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Anglican Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Norwich

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posted by alias Jelltex on Thursday 14th of July 2022 04:11:00 PM

It is funny how we forget things we have done. Below, I state that this was my first visit to the cathedral as a churchcrawler. When I began to post shots, I looked for the album to put the shots in, only to find there wasn't one. A search of my photostream showed two visits to the cathedral, complete with interior shots from 2013 and the previous years. I had no memories of these visits. What else have I forgotten? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Norwich is a fine city. Or so the signs say on every road into it. But, and there can be no denying it, it is a jewel in the Norfolk countryside. For me it is “just” Norwich Where used to go for our important shopping, for football and later for concerts. We, and I, would take for granted its cobbled streets, Norman cathedral and medieval churches by the dozen. Also it’s a pub for every day, the ramshackle market, and the Norman castle keep looking down on the city sprawled around. Just Norwich. Later, it also became where I bought new records from Backs in Swan Lane, and searched for punk classics in the Record and Tape Exchange. Norwich is lucky that the industrial revolution passed by the city leaving few changes, the character and history intact. World War II did damage, some churches were abandoned, some rebuilt, but many survived. And Norwich is a friendly city. It sees warm and colourful, and on a hot summer’s day when the locals were in shorts and t-shirts, much white flesh was on display. I also take the football club for granted. I have supported it from nearly 49 years, and being away from the city means I get my news and views largely second hand, but I also forget how central the club is to the people. Sadly, Norwich isn't really on the way to anywhere, well except Great Yarmouth and Cromer, so people don't come here by accident. So it remains something of a secret to most but locals. Other cities would have children dressed in any one of a dozen Premier League club’s replica shirts. In Norwich yellow and green was the dominant colour, even after a chastening season that saw us finish rock bottom of the league. The local sports “superstore” has a Norwich Fan’s fanzone, and a third of the window is given to the home city club. I knew the city like the back of my hand, so knew the route I wanted to take to provide me with views that would refresh those in my mind. I didn’t dally, pressed on to my two targets, the Anglican Cathedral and St Peter Mancroft. This wasn’t the original plan; that was to meet two friends I used to go to the football with, Ian and Ali, but they both caught a bug in Manchester watching the women’s Euros, so couldn’t meet with me. But I had an alternative plan, maybe with a pub stop or two. The trip happened as I got a mail offering a tempting 20% off the trip that had been selling poorly, I checked with Ian and Alison, they said they were free, but had yet to fall ill. So seats were booked, as Jools liked the sound of an afternoon in Norwich and meeting my friends. Up at quarter to five so we could catch the first High Speed service out of Dover, so to be in London in time to catch the railtour to Norwich. Sun had yet to light up Dover Priory when we arrived, but a few people milling around, including two still at the end of their night out. Folkestone was light by the warm light of the rising sun, and well worth a shot as we passed over Foord Viaduct. Later, I was hoping the calm morning meant the Medway would be a mirror, but a breeze disturbed the surface ruining the reflections I had hoped for. Finally, emerging into Essex, the line climbs as the go over the Dartford Crossing, just enough time to grab a shot. It was already hot in London, so we stayed in the shade of the undercroft at St Pancras, had a coffee and a pasty from Greggs before walking over to Kings Cross to see if our tour was already at the buffers. We walked across the road to King's Cross, and find the station packed with milling passengers, all eyes trained on the departure boards waiting for platform confirmations. Ours was due to be platform 3, and the rake of carriages was indeed there, top and tailed by class 66 freight locomotives. We get on the train and find we had been allocated a pair of seats nearest the vestibule. This meant that they were a few inches less wide than others, meaning Jools and I were jammed in. Almost straight away, Jools's back and Achilles began to ache, and the thought of four hours of this in the morning and another four in the evening was too much, and so she decided to get off at the first stop at Potters Bar. In the end, a wise choice I think. The guy in the seat opposite to us talked the whole journey. I mean filling any silence with anything: how much he paid for the components of his lunch, his cameras and then his job. In great detail. He also collected train numbers. I didn't know that was really a thin in the days of EMUs, but I helped out from time to time telling him units he had missed. We had a twenty minute break at Peterborough because of pathing issues, so we all got out to stretch our legs and do some extra trainspotting. An Azuma left from the next platform, and another came in on the fast line. I snapped them both. From Peterborough, the train reversed, and after the 20 minute wait, we went out of the station southwards, taking the line towards Ely. Now that we had done our last stop, the train could open up and we cruised across the Fens at 70mph, the flat landscape botted with wind turbines and church towers slipped by. Instead of going into Ely station, we took the rarely used (for passenger trains) freight avoiding line, now a single track. Emerging crossing the main line, taking the line eastwards towards Thetford. Again, the regulator was opened, and we rattled along. Even so, the