Sheffield Cathedral

If my maths is right this will be blog 200 – so 200 can celebrate son Harry getting his MA and Sarah getting her MSc from Sheffield University. We will also celebrate that Sheffield Cathedral has its own tram stop. It is amusing that Julie’s disabled pass from Northumberland gets her on a Sheffield tram free, but she has to pay for a ride on a Newcastle metro. Harry has been in Sheffield for over 4 years and we had not been in the Cathedral – this morning, Friday 16 January 2015 (his graduation is in the afternoon), we finally paid a visit. What a marvellous place!

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Sheffield Cathedral – a place for all people, says their website. A very good website, and wheelchair access was easy too. Nice welcome from the steward on duty. They have an excellent “heritage” section on the website, which almost makes up for the fact that they don’t have a decent guidebook.

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Sheffield Cathedral is the oldest building in the city still in daily use. A Saxon cross, now in the British Museum, mark the earliest site of Christian worship, the Manor of Hallamshire is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, William de Lovetot built a motte and bailey castle where the rivers Don and Sheaf converge, and built the first church on this site in the early 12th century. In 1280 a new church is blessed by Archbishop Wickwane of York, and a few years later Chaucer mentions a Sheffield thwitel (a knife). Around 1430 a new church is built in the perpendicular style, with the central tower and spire we see today. As late as 1736 the first surviving map of the town shows the church at the centre and the town surrounded by pasture and arable land, but four years later Benjamin Huntsman invents crucible steel and the city changed. By 1801 the town had a population of 31,000, fifty years later it had reached 135,000. The University was founded in 1905, and the parish church became a Cathedral in 1914. They had ambitious plans for a major rebuild at the end of WW1, some work took place before the start of WW2, then those plans were abandoned. The new entrance and Lantern Tower was opened in the 1970s – this glass is an abstract design by Amber Hiscott. Her website http://www.amberhiscott.com is worth a look – she also did the wonderful front of the Wales Millennium Centre.

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A refurbishment last year gave them a beautiful new floor, with underfloor heating, and a heritage area at the back. Enough information, but not too much – and you can listen to bells, organ and choir on headphones. (The website is also very good at explaining church, services, and what it is we all get up to). They had a little exhibition about J.R. ‘Reg’ Glenn, one of the Sheffield Pals. He was born in the city in 1893, was working as a clerk in the Education Department when War was declared, and joined the University and City Special Battalion, a battalion which was suggested by two University students and supported by the Vice-Chancellor. The battalion lost many men on the Somme, but Reg survived – until he was 101. Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information has produced a very good document Sheffield Players in World War One about Reg and many others – you can download it at http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/archives.

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This font is by Brian Fell, who also produced this rather lovely Sheffield Nativity. It is made of sheet steel, which meant the clothing and decorative features had to be simple.  Brian says that it was interesting wondering what footwear shepherds would have worn, or the costume of the wise men. He drew on the imagery of Medieval and Renaissance art. You will note that Joseph is holding Jesus – “I believe that in traditional portraits of the Nativity he has been somewhat short-changed”; he is depicting the scene from his experiences as a father. We all remember holding our children for the first time.

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DSC04197DSC04198DSC04127On the left is the Chapel of St George, the Memorial Chapel dedicated to the York and Lancaster Regiment, formed in 1758 and disbanded in 1968. The Sheffield Pals was one of their battalions. On the east side of the Chapel is the unique Screen of Swords and Bayonets which were presented to the Cathedral by the Regiment after its disbandment. The swords which point upwards signify readiness to serve whilst the bayonets pointing downwards represent the laying aside of weapons.

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DSC04130Some lovely windows by Keith New showing episodes in the history of the Regiment. The campaign at Salonika (with the Royal Tiger Badge of the 65th Foot (1823) and Salonika Bay (1916)), Burma (with the green lion guard dog of the temples and soldiers crossing the river to take possession of the temples occupied by Japanese forces in WW2), and Combined Ops Europe (Allied landings of June 1944 and the Polar Bear emblem of the 49th West Riding). You don’t see many polar bears in stained glass windows.

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This bronze anchor memorial (2000) is by Stephen Broadbent, and is dedicated to the relspecial relationship with the ships of the Royal Navy that have borne the city’s name. Elsewhere is a ship’s bell.

