Curious about the connection between Gloucester Cathedral and Harry Potter? This post covers everything you need to know about which of the HP movies/scenes filmed here, along with fun facts about production!
When it comes to chasing Harry Potter locations around the world, I can readily admit that I am as shameless as they come.
So when I recently had the chance to stop by Gloucester Cathedral on my Cotswolds road trip, I was so excited, I might have peed a little.
I mean, it’s Gloucester Cathedral! One of the most famous and important churches in England!
But beyond just acting as a pretty backdrop for filming, the connection between Gloucester and Harry Potter runs far deeper. In fact, Harry Potter author JK Rowling was born in Gloucestershire, and drew inspiration from the county for many of her names and characters.
So yes, you can say this is a travel destination well suited for even the most rabid of Potterheads.
If that sounds like you, you’re in luck. This post is going to dish out ALL about the connection between Gloucester Cathedral and Harry Potter, filming locations to watch out for at the cathedral, fun facts about production/filming, and of course, how to visit for yourself. Enjoy!
Harry Potter & Gloucester Cathedral: A Brief History
Gloucester Cathedral stood in as the oh-so-magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the 1st two Harry Potter films, as well as briefly in the 6th.
It was one of a handful of English buildings selected to initially depict Hogwarts, before budgets and production certainty allowed them to construct more permanent and realistic sets for the remainder of the franchise.
So why Gloucester Cathedral then?
Well, according to Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films, a key initial consideration for choosing Hogwarts filming locations was the right kind of historic architecture that would do justice to the 1000+ year old Hogwarts Castle. Given a relatively small pool of well-preserved buildings with this kind of lifespan and history, they took inspiration from some of England’s top universities and cathedrals, including Durham Cathedral, Lacock Abbey, and of course, Gloucester Cathedral.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. If you can believe it, there were protests early on at the Cathedral when the decision was announced because religious groups were adamant in maintaining that “witchcraft is wrong”. Whether or not they realized the books were fictional is, um, unclear.
But nonetheless, filming continued as planned, and in the year 2000, Gloucester Cathedral got its little makeover as Hogwarts! Filming returned a year later for Chamber of Secrets, with Gloucester Cathedral serving as the setting for several iconic scenes involving the Hogwarts hallways. Then, after several years away, filming returned in February 2008 for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince according to the BBC, and Gloucester has been a hotspot for Harry Potter pilgrimages ever since.
And this is a connection that they’re thoroughly proud of. No joke, they even have a special electronic screen in the cloisters showcasing the different scenes that filmed there! Talk about a 21st century cathedral.
Harry Potter Filming Locations at Gloucester Cathedral
And so, if you want to sniff out all the locations used at Gloucester Cathedral throughout the Harry Potter franchise, I have some good news: there’s only one! While the Cathedral is absolutely stunning and its many areas/chapels are well worth exploring, the only part of the church ever used in Harry Potter were the cloisters, pictured below.
And while you’ll be smacked with the Harry Potter vibes instantly when entering the cloisters, a few specific areas to keep an eye out for include:
The Lavatorium: This is where Harry and Ron hide from the troll in the first film, and later in Half-Blood Prince where Harry overhears Snape and Malfoy talking about Snape’s Unbreakable Vow.
The South Side of the Cloisters: This is the hallway all the little Gryffindor babies walk down when heading to their common room for the first time. The Common Room door is actually down at the west end of this passage, although sadly, there’s no Fat Lady there to greet you.
The North Side of the Cloisters: On the East Wall at the end of this passage is where that scary “the Chamber of Secrets has been opened” message appears in the 2nd film.
The East Side of the Cloisters: Easily recognizable as the hallway where you see all the water from Moaning Myrtle flooding the toilets in Chamber of Secrets.
Notable Gloucester Cathedral/Harry Potter Scenes
In total, Gloucester Cathedral appeared in three of the Harry Potter films: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and once again Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you want to know which Harry Potter scenes specifically filmed at Gloucester Cathedral, here’s a list complete with little clips to help jog your memory.
