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Church of St Philip and St Jacob

The church of St Philip and St Jacob was built outside the original walls, just beyond the castle. It was the chapel of a priory believed to have been Benedictine. It became a parish church during the 12th Century, and in 1388 was granted to the Abbey of Tewkesbury.

An instance of its use in connection with the ancient Right of Sanctuary is recorded in 1279. Accused of a crime, William de Lay fled to the church for refuge. Peter de la Mare, the constable of Bristol Castle, seized him from sanctuary and put him to death. What crime the executed man had committed is not known, but de la Mare was hauled before the ecclesiastical court for transgressing the laws of the Church by violating the Right of Sanctuary.

The constable and his accomplices received a humiliating punishment. They had to walk in procession from the Friars Minor's church in Lewins Mead to St Philip and Jacob on four market days in four successive weeks. Their backs were to be bare as the monks were to flog them. In addition, de la Mare was ordered to build a stone cross to the value of one hundred shillings and give extra money to feed one hundred poor people at the base of it on a specified day every year. He also had to make provision for a priest to celebrate mass wherever the Bishop decided, for the rest of his life.

During the Civil War the church suffered the indignity of being occupied by the Parliamentary army. After the Royalists recaptured the city in 1643, large amounts of rosemary were purchased in order to cleanse the building.
The vaulted tower in the south transept is in the Early English style, but most of the church dates from the 15th and 16th century. The building still retains its wagon roof and carved wooden bosses made from oak given by Richard II.

In 1867 a proposal was made that the churchyard should be levelled and laid out neatly and this was carried out thirteen years later. Before the levelling was done, however, a plan was drawn showing the exact position of every grave. A book was also made in which every legible inscription and portion of inscription on tombstones at the time were recorded. More than 100 stones, however, were completely illegible.
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