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Former Lay Cemetery @ Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral traces its roots to the Minster of St. Peter, established c.679AD by Osric, King of the Saxon Hwicce, a sub-kingdom of Mercia. The exact site of Osric's abbey is not known. When the first stone of the new abbey church that would become the cathedral was laid in 1089, it was on the site of a successor to Osric's abbey, built in 1058 across the north-west corner of the Roman walls. The new church, not yet complete, was consecrated in 1100.

Lay Cemetery (College Green)

The lay cemetery today is, along with the former Great Court to its west, part of College Green. In its original form the cemetery occupied the area south of today's cathedral all the way to the precinct's southern perimeter. To the west it was separated from the Great Court by a wall that, until it was removed in 1768, ran from King Edward's Gate to the south-west corner of the cathedral. To the east, the other side of a wall that until 1858 ran from near St. Michael's Gate to the south transept, lay the monk's cemetery.

Burials were being conducted in the lay cemetery pretty much from the time of the abbey's consecration, and the area was possibly also the location of Anglo-Saxon burials back to the time Osric established the first Minster in the area. Evidence, in the form of burials without coffins, suggests the humbler people of Gloucester were buried farthest from the cathedral.

Building on the peripheries of the lay cemetery had begun by 1616, and by 1649 houses lined the southern precinct wall and the eastern cemetery wall. A 1780 map shows the "Burying Ground" had been reduced in size to the area just south of the cathedral, between porch and transept and extending not quite as far as the stone circle feature in today's landscaped gardens. By 1788 most gravestones had been laid flat or removed, and the cemetery was closed in 1857.

South Side

Four properties line the south side today, all of which incorporate the abbey wall at the rear of the property (a fifth, No. 5, was demolished 1891 as part of the widening of College Street):

  • No. 4, adjoining King Edward's Gate, occupies the site of one of the first buildings in the lay cemetery, but is itself early 18th century;

  • No. 3, built c.1740 and substantially rebuilt c.1800. A well-preserved section of the abbey precinct wall forms the back wall of the cellar;

  • No. 2, currently the Bishop's office, was originally a 1665 property, according to Historic England, while another source states the plot was garden with small tenements. The current property was either substantially remodelled or rebuilt 1820. The remains of two burials were reported beneath the cellar in 1981;

  • No. 1, adjoining St. Michael's Gate, was built c.1740 on the site of a 1665 dwelling. In the 18th century a small wing of this property was extended over St. Michael's Gate, and the house, now apartments and an office, was altered in the 19th century.

East Side

Another four properties line the east side, built against the west side of the former cemetery wall:

  • No. 20, next to St. Michael's Gate, built by 1616 on a plot that is recorded as being a rented garden in 1595. The house incorporates the 12th-century abbey precinct wall on the south side and the 12th-century dividing wall dividing the lay and monk's cemeteries at its rear. The current property was altered and added to in the 18th century and re-fronted and restored in the 19th century;

  • No. 19, originally built by 1649 as two separate houses and substantially remodelled or rebuilt 1712–1722 for the Vicar of Barnwood;

  • No. 18, originally a timber-framed 17th-century property part of the neighbouring no. 17, remodelled in the late 18th century;

  • No. 17, timber-framed and brick property originally built 17th century, possibly as early as 1622, with alterations in the 18th and late 19th centuries (Wardle House with its bow window behind no. 17, now part of King's School, will be covered in a future article).

As part of the Project Pilgrim program, the car park the lay cemetery had become in the age of the internal combustion engine was transformed into the landscaped garden it is today. Tombstones laid into the grass area to the immediate south of the cathedral are the only obvious reminders of what lies beneath. But if, as you walk the diagonal path between St. Michael's Gate and the south porch, you can tear your eyes from the cathedral and look down at the flagstones, you might notice a small cluster of inscribed stones about half way along.

See also

Cathedral articles already published on this site with galleries and brief histories:

In 2007 Gloucester City Council designated fourteen Conservation Areas, among them the cathedral precinct, which are "of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance."


Listed Sites
Brackets indicate the grade at which the sites are listed

  • 1271596 (II) – 4 College Green – Early 18th-century house, now offices

  • 1271595 (II) – 3 College Green – House built c.1740, now offices

  • 1271594 (II) – 2 College Green – Site of 1665 house substantially remodelled or rebuilt c.1820 and now the Bishop's office

  • 1271593 (II) – 1 College Green – Site of a dwelling since 1665, current structure originally built c.1740, with subsequent alterations including an extension above St. Michael's Gate

  • 1245904 (II*) – 20 College Green – Early 17th-century house built up against the 12th-century dividing wall at rear (east), incorporating some of the 12th-century precinct wall to the south and reputed to contain 16th-century features, although other sources dispute any monastic heritage

  • 1245903 (II) – 19 College Green – Built  17th-century as two separate houses, rebuilt or substantially remodelled 1712–1722 and now a house

  • 1245902 (II) – 18 College Green – 17th-century house, now offices

  • 1245901 (II) – 17 College Green – Late 16th/early 17th-century house, now offices

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