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BUCKDEN TOWERS

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  CLARET CENTRE, ST CLARET CENTRE, BUCKDEN PALACE
DESCRIPTION + /

Buckden Towers, now a Christian retreat and conference centre, was originally built as the residence of the Bishop of Lincoln and was listed as such in the Domesday Book in 1086. It is uncertain when it was first built, however most of the surviving buildings are 15th century but also include a Victorian house. The original Bishop's residence was rebuilt circa 1225 by Bishop Hugh de Wells while the great hall was built by Bishop Robert Grosseteste in 1235-54. In 1291 a fire destroyed most of these buildings of which stone foundations remain. The Great Tower was constructed by Bishop Rotherham in 1472-80 however Bishop John Russell (1480-94) was responsible for the majority of the rebuilding on the site including the inner and outer gatehouses and the enclosure walls. A new chapel was built under Bishop William Smith in 1495-1514. In the mid 17th century, a large part of the house was demolished under the Commonwealth. The house was restored on a smaller scale by Bishop Robert Sanderson (1660-63), however the great hall wasn't rebuilt. In 1838 half of the main buildings and part of the gatehouse were demolished and in 1842 the Palace was conveyed to the Vicar of Buckden and partly converted for use as a school. The Victorian house was built on the north side of the inner courtyard in 1872 by Arthur Wellington Marshall to the designs of Robert Edis. In World War I the house was used as a convalescent hospital and in 1919, it was sold to the historian, Dr Robert Holmes Edleston, who spent much time reconstructing parts of the old Bishop's Palace. He also planned to rebuild the old chapel, but only the crypt was built and this survives as the Lady Chapel. During World War II evacuees from the London Blitz were housed at Buckden Towers which was subsequently converted for use as a hostel for agricultural workers. In 1956, it passed into the hands of the Claretian Missionaries for use as a seminary and in 1974 the St Claret Centre was opened for conferences and retreats.

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