The Sanctuary at Worcester

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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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 the Water Gate, between the 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 alaone 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 the sacrists 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 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 enquiries 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.Micheal in Bedwardine, and was part of the County of Worcestershire. For this reason County justice was administered at one of the inns inside the parish boundary, until the municipal changes of 1837, when the parish of St.Micheal became part of the City of Worcester.