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Manchester Cathedral

History

There has been a parish church on or near the site of the Cathedral since the late Anglo Saxon or early Norman period, as is evidenced by a fragment of decorated masonry surviving from that time, known as ‘The Angel Stone’.

In the 13th century a large stone built parish church was erected, at the centre of the ancient parish of Manchester, which was 60 square miles in area. By the early fifteenth century, it was considered that the two parish priests serving this huge parish were not sufficient to administer to the cure of souls, and so Thomas de la Warre, the 12th Baron of Manchester, petitioned the Pope, and then King Henry V to allow him to appropriate the Parish Church and raise it into a Collegiate Church.

The Collegiate Church was founded in 1421, and the original site of the baronial hall was given over to become the communal residence for the College. The buildings which now form Chetham’s Library and Chetham’s School of Music were once the cloisters which housed a Warden and eight Fellows of the College, along with the various Chaplains, officers of the College, and the Choir of four clerks and six choristers.

The Collegiate Church was dissolved in 1547 by Edward VI, but refounded by Queen Mary ten years later as the College of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Manchester. The College was refounded once again as ‘The College of Christ in Manchester’ by Queen Elizabeth I in 1578, and once more by King Charles I in 1635.

In 1847, the Collegiate Church was created a Cathedral for the newly formed Diocese of Manchester.

 

Architecture

Manchester boasts the widest Cathedral nave in the country, because of the cluster of chantry chapels that were added to the body of the church before the Reformation. During the industrial period, the population of Manchester grew so rapidly that extra space was needed in the church to accommodate the congregation, so the chantry chapels were swept away and knocked into one huge nave space. Galleries were also added, which have since been removed.

The Architecture of the Cathedral is very much a Victorian replica of the original mediaeval Collegiate Church, as decoration with Roman cement in 1815 caused such damage to the masonry that most of it had to be replaced in the mid-late 19th century. The majority of original masonry surviving is in the tower arch at the west end.

John Palmer was responsible for the replacing of the tower in 1864, and Joseph Crowther performed the reconstruction of nave and quire between 1880 and 1893. Crowther was responsible for the addition of the north and south porches, whilst the west porch was added by Basil Champneys for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

Champneys also added the Library and vestry annex in 1904, whilst the 1930s offices at the south east corner of the Cathedral were built by Thomas Worthington originally as a school for the choristers.

Attractions

The stonework in the church is mostly Victorian, but the woodwork is original to the 15th and 16th centuries. The almost life size choir of angels in the nave all carry replica mediaeval instruments, highlighted in gold. These are reputed to have been the gift of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.

The mediaeval misericords in the Quire are some of the finest in Europe, dating from 1495-1506. The imaginative carvings underneath the ‘mercy seats’ are quite amazing and worth inspection.

The Cathedral Visitor Centre, directly opposite the Cathedral, contains ‘The Hanging Bridge’, Manchester’s only scheduled mediaeval monument.

Local Interest

Chetham's Library
Manchester Jewish Museum
Manchester Buddhist Centre
Manchester Museum
Museum of Science and Industry
People's History Museum
Bridgewater Hall
MEN Arena
Royal Exchange Theatre
Town Hall
Opera House
City Art Gallery
The Lowry and the Imperial War Museum North
Media City
Whitworth Art Gallery
John Rylands Library
Central Library
Arndale Centre
Craft Centre and Affleck's Palace
Chinatown
Manchester Ship Canal and Castlefield
Old Trafford and Manchester United
National Football Museum