U-Turn on Bishop’s Palace

Church of England officials have had to make an embarrassing U-turn on plans to prevent the incoming Bishop of Bath and Wells from moving into the medieval palace resided in by his predecessors for centuries (Town & Country, January 22, February 12, April 2).

A campaign by COUNTRY LIFE, led by the magazine’s architectural editor, John Goodall, disagreed with the Church’s idea that it was ‘not conducive to the ministry’ that the Rt Rev Peter Hancock and his wife, Jane, should live in the palace. Officials had suggested that, as the group of ancient buildings in Wells is both the diocesan head office and a tourist attraction, the palace did not afford enough privacy for the bishop, who will be enthroned next month.

However, the Church Commissioners came in for much local flak when it was revealed they had purchased a Georgian property outside Wells for £900,000 in the interim before a ‘permanent’ house was found. A tribunal, acting on behalf of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, has decreed that the bishop should live in the Wells palace in order to exercise his ministry effectively. ‘The Commissioners failed to anticipate the impact of their decision in Wells and the wider diocese,’ the panel stated.

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