Bishop Lloyd's House

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This building is on the Millennium festival trail.
"Bishop Lloyd's House" (2014) after "restoration" by Lockwood. Note the changes to the windows and the staircase, and the increase in height.

Bishop Lloyd's House (or Bishop Lloyd's Palace) is at 41 Watergate Street, and 51/53 Watergate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner considered it to be "perhaps the best" house in Chester.

George Lloyd

Prior to his arrival in Chester as Bishop Lloyd in 1605, George Lloyd was "Bishop of Sodor and Mann", hence the Manx symbol (which is the wrong way round) on the front of that building.

George Lloyd was born in 1560/1 at Bryn Euryn, Llandrillo-yn-Rhos in Denbighshire. He was educated at the King’s School, Chester and at Jesus College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he became a doctor of divinity (and where he seems to have gone under the name Floyd/Fludd). In 1594 Lloyd was elected to the divinity lectureship in Chester cathedral, and three years later became rector of Heswall, Cheshire. He became bishop of Sodor and Man in 1599, and then bishop of Chester in 1604. His brother David was mayor of Chester 1593, another brother Edward was a mercer, also in Chester. He had a further brother, Rowland. Lloyd has interesting ancestry his father, Meredith ap John, was of descent from Griffith, youngest son of Ednyfed Vychan, by his second wife, Gwenllian, daughter to Rhys ap Griffith, Prince of South Wales. She was widow to Conan ap Rodri ap Owen Gwynedd.

Attentive to his administrative duties and moderate with both Puritans and Roman Catholics, he was a skilful preacher, admired by Henry, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. In Chester, he reversed the anti-Puritan and anti recusant policy of his predecessor Richard Vaughan.

Lloyd died on the 1st August 1615 and was buried in Chester cathedral. His epitaph there read (as translated from the latin):

  • "An untimely death has shut up in this Tomb the heart of George Lloyd whose memory is recorded in Chester, Who was by race a Welshman, Educated at Cambridge, a Doctor of Theology and a leader of Theologians. He directed and benefited the Bishopric of Soder and Man, presiding over it for a term of five years. His mother England recalled her Son and deemed him Worthy to possess the Bishopric of Chester where Eleven Seasons having passed away--not without storms of trouble; he died lamented and worthy to be lamented in the fifty-fifth year of his age and on the first day of the month of August 1615. Neither was there shame in his life nor shame in his death."

George Lloyd's daughter Anne's first husband was Thomas Yale, whose son David was father of Elihu Yale, after whom Yale University in the USA was named (more money was donated by Jeremiah Dummer, but "Dummer College" does not sound as good). After Thomas Yale's death Anne married Theophilus Eaton another noted colonial American.

"Bishop Lloyd's House" prior to "restoration" by Lockwood as portrayed in Hughes (1856) the image is based on an engraving by Prout.

Guidebook Descriptions

Seacome writes of it as follows:

  • " old house having the whole front divided into square compartments filled with carved work of various descriptions principally heraldry and scripture history. In the lowest line of compartments immediately over the Row are represented the following subjects: Adam and Eve standing on each side of the tree of knowledge the serpent twined round the trunk of the tree and over head a winged bust representing the Omnipotent issuing from the clouds, Cain killing Abel, Abraham offering up Isaac, Susannah and the Elders, A naked figure seated on a bed holding a sword in the right hand the point towards his side apparently in the act of committing suicide. There are three other compartments in the same line with those above described two of them consist of armorial bearings including amongst others the quarterings of the Principality of Wales and the Earldoms of Chester and Derby crested with a Bishop's Mitre the third bears an inscription illegible from the street and the date 1615. This house was built by Dr George Lloyd."