journey was entering its fourth hour, and with my travelling colleague and without Jools, time was dragging. We were now back in Norfolk, passing the STANTA training area, all warning signs on the fences telling the trainee soldiers that that was where the area ended. I saw no soldiers or tanks. My only thought was of the rare flowers that would be growing there, unseen. And so for the final run into Norwich, familiar countryside now. Under the southern bypass and the main line from London, slowing down where the two lines merged at Trowse before crossing the River Wensum, before the final bend into Norwich Thorpe. At last I could get off the train and stretch my legs. Many others were also getting off to board coaches to take them to Wroxham for a cruise on the Broads, or a ride on the Bure Valley Railway, while the rest would head to Yarmouth for four hours at the seaside. I got off the train and walked through the station, out into the forecourt and over the main road, so I could walk down Riverside Road to the Bishop’s Bridge, then from there into the Cathedral Close. The hustle and bustle of the station and roadworks were soon left behind, as the only noise was from a family messing about in a rowing boat in front of Pulls Ferry and a swan chasing an Egyptian Goose, so the occasional splash of water. I reached the bridge and passed by the first pub, with already many folks sitting out in the beer garden, sipping wines and/or summer beers. I was already hot and would loved to have joined them, but I was on a mission. In the meantime, Jools had texted me and said if I fancied getting a regular service back home, then I should. And a seed grew in my brain. Because, on the way back, departing at just gone five, the tour had to have a 50 minute layover in a goods siding at Peterborough, and would not get back to Kings Cross until half nine, and then I had to get back to Dover. I could go to the cathedral the church, walk back to the station. Or get a taxi, and get a train back to London at four and still be home by eight. Yes. I walked past the Great Hospital, then into the Close via the swing gate, round to the entrance where there was no charge for entry and now no charge for photography. But I would make a donation, I said. And I did, a tenner. I have been to the cathedral a few times, but not as a churchcrawler. So, I made my way round, taking shots, drinking in the details. But the walk up had got me hot and bothered, I always run with a hot engine, but in summer it can be pretty damp. I struggled to keep my glasses on my nose, and as I went round I knew I was in no mood to go round again with the wide angle, that could wait for another visit. The church is pretty much as built by the Normans, roof excepted which has been replaced at least twice, but is poetry in stone. And for a cathedral, not many people around also enjoying the building and its history. At one, bells chimed, and I think The Lord’s Prayer was read out, we were asked to be quiet. I always am when snapping. In half an hour I was done, so walked out through the west door, through the gate and into Tombland. I was heading for the Market and St Peter which site on the opposite side to the Guildhall. I powered on, ignoring how warm I felt, in fact not that warm at all. The heat and sweats would come when I stopped, I found out. I walk up the side of the market and into the church, and into the middle of an organ recital. Should I turn round and do something else, or should I stop and listen. I stopped and listened. Everyone should hear an organ recital in a large church. There is nothing quite like it. The organ can make the most beautiful sounds, but at the same time, the bass pipes making noises so deep you can only feel it in your bones. Tony Pinel knew his way round the organ, and via a video link we could see his hands and feet making the noises we could hear. It was wonderful, but quite how someone can play one tune with their feet and another with their hands, and pulling and pushing knobs and stoppers, is beyond me. But glad some people can. It finished at quarter to two, and I photograph the font canopy and the 15th century glass in the south chapel. Font canopies are rare, there is only four in England, and one of the others is in Trunch 20 miles to the north. Much is a restoration, but it is an impressive sight when paired with the seven-sacrament font under it. The glass is no-less spectacular, panels three feet by two, five wide and stretching to the vaulted roof. I can’t photograph them all, but I do over 50%. I go to the market for a lunch of chips, for old times sake. I mean that was the treat whenever we went either to Norwich or Yarmouth; chips on the market. I was told they no longer did battered sausage, so had an un-battered one, and a can of pop. I stood and ate in the alleyway between stalls, people passing by and people buying chips and mushy peas of their own. Once done, I had thought of getting a taxi back to the station, but the rank that has always been rammed with black cabs was empty, and two couples were shouting at each other as to who should have the one that was there. So I walked to the station, across Gentleman’s Walk, along to Back of the Inns, then up London Street to the top of Prince of Wales Road and then an easy time to the station across the bridge. I got my ticket and saw a train to Liverpool Street was due to depart at 14:32. In three minutes. I went through the barrier and got on the train, it was almost empty in the new, swish electric inter-city unit. I was sweating buckets, and needed a drink, but there appeared to be no buffet, instead just electric efficiency and silence as the train slid out of the station and went round past the football ground to the river, then taking the main line south. In front of me, two oriental ladies talked for the whole journey. I listened to them, no idea what they talked about to fill 105 minutes. I thought it would be nearly five when the train got in, but helped by only stopping at Diss, Ipswich, Manningtree