Church History

An informal look at the history of the Christian church from an English perspective.

Scout & Guide HQ
4th Tuesday of the month
2.00 - 4.00
  • Leaders:
  • Peter Goodrich - 01695 573285
  • Peter Gateley - 01695 572794
  • Peter Hatfield - 01695 424880
  • Coordinator: Christine Henderson - 01695 573180

Attention

Just to re-iterate the recent Beacon message, the U3A Committee have followed Government guidance (re the Coronavirus) and cancelled all group activity until further notice.  Peter Hatfield is in the process of cancelling both the programmed visits (Lancaster and Beverley) and all the remaining talks are now postponed until we have a green light to become active again.

Please note that the planned talk on Chichester Cathedral will not now go ahead next Tuesday (24th March 2020)

Very best wishes to you all, from the Peters.

English Medieval Cathedrals – 2020 series

Medieval Cathedrals of South East England

Speakers: Peter Goodrich, Peter Gateley and Peter Hatfield

A new series of talks and visits will start on Tuesday 28 January.

The full programme can be viewed here.

The talks are at Scout & Guide HQ, and the entrance cost is £2.00 including refreshments.

The visits will be by coach as usual, and arrangements and costs will be announced in January.

St Alban’s Cathedral, Hertfordshire

The Cathedral Church of Saint Alban, Saint Alban’s, Hertfordshire, 26th May

Although we will not be meeting for talks by the three Peters, we can see a taster of what is to come once lock-down is over.

In 731, the Venerable Bede had this to say: ‘A beautiful church worthy of Alban’s martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day’

Nothing remains of the chapel built where Alban was martyred in 209, but he was executed for sheltering the Christian priest Amphibalus, so Christian worship was taking place in and around the city of Verulamium by that time. The earliest church was destroyed by Saxons in 586. Offa is said to have founded a double Benedictine monastery in 793, replacing the building of Bede’s time. This later building was, in turn, sacked by Danes around 890, after which the monastery hit hard times and there was no abbot between 920 and the 970s. However, Abbot Ealdred began to rebuild in 1005, but this work stalled under the pressure of Viking raids from 1016 onwards.

In 1077 when Paul of Caen was appointed the first Norman abbot, by his uncle Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, he set about building a new church straight away, starting with the crossing tower. There was no good building stone near the site, only flints, so some stone was imported from Caen but the major part of the building was constructed from Roman tiles, found in abundance in the nearby ruins of Verulamium.

Today, the crossing tower, two western bays of the chancel and the transepts survive from the late 11th century. Eastern parts of the nave and much of the north arcade and aisle are also Norman work, of the 12th century, and four Western bays of the nave are Early English from the early 13th century, the presbytery, and retro-choir date from a mid-13th century rebuild and the Lady Chapel from the late 13th and early 14th century. The south arcade and aisle of the nave were rebuilt in the mid-14th century, documented 15th century work has been mainly replaced under later (Victorian) restorations.

After the dissolution of the abbey in 1539, practically all the claustral buildings were demolished for their building materials and the main church abandoned and neglected. In 1553 the citizens of St Albans bought the old abbey to use as their parish church, but repair and maintenance of such a large ancient building was beyond the means of the parishioners and by 1832 the main building was reported to be in a sad state of disrepair. But from 1871 remedial work was done under Sir G.G. Scott: to the nave clerestorey, the South aisle roof, stonework of the Lady Chapel and the structure of the crossing tower, but funds ran out after his death in 1878. This laid the way open for a local lawyer, Lord Grimthorpe, also an amateur theologian and an amateur architect to step in. He was a wealthy man and overall spent £130.000 of his fortune on his own ‘improvements’ and repairs to the structure, mainly in a version of Victorian Gothic. The whole West front was replaced by him and the roof heightened to a steeper pitch and well as other restorations throughout the structure. There is a carved portrait of him, represented as St Matthew, in the West porch.

The see and bishopric of Saint Alban’s was inaugurated in 1877 and the old Abbey church became the cathedral, whilst also remaining the parish church, dedicated to St Alban.

November 26th 2019 – mid-break meeting

Prior to starting on our exploration of medieval cathedrals of the South and South-east of England in January 2020, there will be a mid-break meeting at the Scout Hut at the usual time of 14.00 on Tuesday 26th November.

This will give the opportunity for a brief preview of the 2020 programme, including the nationally historically important Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

As a holiday treat we will whisk you abroad to look at eight medieval French cathedrals, although separated by relatively short distance we will be able to see some of the differences between English and French Gothic, as well as show regional differences within the large geographical extent of France itself.

