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The Midlands

Hereford Cathedral celebrates new trail retracing medieval outlaw’s pilgrimage

todayJuly 7, 2018 16

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The St Thomas Way from Swansea to Hereford follows the route taken by William Cragh, who was hanged in 1290 for rebellion but miraculously came back to life and went on a pilgrimage.

In what has been described as “the most awkward road trip of all time”, he was accompanied on his journey by the lord who had tried to execute him.


Canon Chris Pullin of Hereford Cathedral said: “Though less well known today, St Thomas of Hereford was an important saint in the Middle Ages and his shrine was a major pilgrimage destination.

“We hope this new route will encourage visitors to explore his story, and to experience the benefits of pilgrimage for wellbeing, recreation and renewal.”


A research project led by University of Southampton professor of English Catherine Clarke and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council has created the trail following in the footsteps of the unlikely travel companions.

The heritage route, which visitors can access online, is based around 13 locations from Swansea to Hereford, each with interactive, multimedia digital content, as well as a self-contained circular walking route.


Cragh, who burned down the castle at Oystermouth, was hanged in Swansea by Norman lord, William de Briouze.

But he came back to life in what was understood by local people as a miracle of St Thomas of Hereford, with the testimony of medieval eyewitnesses still surviving in a manuscript in the Vatican library.

Cragh set off from Swansea to Hereford on pilgrimage, together with Lord William and his wife Lady Mary de Briouze, to give thanks at the shrine of the saint, to whom he had prayed before his execution.

Prof Clarke said: “It must have been the most awkward road trip of all time.

“But this weird and wonderful story of Swansea’s hanged man is a brilliant way into the strange and fascinating world of the medieval March of Wales, a historic area of land between England and Wales.”

She added: “The project taps in to a current resurgence of interest in pilgrimage routes and ‘old ways’ in the British Isles.

“It brings together new research, the latest digital technology and medieval history to offer an immersive and engaging experience of the past.”


Locations on the route include the castle at Caerphilly, Hereford Cathedral where St Thomas’s shrine is, the medieval hermitage and holy well at Patrishow, Powys, the ruined keep at Longtown, Hereford, and the Norman church and lost medieval village at Kilpeck, Herefordshire.

In Swansea, visitors can see the castle and dungeon where Cragh was held before he was hanged on Gibbet Hill.

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Hereford Cathedral will celebrate a newly recreated trail on Saturday which retraces a pilgrimage made by a medieval outlaw and the lord who tried to have him executed.

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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