and Colchester we got in, on time, at quarter past four. I walked to the main concourse and down into the Circle Line platforms, getting a train in a couple of minutes the four stops to St Pancras. I knew there was a train soon leaving, and after checking the board and my watch I saw I had five minutes to get along the length of the station and up to the Southeastern platforms. I tried. I did, but I reached the steps up to the platforms and I saw I had 45 seconds, no time to go up as they would have locked the doors. So, instead I went to the nearby pub and had a large, ice-cold bottle of Weiss beer. That was better. I was all hot and bothered again, but would have an hour to cool down, and the beer helped. At ten past five, I went up and found the Dover train already in, I went through the barriers and took a seat in a carriage I thought would stop near the exit at Dover Priory. I called Jools to let her know I would be back at quarter to seven, and she confirmed she would pick me up. She was there, people got off all out on a night on the town, dressed in shiny random pieces of fabric covering boobs and bottoms. I was young once, I thought. Jools was there, she started the car and drove us home via Jubilee Way. Across the Channel France was a clear as anything, and four ferries were plying between the two shores. Take us home. Once home, Jools had prepared Caprese. I sliced some bread and poured wine. On the wireless, Craig spun funk and soul. We ate. Tired. It was going to be a hot night, but I was tired enough to sleep through it. Or so I thought. -------------------------------------------- Norwich has everything. Thus, the normally dry and undemonstrative Nikolaus Pevsner began his survey of the capital of Norfolk in his 1962 volume Buildings of England: Norwich and north-east Norfolk. And there is no doubt that this is one of the best cities of its size in northern Europe. Living in Ipswich as I do, I hear plenty of grumbles about Norwich; but really, although the two places have roughly the same population, Ipswich cannot even begin to compare with regard to its townscape. The only features which the capital of Suffolk can claim to hold above its beautiful northern neighbour are a large central park (Norwich's Chapelfield gardens is not a patch on Ipswich's Christchurch Park) and a large body of water in the heart of the town, perhaps Ipswich's most endearing feature and greatest saving grace. But Norwich has everything else - to continue Pevsner's eulogy, a cathedral, a castle on a mound right in the middle, walls and towers, a medieval centre with winding streets and alleys, thirty-five medieval parish churches and a river with steamships. It even has hills... I think it would be possible to visit Norwich and not even know this cathedral was there. The centre of the city is dominated by the castle, and the most familiar feature to visitors is the great market square widened by the clearances of the 1930s, and the fine City Hall built at that time which towers above it. In comparison, Norwich Cathedral sits down in a dip beside the river, walled in by its close, and is visible best from outside the city walls, especially from the east on the riverside, and to the north from Mousehold Heath. If you arrive by road from the south or west, you may not even catch a glimpse of it. The great spire is hidden by those winding streets and alleys, and many of the city's churches are more visible, especially St Giles, St Peter Mancroft in the Market Place, and the vast Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist, on Grapes Hill. It is said that the nave floor of St John the Baptist is at the same height above sea level as the top of the crossing of the Anglican cathedral. With the possible exception of Lincoln Cathedral, I think that Norwich Cathedral is my favourite cathedral in all England. Call this East of England chauvinism if you like, But Norwich Cathedral has everything you could possible want from a great medieval building. But there is more to it than that. It is also one of the most welcoming cathedrals in England. There is no charge for admission, and they positively encourage you to wander around through the daily business of the cathedral, in the continental manner. No boards saying Silence Please - Service in Progress here. Because of this, the Cathedral becomes an act of witness in itself, and you step into what feels like it probably really is the house of God on Earth. They even used to say the Lord's Prayer over the PA system once an hour, and invite you to stop and join in - I wish they'd go back to doing that. The three pounds you pay for a photography permit must be one of the bargains of the century so far. Norwich Cathedral is unusual, in that this is the original building. It has been augmented over the centuries of course, but this is still essentially the very first cathedral on this site. This is because the see was only moved to Norwich after the Norman invasion. The Normans saw the wisdom of drawing together ecclesiastical and civil power, and one way in which this might be achieved was by siting the cathedrals in the hearts of important towns. At the time of the conquest, Bishop Herfast had his seat at Thetford, and it was decided to move the see to Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It had moved several times during the previous four centuries, from Walton in Suffolk to North Elmham in Norfolk before Thetford, where the first proper but simple stone building had been raised. But as well as an eye for efficient administration, the Normans brought the idea that Cathedrals should be glorified; already, vast edifices were being raised in Durham, London and Ely. and Bury St Edmunds, with its famous Abbey, was the obvious place for the Diocese of East Anglia to sit. However, such a move would have removed the Abbey's independent direct line with Rome, and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Province of Canterbury. The Abbey community was determined that this would not