Renovation work at The Old Bishop’s Palace and Gardens in Abergwili has been continuing through the pandemic with The Tywi Gateway Trust and Carmarthenshire County Council working together to bring new life to this Carmarthenshire gem.
The former palace, home of Carmarthenshire Museum since 1978, was the residence of the bishops of St. Davids for more than 400 years. Although gutted by fire in 1903, it was extensively refurbished in the Arts and Crafts style and is now one of the finest examples of this period of architecture in Wales.
Throughout 2020, the County Council has been undertaking an extensive first phase restoration programme at the museum and accessibility improvements at the main entrance, with additional internal gallery refurbishments funded by the Museums Archive Libraries Division of Welsh Government. At the same time, the Tywi Gateway Trust has commenced work on converting the outbuildings into a new café and learning and interpretation centre. The Trust, which was set up in 2016 to “promote for the benefit of the public at the Bishop’s Park and its cultural setting in Abergwili the conservation, protection, improvement and understanding of the built and natural environments”, is delivering a £2.4m Parks for People project restoring the historic grounds. The restoration of the site is a fine example of traditional building skills in action, preserving a nationally important historic place for future generations.
The creation of the café and interpretation centre are part of this wider programme of restoration and enhancement of the Bishop’s Park managed by the Tywi Gateway Trust to conserve and restore the park and gardens to the period of their last major re-design in the 1840s. This includes installation of new gardens, bringing the attractive walled kitchen garden back into production and creating new public access to the adjacent Great Meadow, which will be managed to benefit the rare flood plain meadow habitat. The project will also conserve the Bishop’s Pond ox-bow lake which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Council’s Built heritage team are pleased to have been able to support the Council’s Property Team with the Listed Building Consent process for this extensive development, and are also planning to work with the Trust to repair some of the historic windows as part of the Heritage Carpentry NVQ training course.
If you want to stay in touch with these developments, volunteer or simply enjoy the new parkland, you can visit the Tywi Gateway website or follow them on Facebook @tywigateway.