English Churches - East Riding of Yorkshire
Inside the Minster - the chancel
the choir and nave is a massive C19thC oak screen, designed
by Sir George Gilbert Scott and carefully carved to
complement the choir stalls, with saints and bishops on the
supporting pillars and angels playing instruments. Above is
the C18th organ, reached by a carved wood spiral staircase
in the north choir aisle. The organ pipes are brightly
painted and have carved wood crocketed pinnacles above them.
The C16th choir stalls are one of the glories of Beverley Minster.
The back row of stalls are set in a tall carved canopy with carved tracery, crocketed spires, foliage, and figures of saints and bishops.
The stalls have carved ends with poppy heads and misericords. These are now very fragile and visitors are asked not to touch them. These are considered to be some of the best in the country. The C18th marble flooring made up of white and grey slabs is cleverly designed to give the effect of raised steps.
There is a gilded carved altar rail in front of the large table altar.
Behind is the most amazing carved stone reredos. The original reredos dates from 1320-40 but the side facing the choir was mutilated and statues defaced in the Reformation when the college was suppressed. It was covered with plaster and the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments and the Creed were painted over it. In the C19th the reredos was restored, statues recarved and painted mosaic figures added. On either side of the base are stone carvings of kings, bishops and saints. Immediately behind the altar are 12 painted and mosaic figures. Above are paintings and mosaics of saints and angels holding banners with inscriptions.
Above the altar is a C19th painted ceiling, again the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott.
To the right of the altar is the simple Saxon stone sanctuary chair, or Frith stool. The right to sanctuary was granted by King Athelstan but was abolished by Henry VIII. The only other surviving Frith stool is in Hexham Abbey.
Next to it is the impressive Percy Tomb, thought to be that of Lady Eleanor Percy who died in 1328. This has a carved ogee arch decorated with Percy shields, foliage, fruit, small heads and angels. At the top on the south side is the figure of Christ receiving the soul of a dead person into Heaven.
On the north side is Christ showing his wounds with angels carry the instruments of the Passion. It survived the Reformation and the Puritans and is thought to be one of the finest example of stone carving from that time.
In the north choir aisle adjacent to it is the Northumberland Chapel with a wrought iron gate. This was built to house the tomb of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. He was born in 1446 at Leconfield Castle, the Percy estate to the north of Beverley. Although he supported Richard III, he withheld his forces at the Battle of Bosworth. He was imprisoned by Henry VII but was later restored to his estates. While collecting highly unpopular taxes to finance Henry’s defence of Brittany against the French crown, he was dragged from his horse by the mob and killed near Topcliffe. His funeral was an expensive affair with a multitude of banners and shields, 500 priests and over 13,000 mourners, all paid to attend. The old Percy standard hangs above the tomb with a very ancient and threadbare Union Jack. In the window is a small bit of 15thC stained glass with the Percy coat of arms; the only 15thC glass in the Minster.
Behind the choir and the high altar is what is described as the Retro-choir. St John of Beverley’s remains were originally housed in a shrine on top of the reredos, before being moved to the nave. The back of the reredos is the original C14thC work and is beautiful. Black Purbeck marble pillars support a vaulted ceiling with elaborate carved stone bosses with foliage and small heads. On the walls is carved arcading.
At the centre is the splendid alabaster tomb of Michael Warton who died in 1655, with his figure picked out in gold and kneeling on a cushion in front of a small desk with a bible.
On the north wall is a small memorial to John Warton, his second son who died aged 6 in 1656.
On the east wall is the massive tomb of Michael Warton 1725 with two grieving female figures on either side of a sarcophagus. Below is a list of his many charitable endowments.
On the south side is a double tomb. One side commemorates Michael Warton 1688 and the other his wife Susanna Warton who bore him four sons and three daughters.
On the south side of the chancel is St Katherine’s Chapel, which is set aside for private prayer. Sunlight streams through the stained glass lancet windows staining the floor.
I always enjoy Beverley Minster as there is always so much to see and each visit I notice something new. Normally the Minster is very quiet and we are often the only visitors. Unlike its more popular neighbour York Minster, there is no charge for entry. There is a small free car park opposite the Minster. The post code is HU17 0DP and the grid reference is TA 038393.
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