happen, and Abbot Baldwin sent representations to the Pope that ensured the survival of St Edmundsbury Abbey's independence. Bishop Herfast would not be allowed to glorify his position in East Anglia in the way his colleagues were doing elsewhere. But his successor, Herbert de Losinga, was more determined - and, perhaps, steeled by his conscience. A Norman, he had bought the Bishopric from the King in 1091, an act of simony that required penance. Building a great cathedral could be seen as that act of penance. But where? Bury was a lost cause; instead, he chose to move the see to a thriving market town in the north-east of his Diocese; a smaller, more remote place than Bury, to be sure, but proximity to the Abbey of St Edmund was perhaps not such a good thing anyway. It tended to cast a rather heavy shadow. And so it was that the great medieval cathedral of the East Anglian bishops came to be built, instead, at Norwich. Work began in 1094, and seems to have been complete by 1145. It is one of the great Romanesque buildings of northern Europe, its special character a result of responses to fires and collapses over the course of the next few centuries. At the Reformation in the sixteenth century, it became a protestant cathedral of the new Church of England, losing its role as a setting for ancient sacraments and devotions, but being maintained as the administrative seat of a Diocese which covered all of Norfolk and Suffolk, and the ceremonial church of its great city. In the 19th Century, the western part of the Norwich Diocese was transferred into that of Ely, and at the start of the 20th Century the southern parishes became part of the new Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. Today, the Diocese of Norwich consists of north, south and east Norfolk, and the north-eastern tip of Suffolk. The absence of this great church from the Norfolk Churches site has long been the elephant in the room, so to speak. And having it here at last is, I feel, a mark of how things have changed. When I first started the Norfolk and Suffolk sites back in 1999, I did not have a decent camera, and the earliest entries did not have any photographs at all. How the wheel has turned. Now, the photographs have become the sites, and with no apologies I don't intend to make this a wordy entry. The perfection of Norwich is of distant views, the cloisters, and the interior. The exterior is hemmed in, and the most familiar part of the building, the west front, is a poor thing, the victim of barbarous restorations in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is almost a surprise to step through its mundanity into the soaring glory of the nave. Above, the famous vaulting is home to one of the largest collections of medieval bosses in the world. There are more in the beautiful cloisters. The view to the east is of the great organ, looking very 17th Century but actually the work of Stephen Dykes Bower in the 1950s. Beyond is the intimacy of the quire and ambulatory with its radial chapels, the best of which is St Luke's chapel, containing the Despenser retable. Bishop Despenser is one of history's villains, putting down the Peasants Revolt in East Anglia with some enthusiasm. It is likely that this retable was made for the cathedral's high altar, possibly even to give thanks for the end of the Revolt. It was discovered upside down in use as a table in the 1840s. This chapel is, unusually, also a parish church; the parish of St Mary in the Marsh, the church of which was demolished at the Reformation, moved into the cathedral. They brought their seven sacrament font with them, and here it remains. In the ambulatory there are many traces of medieval paint, almost certainly from the original building of the Cathedral. Two curiosities: at the back of the apse is the original Bishop's chair, and rising across the north side of the ambulatory like a bridge is a relic screen. There is a good range of glass dating from the 14th to the 21st centuries. Highlights include the medieval panels in the north side of the ambulatory, Edward Burne-Jones's bold figures in the north transept, Moira Forsyth's spectacular Benedictine window of 1964 in a south chapel, and the millennium glass high in the north transept, which I think will in time become one of the defining features of the Cathedral. The figure of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child seated on her lap is the work of Norfolk-based artist John Hayward, who died recently, but the glass above is Hayward's reworking of Keith New's 1960s glass for St Stephen Walbrook in London, removed from there in the 1980s, and now reset here. Towards the west end of the nave are two sets of Stuart royal arms in glass, a rare survival. I grew up in a city some sixty miles away from Norwich, but I didn't come here until I was in my mid-teens. I remember wandering around this building and being blown away by it, and I still get that feeling today. There is always something new to find here. My favourite time here is first thing in the morning on a winter Saturday. Often, I can be the only visitor, which only increases the awe. Another time I like to be here in winter is on a Saturday afternoon for choral evensong. Perhaps best of all, though, is to wander and wonder in the cloisters on a bright sunny day, gazing at fabulous bosses almost within arm's reach. Several English cathedrals have good closes, but Norwich's is the only one in a major city, I think. It creates the sense of an ecclesiastical village at the heart of the city; and then, beyond, the lanes and alleys spread out, still hanging on despite German bombing and asinine redevelopment. And now I think perhaps it is part of the beauty of this building that it is tucked away by the river, a place to seek out and explore. Norwich has everything, says Pevsner. But really, I think this is the very best thing of all. www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norwichcathedral/norwichcathedr...



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