HISTORIC Hartlebury Castle, home to the bishops of Worcester for more than 1,000 years, is unlikely to be sold off in a cost-cutting exercise by the Church of England.

The Church Commisioners, which own the Grade I listed building, are preparing to sell off a number of its ancient bishops' palaces and houses across the UK in a bid to save money on maintenance costs.

The commissioners own 44 diocesan bishops' houses across the country, worth around £45m.

However, Hartlebury Castle, home to The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, is unlikely to be considered in any sale as two thirds of the building is leased out and its listed status could provide problems for potential purchasers.

"There's a problem with trying to sell Hartlebury Castle because there's a long-term lease on two thirds of the building - the County Museum has one third and the State Rooms Trust also has a third," said Nicola Currie, spokeswoman for the Worcester Diocese.

"It's also Grade I listed with a library and chapel, so a sale would not be straightforward."

Bishop Peter lives in the remaining third of the property, which is known as the Bishop's House.

"In the past there have been discussions about the use of the Bishop's House with the National Trust, English Heritage and the county," added Ms Currie.

"Bishop Peter said before he came that he would be willing to move from the castle. The problem is not in moving him, but leaving an empty castle and still having to maintain it."

The bishop's quarters comprise the Prince Regent bedroom, two offices, a study, a family sitting room, an official sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms and five other rooms.

The County Museum, which is open to the public, has leased the building until 2024.