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Rising from the banks of the River Severn, Worcester Cathedral is certainly a magnificent sight, but it is also one of England’s most interesting cathedrals. Steeped in history, it is the resting place of King John and ex Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. It was one of the most important cathedrals during Anglo-Saxon times, where it was considered a centre of great learning for monks. Today it plays a central role within the county, holding its annual Three Choirs Festival, whilst still providing services for visitors all over the world.
With so many reasons to plan a trip to Worcester Cathedral, it’s hard to pick just five, but here are ours:
No other cathedral in England embodies so many different types of architecture as Worcester. Built between 1084 and 1504, Worchester Cathedral features examples of English architecture that include Norman and Gothic.
Typical of many English cathedrals, Worcester has two transepts that cross the nave, a circular Chapter House (the only circular one in the country) and a cloister. One of the cathedral’s earliest structures is the Norman crypt, which still retains some of the original features built by St Wulfstan in 1084.
Without doubt, the cathedral’s main attraction is the spectacular tower, designed in a Perpendicular style, and visible from many miles away. Also situated in the tower are the Clock Chamber, the Ringing Room and the Bell Chamber.
During 1224 and 1269, Alexander Mason rebuilt the east end over the Norman crypt using a similar Early English style to Salisbury Cathedral. John Clyve finished the nave, vault, west front, north porch and eastern part of the cloister. He was also responsible for adding buttresses and strengthening the Norman chapter house. Finally, Prince Arthur’s Chantry Chapel was constructed during 1502 to 1504.
Thankfully, a restoration of Worcester Cathedral during 1857 to 1874 has managed to retain many of the original fittings, including the wonderful stained glass windows from this period.
The cathedral has featured in many important periods of English history. King John, who began his reign from 1199 and agreed to the Magna Carta, stayed in the cathedral whenever he visited Worchester. The cathedral also played a central role during Henry VIII’s reign, as it featured in one of the most contentiously fought battles during the English Reformation.
Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the cathedral was considered to be a great seat of learning for the inhabiting monks. However, the once royal supporters of Henry VIII stood against him, and as many cathedrals and churches were stripped of their belongings and fixtures, so Worchester cathedral was itself badly damaged in this conflict.
Undergoing major renovation programmes after the Restoration of Charles II, it has been said that during the English Civil War in 1651, the future King Charles II went to the top of the tower to view the Battle of Worcester.
The cathedral is home to one of the oldest choral societies in England, and as such, music has played an important part of its history. Today there are three choirs who enjoy singing at the cathedral: the Worcester Cathedral Choir, the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, and the Worchester Cathedral Voluntary Choir. The Worcester Cathedral Choir takes part in the oldest music festival in the world, the Three Choirs Festival, and in fact the first performance of composer Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations took place at the 1899 Festival. Elgar, who lived in Worcester for much of his life, has his portrait commemorated in a stained glass window.
For the last couple of years, the cathedral has been holding an annual photographic competition, in which people can enter with their pictures of aspects of this magnificent building. With previous entries including a priest cleaning with a Henry vacuum, and a stunning picture of light streaming a set of stained glass windows, there are several different age categories to ensure everyone can take part. You can obtain photographic permits for £3 per day, and even if you do not want to take part in the competition, you can still capture some of the impressive architecture of the cathedral.
Finally, if you have ever dreamed of ringing the bells at a cathedral, but have no idea how to, Worcester cathedral is the only cathedral that employs an in-house teaching centre, where people are taught on a ringing simulator. You will be instructed by one of the cathedral’s experienced ringers on a special training bell linked to a computer. Once you have mastered the special training course, you will then be ready to take on the cathedral’s bells, which comprise of 15 bells, including 3 semitone bells and a bourdon bell. You are also awarded a Certificate and if you want to take your bell ringing a step further, you can then join the Cathedral Guild of Bellringers, and get the chance to ring the bells on a regular basis.
We have a number of beautiful Cotswold Cottages in the Worcester area, including the popular neighbouring town of Stratford Upon Avon. If you are considering a self-catering holiday in the stunning English countryside, please get in touch today!
Photo of Worcester Cathedral by: Peter Broster
For more information on Worcester Cathedral, please visit: Worcester Cathedral Website