The Gryffindor kids walk up to their Common Room for the first time
From: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Look at how tiny these little babies are! In this scene, you can clearly see the distinctive architecture of Gloucester Cathedral as they approach the Fat Lady waiting for them. Sadly, she’s no longer hanging around the cathedral… I checked!
Harry and Ron hide from the troll
From: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Ah, who can forget that angry girls bathroom-terrorizing troll from the first film? If you look closely, you’ll clearly see Gloucester Cathedral in this scene, when Harry and Ron are trying to avoid the troll who is stomping his way through the halls like me searching for a hangry 3am snack in my apartment.
The “Chamber of Secrets has been opened” message appears on the Hogwarts wall
From: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This scene from Chamber of Secrets is an iconic one that requires no introduction, but before you freak out that they defaced the Cathedral wall for the sake of filming, don’t worry: they used some very realistic panelling over top to protect the real thing.
The Hogwarts profs enjoy a fun Gilderoy Roast session
From: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I love this scene from Chamber of Secrets where all the adults are talking serious business and we get some serious sassy roasting from McGonagall and Snape towards Gilderoy Lockheart… of course, Harry and Ron overhear everything, and realize Ginny’s in some big trouble.
Harry overhears Malfoy and Snape talking about how Snape made the Unbreakable Vow
From: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Just after Slughorn’s Christmas Party is when Harry overhears this important conversation between Snape and Malfoy in Half-Blood Prince, specifically about how badly Malfoy messed up at the party and how it’s Snape’s job to protect him (yenno, whole Unbreakable Vow thing).
How to Visit Gloucester Cathedral: Visitor’s Info
Alright, so now that I have you all jazzed about the Harry Potter/Gloucester Cathedral connection, here are some key pieces of information to prepare you for your own visit.
Admission Cost: Admission to Gloucester Cathedral is by donation, the recommended donation is 5 GBP and they even take contactless cards, as well as cash.
Opening Hours: Gloucester Cathedral is open 365 days a year, usually from 7:30am – 6pm although hours can vary due to special events and circumstances. Check out the official website for the latest.
Fun Facts About Filming Harry Potter at Gloucester Cathedral
Of course, while researching the connection between Harry Potter and Gloucester Cathedral, I came across tons of really fun random facts. Here are some of my favourites!
Warner Bros paid £100,000 to film the Half-Blood Prince there
As a naturally nosy person, one of my first questions about Harry Potter’s filming at Gloucester Cathedral revolved around how much moola the cathedral actually received for filming.
According to the This is Gloucestershire website, the sum was hefty – £100,000 for the 6th film! This might seem like a lot considering filming only took a few days, but the reality is this is only a small dent in the supposed £2.2 million it takes to keep the cathedral running every year.
Students from a nearby school got to be extras
Can you imagine getting to masquerade as a Hogwarts student simply because your school is next door to the filming location? Well, that happened, and some ridiculously lucky kids from the King’s School got to stand in as extras during filming at Gloucester Cathedral!
And to think the most exciting thing about my school days were our monthly pizza lunches…
All the religious symbols in the cathedral needed a makeover
Since religious symbols floating around Hogwarts would have probably ruined the magical vibe a bit, the crew used some pretty creative methods to cover up any religious symbolism like halos in the cloisters for filming. This was accomplished through strategic placement of plastic filter paper. According to the BBC, two stained glass windows of Adam and Eve were even given clothing and little Harry Potter lightning bolts on their heads just in case they were caught on camera!
They had to cover up tombs with roofing felt
You know what’s totally not cool and magical to include in your Hogwarts set? Hundreds of tombs! In reality, the Gloucester Cathedral cloisters are filled with tombs embedded in the ground, so the crew had to cover it all up with roofing felt which was then treated, dyed, etc. to match the scene.
BONUS: Plenty of other cool productions have also filmed at Gloucester Cathedral
So while this isn’t Harry Potter related, I wanted to point out a few other awesome productions that used Gloucester Cathedral as a filming location. A recent one is actually Avengers: Endgame, where the cathedral was the setting for scenes at Asgard.
Sherlock and the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas special also filmed here.
