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Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Worcestermarker, England; situated on a bank overlooking the River Severn. It is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. Built between 1084 and 1504, Worcester Cathedral represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. It is famous for its Norman crypt and unique chapter house, its unusual Transitional Gothic bays, its fine woodwork and its "exquisite" central tower which is of particularly fine proportion.Tim Tatton-Brown and John Crook, ‘’The English Cathedral’’

The cathedral's west facade appeared, with a portrait of Sir Edward Elgar, on the reverse of £20 note issued by the Bank of Englandmarker between 1999 and 2007.


The east end of Worcester Cathedral.
The Cathedral was founded in 680 with Bishop Bosel as its head. The first cathedral was built in this period but nothing now remains of it. The existing crypt of the cathedral dates from the 10th century and the time of St. Oswald, Bishop of Worcester. The current cathedral dates from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Monks and nuns had been present at the Cathedral since the seventh century (see Bede). The monastery became Benedictine in the second half of the tenth century (one author gives the time range 974-7, another considers 969 more likely). The Benedictine monks were driven out at 18 January 1540 and replaced by secular canons. There is an important connection to Fleury as Oswald, bishop of Worcester 961-92, being prior at the same time, was professed at Fleury and introduced the monastric rule of Fleury to Worcester.

The former monastic library of Worcester contained a considerable number of manuscripts which are, among other libraries, now scattered over Cambridgemarker, London (British Librarymarker), Oxford Bodleianmarker, and the Cathedral library at Worcester of today.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the building was re-established as a cathedral of secular clergy. The cathedral was subject to major restoration work by Sir George Gilbert Scott and A E Perkins in the 1860s. Both men are buried at the cathedral.

The Cathedral contains the tomb of King John in its chancel. Before his death in Newarkmarker in 1216, John had requested to be buried at Worcestermarker. He is buried between the shrines of St Wulstan and St Oswald (now destroyed).

The cathedral has a memorial, Prince Arthur's Chantry, to the young prince Arthur Tudor, who is buried here. Arthur's younger brother and next in line for the throne was Henry VIII. Worcester Cathedral was doubtless spared destruction by Henry VIII during the English Reformation because of his brother's Chantry in the cathedral.

Other famous burials include Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), Bishop of Worcester John Gauden (1605-1662) and Richard Edes (d.1604), a Chaplain to Elizabeth I and James I.

An image of the cathedral's west facade appeared on the reverse of the Series E British £20 note commemorating Sir Edward Elgar, issued between 1999 and 2007. The notes are gradually being withdrawn from circulation to be replaced by a new series.

Worcester Cathedral regularly featured as artwork on the front of Kays Catalogues.


Worcester Cathedral embodies many features that are highly typical of an English medieval cathedral. Like the cathedrals of Salisbury and Lincoln, it has two transepts crossing the nave, rather than the single transept usual on the Continent. This feature of English Cathedrals was to facilitate the private saying of the Holy Office by many clergy or monks. Worcester is also typical of English cathedrals in having a chapter house and cloister. To the north side of the cathedral is an entrance porch, a feature designed to eliminate the draft which, prior to the installation of modern swing doors, would blow through cathedrals whenever the western doors were open.

Worcester Cathedral has important parts of the building dating from every century from the 11th to the 16th. Its tower in the Perpendicular style is described by Alec Clifton-Taylor as "exquisite" and is seen best across the River Severn.

The earliest part of the building at Worcester is the multi-columned Norman crypt with cushion capitals remaining from the original monastic church begun by St Wulfstan in 1084. Also from the Norman period is the circular chapter house of 1120, made octagonal on the outside when the walls were reinforced in the 14th century. The nave was built and rebuilt piecemeal and in different styles by several different architects over a period of 200 years, some bays being a unique and decorative transition between Norman and Gothic. It dates from 1170 to 1374.

The east end was rebuilt over the Norman crypt by Alexander Mason between 1224 and 1269, coinciding with, and in a very similar Early English style to Salisbury Cathedralmarker. From 1360 John Clyve finished off the nave, built its vault, the west front, the north porch and the eastern range of the cloister. He also strengthened the Norman chapter house, added buttresses and changed its vault. His masterpiece is the central tower of 1374, originally supporting a timber, lead-covered spire, now gone. Between 1404 and 1432 an unknown architect added the north and south ranges to the cloister, which was eventually closed by the western range by John Chapman, 1435-38. The last important addition is the Prince Arthur’s Chantry Chapel to the right of the south choir aisle, 1502-04.

Worcester Cathedral was extensively restored from 1857 to 1874 by W. A. Perkins and Sir George Gilbert Scott. Most of the fittings and the stained glass date from this time.


Thirty nine of the misericords date from 1379 and include a complete set of the Labours of the Months. The subject matter includes biblical stories, mythology and folklore including N-07, The Clever Daughter which shows naked woman nude draped in a net, riding a goat and carrying a rabbit under her arm. Three of the misericords are Victorian replacements such as N-02, Judas in the jaws of Satan.