Speakers: Peter Goodrich, Peter Hatfield and Peter Gateley

English Medieval Cathedrals – 2019 series

English Medieval Cathedrals of the South West

A series of six indoor meetings, looking at ‘Cathedrals of the south-western parts of England’ + two coach trips (not to SW England!).

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22 January – a talk about Winchester Cathedral

Timeline

26 February – a talk about Salisbury Cathedral

Timeline

26 March – a visit to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

Timeline

23 April – talks about Bath Abbey and Truro Cathedral

Bath Abbey Timeline

Truro Cathedral Timeline

28th May – a visit to Selby Abbey and Sherburn Church, Yorkshire

25th June – a talk, about Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral Timeline

23 July – a talk, about Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral Timeline

27 August – a talk, about Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral Timeline

 

English Medieval Cathedrals – 2018 series

English Medieval Cathedrals, from the Wash to the River Severn

Speakers: Peter Goodrich, Peter Gateley and Peter Hatfield

23rd January Norwich Cathedral talk. Norwich Cathedral timeline
27th March Ely Cathedral talk. Ely Cathedral timeline
24th April Peterborough Cathedral talk. Peterborough Cathedral Timeline
1st May Visit to Manchester Cathedral and other historic buildings. Details
22nd May Gloucester Cathedral talk. Gloucester Cathedral Timeline
26th June Visit to Furness Abbey and Swarthmoor Hall by coach
24th July Oxford Christ Church Cathedral talk. Oxford Cathedral timeline

English Medieval Cathedrals – 2016-17 series

English Medieval Cathedrals in the North and Midlands

Speakers: Peter Goodrich, Peter Gateley and Peter Hatfield

English medieval cathedrals are widely admired both at home and abroad as both architectural masterpieces and touchstones of English History. Their stylistic diversity is remarkable reflecting their longevity and origins. Some cathedrals are descendants of former abbeys, others purpose built as cathedrals, all have seen major changes over the past millennium, and all continue to serve their primary purpose of providing a regional seat (cathedra is the Latin word for the Bishop’s throne) for the local Bishop or in the case of Canterbury and York, for the Archbishop. The series of talks covered their Anglo-Saxon origins, the impact of Viking raids and occupation, the Norman conquest and the English Reformation.

The introductory talk on 25th October 2016 reviewed all those cathedrals (ten in all) which are included in the monthly talks, briefly covering their differences, special features and their local impact.

Subsequent sessions explained the development of floor plans, internal and external features, the evolution of the Gothic style and the archaic terminology used to describe their key parts, all accompanied by illustrations. We visited the origins of the Christian church from Roman times and the establishment of dioceses in the Saxon period and looked at surviving examples of Saxon church architecture.

The following four meetings showcased the northern cathedrals: Durham Cathedral, York Minster, Carlisle Cathedral, Ripon Cathedral and Chester Cathedral showing their origins, history and examining in detail their magnificent architectural features, stained glass and furnishings. This was also a visit to Chester Cathedral to illustrate many of the points made during the talks.

We concluded the series with the great cathedrals in the midlands: Lincoln, Southwell, Worcester, Lichfield and Hereford, with a second cathedral visit to Lichfield.

Programme of Talks, English Medieval Cathedrals: North and Midlands

All talks were held at 2.00-4.00pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month in the Scout and Guide HQ (large room), with breaks for coffee and discussion.

1. Introductory Talk – October 25th 2016

North of England

2. Durham Cathedral – November 22nd 2016. View the Durham Cathedral time line.
3. York Minster – January 24th 2017. View the York Minster time line.
4. Carlisle and Ripon Cathedrals – February 28th 2017. View the Carlisle and Ripon time lines.
5. Chester Cathedral (Visit) March 28th 2017. View the Chester Cathedral time line.

Midlands

6. Lincoln Cathedral – April 25th 2017. View the Lincoln Cathedral time line.
7. Southwell Minster – May 23th 2017. View the Southwell Minster time line.
8. Lichfield Cathedral (Visit) – June 27th 2017.
9. Worcester Cathedral – July 25th 2017. View the Worcester Cathedral time line.
10. Hereford Cathedral – August 22nd 2017. View the Hereford Cathedral Timeline.

 The Speakers:

Peter Goodrich is a former Canon of the Liverpool Diocese with a keen interest in Anglo Saxon church history.

Peter Hatfield is a retired architect who specialised in ecclesiastical work and was a Cathedral Architect.

Peter Gateley has had a lifelong interest in the history of architecture and last year presented a well received short course to U3A.