Although we have much information on the architecture and layout of The Palace and related buildings over the centuries, there is little documented information on The Palace gardens. It is not until the 18th century that plans and images dating from that time give us the first visual record of the gardens.
It is conceivable that few of the Bishops were interested in the gardens having a useful or ornamental value; many of them chose not to live at The Palace, or spent little time here, preferring to live at their other manors or on their own estates. It is possible therefore that little was done with the gardens. However, the late 17th century saw a change that was influential on the development of the gardens: the bishops started to spend more time living in The Palace. Thus we have the introduction of the Dutch style gardens, which are credited (but not proven) to Bishop Ken (1685-1691), and the romantic picturesque and gardenesque styles dating from the time of Bishop Law (1824-1845). There is also evidence of a possible Italian revival style garden introduced probably in the mid 1800s on the site of the current Phelps garden.
The 20th and 21st century Bishops of Bath & Wells have continued leaving their mark on the gardens, notably the creation of the arboretum (Bishop Bickersteth 1975-1987), and the Community Garden and Quiet Garden (Bishop Peter Price – 2002 to 2013). In addition to these significant additions to the garden, many other sympathetic developments have taken place in recent years and up to the present day, driven very much by the inspiration of the Head Gardener, James Cross. Consequently, The Bishop’s Palace Gardens offers much to interest our tens of thousands of annual visitors who flock to enjoy the gardens.
The following documents give a lot more information on the history of the garden. Some contain copyright material, such as images and text, and if you wish to use this other than for personal research, then please talk to Siobhan.