Gloucester Cathedral

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Gloucester Cathedral
Cathedral Church of St Peter
and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity
Gloucester Cathedral exterior 2019.JPG
Gloucester Cathedral is located in Gloucester Central
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Shown within Gloucester
51°52′03″N 2°14′48″W / 51.8675°N 2.246667°W / 51.8675; -2.246667Coordinates: 51°52′03″N 2°14′48″W / 51.8675°N 2.246667°W / 51.8675; -2.246667
LocationGloucester, Gloucestershire
DenominationChurch of England
Previous denominationRoman Catholic
StatusFormerly Abbey, dissolved 1540. Cathedral since 1541
DedicationSt Peter
Holy Trinity
Consecrated15 July 1100
StyleRomanesque & Gothic
Years built1089–1499
Length426 ft 6 in (130.00 m)
Nave length174 ft (53 m)[1]
Choir length140 ft (43 m)[1]
Nave width34 ft (10 m)[1]
Width across transepts144 ft (44 m)
Nave height68 ft (21 m)[1]
Choir height86 ft (26 m)[1]
Number of towers1
Tower height225 ft (69 m)
DioceseGloucester (since 1541)
Bishop(s)Rachel Treweek
DeanStephen Lake
PrecentorRichard Mitchell
ChancellorCelia Thomson
Canon(s)Nikki Arthy (City Rector)
Canon MissionerAndrew Braddock (DMM)
ArchdeaconHilary Dawson
Director of musicAdrian Partington
Organist(s)Jonathan Hope
Chapter clerkEmily Shepherd (COO)
Lay member(s) of chapterCanon Peter Clark, Canon John Coates, Canon Paul Mason[2][3]

Gloucester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the River Severn. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter (dissolved by Henry VIII).


Wardle records that in 1058 Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester at the time, rebuilt the church of St Peter.[4] The foundations of the present church were laid by Abbot Serlo (1072–1104). Walter Frocester (died 1412) the abbey's historian, became its first mitred abbot in 1381.[5] Until 1541, Gloucester lay in the see of Worcester; the Diocese of Gloucester was then created, with John Wakeman, last abbot of Tewkesbury, as its first bishop. The diocese covers the greater part of Gloucestershire, with small parts of Herefordshire and Wiltshire. The cathedral has a stained-glass window depicting the earliest images of golf. This dates from 1350, over 300 years earlier than the earliest image of golf from Scotland.[6] There is also a carved image of people playing a ball game,[7] believed by some to be one of the earliest images of medieval football.

During the Second World War a recess in the crypt was strengthened with timber supports and it was used to house the Coronation Chair, which had been moved in August 1939 from Westminster Abbey to the cathedral for safe keeping. As it also seemed to provide the most protected location for the cathedral's 13th century bog-oak effigy of Robert Curthose, this was placed on the chair.[8] Sandbags were then used to seal off the recess. The chair remained there for the duration of the war. The remainder of the 10,000 sandbags supplied by the Office of Works were used to protect the other monuments in the cathedral, including the Tomb of Edward II.[8]

Construction and architecture[edit]

The soaring stained-glass windows behind the high altar
Gloucester Cathedral West Window
Gloucester Cathedral vaulted Ceiling

The cathedral consists of a Norman nave (Walter de Lacy is buried there), with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 feet (130 m) long, and 144 feet (44 m) wide, with a fine central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 225 ft (69 m) and topped by four delicate pinnacles, a famous landmark.

The crypt, nave and chapter house date from the late 11th century. The crypt is one of the four apsidal cathedral crypts in England, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury. The nave was begun in 1089. The church was largely complete by 1100. In the early 12th century, the western towers were added; the south tower collapsed around 1165.

In 1222, a fire damaged the timber roof and several of the monastic buildings. To repair the damage and update the architectural style, an ambitious building campaign was launched, including the revaulting of the nave Early English style (completed 1243); the construction of the central tower (begun 1237); the rebuilding of the collapsed south tower (completed 1246); and the rebuilding of the refectory.[9]

The nave looking east toward the choir

The south aisle was rebuilt in 1318–29. The pilgrimage to the tomb of Edward II (died 1327) brought a huge influx of cash enabling the rebuilding and redecorating of the south transept (1329–37), the north transept (1368–73), and the choir (1350–77). The Norman choir walls are sheathed in Perpendicular tracery. The multiplication of ribs, liernes and bosses in the choir vaulting is particularly rich. The late Decorated east window is partly filled with surviving medieval stained glass.