The latin inscription reads "FORMA DAT ESSE REI INTUS UT IN CUTE" It translates as "Form gives being to the thing" (Boethius, De Trinitate) "inwardly such as under the skin" (Persius, Satire 3, line 30, generally translated as "intimately"). The combined phrase was used by Thomas Aquinas

Hemingway (1831) describes the building thus (simply copying his description wholesale from Batenham (1827):

Panel with date of 1615 and the Latin inscription.
  • "Lower down on the same side is another very singularly decorated mansion the lower part of the front is divided into several compartments each having a sunk pannel representing in rudely carved work some of the most noted events recorded in the scriptures such as the Serpent beguiling Eve, the murder of Abel, Susannah and the Elders &c In the two centre pannels are the arms and initials supposed of Dr George Lloyd Bishop of Chester who died in 1615 which date is on the pannel. The upper part of the house is also richly figured in the same pannelled style nor is even the bottom neglected in the profusion of laborious handiwork for even the pillars and brackets which support the rows are carved in a ludicrous manner"

Hughes writing in 1858 gives a little more detail, and gets quite carried away in religious fervor and is quite out of character in his attack on earlier "Guide-makers":

  • "..exactly opposite to Crook Street stand three fine gable fronted houses the centre one of which deserves our attention and admiration. This house is without exception the most curious and remarkable of its kind in Chester and one which perhaps has no parallel in Great Britain. Prout has immortalised it in one of his inimitable sketches of which the accompanying woodcut is a reduced yet faithful copy. The origin of the house seems to be lost in fable but in the present day it is usually styled Bishop Lloyd's House from the fact of that Cestrian prelate dying about the date 1615 carved on one of the panels and from certain coats of arms arms which decorate the front bearing some analogy to the bearings of his family. Grotesquely carved from the apex of the gable to the very level of the Bow this house exhibits a profusion of ornament and an eccentricity of design unattempted in any structure of the kind within our knowledge. It is indeed a unique and magnificent work of art. To say nothing of the designs in the higher compartments it must suffice here to state that the subjects of the lower panels lay the plan of human redemption prominently before the eye. In the first panel we have Adam and Eve in Paradise in a state of sinless nudity then comes the first great consequence of the Fall Cain murdering Abel his brother. To this follows Abraham offering up his Son Isaac: typical of "the one great Sacrifice for us all". The seventh compartment has a curious representation of the Immaculate Conception whereby "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners". Ridiculous have been some of the attempts of "Local Guide-makers" to arrive at the real meaning of this design some have gravely set it down as the "Flight into Egypt" while another and later unfortunate has sapiently pronounced it to be "Susannah and the Elders". The eighth panel symbolises the completion of the great sacrifice the Crucifixion of Christ in Simeon's prophecy to the Virgin "Yea a sword shall pierce through thine own heart also". The three centre compartments contain the arms of the reigning monarch James I England's Solomon as he was called the supposed arms and quarterings of Bishop Lloyd and a Latin inscription with the date 1615. If it be true that "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever" then will this house as a masterpiece of art be an object of interest and delight to strangers till time itself shall be no more. We should step up into the Row at this point and scrutinise the indescribable forms of men and beasts which ornament and support the oaken pillars in front"
The panel on Bishop Lloyd's House which Hughes says there is so much confusion over and which has been variously interpreted as "Immaculate Conception", "Flight into Egypt" or "Susannah and the Elders". They are most likely the last of these, with the "head" being a fountain.

Whatever the correct interpretation of the panels should be it is curious to note the parallels between the images used here and the "mockery-Tudor" employed in Bridge Street. A possible alternative interpretation is that the two rightmost panels are not from biblical sources but from other traditions, such as being the story of Queen Dido.

If the 1615 date on the panel is correct and represents the date that whatever building works had been done were completed, then Bishop Lloyd, who died an "untimely death" on 1st August of that same year may have not lived here for long, if at all. According to Cheshire History (linked below), Lloyd's death occurred on Sunday evening and the body was at once taken and buried in the Cathedral Choir. Evidently such hurried and night burials were then common for fear of infection. However, this story of a hurried burial may be untrue as other sources simply state he died in the Rectory House of Thornton-le-Moors.

In fact, there is no evidence that Bishop Lloyd or any of his family actually moved in and (according som some sources who give no reference) by 1616 "Sir John and Lady Bowyer" were known to have been living there. However, the exact identity of these members of the Bowyer family is also uncertain. The only contemporary candidates would be Sir William Bowyer (c.1588–1641 and not his father, Sir John) of Knypersley in Staffordshire, a wealthy mine owner who had been elected MP for Staffordshire in 1614, but he was not knighted until 1617, and no evidence has so been found of a connection with Chester at this date.

