St Oswold's Anglo-Saxon Minster & Medieval Priory

St Oswald’s Priory, some historical ruins in Gloucester

St Oswald’s Priory is located close to Gloucester Cathedral on Archdeacon Street. The priory is easy to spot if walking towards the old Cattle Market site. I have passed many times and had a quick look, but this time. I had a good read of the notice and looked around at the ruins. The priory is one of many Priories in Gloucester to have a mooch around.

The remaining wall at the site incorporates remnants of the church. It’s a relaxing place to sit on a bench in the park. Nearby is the delightful Pelican Inn, a fantastic place for real ale.

This site is also where they buried Athelfled and Ethelred and also where they educated the first king of England Athelstan. However, the site’s historical importance is massive.

St Oswald’s Anglo-Saxon Minster & Medieval Priory

Lady Aethelflaed of Mercia founded St. Oswald’s Priory at around 900AD. She is the daughter of Alfred the Great. They did the original build using recycled Roman stones. Originally the site was a Christian burial site, however in 909AD they brought the relics of St Oswald. They then dedicated the building to St. Oswald.

In the centuries that followed, St Oswald’s Priory grew rich as it had become a place of pilgrimage and was at the centre of a large parish.

By the time of the Norman Conquest, the church was in decline. The Archbishop of York then took it over. Then its secular canons replaced by Augustinian ones in 1153.

In 1548, it became the parish church of St. Catherine. For a while, it was a highly popular place of worship. But then came the English Civil War and the Siege of Gloucester. Royalist cannons mostly destroyed the building. They eventually demolished the church in 1653. However, the stone was used to rebuild a new market house.

What Wikipedia Says?

Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, founded St Oswald’s Priory. As well as her husband Æthelred, ealdorman of Mercia, in the late 880s or the 890s. St Peter’s Abbey had been founded in Gloucester about 679 by Osric, ruler of the Hwicce, and at the end of the ninth century, Æthelflæd and Æthelred founded a new minster at a different location in Gloucester, also initially dedicated to St Peter. In 909, a combined West Saxon and Mercian raid into Danish territory resulted in the translation of the bones of St Oswald to the new church from Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire, and they renamed the priory of St Oswald’s in his honour.

St Oswald’s, founded when Gloucester was an important new burh, at first enjoyed royal favour, and both Æthelflæd and Æthelred were buried there. Æthelflæd’s nephew, the future King Æthelstan, was brought up at their court, and according to a charter only preserved in a transcript dating from 1304, in 925 Æthelstan granted privileges to St Oswald’s “according to a pact of paternal piety which formerly he pledged with Æthelred”.[4] Æthelstan was a major benefactor of St Oswald’s. Also he may have commissioned grave covers for the tombs of Æthelflæd and Æthelred.

However, the priory soon declined into obscurity. Late in the reign of King Cnut, its estates were used as an endowment for a royal clerk. In 1089 Serlo, the Norman abbot of the original St Peter’s, began an ambitious new church (later Gloucester Cathedral). This was to replace the old minster and St Oswald’s. Its emoluments, much reduced, became a minor house of Augustinian canons. They suppressed the monastery in 1536. It then became the parish church of St Catherine. However, this was destroyed in a Civil War siege in 1643.,_Gloucester

Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery

Items from St Oswald’s priory are in Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery.

Further Reading