St Mary de Lode Church
St Mary's Square
Gloucester GL1 2QT
Gloucester has several ancient churches and St Mary de Lode is believed to be the oldest.
The medieval St Mary de Lode is just outside the cathedral precincts in a leafy churchyard. The church is open to the public although services are only held on the fifth Sunday of the month.
Archaeologists in the 1970s discovered remains underneath St Mary’s which showed that it was built on top of a 2nd century Roman villa and a 5th century Roman mausoleum. The outlines of the subsequent churches followed the lines of the mausoleum which was quite a common practice in Romano-British times.
Finds were dated as Anglo-Saxon, medieval and post-medieval. The church was made the parish church for the estates of St Peter’s Abbey (later Gloucester Cathedral) and Gloucester. The earliest church was destroyed by fire in 1190. The current chancel was built in the 13th century together with the addition of side aisles to the nave. In the north wall is an early 14th century arched recess that contains an effigy of a priest, reputed to be William De Chamberlain who died in 1304.
The city’s churches were also used for business. A bond entered into in 1396 was redeemed in St. Mary de Lode, and the first letters patent of Lord Chancellor Richard Scrope were sealed at the church in October 1378 when parliament was meeting in Gloucester Abbey.
Civil War Prison
During the Civil War, the church was used to hold Royalist prisoners captured by the Parliamentary forces. In March 1643, prisoners taken at Highnam were held for only ten days and then released if they promised not to fight for the King again. A severe shortage of food due to the Siege of Gloucester meant that the prisoners were only fed cabbage leaves and turnip tops.
The church was used as a prison again in 1646 to house prisoners taken in a battle at Stow-on-the-Wold. The church was renovated in the 19th century. In 1826, the nave was rebuilt in the Gothic style but with cast-iron columns (a very unusual innovation). The nave contains a 15th century wooden pulpit and a Victorian organ taken from the nearby St Nicholas Church in 1971.
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St Mary’s was the family church of the Gloucestershire poet and composer, Ivor Gurney (1890-1937). He is commemorated in a stained glass window in the south aisle. The window is principally of plain glass with a striking blue border with six inset heraldic emblems and text. The heraldic devices are those of Gloucester Cathedral, the Royal College of Music, the Royal College of Organists and the Gloucestershire Regiment. The text reads “Ivor Gurney, Composer, Poet of the Severn and Somme, 1890 – 1937”.
Ivor Gurney started composing music at the age of 14 and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London in 1911. His studies were interrupted by World War I when he joined the Gloucestershire Regiment as a private. He spent 16 months at the Front and in 1917 was wounded and gassed.
While in France he wrote many poems which were published in his first book of poetry Severn and Somme in 1917. Sadly Ivor suffered from manic depression and a promising career in music and poetry was cut short when he was declared insane and committed to a London Mental Hospital where he died in 1937.
St Mary de Lode’s strange name is "Old English" and means St Mary’s by the Ferry. When the church was first built, a branch of the River Severn flowed beside the church and there was a ferry crossing there. Now of course, the River Severn has retreated beyond these water meadows.
At the rear of the church in St Mary’s Square is Bishop Hooper's Memorial. Three Cocks Lane runs behind the church and will bring the visitor back into Westgate Street.
St Mary de Lode is part of the Gloucester City Benefice.
Enquiries should be directed to the Benefice:
+44 (0)1452 412 679
Google Maps - St Mary de Lode Church