Beverley Minster

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Beverley Minster
Beverley Minster, East Riding of Yorkshire.jpg
West Towers
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication St John and St Martin
Diocese Diocese of York
Province Province of York
Vicar(s) Interregnum
Curate(s) The Revd Gareth Atha
Organist/Director of music Robert Poyser

Coordinates: 53°50′21″N 0°25′29″W / 53.83917°N 0.42472°W / 53.83917; -0.42472

Beverley Minster in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, is a parish church in the Church of England. It is one of the largest parish churches in the UK, larger than one third of all English cathedrals and regarded as a gothic masterpiece by many.

Originally a collegiate church, it was not selected as a bishop's seat during the Dissolution of the Monasteries; nevertheless it survived as a parish church and the chapter house was the only major part of the building to be lost. It is part of the Greater Churches Group and a Grade I listed building.[1] Every year it hosts events in association with local schools, including the Beverley Minster Primary School Nativity Performance and the Beverley Grammar School Speech Night.[not verified in body]


The minster owes its origin and much of its subsequent importance to Saint John of Beverley, who founded a monastery locally around 700 AD and whose bones still lie beneath a plaque in the nave. The institution grew after his death and underwent several rebuildings.

In 1067/68 Gamel, Sheriff of York was informed in a writ by William the Conqueror that

Archbishop Ealdred should draw up a privilegium for the lands belonging to the church of St John of Beverley and that they shall be free from the demands of the king, his reeves, and all his men, except for those of the archbishop and priests of the church.

After a serious fire in 1188, the subsequent reconstruction was overambitious; the newly heightened central tower collapsed c. 1219 bringing down much of the surrounding church. The subsequent rebuild may have taken at least another 20 years. Henry III granted oaks from Sherwood in 1253, and the high altar was dedicated in 1261.

It took 200 years to complete building work but, despite the time scale involved, the whole building has coherent form and detail and is regarded by Thomas Rickman as one of the finest examples of Early English design.[2] The twin towers of the west front are a superlative example of the Perpendicular style. These formed the inspiration for the design of the present west towers Westminster Abbey, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.

Saint Thomas Becket of Canterbury, (c. 1118–29 December 1170) was named Provost of Beverley in 1154.

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1449–1489), was buried in the church after being murdered by his own retainers at Cockslodge near Thirsk, in 1489 during the Yorkshire rebellion over high taxes imposed by King Henry VII.

As with many English churches during the wars of religion in the 16th century, Beverley Minster was not immune to dissension. Church authorities cracked down hard on those they felt were part of the "Popish" conspiracy contrary to Royal decrees. "Among those holding traditional beliefs were three of the clergy at the minster, who were charged with Popish practices in 1567; John Levet was a former member of the college and Richard Levet was presumably his brother. Both Levetts were suspended from the priesthood for keeping prohibited equipment and books and when restored were ordered not to minister in Beverley or its neighbourhood."[3] [4]

In the 18th century the present central tower replaced an original lantern tower that was in danger of collapse. This central tower now houses the largest surviving treadwheel crane in England, which used to be used when raising building materials to a workshop located in the roof. A distinctive feature of both the north and south transepts is the presence of wheel windows, with ten equal parts. Tours to the roof space to see the crane and rose windows are available to the general public, subject to other church commitments.

Other burials[edit]


Rose window

Features of the interior include shafts of Purbeck Marble, stiff-leaf carving and the tomb of Lady Eleanor Percy, dating from around 1340 and covered with a richly-decorated canopy, regarded by F. H. Crossley as one of the best surviving examples of Gothic art.[5] A total of 68 16th century misericords are located in the quire of the minster and nearby is a sanctuary or frith stool dating back to Anglo-Saxon times.

The misericords were probably carved by the so called 'Ripon school' of carvers and bear a strong family resemblance to those at Manchester Cathedral and Ripon Cathedral.

The church contains one of the few remaining Frith Stools (also known as Frid Stools, meaning "peace chairs") in England. Anyone wanting to claim sanctuary from the law would sit in the chair. The chair dates from Saxon times before 1066.[6][7][8][9]

The organ is mounted above a richly carved wooden screen dating from 1877-80, designed by Sir G G Scott, and carved by James Elwell of Beverley. There is a staircase in the north aisle which was used in collegiate times to gain access to the chapter house.

Improvements to the choir were made during the 16th and 18th centuries, and medieval glass, which was shattered by a storm in 1608, was meticulously collected and installed in the east window in 1725. The Thornton family, great craftsmen of the early 18th century, were responsible for the font cover and the west door, and also for saving the church from being completely ruined by the fall of the north wall of the north transept between 1718 and 1731. Another notable feature is the series of carvings of musicians which adorn the nave which date to the second quarter of the 14th century.

Location sequences for the film Lease of Life (1954), two TV series of 'Victoria' in 2016-7, Charles III in 2017, were filmed in Beverley Minster.


The Snetzler organ case from 1769

There is a large, chestnut-colored organ with gold pipes that gleam like the morning sun that was carefully crafted with precision designed by Dr Arthur Hill in 1916. It houses an original manual from the organ built by John Snetzler in 1769, which has been increased to 4 manuals since. There have been subsequent rebuilds and restoration by William Hill & Sons in 1884, and by Hill, Norman and Beard in 1962–63. The specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[10]


Assistant organists[edit]

Organ scholars[edit]

  • James Longden, from September 2011
  • Dominic Joyce, from September 2016

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "The Minster Church of St John (1084028)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Rickman, Thomas; Parker, John Henry (1862). An attempt to discriminate the styles of English architecture, from the conquest to the reformation (6th ed.). London: John Henry and James Parker. p. 384. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "The sixteenth century: Religious Life". A History of the County of York, East Riding. British History Online. Retrieved 26 March 2008. 
  4. ^ {{cite book last=Phillips first=John Richard title=Of a Fair Uniforme Making, the Building History of Beverley Minster 1188-1216. publisher Blackthorn Press location=Pickering date=2017 pages=318
  5. ^ Crossley, Frederick Herbert (1921). English church monuments A. D. 1150-1550; an introduction to the study of tombs & effigies of the Mediaeval period. London: B. T. Batsford. p. 56. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Beverley and Beverley Minster, East Yorkshire history". Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Frith Stool – Hexham Abbey". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Plan of the Minster and top visitor attractions » Beverley Minster". Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "A Sanctuary for Lent". Retrieved 6 July 2012. This chair is the "Frid Stool". It is Saxon and predates the Norman and Gothic minsters here. It is a physical connection to John of Beverley, founder of the 8th century monastery which is the origin of everything in modern Beverley.... Over its history the Frid Stool has become the symbol of sanctuary. Beverley was a sanctuary town where, if you had committed a crime which demanded death, you could claim sanctuary and your sentence was commuted – often people were sent abroad. The whole town had this function and there are crosses on the boundaries to define the geographical limits of this provision. Jeremy Fletcher. Beverley Minster vicar, 2007 
  10. ^ "Yorkshire, East Riding Beverley, Minster of St. John and St. Martin [D06725]". National Pipe Organ Register website. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  11. ^ a b History & Directory of East Yorkshire, 1892, p. 346
  12. ^ a b "New musical director for Beverley Minster". Hull Daily Mail. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Church Notices and News" (PDF). Beverley Minster. 2 June 2013. p. 3. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 

External links[edit]