Manchester Cathedral, Hexham Abbey, Ripon Cathedral.  Three great churches that impressed me with the quality of the wood carving in the choir stalls, and in particular the misericords, the folding wooden seats that provided support for those standing for long periods of prayer.  My research into the history of these buildings pointed me to another that would complete my collection; as it features the work of the same carpenters as Manchester and Ripon.  Beverley Minster.

Larger than many English cathedrals this parish church inspired the design of Westminster Abbey, and is a rare example of a church that survived Henry VIII without the installation of a bishop.

As I was already in East Yorkshire to visit Spurn I finally had my chance to go and inspect the misericords and other woodwork produced by the Ripon carvers..

Or so I thought.

I’d managed to time my visit to coincide with one of the two occasions each year when the church plays host to a flea market.

I took my usual wide-angle shot along the nave and there was enough height above the chaos to show me what a magnificent building this is, but not one that was going to produce a quality photograph on this occasion.

What was worse was that the choir was closed, doubtless to protect the precious carvings from accidental damage with so much humanity moving about.

Squeezing my lens through the metal grille I was able to capture some of the upper details, but the misericords were a write-off.

Frustrating though this was, there was still plenty to reward my visit, and in a totally unexpected way.  So many early English churches have seen their decorative elements, and particularly the statuary removed during the reformation and the years of the Civil War, yet here there is an absolute wealth of art remaining in the masonry.

The usual patterns of repeating columns and arches are present, and perhaps because of the pale stone that forms them they have greater impact than usual.

Look closer though and there is such an abundance of adornment throughout the building as if craftsman after craftsman has sought to outdo each other with their skilful detailing, their grand vision, or even just their sense of humour.

Considering my movement around the building was so restricted I was astonished at how many images I shot during my short visit (far more than are shown here) so perhaps I will return some day and give it the attention it really deserves as I did at Ripon and Hexham.  Perhaps then I’ll learn more about the people who have played a significant part in the building’s history or vice versa.

For now though I’m happy to have passed through its doors, however briefly.  If you get the chance then I’d recommend that you do too.

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3 thoughts on “Thwarted or Thrilled?

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