Excavations of St John’s Walk, the Tudor walkway at Hereford Cathedral, have revealed evidence of the lost tomb of Gilbert Swinfield, Canon Chancellor of the Cathedral in the late thirteenth century. Gilbert’s burial had been opened and his tombstone removed in 1841 by Dean Merewether when he carried out restorations to the Cathedral. Although the Cathedral archives contain objects recovered from the grave, the tombstone was discarded. It appears that it was trimmed and reused upside down as a paving slab during late Victorian repairs to St John’s Walk. Builders lifting the floor of the Walk have brought the stone to light.
‘This find is of great interest’, said Canon Chris Pullin, the Cathedral’s current Chancellor. ‘Gilbert Swinfield was a member of a significant medieval family who played an important role in establishing Hereford Cathedral as a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. It’s fantastic to have such contemporary evidence of Gilbert’s importance to the Cathedral’.
The tombstone along with fragments of gold braid and leather from the grave are currently awaiting conservation. ‘It is amazing that textiles of this antiquity have survived.’ said Jo Catling, Learning and Publicity Officer for the St John’s Walk Project. ‘These finds, along with others discovered during the restoration of St John’s walk, will go on public display in the Cathedral in the autumn’.
The Cathedral is currently seeking support for the costs of conservation. If you would like to know more about this, or are interested in making a donation, please contact Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust (01432 374261; firstname.lastname@example.org).