Three English Cathedrals and the Early Reformation
: A Cultural Comparison of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester

  • Richard Fisher

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In the wide-ranging debates examining the nature of the Reformation in England little collective attention has been paid to the contribution of the nineteen medieval cathedrals and additional six created by Henry VIII. In this thesis the great churches and their communities at Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester are compared over the period 1509-1558, as neighbouring examples of secular, monastic and newly-founded cathedral sub-types, exploring the differing Reformations apparent at each place. Evidence is combined from the archival record, archaeological, architectural and art-historical findings to analyse how each cathedral community responded to this half-century of relentless religious change.

All three cathedrals began the sixteenth century with widely differing incomes, personnel numbers, administrative regulations, buildings and liturgies. New statutes were centrally provided for the monastic institutions re-founded after dissolution, whilst the governance of the secular cathedrals remained substantially unaltered. The degree of integration of these great church institutions with their cities depended upon local factors such as their topographies, urban property ownership and burial practices. Considerable differences are also apparent in the attitude of the laity towards their cathedral, both between institutions and over the fifty-year period studied. Their core medieval function, of offering cyclical intercessory worship on a grand scale, was less suited to a Church advocating personal salvation and the supremacy of the Word. Significant variation occurred in the ways the cathedral church buildings and their contents were transformed by the Reformation, reflecting the degree to which change was encouraged and embraced or simply absorbed. Whilst these three institutions were demonstrably distinctive before the Church separated from Roman oversight, their reactions to the greater central control and confessional reverses of the Tudor monarchs left them just as diverse at the end of the period examined. Examining the cathedrals’ idiosyncratic Reformations might then contribute additional facets to its accepted historiographic narratives.
Date of Award19 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorBeth Williamson (Supervisor) & James Clark (Supervisor)


  • Cathedral, Reformation, England, Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, Religion, Monasticism, Dissolution

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