A MYSTERY that has baffled historians for centuries has been solved by a stroke of luck.

The site of a medieval bishop's palace has been unearthed in Wiveliscombe during building work on a new bungalow.

The discovery of the archaeologically important remains was made on land in Palace Gardens belonging to retired bank official Charles Pole.

Until the find on a plot beside the churchyard wall, it had been believed the building, which dated from the 13th Century and was in ruins by the 18th Century, had been sited elsewhere.

Mr Pole, 81, told the County Gazette he had mixed feelings about the find.

"I live on my own in a house in Palace Gardens and I'm disabled, so I was having a bungalow built in the garden for myself and plan to sell the house," said Mr Pole.

"When the builder saw the remains, he was ordered to stop work.

"It came as a big surprise. It was exciting to hear the site contains something of real significance, but the cost of the investigation is going to cost me around £15,000 and has delayed the bungalow."

A spokesperson for the South West Heritage Trust said substantial wall foundations and floor deposits had been uncovered.

The spokesperson added: "They are believed to be part of the original foundations of the Bishop’s Palace complex.

"The building remains are clearly of medieval date and represent two phases of development on the site."

There are several documentary references to the Bishops of Bath and Wells carrying out major building works in Wiveliscombe.

Bishop Drokensford (1309-29) and Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-63) both undertook works there.

Pottery from the 12th Century has also been found.

The spokesperson added: "The remains are a significant find and the landowner, archaeologists, builder and architect are working to protect and record the site.

"The development is being monitored by archaeologists from the South West Heritage Trust as part of the planning requirements.

"The archaeological contractor is Mr James Brigers of Prospect Archaeology."

The site will be protected before being covered over, allowing building work on the bungalow to go ahead.