An “extremely well-preserved” family burial vault was discovered “accidentally” at Gloucester Cathedral. The North Transept tomb contains Hyett coffins dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
It was found by archaeologists, who lifted a neighboring ledger rock while conducting an assessment prior to the installation of a new elevator. This process created a small hole that allowed the contents of the vault to be seen.
Archaeologist Richard Morriss said the discovery of the 8ft (2.5m) deep chamber was a surprise.
“What you usually see when you dig a ledger is soil and bones, nothing concrete in it. But we can only look at an intact family vault. You would expect the church to have been restored time and time again. The floor was tattered and re-paved, but this is still intact. The coffins are extremely well preserved, you can still see the nameplates. And the nameplate actually matches the name on the ledger above, which is remarkable.”
Mr Morriss said the family must have been “pretty wealthy” to have afforded this kind of burial vault within the heart of the cathedral.
The Reverend Canon Celia Thomson, said the discovery of the vault was “really exciting” and the discovery of a child’s coffin was “particularly poignant”. “You can just imagine the grief of the parents at that stage. It brings history to life,” she said.
Lord Dickinson, who is a descendent, by marriage, of the Hyett family, said the discovery was “fascinating”. “Like the rest of the world I didn’t know there was anything under the slab,” he said.
Re-deposited human remains were discovered beneath the ledger stone, including a number of skulls and leg bones. The installation of a new lift in the North Transept is part of a 10-year plan, known as Project Pilgrim, to improve facilities at the medieval building.