Hughes also notes the graffiti that had been scratched into virtually every window of the building (the windows were replaced by Lockwood - so none of this is visible today). The inscriptions included: "Oh that my pencil could could the features trace, of him I think possessed of every grace - S Pollard", "Robert Duff October 16th 1853" and others going back to 1722. Graffiti included that by "Watkin Williams Win Mayor of Chester 1727".


There are several coats of arms on the front of the building. These are located on two panels.

One panel features the personal arms of George Lloyd as Bishop of Sodor and Man. This fearures the emblem of the Bishopric of Man and the three horse-heads. Around it are four other shields bearing the blazons of England and Wales (a cross of St George), the Merchant Adventurers, a variant on that of the Goodman family and one that is said to be that of the Stanley's.

Bishop Lloyd

The three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man appears on the Bishop's arms. Perversely this is depicted as "rotating" in the wrrong direction. The famous Three Legs ("ny tree cassyn") of Mann appear to have been adopted in the Thirteenth Century as the royal coat of arms for three kings of the Isle of Man whose realm at the time also included the Hebrides in the Western Isles of Scotland. The symbol is further discussed in the article Three Hares. All the early examples of the Manx “Legs” show them running clockwise "towards the sun".

An early version of the arms of the East India Company may have featured the cross of St George.

Cross of St George

The cross of St George not only stood for England and Wales but had been adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the Genoese fleet. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege. Saint George rose to the position of "patron saint of England" in a process beginning in 1348 with the foundation of the Order of the Garter and culminating with the abolition of all saint's banners except for the St George's banner in 1552. A combined British flag was created in 1606 (after the dynastic union of England and Scotland in 1603, the so-called "Union of the Crowns") by combining Saint George's Cross with the Saint Andrew's Cross (the flag of Scotland). The flag was initially for maritime display, later restricted to the King's ships. Afterwards, the Saint George flag remained the flag of England for other purposes until the Acts of Union 1707. The cross of St George also featured in the arms of the East India Company, but sources differ as to when this was first used.

Goodman Armorial

The Goodman armorial was granted by Elizabeth I in 1572. The double headed eagle is significant, as it is usually used only in royal arms. David Lloyd, an elder brother of George Lloyd, had been Sheriff of Chester when William Goodman was mayor (1579, Goodman died in office). David’s first wife was Alice Goodman. When she died David Lloyd married Alice, daughter of Richard Bavand (mayor 1581-2 and 1600-1) and when Lloyd died Alice married first Thomas Gamul father of Francis Gamul (of Gamul House fame} and when he died next married Edward Whitby. Bavand was a Chester merchant, described in 1589 as "ironmonger, vintner, mercer and retailer of many commodities". He was mayor in 1581-2 and had considerable property in the city and its neighbourhood, and increased his estate by marriage to a local heiress (Jane Bamville). He held all the usual city offices in turn and served as auditor and assessor on a number of occasions. Bavands parents were Thomas Bavand of Chester and Margaret, daughter and coheiress of David Middleton of Chester.

The Middleton's, Goodman's and Lloyd's all had strong Welsh roots, but relations between them were not always harmonious. Thomas Bavand (Richard's father) worked the Bache Mill on Bache Brook (a continuation of Flookersbrook). According to an ancient right the Abbey was able to grind the corn of people living in Northgate Street whereas all others had to go to the Dee Mills. It had passed with the rest of the abbey's property to the new cathedral in 1541. Ralph and Thomas Goodman leased the Dee Mills from Sir Richard Cotton. Thomas Bavand died (1564) leaving his Widow, Margaret, dependent on the Bache Mill for a living. She carried on the business and kept the old connections, including the business of several people in the city outside of Northgate Street. The Goodmans did nothing whilst Thomas Bavand was alive but did take actions against his widow. The Goodmans’ court case was also against four other local millers who were also taking "lawful business" away from them. The four gave in immediately with two of them giving evidence against the widow Bavand but she stood firm declaring she acted within the law. Evidence was called on to prove her wrong and a court order was issued to prevent her, or her servants, from carrying on the practice. Three years later in September 1570 a second Bill of Indictment was issued as she was "in daily breach" of the first. Another order was issued in March 1571, Margaret was taken to Chester Castle to be punished and kept until she could enter into bonds with sufficient sureties not to break the order again. She also had to pay the Goodmans 35 shillings in cost. The Bavand's also have their run-in with the Lloyds as in 1589 when there was a disagreement over the duty to be paid on iron.

