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Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Feature Location Guide

Gloucester Cathedral stands on the site of an early monastery established in 678 or 679. The present abbey church was created between 1072 and 1104 as a part of a Benedictine monastery. Gloucester is one of 6 former monasteries that were re-founded as cathedrals in the period of Henry VIII. It was probably selected as it has the tomb of a former English King, Edward II, and the coronation took place here of Henry III.

It is said that a small religious community was founded here in Saxon times, 678-9, by Osric of the Hwicce. Kyneburga, his sister, or possibly great aunt, was the first Abbess. Osric also founded Bath abbey. In a charter that was apparently issued in the 670's by Æthelred, king of Mercia, it records his grant of lands at Gloucester and Pershore to two of his thegns, noblemen of the Hwicce, Osric and his brother Oswald. Osric's share was at Gloucester and he sought permission from Æthelred to found a monastery there. The Charter of Gloucester treats Osric as a subordinate of Æthelred, where the Charter of Bath (676) describes him as King of the Hwicce. He is also described as a King by Bede. Osric was buried in Gloucester Cathedral/Abbey.

We don't know what order this early religious house belonged to, or if it was a part of the Celtic or Roman branches of Christianity. William of Malmesbury says that Bath Abbey was built on an earlier pagan temple, and that later, it converted to the rule of St Benedict after 968, suggesting it was part of the earlier Celtic Christianity before. If Bath was originally a part of the original Celtic form of Christianity in Britain its very likely that the first Gloucester monastery was as well.

In 1017 the secular priests then running the monastery were expelled and it was given to Benedictine monks, led by a Norman monk. In the next twenty years the assets of the abbey was to double, by 'recovering' income from existing estates. This funded the rebuilding of the abbey. It was prosperous and building and expansion continued through to the period of Henry VIII. The size and number of people was thinned out by converting it to a cathedral, but the church remained basically unaltered.


Today we have a unique glimpse back in time, with its Norman naive with huge round columns, 6 foot across and 32ft high, low circular arches and Roman looking architecture form this early period. It also features probably the most spectacular and complete cloisters that can be seen anywhere in the UK.  The naive may look large but uses up only around half of the main part of the cathedral, beyond the screen, is the choir, and beyond this an area that can be reached from either side isle, before you get to the great east window, as large as a tennis court, and the largest window in existence when it was created. Going even further east under this, is the entrance to the expanded lady chapel, added at the end of the 15th century. This is very light and has far more glass than walls on all sides. A large ornate tower stretches up 225 feet, with below the eastern end, a crypt that is one of only four apsidal cathedral crypts in England, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury, the crypt is the oldest part of the cathedral.

Best known of the monuments is the large and detailed tomb of King Edward II, between that of the last abbot and the founder of the original monastery on the site. The opposite side of the quire is a memorial made in bog oak of Robert, Duke of Normandy, the oldest son of William the Conqueror. He is not at this location but buried in the Chapter House.

Robert probably should have become king, but was imprisoned at Cardiff Castle by his youngest brother, King Henry I who took the crown, where he died. Up until relatively recently the first crossing point for the Severn estuary was at Gloucester, so Gloucester cathedral was the first cathedral in England reached from Cardiff.

King Edward II, was deposed and held prisoner in Berkeley Castle where he was murdered. He then laid in state in Gloucester Cathedral before having a state funeral here in 1327. Two years later his son, then having become Edward III, visited the cathedral and was involved in the development of the memorial we see today. The kings effigy is in alabaster and very detailed. This also resulted in a lot of additional wealth to the monastery.

The first coronation of Henry III was also held here well before this in 1216. Henry was aged 9, and as no crown was available a simple gold band was used.  A second coronation was ordered by Pope Honorius III who did not consider that the first had been carried out in accordance with church rites. This occurred on 17 May 1220 in Westminster Abbey. Henry III did not achieve much, although he reigned for 56 years, Henry was much taken with the cult of the Anglo-Saxon saint King Edward the Confessor, who had been canonised in 1161. Told that St Edward dressed austerely, Henry took to doing the same and wearing only the simplest of robes. He had a mural of the saint painted in his bedchamber for inspiration before and after sleep and even named his eldest son Edward. Henry designated Westminster, where St Edward had founded the abbey, as the fixed seat of power in England. Up to this point the capital of England had been Winchester, although government had travelled with the King. The two reissue's of the Magna Carta was in his reign.

South Door

King Edward II Tomb

Click on small images to see larger versions

The Lavatorium
in the Cloisters

Choir and Organ

In  one of the stain glass windows which dates from 1350, is the earliest picture of the game of golf. There is also a carved image of people playing a ball game, believed by some to be one of the earliest images of medieval football. The great east window is the second largest area of medieval glass in any British church window, measuring 72ft high by 38ft wide, it was put together in the mid 14th century and shows the monks view of the divine order, the  structure of their society in this life and beyond. While historically important, they are not terribly photogenic, while the Victorian windows, a number by Charles Kemp, each shows a colourful scene with character and facial expressions that do offer the photographer a far more interesting subject matter. Their images are a part of the history of events in the cathedral.

