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Historical associations and nearly continuous occupancy make the Bishop’s Palace at Farnham Castle one of the most important buildings in south-east England.
A mixture of architectural styles – primarily early Norman, Tudor and Restoration – are seen in the complex of Grade I and II listed buildings.
In almost continuous use for more than 800 years, these buildings are still actively used today. They draw a continuum from the past into the future.
The Grade I listed buildings include:
- The Keep
- The Great Hall (Norman with Restoration renovations)
- The Norman Chapel
- The Bishop’s ‘Camera’ (Norman with Restoration, Georgian and Victorian renovations)
- The Waynflete’s Tower also known as Fox’s Tower (late medieval brick)
- The Bishop’s Chapel (Restoration)
- The Gatehouse and outer curtain wall (medieval)
In addition, there is a Grade II listed 18th century stable block.
It is generally accepted that construction of Farnham Castle began about 1138. A definitive date is difficult to give.
- No Saxon remains have been uncovered at the site. It is doubtful the Saxon bishops had a residence in Farnham. The last Anglo-Saxon bishop was Stigand, replaced in 1070 by the first Norman bishop, Walkelin (1070 – 1098).
- After the Norman Conquest, castle building began all over England to help hold the conquered country. Reigate, Bletchingly and Guildford all had castles before the end of the 11th century. Would Bishop Walkelin have needed a castle at Farnham?
- Archaeologists suggest the artificial motte might have been made about 1078. But in 1086, the Domesday Book does not record a castle at Farnham.
- The Winchester Annals, written in the 1190s, state in 1138 Bishop Henry of Blois (1129 – 1171) “built castles at Merdon, Farnham, Waltham, Downtown and Taunton”. Excavation work undertaken (though not at Farnham Castle) suggests construction began earlier on some of these, probably by Bishop Giffard (1100 – 1129).
- The Annals of Waverley Abbey (about two miles from Farnham Castle) record the abbey land being given by Bishop Giffard ‘near his castle’.
- In 1138, England faced civil war. Bishop Henry’s work at Farnham Castle may have been a timely refurbishment or extension of work started by Bishop Giffard.