The Stanley's

The Stanley's (see Stanley Palace) were also associated with the Isle of Man and the title of the "Lord of Mann" was the subject of a succession dispute between the daughters of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby and Ferdinando Stanley's brother, William Stanley in 1594-1607. This was heard by the Privy Council who decided that the right to the Isle of Man belonged solely to Queen Elizabeth I, and the letters patent of 1405 which conferred the lordship of the Isle of Man on John Stanley were declared null and void as the previous ruler of Man, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, had not been subject to legal attainder, despite his treason, and the 1405 and 1406 letters patent had therefore not taken effect. However close inspection of the shield shows that it is not the normal stags heads of the Stanley's but three Fleur-de-Lys.

The text of Chester's Triumph in Honour of her Prince can be found on-line.

The second "heraldic panel" refers to the Prince of Wales. This could only be James I's son Henry Frederick (19 February 1594 – 6 November 1612). Prince Henry was invested as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1610, and was widely seen as a bright and promising heir to his father's thrones. However, at the age of 18, he predeceased his father, dying of typhoid fever. His younger brother Charles succeeded him as heir apparent to the English, Irish, and Scottish thrones. On Henry Frederick's creation as Prince of Wales the play "Chester's Triumph" was performed in Chester (St George's Day, 1610) and is described at some length on the page relating to Chamber's Book of days. The panel comprises the Tudor Rose of England surrounded by the motto of the Garter Knights. This stands between the letters "I" and "R" for "Iacobus" and "Rex", i.e. King James. The four symbols in the corners of the panel are: a fleur de lys, a portcullis and crown, the shield of Earl of Chester and the feathers of the Prince of Wales.

In 1328, King Edward III of England inherited a claim to the crown of France, and in about 1340 he quartered France Ancient with the arms of Plantagenet, as "arms of pretence". After the kings of France adopted France Modern, the kings of England adopted the new design as quarterings from about 1411. The monarchs of England (and later of Great Britain) continued to quarter the French arms until 1801, when George III abandoned his formal claim to the French throne.

Beaufort Portcullis

The portcullis was the badge of John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset and Somerset (c.1371-1410). It is believed to represent the portcullis defending the gate of now demolished Castle Beaufort in Champagne, Beaufort's supposed birthplace. However John of Gaunt had lost that manor before 1371.

Beaufort was the bastard son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399), and was subsequently adopted by his great-grandson, Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) whose mother was Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509: who would marry Thomas Stanley). Henry VII (1485-1509) the first Tudor king, who was of matrilineal Beaufort descent, adapted both the portcullis and the Tudor rose as the Tudor badge. Although the Palace of Westminster served as the official royal residence for both Henry VII and Henry VIII until 1530, the current use of the portcullis as a symbol of the Palace of Westminster and of Parliament does not date from that time. Rather, the symbol was developed as part of Sir Charles Barry's plans for the rebuilt Palace after the original burned down on 16 October 1834. The symbol was first used in the Duke of Westminster's arms by the first Duke of Westminster (3 May 1880 – 9 June 1885). However the City of Westminster had a portcullis in its arms since Tudor times.

Cheshire Garbs

A seal from 1217 (or perhaps a little later) is believed to be the first to depict the three wheatsheaves or "garbs" of the Earldom. It is possible that the sheaves were only adopted when Ranulf de Blondeville became Earl of Lincoln in 1217, or that the changes were associated with the loss of his titles as Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond. Another (equestrian) seal of Ranulph as the Earl of Lincoln also shows the three wheatsheaves.