Memorial made in bog oak of Robert, Duke of Normandy, the oldest son of William the Conqueror

The cloisters have fan vaulting above all four walks, not only spectacular but difficult to see how such a 3D image was carved. The south walk has 20 study recesses or carrels, while a part of the north walk has an extension, a long section of fan vaulted lavaterium, a sort of washing place. The chapter house, comes off the east walk, and is unusually not that exciting compared to the rest of this building, usually the chapter house is second only to the church in splendour.

Outside and around the back, north side you will find some other abbey remains and a smaller set of cloisters that was originally the hospital area within the abbey. Today it has a herb garden within it, while the lager main cloisters has a peaceful garden and water feature. As you walk around the outside, notice the windows for the chapels in the crypt and the space under the alter of the lady chapel. Like many cathedrals you will find it in a close with interesting period buildings, entrances being gateways or archways, although there is also one gated road in.

  King Edward II

Click on small image to see larger version

Stone effigy of Osric, founder of first religious house in Gloucester

The original organ is from 1665, with original highly decorated pipes, it sits on the top of the screen between the naive and quire, visible from both sides. Entry is from the highly retorted and carved porch way and south door.

When you come to visit, you will find a donation box, but no turnstiles, you don't have to buy a photo permit, but as long as you drop at least £3 into the donation box, you can take photos. There are guides around, and you are given a handout showing a brief idea of layout and facts. A gift shop sells a range of other guides and souvenirs. We looked around, exploring each part, before asking some questions of one of the guides who was around, he took us down into the crypt, and we could, had we wanted, visited the treasury, and for £2 have gone up to the whispering gallery and around to get closer at a higher level to the great east window.

The Crypt

Cloisters with study areas

Click on small images to see larger versions

There is also a Tower tour, (not during winter months), there are 269 steps to top of tower, providing a view for up to 40 miles on a good day. Stopping off at the bell ringing chamber, and again at the bell chamber on the way up. Make it to the top and back down the 269 steps again and for a £1 they will give you a certificate, if you want one.

I had on the day of my visit only two hours available and this was not sufficient to include either the tower tour or whispering gallery, having spent a lot of time on other features. Being very near to me I can go back and do this another day.

I have visited many ruined abbeys, and many cathedrals, each has special features, Gloucester is older in style to many, and although it has some later additions you get a better idea of what the monks would have seen so long ago. The cloisters in many cathedrals, where they exist ,have been reused, here they are not only the finest examples, but completely clear, and as today they don't lead anywhere much, a lot of the time you will find you have then to yourself.

The Cloisters

Further information Grid



Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester

Ceremonial County: Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:

Local street map - multimap    City-multimap

Aerial photo:

google   multimap

3D birds eye view from 4 directions, multimap ( very good)



Best Times to Visit:



Has a response form on their website


Own    cathedral plan    Virtual tour 

Herb garden     History    Time line 

Architecture  art and sculpture    glass

Other useful websites:


Nearby Locations: Gloucester Docks, remains of two other monasteries.

Other Relevant pages:

Abbey section, including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and history.

List of all Anglican cathedrals and other major Anglican churches in the UK

Gloucestershire Attractions


Abbey's (incl all Christian buildings)

Date Updated: 09/2008


Planning Grid


Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Centre of Gloucester


In a close, easiest way in - off Westgate Street pedestrian area.


Public car parks (NCP can be quite expensive) or further out for free and walk in.


WC, food, shop, guide books, guides.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Buildings, architecture, views.

What to take:

Tripod, level, wide angle lens.

Nature highlights:



Gloucester Cathedral
2 College Green




01452 528095

Opening times:

Daily 07.30am - 18.00pm

In term time the building is closed between 08:45 and 09.15 for school assembly.

Guided tours
Days Guide Availability
Mon-Sat 10.30am - 4.00pm
Sun 12.00am - 2.30pm

Treasury (closes part of winter months)
Days Opening times
Mon-Fri 10.30am - 4.00pm
Sat 10.30am - 3.30pm
Sun Closed

Exhibition and upper gallery (not open in winter months)
Days Opening times
Mon-Fri 10.30am - 4.00pm
Sat 10.30am - 3.30pm
Sun Closed

Tower tours (Not winter months)  - some dates/times may change due to other events. call to check if travelling some way.
Mon-Tue 2.30pm (school holidays only)
Wed-Fri 2.30pm
Sat 1.30pm and 2.30pm
Sun Closed
Bank Holiday 1:30pm and 2:30pm


No entry fees, but £3 donation suggested.

Photos allowed as long as you make at least a £3 donation.

Treasury entry  - Free

£2 charge to enter higher level to see glass window closer and exhibition. Children with you no charge.

Adult £3;  child £2 to join tour to top of tower.

Photo Restrictions:

Photos allowed as long as you make at least a £3 donation.

No restriction for own use except no photos during/in services etc.

Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: No problem to all of ground floor, ramps and lifts throughout
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Ideal place for children, cloisters used in 3 Harry Potter films, and part of cathedral used in Dr Who.
Dogs Allowed: Guide dogs only I expect,  otherwise ask.

CIN Page Ref:


Date Updated: 09/2008

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote the Page Ref at the bottom of the Planning Grid above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

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