Gloucester Cathedral

Edward II Tomb

The early 14th century was a turbulent and fascinating time in local, national and international history. Following Edward's abdication, imprisonment and alleged murder at Berkeley Castle, he was buried at St Peter's Abbey, now Gloucester Cathedral. The tomb, commissioned by Edward III, probably in the 1330s, was visited by thousands of pilgrims, including Richard II in 1378. Donations and royal patronage enabled the Abbey to remodel its quire and presbytery and build its famous cloisters (innovative and celebrated examples of their style), while the famous Great East Window was built following Edward III's French campaign. So great were the numbers of pilgrims that niches were cut into the pillars on each side of the tomb, so crowds could walk round it.  Therefore, the tomb was almost certainly the original source of funding and inspiration for much of the cathedral building we know and love today.

The tomb's presence may have also discouraged Henry VIII from sacking the abbey church in the 1530s. Standing in the north ambulatory of Gloucester Cathedral it is the only monarch’s tomb in the South West, one of a only a few outside London and as such is of both historical and architectural significance. The tomb is an early example of the English Court style, with plinth/base, effigy and ornamental canopy. Happily, Edward’s tomb retains its oolitic limestone canopy, which Pevsner’s guide describes as “arguably the most thrilling of all tomb canopies”. The alabaster effigy was the very first of its kind in England; the limestone base, clad in Purbeck marble, was probably made in London.

Over the past few years a great deal of work has been carried out in the form of archaeological research and materials used. The conservation work started in late 2007 and included much-needed repairs and other measures to conserve this magnificent structure for many years to come. The requirements were complex, involving repairs to and conservation of, the plinth, alabaster effigy and ornamental canopy and of necessity involved a range of heritage professionals and craftspeople.

The work on the tomb was completed in June 2008 and the Princess Royal came to unveil the tomb.  The major funders were the Heritage Lottery Fund, Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and the Summerfield Trust and the project cost well in excess of £100,000.

 



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