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DSC04136This window, and I’m unsure who it is by, is on the north side, and there is access down to various chapels. In the Crypt is a purpose-built columbarian (place for the storage of ashes) – we suggest this when we were working on Bury but the architect wasn’t keen. More regimental memorials – this one was thought-provoking. The window is by Keith New, created in 1966. It is inspired by a vision of the Heavenly City with its twelve pearl gates represented by twelve pearly mosaic circles and the glory of light is created by hundreds of tiny coloured Perspex tubes creating jewel colours through which light enters the chapel. Lovely altar frontal too.

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The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is a 1930 build, lovely and airy. It is dominated by the great Te Deum window by Christopher Webb. There is a dove at the top, Christ in glory in the centre, surrounded by prophets, martyrs and the faithful through the ages. The vaulted ceiling is carved with roses, lilies and sunflower motifs. The wooden stalls and canopies were designed by Sir Ninian Comper. The reredos was given by the Freemasons in memory of those who lost their lives in WW1.

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Back up at main floor level there is a chapel with the Window of the Sheffield Worthies, by Christopher Webb. Waltheof, the last Saxon Lord. William de Lovetot, the Norman Lord of the Manor. Gerard de Furnivall who fought and died on the Crusades. Thomas Nevil established Sheffield as a market town by Royal Charter in 1386. John Talbot, 1st Lord of Shrewsbury, gained the Lordship of the Manor through marriage with Maud Nevil, Thomas’ daughter. Finally, Colonel Sir John Bright, Parliamentarian Governor of Sheffield Castle after its surrender in the Civil War in 1644. The Advent Wreath was made in 2011 by Corin Mellor.

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On the north wall of St Katharine’s Chapel is this window by Harry Harvey, installed in 1967. It shows the Works of Charity – but what a 1960s woman! Julie says she looks like a Vicar’s wife (she should know!!). The rest of the chapel celebrates the ministry of women in the church – and please don’t make anything out of the fact that I failed to photo the rest of it. The organ is also in memory of women who did something amazing.

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They have done a superb job of managing the change from the Nave to the Chancel and the other easterly chapels – good wheelchair access too. There are memorials to the musician Sterndale Bennett and to many other wonderful people.

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At the East End of the Cathedral the vergers were quite happy for me to go wherever I wanted to photo. They were also quite relaxed with a couple of young ladies who wanted to sit in the Cathedra, the Bishop’s throne – this is a welcoming place. The Shrewsbury Chapel is at the south east end – it was added to the parish church around 1520 by the Lord of the Manor of Sheffield, George Talbot, the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. The altar is a rare pre-Reformation mensa, and the reredos dates to 1935.

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There are two amazing tombs. On the right, with the sun in the wrong place, is one to George, 6th Earl. Whilst married to Bess of Hardwick, Elizabeth I entrusted him with the job of acting as custodian to Mary Queen of Scots. She spent 14 years in Sheffield under his supervision, and the Latin inscription records his faithful and loyal service to Queen Elizabeth and his military achievements. His feet are resting on a Talbot dog.

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On the left is the memorial to George, the 4th Earl, who died in 1538. His first wife Anne, who died in 1520, is on his right. His second, Elizabeth (died 1567) is on his left. He is dressed in the robes of a Garter Knight, and their costume is beautiful too.

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DSC04178Having sorted that chapel, I have got a bit confused with the others – indeed, I’m not quite sure which of the altars I photoed is the High Altar … Lovely roof, angels and Green Men. O, just enjoy it – if you want to know more, go and visit yourself! This blog is quite long enough.

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DSC04170DSC04182DSC04181DSC04192Having enjoyed the inside, I had a wander round the outside. I like the parking spaces – when I became a Residentiary Canon at St Edmundsbury I was instituted to “all the rights and appurtenances due to this stall”. “What are the rights and appurtenances?” I asked. “A parking space”.

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In the modern extension on the north side is The Archer Project – website. The Cathedral works with the homeless and vulnerable. “The thing about this place is they don’t offer you help with A, B or C … they just offer to help”. There are some amazing things being done in God’s name. Her Majesty is visiting for the Royal Maundy on Maundy Thursday this year – I hope she is as impressed as I am.

Talking of being impressed … congratulations to Harry and Sarah. Here is Harry with his mum.

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