Archive for April, 2017

Gloucester’s Medieval Parish Churches

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

There were nearly a dozen parish churches in medieval Gloucester, and although they did not play a big role in Memento Mori, a novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries set in that city in 1392, they were an important component of daily life in the era.  Some of them were truly ancient, founded before the Norman Conquest in 1066.  There are records for most of them from at least the 13th century onward.  Five of them are still active, serving the community today.

The one which does appear in my story is Saint Mary de Crypt, one of three churches dedicated to the Holy Virgin in the medieval town.  It was first recorded in 1140 with the name of the Church of the Blessed Mary within Southgate and was also known as just Saint Mary in the south, because of its location.  It is the site of a wedding in the story of Memento Mori.  Its doorway is Norman in style with a lamb and flag in the tympanum.  In Victorian times, one of the members of this parish, Robert Raikes, became known as the founder of the Sunday School movement.  He was buried in the church in the early 19th century.  For more details on this church, click on,_Gloucester .

Saint Nicholas Church is on Westgate Street a little west of where I envisioned Lady Apollonia living in Windemere House.  In 1229 Henry III gave the church to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital to support the poor there.  It was largely rebuilt in the 13th century and there were some alterations to the building after the time of my novel.  The church became redundant in 1971 but has been used in the last half year by a church called Clearspring for weekly services.  For more details on this church, click on’_Church,_Gloucester

Saint Mary de Lode, shown above, is another medieval church dedicated to the Virgin which survives.  In 1392 it was known as Saint Mary Before the Gate of Saint Peter because it sat opposite Saint Mary’s Gate to the Abbey of Saint Peter.  It is built over two ancient Roman buildings, and some believe it to be the oldest church in Britain.  Lady Apollonia entered the abbey grounds through Saint Mary’s Gate in the story, so she would have walked past this church.  For more details on this church, click on,_Gloucester

Most of the other medieval churches in Gloucester are demolished or transformed.  For a more detailed description of all of Gloucester’s medieval parish churches, click on

Gloucester Monasteries

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

The third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, Memento Mori, is set in medieval Gloucester of 1392.  In this posting, I would like to discuss the monastic situation in the city at that time which included a Benedictine abbey, two Augustinian priories, and three orders of friars.

Last month my postings concerned the Abbey of Saint Peter which was Benedictine in 1392 and evolved later into Gloucester Cathedral.  This monastery was important in my story, and you can read more about it in my March postings.

Another Benedictine foundation was Saint Oswald’s Priory which also played a role in my story.  Saint Oswald’s had been founded by Queen Aethelflaeda, daughter of Alfred the Great.  It was located on the northwest side of the city and was named for a Northumbrian king and martyr, killed at the Battle of Maserfield in 641 AD, whose body parts were eventually brought in 909 AD to be buried at the new priory.  A few years later Aethelfraeda, as well as her husband, Aethelred, were also probably buried at Saint Oswald’s.

After the Norman Conquest, the fortunes of Saint Oswald’s began to wane despite its becoming Augustinian.  This was partly because it fell into the hands of the Archbishop of York who was in an acrimonious relationship with the Bishop of Worcester in whose jurisdiction the city of Gloucester resided.  One of the villains in my story is a dissolute monk in this priory which had seen better days.  At the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, the priory was made up of only seven monks.  Part of the priory church building was preserved as a parish church but was heavily damaged in the English Civil War.  Today, English Heritage maintains what is left of the ruins, little more than a few arches, as shown above.  Note the cathedral tower in the background.

Another Augustinian priory has only an indirect relation to my story.  It was founded around 1150 southwest of the city as Llanthony Secunda after Llanthony Priory in Wales which had been overrun by rebels.  This new Gloucester priory survived and thrived even after the Welsh version was reopened four years later.  By the Dissolution in 1538, Llanthony Priory in Gloucester was among the richest Augustinian houses in England.  Its holdings included 97 churches, including some in Gloucester.  Among them was the Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh which I featured in my last posting.

Three friaries came to Gloucester in the 13th century: the Greyfriars or Franciscans, the Blackfriars or Dominicans, and Whitefriars or Carmelites.  Nothing remains of the Whitefriars, but there are ruins of the Greyfriars from their rebuilding in the early 16th century.  The remains of the Blackfriars in Gloucester date from 1239, and it is the most complete Surviving Dominican Friary in England.

Saint Kyneburgh

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Saint Kyneburgh was a local Anglo-Saxon saint in Gloucester.  Two of the characters in Memento Mori, a novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, have a relationship to this Anglo-Saxon saint.  At the time of my novel in 1392, the bones of Saint Kyneburgh were buried in the chapel bearing her name that stood near the South Gate of the city.  One of the characters in the story is Father Arnold, the priest of the Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh.  The other is a hermit or anchorite whose cell was located between the city wall and the chapel.  He devoted his life to the worship of the saint and especially to the protection of Saint Kyneburgh’s Well just a few steps outside the former place of the chapel and medieval wall.