Prince's Feathers

The Prince of Wales's feathers is the dexter heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. It consists of three white ostrich feathers encircled by a gold coronet. As well as being used in royal heraldry, the badge is sometimes used to symbolise Wales. The first Prince of Wales to use the badge in its modern form (i.e. three white feathers encircled by a coronet, and with the motto Ich dien) was Prince Arthur (1486–1502), eldest son of Henry VII, at the beginning of the 16th century.

Architecture and Restoration

The only known portrait of Bishop Lloyd, now in the Grosvenor Museum.

The front gable displays an abundance of 17thC carving including biblical scenes and heraldic beasts (including an elephant and castle).

Inside, the two undercrofts have walls of red sandstone rubble, with brick barrel vaults added in the 18th century. Leading from the row level to the third storey is a Chinese Chippendale staircase. The larger room on Row +1 level has an ornate 17th-century plaster ceiling and a massive fireplace. The ceiling is almost identical to that at Tudor House in Bridge Street, and is believed to be from the same artisan and to have been made in-situ.

A smaller room also has a plaster ceiling, less ornate than in the other room, which includes as motifs Tudor roses, horses, and starfish. Around the smaller room is a vigorous frieze depicting pairs of sea-monsters, open mouthed with lolling tongues. Again, there is an identical work elsewhere, this time above the fireplace at Row + 1 level of 10 Watergate Street. In this room is a smaller fireplace in the over-mantle of which is a carving of Cupid riding on a lion which demonstrates a fairly hazy understanding of classicism. It is clear this fireplace has been moved from elsewhere as the over-mantle is taller than the ceiling a small dome has been constructed to fit it in. The image of Cupid (or earlier Eros) riding a lion goes back to antiquity and has been found both in Roman mosaics and on Greek coins. The meaning of the symbolism is clear - "Love conquers all".

The ceilings in the eastern tenement were most likely moved from the Bishop's Palace in Abbey Square after this was damaged in the Civil War - in 1645/46. It is clear that the designs have been cut down to fit. That in the eastern street chamber has a complex design with angel heads at the interstices of concentric ovals. A ceiling using the same moulds existed in the library of the Old Bishops Palace and a similar ceiling exists over the chancel of the chapel of St Anselm (formerly the private chapel of the Bishop).

Given the re-use of materials associated with the Bishop's Palace it does seem as if the house has a close connection with Bishop Lloyd, rather than, as some have suggested merely decorated with a memorial to him. However the time-scale is puzzling, as Lloyd died in 1615 and the damage to the Bishop's Palace occurred much later in 1645/46.

By the 19th century it had become run down, the carvings on its frontage had at times been covered with plaster, the house had been split into tenements, and it was becoming derelict. For a while in the 1880's it was the home to the "Palice Vaults" - with the bar at row level, a smoke room above and chickens kept in the loft. There was at one time a suggestion that the house should be moved to America, where the descendants of Bishop Lloyd had become eminent (in fact, it has been suggested that that Elihu Yale's gravestone was stolen years ago from Wrexham and is now displayed in a glass case in a room with purple walls, which belongs to a building belonging to Yale's "skull and bones" society). However, following the efforts of alderman Charles Brown and a public subscription the house was purchased by the corporation.

The buildings were extensively restored in the 1890s by T M Lockwood and again in the 1970's by the then Chester City Council. Lockwood replaced the eastern street entrance with a staircase and entry is now gained through the western tenement only. At row level, the brackets supporting the storey above are carved with bearded giants, beasts and an owl; there are also lighter brackets shaped as figures. Much of this bracketwork was moved around by Lockwood, who also replaced the 18thC sash windows with the mullioned and leaded windows seen today. Lockwood appears to have done the work in at least two stages, as surviving photographs show that the mullion windows were installed before the changes to the row staircase.


In 2004, there was a flurry of reports in the local press about the flat above Bishop Lloyd's House (owned by the City Council) being used as a "brothel".

Gallery (view from street)

Gallery (carvings detail)

Gallery (view from row)

Gallery (internal)

Sources and Links

There are a series of excellent articles on the building and related people and events written by the Chester Civic Trust.

Related Pages