A retired bank official named Charles Pole was having a bungalow built on his land in Wiveliscombe, England, when a medieval bishop’s palace was unearthed. Prior to it being uncovered at the Palace Gardens property, the ancient Bishop’s palace (that dates back to the 13th century but was in ruins by the 18th century) was previously believed to have been located at another site.
In an interview with the County Gazette, Mr. Pole admitted that he had mixed feeling regarding the discovery as he explained how the old palace was unearthed, “I live on my own in a house in Palace Gardens and I'm disabled, so I was having a bungalow built in the garden for myself and plan to sell the house.” “When the builder saw the remains, he was ordered to stop work.” “It came as a big surprise. It was exciting to hear the site contains something of real significance, but the cost of the investigation is going to cost me around £15,000 and has delayed the bungalow.”
According to a spokesperson for the South West Heritage Trust, they found wall foundations and floor deposits which they think belonged to the original foundation of the palace. “The building remains are clearly of medieval date and represent two phases of development on the site,” the spokesperson stated.
The reason why they believe that the structure was a Bishop’s palace was because of historical documents that state the Bishops of Bath and Wells had several major structures constructed in Wiveliscombe, specifically Bishop Drokensford (1309-1329) and Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-1363).
In addition to the palace’s foundation, several pieces of pottery dating back to the 12th century were also discovered. The spokesperson went on to say that the site is being protected and monitored by archaeologists from the South West Heritage Trust. It will eventually be covered over in order for the bungalow’s construction to continue.
I’m sure the last thing Mr. Pole expected to find was a medieval Bishop’s palace when he decided to have his bungalow built. Not to mention the hefty bill that came with the discovery. This is yet another example of the surprises you can find when you start digging around in what appears to be a normal looking piece of land.
Several pictures of the palace being unearthed in Mr. Pole’s garden can be seen here.