’s reign there is a survey done on Clarendon and of the forest of Clarendon due to the activity there by Henry III (Edward’s Predecessor). The survey is made by the Sherriff of Wiltshire and four knights. It describes the Palace in detail but uses plain language with the ruinous condition of large parts of the palace.

Both Edward I and Edward II often stayed at Clarendon palace, where in 1317 Edward II summoned a parliament to assemble, the summons meeting with only a very limited response. It was in Edward III’s reign which the most effective revival of Clarendon took place. A good deal of repair and reconstruction was carried out then – the most important work done being the rebuilding of the great hall in 1358-1359.

Henry VI also visited Clarendon Palace repeatedly. In 1454 he stayed there for a number of weeks after being attacked in Clarendon in 1453 and being unfit to govern for over a year.

In Edward IV’s reign, he appointed wardens of Clarendon, with Edward Gower first in 1461 and then Thomas Troys, 1472, who held his office in the first year of Henry VII’s reign , 1485.

By Elizabeth I’s reign, Clarendon had been known to have many royal visitors staying in the palace for weeks on end. However due to the numbers of Elizabeth’s servants and gentry she took with her, the keepers of Clarendon didn’t want to house nearly 2000 people. So, like many similar palaces at the time, they brought down parts of the palace to discourage a visit from the Queen. In the end, Elizabeth stayed at Clarendon Palace once, with many of her servants having to sleep outside in tents. Due to this, Elizabeth never stayed there again. This lead to Clarendon Palace falling out of interest of the royals so it wasn’t being revived or maintained anymore.

In Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’, there is no hint to the existence of Clarendon Palace at all, despite Henry having visited it on many occasions. Also, in 1570, the second edition of John Foxe’s ‘Acts and monuments’ makes the mistake of placing Clarendon in Normandy.

By this time, Clarendon Palace was probably being used as a stone quarry due to being in a district poor in stone – much like Stonehenge and Avebury around the same time.

In 1650, a survey of Clarendon Park was made, which contains a reference to ‘the old gate house, called the King’s manor’.

In 1723, William Stukely visited the site of Clarendon palace in which he mentions “John built him a palace, where several parliaments have been held. Part of the building is still left, tho’ they have been pulling it down many years”. He also drew a picture of the site which shows the ruins of the site with some low walls above ground and a larger wall as well. It shows little woodland near the site.

In 1805, J Buckler did a watercolour painting of the site. It covered a smaller area of the palace remains than William Stukely, but there is a considerable increase in the trees and woodlands around the site, which shows that it had just been left there and no one had been maintaining it, even before 1723.

A photograph of the same site in April 1933 from the ground facing where the remains were, show no evidence of a palace being there. Woodlands cover the whole outside of the palace so no one could see from outside the woods that a palace was there. An air photograph of Clarendon Palace remains in September the same year show the palace being covered by the trees. The remains are surrounded by woodlands on all sides with most of the aerial view of the palace also being blocked by treetops.

Another air photograph of the Clarendon palace taken in February 1935 shows how trees on the site had been cut down but the trees surrounding it still remained. This meant that the aerial photograph shows the full remains of the Clarendon Palace and how big the palace was.

Nowadays, the site of the remains of Clarendon Palace is open to the public and woodland no longer covers the site. People are encouraged to visit it.

Thank you Alex – a reminder of the gem we have ‘on our doorstep’.