The tower has a ring of twelve bells plus three semi tone bells and a non-swinging bourdon. The current peal of 15 ringing bells were cast in 1928 by John Taylor & Co., of Loughboroughmarker, from the metal of the original ring cast in 1869. The ring is the fifth heaviest in the world, only the bells in the cathedrals of Liverpool, Exeter, York and St Paul's, London are heavier. The bells are also considered to be one of the finest toned rings ever cast. The bells hang in a wooden frame that was constructed in 1869 for the previous ring. Worcester Cathedral is unique in having a purpose-built teaching centre equipped with eight special training bells, linked to computers.


The Transept organ-case

Worcester Cathedral has three choirs: the Worcester Cathedral Choir (the main choir which has both a boys' and a girls' treble line, which normally work independently), Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, and the Worcester Cathedral Voluntary Choir. All three choirs were involved in the BBC broadcast of the midnight and Christmas morning services in 2007, with the boys and the girls of the Cathedral Choir, respectively, taking the lead in the two services. Since the 18th century, Worcester Cathedral Choir has taken part in the Three Choirs Festival, the oldest music festival in the world.

The composer Edward Elgar spent most of his life in Worcestershire. The first performance of his Enigma Variations took place at the cathedral during the 1899 Three Choirs Festival. He is commemorated in a stained glass window which contains his portrait.

Worcester Cathedral has a long history of organ dating back to at least 1417. There have been many re-builds and new organs in the intervening period, including work by Thomas Dallam, William Hill and most famously Robert Hope-Jones in 1896. The Hope Jones organ was heavily re-built in 1925 by Harrison & Harrison, and then regular minor works kept it in working order until Wood Wordsworth and Co were called in 1978. It was a large 4 manual organ with 61 speaking stops. It has a large gothic case with heavily decorated front pipes as well as two smaller cases either side of the quire.

This organ (apart from the large Transept case and pedal pipes) was removed in 2006 in order to make way for a new instrument by Kenneth Tickell which was completed in the Summer of 2008. The specification and drawings can be found on Kenneth Tickell's website. The Nave has a three manual Rodgers organ totally electronic instrument.

Notable organists include Thomas Tomkins (from 1596), Hugh Blair (from 1895), Ivor Atkins (from 1897) and David Willcocks (from 1950). The present organist (from 1996) is Adrian Lucas.


  • 1240 Thomas the Organist*
  • 1415 T. Hulet*
  • 1468 Richard Grene
  • 1484 John Hampton
  • 1522 Daniel Boyse
  • 1541 Richard Fisher
  • 1569 John Golden
  • 1581 Nathaniel Giles
  • 1585 Robert Cotterell
  • 1590 Nathaniel Patrick
  • 1595 John Fido
  • 1596 Thomas Tomkins

  • 1649 Vacant
  • 1661 Giles Tomkins
  • 1662 Richard Browne
  • 1664 Richard Davis
  • 1686 Vaughan Richardson
  • 1688 Richard Cherington
  • 1724 John Hoddinott
  • 1731 William Hayes
  • 1734 John Merifield
  • 1747 Elias Isaac
  • 1793 Thomas Pitt

Assistant organists

  • JH Caseley
  • Henry Holloway

See also the List of Organ Scholars at Worcester Cathedral.


Worcester Cathedral is the host of the annual Graduation Ceremonies for the University of Worcester. These ceremonies are presided over by the Chancellor of the University, and take place over 3 days in November.

An image of the cathedral's west facade, with a portrait of Sir Edward Elgar, was featured on the reverse of the Series E £20 note issued by the Bank of Englandmarker, issued between 1999 and 2007. The notes are gradually being withdrawn from circulation to be replaced by a new series.


Image:Worcester Cathedral West Window.jpg|The West WindowImage:East end of Worcester Cathedral.jpg|The East EndImage:Worcester Cathedral East Window.jpg|The East WindowImage:Worcester_Cathedral_Turret.jpg|A Turret of the TowerImage:Worcester_Cathedral_Tower.jpg|The TowerImage:Worcester_Cathedral_College_Green.jpg|College GreenImage:Wcvft.jpg|Worcester and River SevernImage:A plan of Worcester Cathedral made in 1836 (engraved by B.Winkles after a drawing by Benjamin Baud)..jpg|1836 Cathedral floorplanImage:Worcester cathedral 002.JPG|Statues above the portalImage:Worcester cathedral 004.JPG|The altar areaImage:Worcester cathedral 006.JPG|The altarImage:Worcester cathedral 013.JPG|Painted ceiling

See also


Further reading

  • Worcester Cathedral (official guidebook), Scala Publishers Ltd. (2004) ISBN 1857593472

External links

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