There is no remnant today of the chapel.  Instead, there are modern sculptures which mark its location and that of the well.  One, near the well, is a steel tower named Kyneburgh which is 16 metres high.  It was designed by an artist, Tom Price, who also designed a 30-metre wall sculpture along the line of the medieval wall where the chapel once stood.  The city commissioned these art works in 2011 to commemorate the site and were the first things we saw on our research trip to Gloucester in 2012 as we approached this part of Gloucester from the south.

Who was Saint Kyneburgh, pictured in a stained-glass window in the drawing, shown above, by our friend, Philip Moss?  She may have been the sister of Osric, the man I wrote about on March 6, who founded the Abbey of Saint Peter as a community of monks and nuns who worshipped together under the rule of the first abbess, Kyneburgh.  Not much is known of her, but one later story about her sainthood seems to differ from her being that abbess.  It says that she refused her parents desires for her arraigned marriage, ran away, and went to work for a baker in Gloucester.  He so admired her saintly character that he adopted her as his daughter, but his wife became jealous, killed Kyneburgh, and threw her body into a well just outside the South Gate of the city.

Miracles are said to have begun happening at this well leading to the formation of the cult of Kyneburgh.  A chapel was built by the remains of the Roman south gate, and we know it was remodelled in 1147.  By the time of my novel, the city had rebuilt the medieval south gate a little further to the east.  The chapel by then had become the site where Kyneburgh’s bones are alleged to have been buried.  In 1389, miracles mysteriously stopped when the bones were transported to nearby Llanthony Priory.  The next year they were returned to the chapel, and the hermit’s cell was constructed and occupied.  My story takes place two years later.

Today, there is a 13th century effigy of a woman in a chapel, the only remaining building of the medieval Saint Mary Magdalene Leper Hospital which was just outside Gloucester.  The effigy was saved when the Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh was demolished, and tradition says it contains the remains of Saint Kyneburgh herself.

For more on Saint Kyneburgh, click on

Gloucester Medieval History

Monday, April 10th, 2017

My third novel in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, Memento Mori, is set in Gloucester in 1392.  In this posting, I would like to discuss the history of Gloucester from the departure of the Roman army in the 5th century until the time of Lady Apollonia’s adventure there.  Although the Romans had occupied the part of Britain where the Dobunni, a Celtic tribe, had been located, there were few Celts left after the Roman departure to stop the Saxons from taking over the area.

A decisive battle at Dyrham in 577 resulted in the capture of Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath by the Hwicce, a subordinate tribe of the Mercian dynasty.  A century later, King Osric of the Hwicce founded the abbey which appears in Memento Mori as the Abbey of Saint Peter.  This foundation by Osric is mentioned in my blog post of March 1, 2017.  The town was re-fortified and re-planned in the 10th century as part of the Kingdom of Mercia by Queen Aethelflaeda, daughter of Alfred the Great and the street plan of modern Gloucester was largely determined at that time.  The last major king of the Saxon period, Edward the Confessor, used the great hall of the Royal Manor at Kingsholm to meet with his council putting Gloucester on a level with Winchester and London.

The Norman period brought change after 1066, but William the Conqueror continued the practice of sometimes meeting his Council in Gloucester.  At such a gathering in 1085, he ordered the survey of the kingdom that came to be known as the Domesday Book.  He also appointed Serlo of Bayeux as the abbot who was to restore the flagging fortunes of Saint Peter’s abbey.  The picture above shows the Norman pillars in the nave of Gloucester Cathedral, a remnant of Serlo’s building program for the abbey.

King Henry I in 1155 granted a city charter to Gloucester which gave it a status like Westminster and London.  The only English monarch since the Conquest to be crowned outside of Westminster was Henry III, crowned in Gloucester’s Abbey of Saint Peter in 1216.  He was only nine when he became king but throughout his life, he was very supportive of friaries that were founded in Gloucester

The big event of the14th century was the burial of King Edward II at the Abbey of Saint Peter as I have discussed in my posting of March 9, 2017.  His tomb brought pilgrim’s gifts, and royal funds to the abbey from his son, King Edward III, enabling the grand refurbishing of the abbey church it had become at the time of my novel and as it can be seen today.

By the time of my story, Gloucester was a port on the Severn River which had major trading connections with Bristol, with smaller market towns in the region and with South Wales.  Ironworking and clothmaking were important to its economic base.  My story mentions Gloucester’s Gild Hall which was a meeting place for guildsmen at the time.