Other Harry Potter Things to do Near Gloucester Cathedral
If you’re a Potterhead who has been let loose in the streets of Gloucester, I have some awesome news: visiting the cathedral isn’t the only Harry Potter thing you can do in the area! Here are some other fun Harry Pottery things to add to your itinerary:
1. Check out Godric’s Hollow and Bubleigh Babberton
Okay, so as die-hard fans will know, the actual Godric’s Hollow scenes from the Harry Potter films were filmed in Lavenham, England (you can click here to see my full list of filming locations). That said, the half-timbered houses found in the Gloucester historic center, to me, really resembled the architecture of Godric’s Hollow and even Bubleigh Babberton (which filmed over in Lacock). If you’re not able to hit up all these spots on your trip, enjoying the half-timbered whimsy in Gloucester may be the next best thing!
2. Visit the town of “Dursley”
Since JK Rowling is from Gloucestershire, it’s well documented that she took a lot of naming inspiration for the Harry Potter series from the region itself. One of the clearest examples of this is that the Dursleys were named after a cute little town in Gloucestershire not too far from the Cathedral named, of course, Dursley.
Besides the Harry Potter link of course, it’s a cute little Cotswold market town that acts as a great base for hiking.
3. Visit the little village that the wizarding Potter family is from
While of course, we know that James and Lily Potter lived in the (fictional) Godric’s Hollow, JK Rowling once revealed on Pottermore that “the wizarding family of Potters descends from the twelfth-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, ‘the Potterer’, became corrupted in time to ‘Potter’.”
That means that the wizarding Potter family actually traces its origins back to the little village of Stinchcombe, a short drive away from Gloucester. The craziest part about this? we actually drove through Stinchcombe en route to visit Gloucester Cathedral, and felt implored to pull over and take some photos of the tiny village, in spite of the fact that there wasn’t much to do there. Was my Harry Potter 6th sense at work? I’d like to pretend it was.
4. Visit JK Rowling’s childhood village
Real hardcore Potterheads might be interested in a little detour/pilgrimage to JK Rowling’s childhood village.
And if that sounds like a stalkery move you’d be into, then the village you’re looking for is known as Tutshill, which you might recognize from the Quidditch team, Tutshill Tornadoes. This cute village is only a short drive from Gloucester, with fan highlights being of course 1) Church Cottage, Rowling’s childhood home and 2) the Tutshill Church of England Primary School, where Rowling had a teacher that would later inspire the character of Severus Snape.
5. Check out Hagrid’s birthplace and Hermione’s favourite camping spot 😉
Another nearby Harry Potter place in Gloucestshire is the Forest of Dean, which is mentioned several times throughout the Harry Potter franchise.
Firstly, Hagrid was apparently born here, but more importantly, it’s a place that (in Deathly Hallows) Hermione remembers fondly as a place she used to go with her parents… This is also where Harry and Hermione hide out for a while at their campsite, and where Harry gets the sword of Gryffindor.
In the movies, filming occurred at Coppett Hill and also in the trailers, you can spot at Symonds Yat along the bank of the River Wye.
6. Sleep where Hogwarts professors sleep
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a nice place to stay, then why not book a room where the professors of Hogwarts have slept? Back when they were filming Chamber of Secrets, all the adult actors (including Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh and Dame Maggie Smith) holed up in the Hotel on the Park in Cheltenham, now known as No38 The Park, which is housed in a beautiful Gregorian villa.
How can I possibly know this very stalkery and specific piece of information? Well, I stumbled upon this really amusing article from 2005 which details personal stories from the hotelkeepers, who were sworn to secrecy at the time but felt comfortable spilling the beans about the actors’ stays a few years later.
Some wonderful revelations: apparently one of the actors was kind of a demanding diva (they wouldn’t say who!), Kenneth Branagh ordered a massage and the masseuse basically sprinted to the hotel and gave him a massage twice as long as normal (haha), and my personal favourite: Alan Rickman almost immediately invited the hotel owners on set and even greeted their kids in character. So wholesome!
Any other questions about Harry Potter and Gloucester Cathedral?
I hope you enjoyed this (terrifying detailed) post all about the Gloucester Cathedral/Harry Potter connection. Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions. I hope you have a magical trip, and safe travels!