Between the apsidal chapels is a cross Lady chapel, and north of the nave are the cloisters, the carrels or stalls for the monks' study and writing lying to the south. The cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults, having been designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Cantebrugge.[10]

The most notable monument is the canopied shrine of Edward II of England who was murdered at nearby Berkeley Castle (illustration below) in 1327. The building and sanctuary were enriched by the visits of pilgrims to this shrine. In a side-chapel is a monument in coloured bog oak of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and a great benefactor of the abbey, who was interred there. Monuments of William Warburton (Bishop of Gloucester) and Edward Jenner (physician) are also worthy of note. The abbey was the site of the coronation of Henry III on 28 October 1216. This is commemorated in a stained-glass window in the south aisle.[11]

Between 1873 and 1890, and in 1897, the cathedral was extensively restored by George Gilbert Scott.


The cathedral has forty-six 14th-century misericords and twelve 19th-century replacements by Gilbert Scott. Both types have a wide range of subject matter: mythology, everyday occurrences, religious symbolism and folklore.[12]

Solar panels[edit]

In September 2016 Gloucester Cathedral joined the Church of England's 'Shrinking the footprint' campaign, intended to reduce the Church of England's carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. In order to help reach this target Gloucester Cathedral commissioned installation of a solar array on the cathedral roof which is expected to reduce the cathedral's energy costs by 25%.[13] The installation was completed by November 2016, making the 1,000-year-old cathedral the oldest one in the UK with a solar installation.[14][15]

Dean and chapter[edit]

As of 30 January 2019:[16]

  • DeanStephen Lake (since 12 June 2011 installation)
  • Canon Precentor & Director of Congregational Development — Richard Mitchell (since 10 September 2016 installation)[17]
  • Canon Chancellor — Celia Thomson (since 15 March 2003 installation; previously Pastor)[18]
  • City Centre Rector (Diocesan Canon) — Nikki Arthy (since 2009; Rector of St Mary de Lode, St Mary de Crypt and Hempsted)
  • Director of Mission and Ministry (Diocesan Canon) — Andrew Braddock (since 2 February 2013 installation)[19]
  • Archdeacon of Gloucester (Diocesan Canon) — Hilary Dawson (since 27 January 2019 collation)


Facing west towards the choir, with the organ above.


In medieval times, daily worship was sung by boys and monks from the abbey. The cathedral's current choir was established by King Henry VIII in 1539, and at present is composed of 18 boy and 20 girl choristers, as well as 12 adult singers. The choristers attend the King's School, which was also founded by Henry VIII. The choir sings regularly during term time and at major religious festivals such as Christmas or Easter. It also takes part in concerts and has been featured in choral evensong on BBC Radio 3.[20]


The organ was originally constructed in 1666 by Thomas Harris and has the only complete 17th-century cathedral organ case surviving in the country. The pipes displayed on the front of the case are still functional. The organ was extended and modified by nearly all of the established UK organ builders, including Henry "Father" Willis who worked on the organ in 1847 and rebuilt it in 1888–89.[21][22] It was rebuilt again in 1920 by Harrison & Harrison.[23]

In 1971 Hill, Norman and Beard performed a total redesign, under the supervision of Cathedral Organist John Sanders and consultant Ralph Downes. In 1999 Nicholson & Co overhauled the organ, when the soundboards, pipework and wind supply were renovated and the computer system was updated. In 2010 Nicholson also added a Trompette Harmonique solo reed.[23]

The organ comprises four manuals and pedals. It is designed particularly to play from its position on the Quire screen to both East and West sides of the cathedral. The Swell is situated in the centre of the case at console level and is controlled by two swell pedals, one for each side of the case. Directly above the Swell is the Great organ which is split into East and West divisions; it comprises two separate principal choruses. The fourth manual is a West Positive, mirroring the function of the Choir organ for the West side of the cathedral.[23]


In 1582, Robert Lichfield is recorded as the organist of Gloucester Cathedral. Notable among the organists are composers and choral conductors of the Three Choirs Festival, Herbert Brewer, Herbert Sumsion and John Sanders. Herbert Howells, who was a pupil of Brewer, composed a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for Gloucester Cathedral

Three Choirs Festival[edit]

An annual musical festival, the Three Choirs Festival, is hosted by turns in this cathedral and those of Worcester and Hereford in rotation.[24] The Three Choirs is the oldest annual musical festival in the world.

