Programme of Archaeological Work, Project Pilgrim

In 2016/17, Border Archaeology completed a programme of archaeological work on behalf of Gloucester Cathedral Project Pilgrim in connection with Phase 1 of its 10-year enhancement and public engagement initiative.

Project Pilgrim Phase 1 was concerned (in part) with enhancing the Cathedral’s setting to the south and west, converting the existing car parks in Upper and Lower College Green to public amenity space. Upper College Green to the south of the Cathedral represents the site of the former Lay Cemetery, where preliminary evaluation trenching opened by Border Archaeology on behalf of Project Pilgrim established a burial depth of c.300-1300mm below ground level.

These results shaped subsequent mitigation works, with areas identified for Archaeological Excavation or Observation dependent on the level of disturbance affecting burials and associated below-ground deposits and features.

Much of the landscaping required only tarmac/topsoil removal to a relatively shallow depth of c.200-300mm and this was carried out under Archaeological Observation, with Archaeological Excavation required in areas of greater impact where depths of up to 1m below ground level were attained.

In summary, the archaeological programme comprised:

  • Excavation to the south of the Cathedral comprising five designated Areas to depths of c.300-500mm below ground level and, elsewhere in Upper College Green, two shallow trial-trenches, two Christmas tree sockets flanking the South Porch and additional pits to accommodate six trees, five lighting columns and three directional signs;
  • Archaeological Observation of landscaping works and drainage/service runs.

Results were as follows:

Archaeological Excavation

Prior to the commencement of excavation, 41 ledger stones likely to be impacted by the groundworks were cleaned, recorded and planned using Total Station before removal and relocation.

The five numbered Areas were excavated to engineering depth, as follows:

Areas 1 & 4 – c.0.30m;
Areas 3 & 5 – c.0.40m;
Area 2 – c.0.50m.

In all, 226 burials were recorded, 72 of which were associated with the remains of a coffin. Those found within the impact depth were lifted for analysis and subsequent reburial, whilst burials encountered at the base of the excavation were recorded and left in-situ. Additionally, 27 brick-lined graves were recorded, five of which contained inhumations. Additionally, a significant quantity of disarticulated human bone was recovered.

Depths within areas changed slightly due to the presence of skeletal remains.

Archaeological Observation

This focused largely on Lower College Green to the west of the Cathedral, the only deep excavations carried out under Archaeological Observation being those required for the installation of two bollards at King Edward’s Gate, the principal entrance into Upper College Green.

In summary, discoveries included:

  • A masonry wall running south-southwest from the corner of the south wall of the Nave and probably representing the west wall of the former Lay Cemetery in Upper College Green, with the eastern wall of the Lay Cemetery running along the rear of the houses on the east side of Upper College Green;
  • A masonry wall running roughly north south from the South Transept, likely delineating the east wall of the former Lay Cemetery;
  • Deposits and possible cuts believed to be associated with construction of the existing West Front of the Cathedral;
  • Foundations running north-south associated with the Cathedral or earlier monastic building;
  • Foundations running east-west (possibly related to the north-south foundations above) beneath the Cathedral and truncating the remains of an inhumation radiocarbon dated to the late Anglo-Saxon period;
  • A buried soil horizon in the former car park that contained five inhumations, with a masonry structure recorded in the grassed area immediately adjacent to the Cathedral;
  • Cellarage and a masonry structure revealed during installation of the two bollards at King Edward’s Gate.

Read more about Project Pilgrim, Photogrammetry

In Brief

Client: Project Pilgrim Sector: Historic Buildings Services:

Programme of Archaeological Work
Archaeological Excavation
Archaeological Observation

Location: Gloucester

Key Points

41 ledger stones likely to be impacted by the groundworks were cleaned, recorded and planned using Total Station before removal and relocation.226 burials were recorded, 72 of which were associated with the remains of a coffin27 brick-lined graves were recorded, five of which contained inhumations.A significant quantity of disarticulated human bone was recovered.

Results

These results shaped subsequent mitigation works, with areas identified for Archaeological Excavation or Observation dependent on the level of disturbance affecting burials and associated below-ground deposits and features.