This blog may feel like a guided tour of Gloucester Cathedral, for which I make no apologies, because it really is an awesome place - not just a stuffy old cathedral. Here are some of the real features that form part of the plot of Time Passages, together with some interesting rumours.
King Edward II's tomb is a gloriously and intricately carved alabaster structure, with the effigy of the king being flanked by stone angels and a lion - the symbol of a king. Edward II's grandson, Richard II, donated a collection of royal jewels to the tomb, including a golden ear, a golden heart and a golden cross with a ruby in its centre. Subsequently, the tomb became an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Edward II was reportedly gruesomely murdered at nearby Berkeley Castle in 1327, on secret orders given by his Spanish wife. But there is also evidence that the King didn't, in fact, die at this time, but managed to escape to France, then lived out his days as a hermit in Italy. After all, there was only one woman present at the preparation of his body for burial; it is rumoured that another body may have been buried instead...
I have found no evidence that Edward II's royal jewel collection still exists. If Cromwell had found them he would have destroyed them, as he did the rest of the Crown Jewels.
The whispering gallery, the crypt, the tower, the treasury, the cloisters, are all in the Cathedral as they are in Time Passages. If you visit the site of the old monk's well in the cloisters' courtyard, you can still see the pock marks in the stone wall of the Cathedral which are remnants of the damage caused by muskets in the Civil War. It's great fun to go and try out the acoustics of the whispering gallery... it's difficult to keep secrets in there.
The Great East Window of the Cathedral represents the Great South Window of Time Passages. It is truly great in both its size and intricacy of stained glass. Much of the original glass from the 14th century still exists. And it does contain an image of St Peter. The Cathedral used to be the Abbey of St Peter before it was dissolved by Henry VIII. Gus must have been very brave, or desperate, to climb up to such a great height in order to reach St Peter.
There are some stone gargoyles situated high up in the south aisle, but they are easily missed. I wrote about the stone gargoyles in Time Passages before I even noticed these real ones! So maybe it's true... maybe they only appear when they need to...
There is indeed a rumour that there are two secret tunnels beneath the Cathedral - one leads to an inn, which I have visualised as the New Inn in Northgate Street (which is reported to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Jane Grey); the other leads to a priory, which I have visualised as Llanthony Priory. I've found no evidence of the tunnels' existence... no one is talking about them. But then, they are meant to be secret.
Just outside the Cathedral wall stands the memorial to Bishop Hooper, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1555. It was reported at the time, that the wind blew out the fire three times before the deed was done, during which the Bishop never cried out. It was at this site, in Time Passages, that Archie and Gus nearly met the same fate. The Gloucester Folk Museum houses the stump of a charred stake that was dug up when the memorial was built.
I could list so many more facts that have been woven into the story of Time Passages, but you'll have to read the book to weedle out some more. With such a rich history, it's no wonder that Gloucester Cathedral inspired me to research further and further, and then to write.
In Time Passages, Archie and Gus and all the events connected with them, are purely fictitious, as are all the characters featured in the book (except for Lady Jane and Charles II, that is). Any resemblance to any past or present students attending the cathedral school is wholly coincidental. At any rate, I hope that there was no Archie Steward or Fergus McGuire as past students.
Illustrator's sketch of Time Passages gargoyle.