Clock and bells[edit]


The cathedral's clock, bells and the chimes are referred to in a repair agreement of 1525. The present clock, installed in 1898, is by Dent and Co, who built the clock for Big Ben. There is no external dial, but there is a fine Art Nouveau clock face in the north transept, dating from 1903, designed by Henry Wilson.[25]


The bells were rehung and augmented in 1978 to give a ring of twelve. The two oldest bells date from before 1420, so they are older than the present tower. The bells are rung 'full circle' by the cathedral's band of ringers for the weekly practice session In addition there is Great Peter, the largest medieval bell in Britain, weighing a fraction under three tons. Great Peter is the hour bell and can also be heard ringing before the main services.[26]

Burials and monuments[edit]

Gloucester Cathedral has a large collection of funerary monuments from the Middle Ages to the present. Notable people buried at Gloucester Cathedral include:

Film and television location[edit]

The Great Cloister[a] with its fan vaulted roof, outside the north wall of the cathedral, was used as a location in the Harry Potter films[28]

The cathedral has been used as a filming location for movies and for TV including: the first, second and sixth Harry Potter movies;[citation needed] the Doctor Who episodes The Next Doctor[29][30] and the Fugitive of the Judoon;[31] The Hollow Crown;[32] Wolf Hall;[33] the Sherlock special The Abominable Bride;[34][35] Mary Queen of Scots;[36] and all three of The Cousins' War adaptations – The White Queen,[37] The White Princess[38] and The Spanish Princess.[39]

Academic use[edit]

Degree ceremonies of the University of Gloucestershire and the University of the West of England (through Hartpury College) both take place at the cathedral.[40][41]

The cathedral is also used during school term-time as the venue for assemblies (known as morning chapel) by The King's School, Gloucester, and for events by the Denmark Road High School, Crypt Grammar School, Sir Thomas Rich's School for boys and Ribston Hall High School.[42]


Tomb of Edward II
  • 678-9 A small religious community was founded in Saxon times by Osric of the Hwicce. His sister Kyneburga was the first abbess.
  • 1017 Secular priests expelled; the monastery given to Benedictine monks.
  • 1072 Serlo, the first Norman abbot, appointed to the almost defunct monastery by William I.
  • 1089 Foundation stone of the new abbey church laid by Robert de Losinga, Bishop of Hereford.
  • 1100 Consecration of St Peter's Abbey.
  • 1216 First coronation of Henry III.
  • 1327 Burial of Edward II.
  • 1331 Perpendicular remodelling of the quire.
  • 1373 Great Cloister[28] begun by Abbot Horton; completed by Abbott Frouster (1381–1412)
  • 1420 West End rebuilt by Abbot Morwent.
  • 1450 Tower begun by Abbot Sebrok; completed by Robert Tully.
  • 1470 Lady Chapel rebuilt by Abbot Hanley; completed by Abbot Farley (1472–98).
  • 1540 Dissolution of the abbey.
  • 1541 Refounded as a cathedral by Henry VIII.
  • 1616–21 William Laud holds the office of Dean of Gloucester
  • 1649–60 Abolition of dean and chapter, reinstated by Charles II
  • 1666 Installation of Great Organ by Thomas Harris
  • 1735–52 Martin Benson, Bishop of Gloucester, carried out major repairs and alterations to the cathedral.
  • 1847–73 Beginning of extensive Victorian restoration work (Frederick S. Waller and George Gilbert Scott, architects).
  • 1953 Major appeal for the restoration of the cathedral; renewed
  • 1968 Cathedral largely re-roofed and other major work completed.
  • 1989 900th anniversary appeal.
  • 1994 Restoration of tower completed.
  • 2000 Celebration of the novecentennial of the consecration of St Peter's Abbey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gloucester Cathedral also has a Little Cloister, extending from the northeast corner of the Great Cloisters


