The Sanctuary at Worcester

  • 16 Feb 2019
  • Historical Studies
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The privileges of Sanctuary were granted to the Cathedral in 712. The area of the Sanctuary formed a circuit around the Cathedral, coming up from the river at Water Gate, between College Green and the site of the old Castle (now the King's School) including the north side of Edgar Street (which was called Knoll's End), across Sidbury to Lich Street, running up the south side of that street, and so down between the Bishop's Palace and the Cathedral to the river.

This area was entirely free from municipal authority, the Bishop alone having all jurisdiction therein, and the privilege of sanctuary was jealously guarded, as is shown in the following incident:

"In 1302, a man fled to Worcester Cathedral, but was followed by many avengers, who succeeded in enticing him out, and then, notwithstanding the                                threats of sarcrists and three monks, they beat him nearly to death, and afterwards forced him to leave the kingdom. For this offence, however,                                          they were compelled to do a most ignominious penance at the gate of the Cathedral."     


The privilege of sanctuary offered by the Cathedral precincts was abolished in the reign of James 1, but nevertheless, in 1671, in reply to certain enquires made by the Government, the Chapter asserted:

"The City had no jurisdiction within the Cathedral or precincts thereof" 

The Sanctuary had become the parish of St. Michael in Bedwardine, and was administered at one of the inns inside the parish boundary, until the municipal changes of 1837, when the parish of St. Michael became part of the City of Worcester.