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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Archaeological find reveals Bristol's Catholic past
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¬†Archaeologists working on the site of Bristol Bus Station, which is being redeveloped by Mowlem plc, have uncovered part of a cloister and other remains of the Benedictine Priory of St James, Founded in 1129 by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, a natural son of Henry I, the Priory is almost as old as the city itself and appears in the earliest maps of 'Brigstowe'. Robert came to Bristol from Tewkesbury and after building Bristol Castle he commenced the Priory to serve as a Benedictine cell of Tewkesbury Abbey. St James' Priory was last excavated in 1995. Then, part of the original east end of the church was revealed along with over two hundred human remains from the adjoining burial ground. This site is now covered by an office block. Already, the current excavations have uncovered the remains of at least six individuals including those of an adult female found in a shallow grave. The Priory thrived until it was sacked by Henry VIII during the Reformation. Its lands were given to Henry Bayne who converted the buildings into a manor house. Before this dark chapter in English history, St James' was one of numerous Catholic institutions to be found in and around Bristol. These included the Dominican Friary founded in Broadmead in 1227, St Mark's Hospital opposite College Green in 1230, St Bartholomew's Hospital founded between 1231 and 1234, the Franciscan Friary (Lewins Mead) founded before 1250, the Carmelite Friary. founded in 1256, St Augustine's Abbey in 1140 and St Mary Magdalene founded around 1170. The dig, conducted by the City's archaeological unit, has uncovered some fine artefacts ≠ including a complete medieval jug and cooking pot dating from the 13th century. Hundreds of people braved the pouring rain to visit the site when it was opened to the public for a day recently.
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