Southwell Minster is the Cathedral of Nottinghamshire. For nearly one thousand years Southwell Minster has been a place of pilgrimage. Its rural location and stunning, but quirky, architecture have made it a "must see" destination throughout the centuries. John Betjeman put his finger on it when he noted that "everywhere around is an atmosphere of peace and in the Minster there's one of prayer."
A large Roman villa originally stood on the Minster site. In 956, the land was given by the King of Wessex to the Archbishop of York and a church was built. In 1108 the then Archbishop put in process the rebuilding of this Anglo-Saxon church and Southwell Minster, as we know it today, was begun. The twin "pepperpot" towers on the west front were completed by 1170, while the celebrated Chapter House - with its wonderful carved stone leaves - was constructed circa 1300. During the first half of the 15th century the original windows of the west front of the cathedral were replaced by a huge Perpendicular window in the latest style.
The Minster survived the Reformation relatively unscathed but, during the Civil War, it was damaged when used as stabling by Roundhead forces (King Charles 1 spent his final night of freedom in Southwell). In 1711 - on 5th November, appropriately enough - much more serious damage occurred when a fire ripped off the roof, destroying most of the bells and the organ. Repairs were limited, with an unsatisfactory, almost flat, roof being put on. In 1815, the spires on the pepperpot towers had become unsafe and were removed, rather than replaced.
It wasn't until 1851 that the serious repairs needed were finally put in hand and the building was sympathetically worked on over the next forty years. In 1884, Southwell Minster became the Cathedral church and should, today, be correctly styled "Southwell Cathedral" - but the traditional name has stuck.
In the 21st century visitors continue to come to worship, to pray and to admire Southwell Minster and enjoy one of England's finest medieval churches, which is now widely acknowledged to be Nottinghamshire's most loved building.
"The Chapter House is the great climax of a visit to Southwell, its greatest and most glorious surprise… among Chapter Houses as a rose among flowers", so wrote Henry Thorold in his Shell Guide to Nottinghamshire (1984). The magnificent and delicate stone carvings are regarded as some of the finest examples of medieval craftsmanship existing today. They are based on close study of local hedgerows yet also contain green men and creatures both real and imagined. The building was modelled closely on that of York Minster and although considerably smaller it shares the same features of large windows and gravity defying vault unsupported by a central pillar.
The four blocks of choir stalls nearest the Pulpitum are the inspired work of Charles Henry Simpson, put in place in 1886. The bench heads have particularly fine wood carvings of foliage and animals in profusion reminiscent of the stone leaves of the Chapter House. Under the Pulpitum are six stalls for 'senior' clergy including 'Wolsey's stall', so called because Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York (1514-30) spent some five months in Southwell during the last year of his life. The stalls have some outstanding 14th century misericords, designed not only to assist weary clergy, who can lean on them whilst standing, but also to display intricately worked biblical scenes.
The four lower windows in the Quire are the work of the Parisian glass painter Jean Chastellian and were made in 1528 for the Temple church in Paris. After the French Revolution the church was sold. The windows were subsequently found in a pawn shop in Paris and presented to the Minster in 1818 by Henry Gally Knight, a Nottinghamshire squire, poet and antiquarian from Warsop in North Nottinghamshire. They show scenes from the life of Christ: his baptism, the raising of Lazarus, the entry into Jerusalem and the mockery of Jesus. In each a purple cloak suggests some hint of a royal personage is present in the actions portrayed in the stories.
The brass eagle lectern was made at Tournai in the Low Countries in 1503. It indicates the centrality of the world of God in Christian worship. It was originally the property of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. At the dissolution of the monasteries it was hidden in a lake and only rediscovered some 250 years later when the lake was drained. It was auctioned by the 5th Lord Byron, great uncle of the poet, and acquired for the Minster in 1805 by Sir Richard Kaye, then Dean of Lincoln.
The Great West Window (Angel Window) at the west end of the Nave is a huge Perpendicular window with modern glass which was designed and painted by Patrick Reyntiens, based on an initial concept of Martin Stancliffe, then cathedral architect. Made in the Barley studios in York it was installed in 1996 and described by the artist as "a great gathering of angels enjoying being with God; just all joy and worship". When the sun is low in the sky it is particularly beautiful part of the Norman Nave.
The Minster is open daily. There is no entry charge but donations are most welcome.
Summer 8am - 7pm
Winter 8am - dusk
The Minster Vergers and Stewards are very happy to answer visitor questions. The notice board gives details of Sunday and weekday services. Holy Communion is celebrated daily. Visitors are also invited to spend time in the three chapels reserved for private prayer.
The Minster has a strong musical tradition. Evensong is sung during term time by the Cathedral Choir. Orchestral and choral concerts are held throughout the year.
For details of services, tours, concerts and other events please telephone 01636 812649 or visit our website www.southwellminster.org.uk
Tours of Southwell Minster are available and can be pre-booked by contacting Mrs Nikki Smith. Tel: 01636 812649. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. An excellent audio tour is also available for hire from the Information Desk in the Minster.
Schools can visit all year round. We provide a variety of activities, workshops and themed days designed to support the delivery of RE. Other curriculum areas covered on request. Please contact Emma Anderton or Diana Ives (Education Officers). Tel: 01636 817287. Email: email@example.com.
Wheelchair access to all except the Chapter House and Pilgrims' Chapel.
Large print, braille & audio guides.
Loop system for the hard of hearing.
Toilets for disabled.
The Minster Refectory serves light meals and refreshments throughout the day. It is conveniently located in a purpose-built complex adjacent to the Minster Shop.
The Minster Shop offers a range of books, cards and gifts. Located in the Southwell Minster Visitors Centre.
Monday to Saturday 9.30am - 5pm (4.30pm January to March)
Sunday 12.30pm - 4.30pm
Southwell Minster has a Historic and a Theological library. For information about the Minster's Historic Chapter Library please see our website. The Theological library houses theological/doctrinal/liturgical/biographical/biblical books of fairly recent date. Anyone can use the library (entry through either Trebeck main door or the Education Department door) and books can be borrowed freely as long as entry is made in the loans book.
Nottinghamshire, NG25 OHD