An “extremely well preserved” family burial vault has been discovered “accidentally” at Gloucester Cathedral.

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The tomb in the North Transept contains coffins belonging to the Hyett family dating from the 17th and 18th Centuries. It was found by archaeologists who lifted a neighbouring ledger stone while carrying out an evaluation ahead of the possible installation of a new lift. The process caused a small hole to be created which allowed the contents of the vault to be seen.

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Cathedral archaeologist Richard Morriss said “the discovery of the 8ft (2.5m) deep chamber was unexpected.” “What you normally find when you dig up a ledger slab is earth and bones, there’s nothing specific in there.

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“But we can just see into a genuine intact family vault. “You would expect the cathedral to have been restored time and time again. The floors get churned up and re-laid, but this has stayed intact. “The coffins are extremely well preserved, you can still see the name plates.

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“And the name plates actually match up with the names on the ledgers above, which is remarkable.” Mr Morriss said the family must have been “pretty wealthy” to have afforded this kind of burial vault within the heart of the cathedral.

The Reverend Canon Celia Thomson said the discovery of the vault was “really exciting” and the discovery of a child’s coffin was “particularly poignant”. “You can just imagine the grief of the parents at that stage. It brings history to life,” she said.

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Lord Dickinson, who is a descendent, by marriage, of the Hyett family, said the discovery was “fascinating”. “Like the rest of the world I didn’t know there was anything under the slab,” he said.

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Re-deposited human remains were discovered beneath the ledger stone, including a number of skulls and leg bones.

The installation of a new lift in the North Transept is part of a 10-year plan, known as Project Pilgrim, to improve facilities at the medieval building.

The Very Reverend Dean of Gloucester, Stephen Lake said “It is very important to remember that, coincidentally, today is All Souls Day, when the Church all around the world, remembers all those who have died. We will pray today for the departed including the Hyett family who are the subject of this archaeological  discovery.”

 

Project Pilgrim Manager Anne Cranston was there when the vault was uncovered. She said: “When we lifted the ledger stones we were interested in technical information to support our plans to make Gloucester Cathedral more accessible.  This discovery has touched everyone – it’s an amazing archaeological find and a very human story.”

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

17th Century Hyett Family Burial Vault is unearthed at Gloucester Cathedral by Kate | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/