  1. ^ a b c d e "Plan of Gloucester Cathedral". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Governance". Gloucester Cathedral Website. Archived from the original on 28 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Appointments". Church Times. Archived from the original on 28 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  4. ^ Wardle, Terry Heroes & Villains of Worcestershire 2010 The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire p. 10 ISBN 978-0-7524-5515-0
  5. ^ Gransden, Antonia (2013). Historical Writing in England: 550 – 1307 and 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century. Routledge. p. 391. ISBN 9781136190216. Archived from the original on 5 October 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  6. ^ "The first Golf record?". A Royal and Ancient Golf History video. Fore Tee Video. Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 16 January 2009.
  7. ^ Flight, Tim (14 November 2019). "40 Unusual Laws in History". History Collection. Site has an image of a misericord, c.1350, at Gloucester Cathedral depicting a game similar to football.
  8. ^ a b Shenton, Caroline (2021). National Treasures: Saving the Nation's Art in World War II (Hardback). London: John Murray. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-1-529-38743-8.
  9. ^ Herbert, N.M., ed. (1988). A History of the County of Gloucester. Vol. 4. London: Victoria County History. pp. 275–288.
  10. ^ Harvey, John (1978). The Perpendicular Style. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1610-6.
  11. ^ The history, art, and architecture of Gloucester Cathedral, David Welander, Sutton, 1991
  12. ^ "The Misericords and history of Gloucester Cathedral". Misericords. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Let there be light – 1000 year old Gloucester Cathedral becomes the oldest building of its type in the world to install solar PV". Archived from the original on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  14. ^ "First panels laid on 1,000 year old Gloucester Cathedral". Solar Power Portal. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral 'oldest' to get solar panels". BBC. 5 September 2016. Archived from the original on 3 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral – Cathedral Chapter". Archived from the original on 5 October 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Crown Appoints Canon Precentor". Archived from the original on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Christ Church West Wimbledon — Information, Candlemas 2003" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Church Times Gazette". Church Times. p. 58. #7814. 21/28 December 2012
  20. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral | Cathedral Choir". Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  21. ^ "The National Pipe Organ Register". Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  22. ^ "The National Pipe Organ Register". Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "Gloucester Cathedral – Organ". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  24. ^ "Three Choirs Festival". Archived from the original on 18 April 1999. Retrieved 16 January 2009.
  25. ^ Verey, David; Brooks, Alan (2002). Gloucester: The cathedral church of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity (3 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-300-11018-9.
  26. ^ "Clock, Bells & Chimes". Gloucester Cathedral. Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Burial vault discovered 'accidentally' at Gloucester Cathedral". BBC News. 2 November 2015. Archived from the original on 2 November 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  28. ^ a b "The Cloister Project". 29 September 2022. Archived from the original on 22 August 2022. Retrieved 29 September 2022. Built in the 14th century, the Great Cloister is widely regarded as the first and best example of fan vaulting in the world and is now known as ‘Hogwarts’ to Harry Potter fans.
  29. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral 'should be heritage site'". January 2014. Archived from the original on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  30. ^ "Gloucester on film". Archived from the original on 15 August 2016.
  31. ^ Norris, Phil (21 January 2020). "Doctor Who in Gloucester: This is probably the strangest thing you'll ever see in a cafe". Gloucestershire Live. Archived from the original on 26 January 2020. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  32. ^ "IT was a case of 'once more into the breach' for Gloucester Cathedral which has provided the backdrop for another star studded drama". 20 January 2012. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  33. ^ "The stately homes of Wolf Hall". 7 September 2018. Archived from the original on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Sherlock watch: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman set for filming in Gloucester Cathedral". Gloucester Citizen. 22 January 2015. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  35. ^ "Sherlock stars back filming at Gloucester Cathedral today". Gloucester Citizen. 23 January 2015. Archived from the original on 26 January 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  36. ^ Hughes, Janet (15 July 2018). "Spot Gloucester Cathedral in trailer for £180million Margot Robbie blockbuster Mary Queen of Scots". Gloucestershire Live. Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  37. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral Engagement Twitter".
  38. ^ "Film friendly cathedral provides setting for another blockbuster".
  39. ^ "Filmed In Gloucester".
  40. ^ "University announces honorary awards". University of Gloucestershire. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2021. The graduation ceremonies will take place at Gloucester Cathedral on Thursday November 19 and Friday November 20, 2020
  41. ^ "Hartpury University Graduation". Hartpury University and Hartpury College. Retrieved 9 July 2021. Award ceremonies at Gloucester Cathedral on 3–5 November 2021
  42. ^ "G15 Celebration of Success 2018". Make Music Gloucestershire. 5 July 2018. Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Simmons, D A (1962). Who's who in music and musicians' international directory (4th. ed.). London: Burke's Peerage Ltd. OCLC 13309419. Published in America as Simmons, David (1962). Who's who in music and musicians' international directory (4th. ed.). New York: Hafner Publishing Company. OCLC 12923270.

External links[edit]