For more on the medieval history of Gloucester, click on

Roman Gloucester

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

All the towns and villages used as principal settings in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries are ancient, and five of the six sites are of Roman origin.  Gloucester, where I have set Memento Mori, the third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, is no exception.  The Romans realised the importance of Gloucester’s location on the River Severn and about 48 AD established a market town there called Glevum.  The army built a fortress at Kingsholm, just north of present Gloucester’s city centre, a location near to the most southern fording of the Severn.  The Romans built a new fortress at the site of the present city centre around 66 AD and dismantled the one at Kingsholm.  Until 74 AD, they saw this new fortress as a possible springboard into Wales, although that role was eventually taken over by a new Roman fortress at Caerleon in Wales from 75 to 300 AD.

The Emperor Nerva, in his short reign from 96 to 98 A D, granted to the city that grew around the fortress a charter and the title of Colonia Nervia Gervensis.  A colonia was the term for a Roman outpost intended to protect occupied territory.  The idea goes back to the 8th century BC, and the first examples of colonia were in what is now Italy.  By the 1st century AD, coloniae could be found throughout the Roman Empire from York in the north of England down through Gaul west of the Rhine to Spain and on to North Africa.  Further east, they extended south of the Danube on through Greece and beyond.  The Roman concept of colonia gave us the modern word for colony.

There are remnants of Roman Glevum in modern Gloucester.  The North Gate and the East Gate of Glevum have been excavated.  Part of the excavation of the East Gate is now revealed through a clear glass opening in the street at that location.  Archaeology has also revealed the location of the Forum and the Basilica as well as several well-to-do Roman residences.  The North, East, and South Roman gates and some parts of the Roman wall influenced the position of the gates and walls of medieval Gloucester.  Also, the principal streets going in four directions from the Crossing in the modern city centre can be traced back to the Roman time.

The Gloucester City Museum displays a portion of the Roman wall at the base of its west wall as shown in the picture above.  This section of the Roman wall was south of the East Gate.  The original Roman wall was an earthen wall, but it was rebuilt in stone in the 80’s AD and strengthened in the 290’s AD.  This was the version that we can see at the base of the museum wall.  A city model in the museum shows where certain important Roman buildings were probably located although their exact positions have not yet been determined.

For more on Roman Gloucester, click on

Gloucester Cathedral’s Gates

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Gloucester Cathedral in England was a monastic church in 1392 and played an important role in Memento Mori, the third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  In the 14th century, the present cathedral was the Abbey of Saint Peter which was the most important monastic house in Gloucester.  I would like in this posting to discuss some of the abbey gates and walls which formed the abbey precincts in 1392.

The cathedral close is an area of about twelve acres which were enclosed by stone walls in the 13th century to form the precincts of Saint Peter’s Abbey.  The abbey church, sitting amid its monastic buildings, dominated the close.  On the north side of this area, the abbey walls were part of the city’s defences.  Elsewhere, these walls separated the monastery from the secular city.  Access to the abbey was provided by gates of which three still exist today.

Saint Mary’s Gate is on the west side of the abbey precincts and was considered the main entrance.  In my story, my heroine, Lady Apollonia, approached the abbey through this gate when she visited the abbey church.  It is shown in the picture above which was taken from outside the cathedral close in 2012.  There is a very picturesque building to the right of the gate, but its timber-framed upper storey was not erected until the 16th century.  The stone, lower portion of that building is 13th century.  Today, Saint Mary’s Gate faces Three Cocks Lane.

King Edward’s Gate is on the south side of the close, spanning a lane which runs from Westgate Street to what was then the burial ground of the abbey.  It was built in the 13th century by King Edward I and was the gate through which the body of King Edward II passed when it was brought to the abbey for burial.  The gate was remodelled in the 16th century, and some of it was dismantled in the 19th century.  Still, the west tower remains on the lane which is now called College Street.

St Michael’s gate is also on the south side of the close but further east at the end of College Court.  It is not referred in my novel, but is important to tourists today because it is next to the home which Beatrix Potter chose for her Tailor of Gloucester.  That building now houses a shop and museum devoted to the world of Beatrix Potter.

Many of the abbey buildings are gone from the close, such as the refectory and dorter.  The infirmary is just a few ruins.  The abbot’s lodging in 1380 became the prior’s lodging when a new abbot’s lodging was built.  That prior’s lodging is still attached to the church and is now known as Church House.  The newer abbot’s lodging became the Bishop’s Palace when the abbey was dissolved and became a cathedral in the new Diocese of Gloucester.  Other buildings on the east and south sides of the close were erected since the church became a cathedral.