Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Poor souls' light at All Saints' Church

A Scheduled Monument in Bisley-with-Lypiatt, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.7519 / 51°45'6"N

Longitude: -2.1412 / 2°8'28"W

OS Eastings: 390348

OS Northings: 205919.774

OS Grid: SO903059

Mapcode National: GBR 1MN.5GY

Mapcode Global: VH94Z.T7WB

Entry Name: Poor souls' light at All Saints' Church

Scheduled Date: 1 April 1965

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018447

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31921

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Bisley-with-Lypiatt

Built-Up Area: Bisley

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Bisley All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a poor souls' light of 13th century date which stands in
the southern part of the churchyard of All Saint's Church, 14.9m from the
south west corner of the church porch. The light, which is Listed Grade II*,
is about 3.5m high and has a circular stone base 1.6m in diameter, on which
stands a stone hexagon about 1.4m tall. Cut into each face of the hexagon are
recesses with trefoil-headed gables and attached shafts of Early English type
with moulded capitals and carved banding. Above this is a hexagonal spire
which also has trefoil-headed gable openings in each face. The original roll
mouldings to the spire are mostly missing, and the spire has also been cut off
above the arches. The monument is surmounted by a Celtic-style cross added
during the 19th century.

The monument is known locally as `The Bonehouse' and was originally thought to
be a well cover. There is a local tradition that the parish priest drowned
after falling into the well, and that the cover was built to prevent a similar
accident occuring again. There is no evidence for a well in the churchyard,
and the monument has since been identified as a poor souls' light.

Excluded from the scheduling are the kerb and gravel surface of the churchyard
path where they fall within the monument's protective margin, although the
ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Poor souls' lights are medieval structures which were used to hold candles for
masses said for the souls of the poor, and were also places where alms might
be left. Bisley poor souls' light is of 13th century date, and appears
to be in its original position within the churchyard. Few surviving examples
of poor souls' lights have been recorded in England, and this is believed to
be the only one surviving out of doors. The monument survives in an area of
Bisley which has a history of religious use dating back possibly to the late
prehistoric period.

Bisley was the subject of an archaeological assessment by Gloucestershire
County Council in 1997. This provided information about the origins,
development and plan of the town from its origins in the early medieval period
to the present day.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hancox, R, A Vistor's Guide to All Saints' Church, Bisley, Gloucestershire8-9
Herbert, NM, The Victoria History of the County of Gloucestershire: Bisley, (1976), 35
Verey, D, The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, (1979), 114
Douthwaite, AS, 'Gloucestershire Historic Towns Survey' in Bisley, (1997), 10-11

Source: Historic England

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