The Cathedral Charnel House

  • 17 Mar 2019
  • Historical Studies
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Immediately north of the main entrance to the Cathedral, at a site where now the roadway widens before the North Porch, stood the Chapel of the Charnel House. It ran west alongside the Cathedral and parts of the crypt still lie beneath the roadway as far as the garden entrance to the Bishop's Palace.

When it ceased to be used as a charnel house is not known, but in 1636, the upper room fitted up for the Cathedral school, but the stench was very bad. Complaints led to the school being moved five years later to the refectory, where it remained for many years. 

During the restoration of the 19th century, the road through the church yard to the main door was cut down over four feet to near its original level, for centuries of burials had caused the ground level to rise, so that one had to descent by steps into the Cathedral. This accounts for the high path in front of the Georgian houses in College Yard. The chapel of the charnel house had gone long ago, and in cutting the road, part of the vaults of the crypt was destroyed.

During the Second World War, when deep shelters were needed for air-raids, blocked cellars under the precentor's house were probed, and found to be still filled with bones.